I’ve had the chance to go this morning with my son to the 38th edition of the Salon du Livre de l’Outaouais. It’s the major Francophone book fair for the Outaouais Region, a region of western Quebec. It’s a mainly French event, but nonetheless, there are plenty of comics there since a parallel festival called “Les Rendez-vous de la BD” is embedded in the event. Let’s take a look at the scene here.
First up, there’s a celebration of the political cartoonist Bado (Guy Badeau). Bado has been doing political cartoons for the French-Canadian newspaper Le Droit for 35 years. He’s a guest of honour and his work is prominently displayed before entering the main exhibitor’s hall. The event is meant to celebrate his career and we are treated to a selection of his best cartoons. A new collection of his best work called Qui ça, bête et méchants? has just been published. A quick look at his art reveals an early 90’s cartoon that comic retailer Mike Sterling should enjoy. It depicts former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as Swamp Thing!
I stopped briefly at the Scholastic stand in the children’s literature area for a chat with the staff there. I asked about New York Times Bestseller Raina Telmegeier‘s French editions of her books and how they’re doing. They were prominently displayed right under a rack filled with Big Nate comics. “How popular are the French versions of Telmegeier’s book in French?” I asked naively. “Well they’re selling like hot cakes, we brought 36 copies of each of her books and that display is all I have left. No overstock and I can’t refill the display” the staff person responded. I went to the opening of the fair on Saturday at 9:00 am. Granted the show started on Thursday evening, but Saturday is the busiest day for the fair and they were running low at the opening of the weekend. Bestseller is the word.
Moving on, I met with Luc Bossé, the founder and editor of Pow Pow Press. They were sharing a booth with Mécanique générale, another Montreal-based publisher. Pow Pow Press has been making headway with a very interesting English publishing slate of late. We had a chance to talk about their latest English book Nunavik by Michel Hellman. It’s the follow-up to Hellman’s much acclaimed Mile End. Nunavik is the story of Hellman’s trek through Northern Quebec. Along the way, he meets members of the First Nations, various activists and some shady characters. It’s mostly a tale where the author challenges his own conception of the Canadian North and his prejudice about northern identity. It looks great. The Mécanique générale booth had the latest Jimmy Beaulieu full colour graphic novel Rôles de composition, which takes a look at relationship, fidelity, lust and lies. This book should also be translated at some point hopefully, it’s quite beautiful.
I also had the chance to pick up a copy of Phylactere, the latest anthology comic put together by the students of the comic arts program at the Universite du Quebec en Outaouais. The students who were there were ecstatic to describe their work and introduce more readers. It looks great, though I haven’t really had a chance to peruse it more carefully just yet. Sitting next to them in another booth was Boum, talking at length about her long-running autobiography comic strip Les Boumeries.
Lastly, there was a new publisher I knew nothing about called Berber that had a booth there as well. They had a handful of interesting books and a very ambitious series called Bulles about the end of the world that is set to be published in over 13 volumes, the first five of which are already out. They had a beautifully illustrated book called Le film d’Ariane by Stephanie Labbe, Jonathan Masson and Amelie Prevost. It’s the tale of a woman who discovers that she suffers a deadly genetic disease and tries to find a cure.
I didn’t have much time to see a lot more than this. I went with my 9 month old son and he started getting fussy so that cut the visit short. There was a bunch of comic related events, workshops, panels, live drawing, trivia and Q&A with a wide array of artists such as Michel Hellman, Richard Suicide, Cab, Arianne Denommé, Jean-Paul Eid, Jimmy Beaulieu, Iris, but with a limited time I didn`t have the chance to see much more than this. There’s still lots of time to visit the Salon today. That was a small French scene report from Gatineau.