The long-time Oi Polloi lurkers in the audience will probably be familiar with Régric.
He’s the comic artist responsible for those really classy illustrations that Arpenteur use on their wares, and was the man behind that lovely drawing of Oi Polloi’s very own French connection – Claude – that was used on our collaboration last year.
Outside of all this clothes business, he’s a highly acclaimed artist in his own right, carrying the torch for the crisp, ‘clear line’ style first devised by Tin Tin creator Hergé.
Seeing as some fresh Arpenteur stuff has just rocked up (including some more collaborative wares), now seemed like a decent time for a bit of a chat about comics and that type of thing…
First things first, how did you get into comics?
I have always read comics. I started reading American comics like Spider Man, Iron Man and Superman, and then I discovered the European comics like Astérix, Tintin and Alix.
Do you remember the first comic you saw?
I think it was an issue of the magazine ‘Strange’ in 1975, with Marvel heroes. This is the most distant memory I have…
Maybe a bit of a daft question, but how do you go about making a comic?
It all depends if I work with a writer, or if I do both the story and the drawings. In the case of a collaboration with a screenwriter, I use his text that describes the scenes to illustrate and I layout the pages. If I work alone, I write my script from things I have previously written down in my notebook. Then I make a storyboard, and then I draw the final pages, first in pencil and then in ink. The colouring is then done on the computer.
I continue to work ‘the old fashioned way’ with nibs and ink. I like physical contact with paper and pencil.
How long would a single page comic usually take? Is it a slow process?
Yes, I need a week to make a black and white page. It takes about a year to make a 46 page album with colouring and cover drawing. It’s a lot of work...
It sounds it. From what I can see, you still use pencils, pen and ink. What are your thoughts on digital devices being used for comics?
At the beginning the designers had the choice between inking their drawings with a brush or a nib. The techniques became diversified with the arrival of the computer and various graphic design programs. For my part, I continue to work ‘the old fashioned way’ with nibs and ink. I like physical contact with paper and pencil.
What makes a good comic?
First, a good story! To make a comic strip is to tell a story with an efficient and comprehensible manner and good dialogue. Drawing is important too, of course, but above all, it’s the story.
Why are comics still so popular in France?
It all started in the early 20th century when children didn’t have much distraction. Comics were long considered literature for fools, but now, everyone reads comics without shame because there are now generations of people who have always been used to reading them. Comic book heroes have become symbols of European popular culture.
From what I’ve read, a lot comics from France and Belgium follow the ‘ligne claire’ or ‘clear line’ style. What is this? Where did it come from?
All this comes from the work of Hergé, the creator of Tintin (even if the expression ‘ligne claire’ is not his). It means that the drawings are simple, without unnecessary detail, and are coloured ‘flat’, without gradient.
Joost Swarte, the man who came up with the expression ‘ligne claire’, also specifies that the drawing must not include any shadow, but I don’t agree with this point since in Hergé’s albums there are sometimes shadows.
A lot of French comics seem to focus on bold adventurers and that kind of thing. Why do you think that is? Is it escapism?
Comic book heroes have long been courageous and adventurous men, from Formula 1 drivers to journalists. Now the choices have evolved and today, we find everything in comics, with more dramatic and intimate stories. Even still, the heroes of comics are always adventurous, because otherwise it would mean that nothing would happen…
Haha, I suppose they’d be pretty boring otherwise. What other comics do you like?
I really like the work of Mike Mignola, the creator of Hellboy. I could also mention Cosey, for a different kind of classic adventure.
The heroes of comics are always adventurous, because otherwise it would mean that nothing would happen…
How did you get involved with Arpenteur?
Marc and Laurent contacted me after seeing my work on the Lefranc series. They were looking for an illustrator who could work with them in this graphic style.
What was your process for doing the illustration of Claude in the Peugeot? How do you make something like that?
It’s pretty similar to how I work on my comic pages. Once Marc and Laurent at Arpenteur sent me a sketch with their idea, I looked for photos of the car and the dog to work from - with the internet, it's easy! I then made a sketch in pencil that I sent to Marc and Laurent. Once they were happy with it, I finished the drawing by putting the ink on it, then my girlfriend and I filled in the colours.
What else do you get up to outside of comics. What music are you into? What movies do you like?
It’s important to do some sport, so I ride my bike. As for music, I have been a fan of Elvis Presley since I was young, and I like to listen to Ennio Morricone’s film music.
For films, I've been a fan of Star Wars since I saw Episode IV in 1977, and I’m also a fan of the adventures of Indiana Jones. I much prefer going to the cinema to see movies.
Sounds good. Do you have anything to add?
I hope that people appreciate this little graphic touch that accompanies their garment. Thanks.
Images courtesy of Arpenteur. Thanks to Google Translate for the help with this.