'It Was The War In The Trenches'.

Jacques Tardi is one of the most important, versatile and influential French comic artists of all time. He invented an influential variation of Hergé's "Ligne Claire" ("Clear line"), but is first and foremost hailed as one of the masters of adult comics. Recurring themes in his productive oeuvre are the early 20th century - particularly World War I -, steampunk, detective stories and the underworld of the city. His signature series 'Les Extraordinaires Aventures d'Adèle Blanc-Sec' ('The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec', 1976) follows a feisty female private investigator in 1910s and 1920s Paris. Tardi adapted many novels by famous and less famous authors into graphic novels. Some are one-shots, others complete series, like his best known and longest-running literary adaptation, 'Nestor Burma' (1982). The artist won universal acclaim with his powerful and gripping graphic novels about the First World War, of which 'C'était La Guerre des Tranchées' ('It Was The War of the Trenches', 1993) and 'Putain de Guerre!' ('Goddamn This War!', 2008) are the most monumental. The man has additionally written and/or illustrated stories for other artists. Tardi's work has been translated all over the world. His sheer versatility, atmospheric artwork and refreshing abundance of "heroes" has made him popular with readers and a global inspiration to fellow comic artists.

Adèle Blanc-Sec #2 - 'Le Démon de la Tour Eiffel'.

Early life and influences
Jacques Tardi was born in 1946 in Valence, Drôme. He came from a family of military veterans. His maternal grandfather died in the trenches during the First World War. His paternal grandfather served during the same war and survived. Tardi's own father was a veteran of the Second World War, but spent most of the conflict in a POW camp. All were seriously traumatized by their war past. Particularly his paternal grandfather, who never wanted to talk about the horrors he endured. On his death bed, the demoralized soldier refused his final rites, because "if God really existed, there wouldn't have been wars." The veteran died when Jacques was only five years old, but his widow later told him stories about what her husband went through. His relatives' war stories had a huge emotional impact on Tardi. They gave him nightmares and a lifelong disgust of war and nationalism. On a more positive note, it also left him with a fascination for the early 20th century, particularly the 1900s and 1910s. Many of his comics take place right before, during or after the First World War. Sometimes as a mere backdrop, other times central to the story. Even though Tardi made a few contemporary comics, most of his graphic novels are set in the past, ranging as far back as the mid-19th century and, closer to our age, the 1950s.

Tardi's father owned a gas station in the Ardèche. When little Jacques was five years old, he spent several months at his grandparents' home. After his grandfather's death, his grandmother moved in with Tardi's parents. She had a strong influence on his cultural development and often took him to the cinema where they watched historical adventure films. The woman stimulated him to read and draw. While she didn't dislike comics, she still felt her grandson ought to read "proper" literature. Tardi's grandma selected novels and comic books for him which fit her educational and artistic standards. Therefore Tardi was influenced just as much by novelists as comic artists. Among his graphic influences are Hergé, Edgar P. Jacobs, Jacques Martin, Hugo Pratt, Dino Battaglia, Jean Giraud, Milton Caniff, Guy Peellaert, Jean-Claude Forest, Alex Toth, George Herriman, Morris and Paul Cuvelier. In the field of "high art", he admires Otto Dix and Jackson Pollock.

'Rumeurs sur le Rouergue' (Pilote #642).

Early comics career
Tardi studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Lyon, but never managed to pass his final exam, despite doing it twice. In 1966 he went to the Arts Décos in Paris, where Jean-Michel Nicollet was one of his fellow students. There he graduated with a diploma in mural art. In 1970, Tardi applied for a job at Pilote magazine, and afterwards at Pif Gadget, trying to pitch a comic strip about World War I, written by Nicollet and drawn by himself. By lack of experience he was rejected. As luck would have it, some veterans at Pilote saw something in the youngster and hired him to illustrate several short comic stories and gags by Jean Giraud ('Un Cheval en Hiver', 1970), Jean-Pierre Dionnet ('Histoire Ringarde', 1973-1974), Serge DeBeketch ('La Torpedo Rouge-Sang', 'L'Homme Qui Connaissait Le Jour et L'Heure', 'Prevoyez l'Accident', 'Humberdick Clabottford', 1970-1971) and Picotto ('Cirque Arté Zimboldo', and 'Une Histoire de Tous Les Jours', 1977-1978).

With 'Rumeurs sur le Rouergue' (1972), based on a script by Pierre Christin (A.K.A.. Linus), Tardi created his first full-blown adventure comic. As the first installment of the 'Légendes d'Aujourd'hui' series, the plot is notable for its socio-political dimensions. Mr. Dubois-Chauffier is commissioned by the multinational Parindus to take over a disbanded mine in the forest of Cassaniouze. As he soon finds out, the local villagers aren't too happy about this initiative, fearing it will destroy the environment... Tardi didn't really enjoy drawing it and passed the pencil to Enki Bilal, who drew the next episodes in Christin's series.

