Descent into Darkness, Marc Legendre

Posted by on August 18th, 2010 at 12:56 AM

I assume that writer/artist Marc Legendre is practically unknown in the English speaking parts of the world, his fame extending mostly to European countries thanks his all ages creation Biebel.

He started out as the chief editor of Tintin weekly magazine, then went to the Robbedoes magazine where he created Biebel — a good natured Dennis the Menace type of character with crossages appeal — which led to 26 succesful albums, rave reviews internationally and publications in newspapers and magazines.  He went on to create a few other popular all ages and other titles before he disappeared from the comics scene altogether in 1995, escaping to El Hierro in the Canadian Islands.

All went silent around this popular creator.

In 2005 though Legendre resurfaces with a highly personal project. Finisterre is launched upon an unsuspecting audience and raised in the expectations of a lovable character like Biebel, it hits like a bomb..

Finisterre is one long monologue of a woman who is about to end her life. Having discovered that the man she loved used to torture children and dissidents during the Bosnian war, she runs to the end of the world, literally and figuratively. There she will end her life. Finisterre is her memory, reminiscing, recollecting, re-living those shards of thought, those slivers of horror.

Partly inspired by his brother who was a war correspondent in Bosnia,  Finisterre was originally written for the theatre. Legendre succeeds in transforming it into a graphic novel with ‘graphic’ being the keyword.  Text is in captions, no word balloons are used and images tend to be of an abstract quality enhancing text with visual symbolism.  This is not to say that the visuals themselves are abstract but f.e. Legendre uses the image of a nice clean room that graphically explodes in the next panel to represent the shattered vision of life the protagonist has. The GN is full of images like that where Legendre focuses on details and enlargements as a small part of the whole. Fragments of a life left behind… or intended to be left behind.

After his seclusion from comics, Legendre is adamant in not holding himself back anymore. Free from restraints, free from editorial intermingling, free from the constraint of expectation, he cuts loose. Photography, paint, pencil, ink, Photoshop etc; it is all in Finisterre and his subsequent work. Whatever it takes to tell the story from the gut, he goes for it reaching for maximum emotional impact on the reader.

After Finisterre, Legendre made Further; a slightly more traditional graphic novel – but only slightly – about two people, two monologues, set out to hurt each other and see to what extend language can scar a person. It was the first graphic novel nominated for a Libris Literature price in the category fiction in the Netherlands. His latest project has just been released and is a retelling of the folktale of Reynaert the Fox, again mixing media to achieve the maximum impact on storytelling.

As an aside, Legendre is also a man with opinions and finds the term Graphic Novel extremely irritating, finding it absurd that f.e. the Green Lantern Rebirth tradepaperback is a graphic novel stocked next to Satrapi’s Persepolis. To him a graphic novel is graphic in the purest sense of the word: telling a story from the gut and using everything that is available to you to tell the story with no holds barred. Not just doing pretty pictures page after page but translating the graphic into true storytelling. A nice thought to put you to bed.

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