Editors Notes: Kim Thompson on The Arctic Marauder

The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi

[In this installment of our series of Editors Notes, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") about The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi, now available to pre-order from us and coming soon to a comics shop near you. – Ed.]

Hey, whoa, another Tardi book? Didn't the last one come out like three months ago?

Yeah, sorry. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec Volume 1 ran a little late because of designer bottleneck, and then this one was on time.

Not that I'm complaining. So, what made you select this one out of the dozens of Tardi books that are available to you?

Three reasons. First, I like the idea of picking from all periods of Tardi's career and this, being just his third graphic novel, nicely extends the range. (The one after that will be literally his most recent book.) Second, I like the fact that it's so visually distinctive, and I like its historical importance as an early steampunk — or "icepunk" as I like to call it — work of comics. And third… well, the third reason I can't actually tell you. It will become clear eventually.

The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi - detail

Oka-ayyy… Speaking of the distinctive style, what is that? Scratchboard?

Yeah. As a kid, Tardi had some old Jules Verne books featuring woodcut illustrations, and he set out to try to duplicate that look, which he thought would be cool and appropriate for this book.

It looks like a hellacious amount of work.

Oh, it was. From what I gather, Tardi had to draw the foreground characters, then ink in all the backgrounds where he was going to do woodcut effects in solid black and then, using these knives and comb-like utensils, carve them back to white. And those were super-detailed pages! Having finished, he swore "never again" and has certainly been true to his promise.

The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi - page

So when the book says "The Adventures of Jérôme Plumier" that's kind of a joke, we'll never see another album in this series? Even though it's really pushed as a bit of a cliffhanger?

In this series, no — and the cliffhanger, like the rest of the book, is very much tongue in cheek. Then again, whether you've seen the last of Plumier and his acolytes, that's not as cut and dried.

You've said that you tweaked the dialogue in the Adèle Blanc-Sec book to make it more "retro," more purple in the U.S. edition. This one is even more outrageously ornate in its captions and dialogue…

Yes, but in this case I was actually following the original quite scrupulously. Tardi wrote it that way himself to begin with.

The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi - detail

So what's the next Tardi book after this?

Like a Sniper Lining up His Shot, another Jean-Patrick Manchette adaptation. I just got my copy of the French edition a few weeks ago and it's great, it's like West Coast Blues except far more violent…

Uh, "FAR more violent"…? West Coast Blues wasn't exactly namby-pamby…

Oh, yes! This one is just savage: Even crows and cats get it, in the worst way. All quite faithful to the original book, I might add. After that, well, I just sat down with Tardi's bibliography and there are at least a half-dozen equally worthy candidates so far as I'm concerned, although since the first Adèle Blanc-Sec book is doing really well, I've decided to slot the second one in for later this year. After that, I don't know.

Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot - Jacques Tardi

Tardi's working on another Manchette adaptation right now, isn't he?

Yes, although not the one we announced. He started adapting a book called Nada but (in a weird repeat of what happened back in the 1970s when he started working on yet another Manchette book and gave up partway through) dropped it and has now started on one called O Dingos, O Châteaux (Easy Prey), which I think is actually a better candidate for comics adaptation. It has an apocalyptically climactic shootout set in a supermarket that I can't wait to see done in comics form.

How does "O Dingos, O Châteaux" translate to "Easy Prey"?

It doesn't. It's an incredibly abstruse original title that's a punning parody of a Victor Hugo verse and I was baffled as to how I could translate it, until Manchette's son Doug told me that I could just use Manchette's original French title, "La Proie Facile," which translates without any fuss as "Easy Prey." Actually, from what I understand it's possible the Tardi adaptation may use even a different title from that since it is so goofy.

What is going on with the Luc Besson Adèle Blanc-Sec movie so far as getting U.S. distribution?

Damned if I know. It didn't set the French box office on fire, and it was a very expensive movie by European standards, so maybe they just can't get a mutually satisfactory deal with an American distributor. I ordered my copy of the French DVD just in case, and it arrived a couple of days ago. I'm getting ready to watch it with a mixture of anticipation and a little bit of dread, it looks like Besson may have let his goofier side (the Chris-Tucker-in-The-Fifth-Element side as opposed to the Jean-Reno-in-The-Professional side) run a bit rampant. It looks pretty, though. I expect it'll show up on Pay-Per-View or as a DVD Stateside eventually.