In hindsight, Tardi regarded most of his early efforts for Pilote as an old shame. He was very intimidated by all the comics legends in his vicinity. His nine stories for Pilote are collected in the book 'Mouh-Mouh' (Pepperland, 1979), where his written introduction explains his personal memories and current reflection on his work, all written with an ironic touch. Yet, despite the creator's reservations, 'Un Cheval en Hiver' did win the 1979 Grand Prix Saint-Michel.

Adieu Brindavoine, by Jacques Tardi (Pilote #700, 1973)
'Adieu Brindavoine' (Pilote #700, 5 April 1973).

Artistic maturity
In November 1972, Tardi matured as an artist with 'Adieu Brindavoine' ('Goodbye Brindavoine'). The story marked the first appearance of photographer Lucien Brindavoine, a character Tardi would re-use in another story, 'La Fleur au Fusil' ('The Flower in the Rifle', 1974), also prepublished in Pilote. Set in Paris at the outbreak of World War I, Brindavoine meets a stranger who tells him he is destined to have an extraordinary adventure. Yet before he can tell him more, the stranger is murdered. Brindavoine embarks upon a long voyage trying to find answers, bringing him to places like Istanbul and the trenches during World War I.

Tardi followed this up with 'Le Démon des Glaces' ('The Arctic Marauder'), published in book format by Dargaud in 1974. The story is set in the Arctic Seas, where the Anjou, a ship sailing from Murmansk, Russia, to Le Havre, France, spots another ship stuck on top of an iceberg. The captain sends out some sailors to investigate the matter. They notice that everybody on the ship on the iceberg has frozen to death, without any indication how they got there. More mystery arises when their own ship suddenly explodes and sinks. Even worse: they are now stuck on this iceberg without any plan how to get off? 'Le Démon des Glaces' is notable for Tardi's graphic experimentation. Each panel is drawn to look like a 19th-century engraving, inspired by Gustave Doré.

'Le Démon des Glaces'.

Tardi's next comic, 'La Véritable Histoire du Soldat Inconnu' ('The True Story of the Unknown Soldier', Futuropolis, 1974), also broke new ground. The entire plot was completely improvised. The only thing he knew in advance was the ending. This stream-of-consciousness tale revolves around a soldier in the trenches who reminsces about his past. As he used to be a pulp novelist, he imagines his characters coming alive. The story has many dream sequences, visualized in dazzling graphics with surreal imagery. 'La Véritable Histoire du Soldat Inconnu' was published in black-and-white by Futuropolis. Throughout the mid-1970s, Tardi would create many similar one-shot comics for adult-oriented comic magazine like Libération, Métal Hurlant and L'Écho des Savanes. He illustrated Picaret's story 'Polonius' (Les Humanoïdes Associés, 1976), serialized in Métal Hurlant. This science fiction story centers around a convicted vagrant, Polonius, who is banished to die in the desert. A general comes to his aid and adopts him as his trusty accomplice in a series of dark schemes. Polonius soon realizes he is trapped again, being a mere pawn in the hands of this corrupt military officer. During this period Tardi also created a few western comics with writer Claude Verrien, 'Blue Jackett' in Record (1973) and 'L'Évasion de Cheval gris' in the dummy issue of the monthly magazine Lucky Luke (1973).

'Blue Jackett'.

Adélè Blanc-Sec
In 1975, Tardi broke through with 'Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adélè Blanc-Sec' ('The Extraordinary Adventures of Adélè Blanc-Sec'). The protagonist is a young woman: Adélè Blanc-Sec. Tardi created her after noticing there were few female comic book heroes: Émile-Joseph Pinchon's 'Bécassine'  being a notable exception. As a tribute, he gave Adèle the same green dress as Bécassine. Yet Ms. Blanc-Sec's personality and adventures are far more colourful than Pinchon's rather bland farmer's daughter. The stories are set in Paris during the Belle Époque. Many backgrounds evoke the romantic Art Deco. Later stories take place during the 1920s, making it a rare example of a comic strip which isn't permanently stuck in the same time period. Adèle writes popular novels for a living, but frequently gets entangled in all kinds of mysterious cases. As such she acts more like a private investigator. The grumpy and feisty "heroine" regards most of the horrific events with utter cynicism. She has a no-nonsense attitude and little patience in dealing with arrogant law officers, ignorant patriots, imbecilic sexists, jealous women and self-important, dupeable civilians. If necessary, she speaks up for herself and works on her own terms.

Adèle Blanc-Sec #4 - 'Momies en folie'. The train accident is a reference to the 1895 train disaster in Montparnasse. 

What makes 'Adèle Blanc-Sec' particularly notable is the steampunk approach. Despite being set in a historic era, characters are often confronted with fantastical creatures like pterodactyls, prehistoric apes, giant salamanders and demons. To outsiders this might look a tad out of place, but Tardi actually pays homage to the kind of fantasy thrillers that were in vogue during the Belle Époque. Many of these stories were actually not any less preposterous compared with what Adèle witnesses throughout the series. 'Adèle Blanc-Sec' was prepublished in the daily magazine Sud-Ouest and, from 1978 on, in (À Suivre). The ninth story appeared in the magazine Télérama. The stories were published in graphic novel format by Casterman, which would remain Tardi's homebase from then on. The comic books have been translated in Dutch, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish and Italian. In most languages her name is untranslated, though the titles do drop her last name in favor of the more simple 'Adèle'. Only in Dutch ('Isabelle Avondrood') and Icelandic ('Birna Borgfjörð') her name is different. 

