9: An elephant, a field of wheat, a dying match...  




     I’m going to explain to you why I make comic strips without a script... I’m going to tell you in minute detail the pains of creation... I’m going to say to you something good. I’m going to open up—worse, I’m going to confess.

     In fact, it’s very simple: first, there are all these tellers of stories... of twists, adventures, messages, morals, gags.

     1) The twist: it’s easy. It involves contradicting in one image all that went before... The problem becomes the quality of the contradiction. The more powerful the opening, the more the twist ending will be relished... We see how clear the procedure is... Equally, how artificial.

     2) The adventure... Give a range of powers to a guy or a group and bring him into the presence of another guy or group whose range of powers appears slightly greater... The trick consists in letting the weaker one win. The choice of trick will be the political-moral message of the author.

     3) The message: there’s always a message, but the author may suppose its quality such that it takes on the importance of a skeleton, even sometimes muscles, nerves and blood. It’s sometimes true, mostly for cultural infants.

     4) The moral... we find the same structures as for twist-endings, not particularly in terms of contradiction, but the procedure is similar.

     5) The gag... each instance reconstitutes and compresses the 4 preceding examples in varying doses...

     Since the political message is implicit, why push it? Why wait until the end for a contradiction? Why give victory to the weaker party?  Why fear being alone in the dark and crying for help? Why so anxious to be right?...  

     There’s no reason for a story to be like a house with one door for going in, windows for looking at the trees and a chimney for the smoke... One can very well imagine a story in the form of an elephant, a field of wheat, a dying match.





     The foregoing appeared as “Editorial 1” in Metal Hurlant #4, (October-December 1975).

     As a translator, I do what I can—which is, mainly, apologize to those who know better, and remind the reader I’m only an amateur. I mean, what am I to do with Giraud’s “flamme d’allumette souffrée”?

     If it was “soufrée”—one “f”—it would be the “flame of a sulfur match”, pure and simple. But it’s “souffrée”—“ff”—which, if it sounds like the same thing, appears to suggest the match has “suffered”.

     Giraud delighted in puns, and admired the manner in which similar-sounding words had the power to generate situations and worlds in the work of Raymond Roussel.

     But maybe this was just a typo.

     An online search for “allumette souffrée” led to an automatic translation as “blown match”—which, as far as I can tell, is an accurate translation of “allumette soufflée”. But is the match blown out, or is the flame merely troubled by my breath?

     It hardly matters. A match will not burn for long.

     And yet, the flame of a match is one thing; the flame of a match blown out quite another. Both breath and flame are images of life: the match troubled by breath is life in conflict, our precarious hold on being; the extinguished match is a poetic evocation of memory, of transience, of loss.

     Does chance wring pathos from a minor typographical error?

     Does the flame Giraud set to paper still burn?

     Does the elephant still cross the wheat field?