Saturday, 10 October 2009

Serge Clerc's Le Journal

On my trip to France, along with a couple of other titles, I picked up a copy of Serge Clerc's Le Journal, his frenetic story of Metal Hurlant magazine. The perfection of Clerc's line always takes me back to the golden age of the NME when they had decent writers. I would devour it cover to cover week after week, and marvel at the composition of his retro illustrations. I now find out that this rigourous stylist, whom I could only dream to emulate, was creating these formally impeccable images out of what appears to be turmoil and chaos.
Plucked from the provinces when barely grown to collaborate with the sophisticated Dionnet and Manoeuvre, he is bombarded with culture and has to absorb a lifetime's knowledge of scifi, cinema, comics and rock n roll at an accelerated rate, while at the same time trying to get to grips with alcohol and women (and I'm only half way through).

I had been slightly disappointed by the narrative quality of those Clerc albums I had read up to now, finding his style to dominate over content, a certain glacial distance.
But here is a work that gives me a sense of the man wielding the pen, of his struggle for perfection, of his fear of being sidelined by rivals, of his feet of clay.
Clerc will always represent an unattainable summit of graphic excellence, but with this book he has managed to make me warm to him. He reveals his self doubt, his relentless desire to learn and improve, a kid trying to keep up with and impress the adults around him.
The contrast between the fautlessness of his line and the disjointed insanity of his storytelling has turned my admiration into love.


Kenny Penman said...

Hi Francesca

I loved Clerc too - from those NME days where it was basically the whole Wednesday afternoon (it did come out on wednesday then - right?) reading it. Writers like Morley, Penman, Shaar Murray, Burchill & Parsons were so much more than just the music. Clerc's cartoons just seemed to add to that 'sophisticated' modern air. I bought this book a while back also, I can't read it - have no French - but was a bit disappointed by the art - almost seemed that the minimialism he was reknowned for had become a little swamped in just too many perfect lines. Might just be me.

ROOKSBY said...

Hey, I realise this Serge-related post is 3 years old (!), but it's one of the few pieces of English writing about Le Journal that I've come across. I just wanted to check: is the entire book illustrated throughout, or does it alternate pages of illustration with pages of pure text? It's (still) quite an expensive purchase &, as I was a big fan of Serge's art for NME & Heavy Metal/Metal Hurlant in the 80s, I'd hate to be disappointed! Your opinion, therefore, would be enormously appreciated - hope you don't mind? Many thanks, IAN