Summer Roundup: Richard Langlois, Comics Criticism and Funny Forest

Summer Roundup: Richard Langlois, Comics Criticism and Funny Forest

(Image courtesy of Alan Bunce.)

Today we take a bit of a break from our regular comics-artist interview format to catch up on some Canadian comics news. Over at Sequential Ink (Canadian comics news and culture blog), Bryan Munn draws our attention to the passing of Richard Langlois, a trailblazer in French comics criticism:

Richard Langlois, a pioneering historian and scholar of French-language comics, died July 19 in Sherbrooke, Quebec, after suffering from cancer. Langlois introduced the teaching of comics at the college and university levels in Quebec and was responsible for several historical comics-themed exhibits and publications over the last 40 years, as well as working as a comics journalist and critic.

Langlois’ work has helped to shape and define not just what comics are (and were in his own day) but how they could be re-imagined and more deeply appreciated. In my opinion, we owe a great deal of the current appreciation of comics today to tireless writers like Langlois, who began his work 40 years ago.

We would be at a great loss without Canadian scholar and journalist Jeet Heer, who (among everything else that he does) writes regularly for the wonderful comics blog Comics Comics. Two recent posts caught my attention. In the first, Heer points to the great critical body of work that cartoonists and others have undertaken in the form of the interview (there’s also some wonderful background on the subject via David Hains). In a second piece, Heer examines the nationalism in the works of many Canadian cartoonists, speculating on the reasons for this trend and comparing it to the rest of our national literature:

What is noteworthy is that comics don’t fall into the periodization seen in literature. The sort of nationalist themes that [Russell] Smith’s characters were dismissing as dated in 1998 – small towns, historical figures such as Riel – are in fact a major concern to the best Canadian cartoonists: Seth’s whole body of work, indeed, revolves around such topics, as do the most popular works of Chester Brown and David Collier (who did a fine biographical portrayal of Grey Owl, another Canadian icon).

Webcomics may come and go, but a webcomic is not created every day by Alan Bunce—or, no, wait, yes it is. Back in 2000, Bunce, formerly a senior storyboard artist at Nelvana and director of Babar: The Movie, decided to self publish his vision of what a children’s comic should be. Shortly after he won that year’s Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award.

This year Bunce is trying his hand at a webcomic version of Funny Forest, at funnyforest.ca. I can’t seem to get enough of it— the work is irreverent, self-referential, meta-comics. It also works as silly slapstick and mad-cap humour. Funny Forest captures so perfectly the joyousness and exuberance of spontaneous comic creation.