The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is one of the most influential and important comic book event in North America. It’s mission is to “promote the creators of comic books in their broad and diverse voices, for the betterment of the medium of comics”. In the spirit of this mission, the Comics Beat has conducted a series of interview with some of the phenomenal cartoonists in attendance at this year’s festival. The Comics Beat will be releasing a series of interview with cartoonist in attendance. We hope that these interviews will improve our understanding of these creators voices, techniques, interests and influences.
Sophie Bédard is a fascinating French Canadian cartoonist. She’s made very interesting contribution to the Quebec magazine on comics Planches. Her energy is contagious and her graphic novel series Glorieux Printemps (soon to be published in English as Almost Summer) have a very realistic and honest quality that makes them riveting. They tell the story of a group of teenagers going through their last years of high school. I was surprised by how realistic her characters felt, acted and talked to one another. She has a fantastic ear for dialog. While she her entire series of four books have been published in French, Almost Summer is her first English publication. I spoken with her about Almost Summer, her current academic pursuits and how it felt to translate her first work. Please note that this interview was conducted in French, so any issues with the meaning or wording are entirely my fault!
Philippe Leblanc: For those readers who may not be familiar with you and your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Sophie Bédard: I’m a comic book artist and illustrator. Almost Summer is my first officially edited book, but before that, I’d done some fanzines and many short stories published here and there. My stories revolve around daily life, but also around magic, dreams and the absurd. I live I Montreal and I’m completing my bachelor degree in sexology which has been taking all of my energy!
PL: You’ve studied graphic design and currently studying sexology. I’m curious to know how comic book mesh with the rest of your academic and career path
SB : I studied graphic design before I knew I really wanted to make comic books. After, I worked on Almost Summer for a few years until I finally realized that I couldn’t only draw and write stories. I had to find something else to do. I needed to have something else happening in parallel. Not so much on a financial level, but more to balance the multiple elements in my life. That’s how I came to study sexology. It was a field that interested me for a long time and I’m eager to see how those two practices will merge together. Right now, I’m studying full-time. I have a little bit of time to write comics, but not as much as I’d like. I don’t think I found the balance I was looking for yet. In the meantime, I note all the stories I want to draw during the summer.
PL : Almost Summer is a series of four graphic novel that follows the life of six teenagers in high school. You focus on their daily lives during their last few years of high school. Could you give us more details about this series?
SB: That’s a pretty good summary haha! It’s hard for me to talk about Almost Summer because nit much happens in it. It’s about the daily life of a group of teenagers living in the suburbs. They go to school, they have family trouble, they love, they fight… It’s a comedy that really focuses on real life. I’ve put a lot of my friends and myself in there. I’ve put a lot of my hometown, a sort of sleepwalking half-empty suburbs. I tried to make realistic and engaging characters. The story isn’t the focus, it’s truly the characters that are the focal point.
PL: What interested you in exploring interpersonal relationship and the life of teens?
SB: I started drawing when I was 19 or 20 years old. I think I was simply talking about what I knew best. I created the characters of Almost Summer when I was their age, so about 14 years old. I “grew up” with them in a way by drawing them dozens of times and inventing their stories. I think I ended up talking about my own teenage years strangely without ever meaning to or realizing it.
PL: I like the style you use, your characters convey a lot of emotions and complexity. Your lines seem controlled and focus on the essential. What are your artistic influences? How did you settled on your current style?
SB : I’m really inspired by too many phenomenal artist to all list them here, but I think my biggest influence is Kyoko Okazaki, a Japanese cartoonist. I discovered her books in College and that really stunned me. Her figures focuses on the essential and has this fabulous energy.
PL : Almost Summer is available online on your blog. Did you picture that this comic book would be published one day? Did you create Almost Summer for the page or for the screen?
SB: When I drew the first pages, I thought that Almost Summer would be published as small zines and that I’d be distributing them myself. But mostly, I wanted it to be read, and I wanted feedback, so that’s why it was published as a webcomic. I didn’t really think that Almost Summer would be published one day. It was really a personal project, to draw and write more, to progress more. It was a nice surprise when Luc at Pow Pow press suggest we made a book out of it!
PL: The first volume of Almost Summer will be published in English by Pow Pow Press in May. Why was it important for you to see this series in English?
SB: I think I’m mostly excited to see how the book will be received by an English-speaking audience. I thought it was super interesting to see the translation process. I think one of the strong elements of the original French version is the dialogs, the tone and the language used. How do you translate slang or swear word and make it as close to the original as possible. Saying “fuck” is not the same as for example saying “tabarnak” in French, there’s a very different intent and levels to those words even though they’re both swear words. Also, comedy doesn’t work the way. So it was interesting to see how that came together.
PL: The four volumes of Almost Summer will be published in English over the next year. What are your next projects?
SB: FINISH MY BACHELOR’S DEGREE. Then work as a sexologist and make comic books forever. I have this called “Les petits garçons” (the little boys) that’s been gathering dust for a year because I haven’t had much chance to draw during the school year. It’s about these early twenty-something girls who are roommate (I’m not really good at describing my own stories!). I started to publish it online here: lespetitsgarcons.tumblr.com. It is a project I really care about. I’m eager to get back to it.
You can find up to date information on Sophie’s art and current project at her Tumblr page. If you speak French, you can go read Glorieux Printemps online here, or order her French books here. If you speak English, the first volume of Almost Summer can be found over at Pow Pow Press Shop.
Come meet her at TCAF, she’s looking forward to meeting everybody and get feedback on her first English graphic Novel!
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.