Category: Travel

Comic book museum and The Couriers

So yesterday, my friends and I visited the Musée de la bande dessinée, put simply, a comic book museum.

Those of you who know me will know that over the past year I have slowly but surely been getting into reading comic books and graphic novels.

Spurred on be the recent influx of comic book films (your Batmans, Avengers and so on, as well as the likes of Sin City) my comic book readings started with some of the classics of the genre, the likes of Watchmen, as well as some of the more well known Marvel and DC titles, such as Batman: Year One.

So a sunny day in Angouleme saw the twelve of us descending the town’s hill side, down a slightly treacherous path leading to the town’s Paper and Comic book museums. Fortunately, for at least some of the members of our group, the paper museum was shut for lunch, meaning that at least for the day, we missed out on the exciting world of paper manufacturing.

Thankfully the comic book museum remained open and, for the reasonable price of €7 each, we spent an hour or two exploring a pretty awesome museum, which, as you might have guessed, I really rather enjoyed!

The museum started with an exhibit on the Moomin, a comic and TV show I remembered from my youth. I won’t lie to you, the Moomin used to freak me out! However, it was interesting looking at the exhibit, and translating what I could from the French descriptions.

The main area of the museum was a more detailed look at the history of comic books, listing the likes of Mad Magazine, Tin Tin, and of course, given that Angouleme is its birth place, the Asterix comics.

This section was right up my street, and it was even better given that there were cards with English descriptions, rather than French. One section even impressed me so much that, later that evening, I visited Amazon.com and purchased a copy of Maus, a graphic novel  based on the Nazi concentration camps, with Cats playing the Nazis, and Mice playing the Jews.

On the whole, the trip to Anglouleme, and the comic museum, will probably go down as one of my favourite days of the trip, and inspired me to pick up the Graphic novel I brought with me to France, The Couriers.

The story depicts the near-future world of New York City where two gun toting couriers deliver questionable goods by questionable means. Very heavily influenced by the Hong Kong style of cinema and Japanese manga style comics, The Couriers is an action driven graphic novel that returns the artform of comic books to its pulp/action oriented stories, albeit with an updated modern feel.

I pretty much devoured the relatively thick graphic novel, which has four stories from The Couriers time line: The Couriers, Dirtbike Manifesto, The Ballard of Johnny Funwrecker, and Couscous Express.

Ballard was probably my favourite of the four, showing the origins of the two protagonists and showing how an origin story can be done correctly, adding insight to characters you already know, and filling in a couple of blanks in the their histories.

The Couriers is a book I highly recommend. It has a unique art style that, at first, I feared I wouldn’t enjoy, (I tend to stay away from monochrome in favour of a more colourful palette) yet I found myself drawn in to the hustle and bustle of the New York streets, and the action sequences certainly weren’t dampened for want of colour.

The Couriers is a great example of how comic books and graphic novels can thrive, away from the overshadowing Marvel and DC universes. In this case, Image is the publisher, and The Couriers is another reason why they are fast becoming my favourite.

Spurred on by our trip the museum, I intend to blog about/review more comics and graphic novels as soon as I get my hands on them. In fact, if all goes to plan, there will be a list in the side bar of things you can expect to see reviewed very soon.

So, I will sign off this half diary post, half review, and leave you with encouragement to read more, and go to more museums!

Oradour-sur-Glane

Today I visited Oradour-sur-Glane.

Oradour-sur-Glane is the site of one of the worst, if not the worst, Nazi atrocity to take place in France during the Second World War.

On 10th June, 1944, Waffen-SS troops, acting in retaliation of local resistance activities, including the kidnapping of a high ranking SS member entered the village, capturing its inhabitants before brutally murdering 642 men, women, and children.

Today, under the orders of French President Charles De Gaulle, Oradour-ser-Glane stands much the same as it did on that fateful day in 1944; cars are left in the street, the shells of burnt out buildings still stand, and even the tram rails lay in the streets.

The only thing missing, is life.

Despite the building of a new Oradour-sur-Glane but a stones throw away from the site of the massacre, the Villiage Martyr stands quiet. Left as a memorial for all those lost through atrocities carried out by the Nazis, and many others, Oradour-sur-Glane has an ethereal quality to it.

Aside from the tourists, there is no life. There is no sound. Anywhere else in the world, out in the country side, you can hear the birds chirping, or see them soaring through the sky. In Oradour-sur-Glane, there were no such sights.

Oradour-sur-Glane has been left as a time capsule of sorts. A pocket of the 1940s, of war time Europe, left as a reminder for our generation, and the next, of what can happen when the wrong people are given the reigns of power.

Much can, and has, been written about making sure we don’t repeat our mistakes, but if a picture speaks a thousand words, then a walk down the main high street of the Martyred villages shouts volumes.

We must never forget those who fought and died for the freedoms we experience today.

We must never forget those that were persecuted and killed in the Concentrations camps.

We must never forget all of the other innocents, mere bystanders in a world that burst into flames around them. Those who suffered in London, and Sheffield, and all the other cities that were attacked in the blitz; those who suffered in turn in Dresden and the other cities who felt the wrath of Britain and America as the tide began to turn the other way.

We must never forget those in places like Stalingrad, who saw their livelihoods and families decimated, and those in all the other theatres of war, in conflicts and skirmishes, those who have suffered at the hands of dictators and despots, and those that have simply had the misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We must never forget the 190 men, 247 women, and 205 children who died at Oradour-sur-Glane.