Adèle Blanc-Sec #9 - 'Le Labyrinthe infernal' (2007).

'Adèle Blanc-Sec' is arguably Tardi's best known work. It's not based on pre-existing novels or real-life accounts of war veterans. It's the finest example of his own imagination and narrative talent. The series won him his first awards, namely the 1975 Prix du Dessinateur Français ("Award for Best French Artist") at the Festival of Angoulême and the 1977 Prix Saint-Michel. Nevertheless new stories have only appeared with long hiatuses between them, since Tardi didn't like being tied to one series. The comic inspired the song 'Adélè Blanc-Sec' (1986), written and performed by Frédéric Paris and the musical ensemble La Chavannée. In 2010 Luc Besson adapted the series into a film, 'Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adélè Blanc-Sec', starring Louise Bourgoin in the title role. The picture received excellent reviews. It also features Tardi in a cameo role.

Ici Meme, by Jacques Tardi
'Ici Même' (À Suivre).

(À Suivre) & Arthur Même
In 1978, Casterman released the first issue of its comic magazine (À Suivre). Tardi designed its front cover and many more would follow. The illustration introduced Arthur Même to audiences, whose classic story 'Ici Même' would be serialized in (À Suivre) from February 1978 to January 1979. Même is a naïve man who has no home nor country left to go to. His only possession are the walls and gates of his mansion in Mornemont. Therefore he spends most of his time walking around there, asking potential passers-by for toll. Frustrated, Même tries to sue the new owners and get his former property back. Written by Jean-Claude Forest, 'Ici Même' is a strange, but intriguing story. Même is a daydreamer and therefore it's not always clear what he imagines and what not? Many readers have tried to find meaning in this surreal and seemingly allegorical story, though the creators themselves claimed that they just took a decade old idea and made everything up as they went along. Forest originally wanted 'Ici Même' to be a film, but this plan was never realized. In 1980, the graphic novel won the Award for Best Script at the Festival of Angoulême. In 2009 the book was published in English as 'You Are There' (2009) by Fantagraphics, translated by Kim Thompson. It has also been translated in Dutch, Spanish and Italian. Tardi used the tall, bowler hat-wearing Arthur Même in several other comics, illustrations, magazine covers and promotional artwork, such as 'La Bascule à Charlot' (1979), making him somewhat of a signature character and a mascot for (À Suivre).

Besides comics and front covers, Tardi frequently illustrated articles in (À Suivre) too. Between 1993 and 1996 he livened up Michel Boujut's film review column 'Cinéma À Suivre' by visualizing the characters and themes from pictures like 'Jurassic Park', 'Ed Wood', 'La Haine', '12 Monkeys' and 'Dead Man' in marvellous colour drawings. These collaborations would later be collected in the books 'Un Strapontin Pour Deux' (1995) and the portfolio 'Fait Son Cinéma' (2007). (À Suivre) had a Dutch-language sister magazine too, Wordt Vervolgd, which ran between 1980 and 1989. (À Suivre) itself lasted longer, way until 1997. It was only natural that Tardi would design the front cover of the final issue too, again with Arthur Même.

Cover illustrations for (À Suivre) #1 and #29.

Comics in the 1980s and early 1990s
Tardi's artwork and comics also appeared in other publications, among them Charlie-Hebdo, Métal Hurlant, Record, Lucky Luke Mensuel, the Spirou supplement Le Trombone Illustré, Libération, Le Monde, France Soir, Rock et Folk, Le Matin de Paris and Magazine Littéraire. In the 1980s, he became a recognizable name to English-language readers too through serialisations in Raw. In 1984, Tardi drew the comic strip 'Le Trou d'Obus' (Imagerie d'Épinal, 1984), a short story set in the trenches of World War I. Tardi would later re-use it as part of 'C' Était La Guerre des Tranchées ('It Was the War Of The Trenches', 1993). Also in 1984 Tardi published the graphic novel 'Tueur de Cafards' (1984), based on a script by Benjamin Legrand. Set in New York City, the reader follows Walter, a cockroach exterminator who gets caught up in a conspiracy theory. Two and a half decades later this story and another, 'Manhattan', would be recompiled in a new graphic novel under a different title: 'New York Mi Amor' (2009).

In 1990, Tardi drew 'Rue des Rebuts' (Casterman, 1990), a graphic novel set in Paris in 1919, where two stretchers who survived World War I dwell in the Parisian suburbs where they encounter various people, some more menacing than others. In 1991, Tardi and Jean-Claude Mézières teamed up to complete the final album in the 'Celui-Là' comic series, after the original creator Claude Auclair unexpectedly passed away a year earlier. Since the series' original scriptwriter Alain Riondet was still alive, Tardi and Mézières could finish the remaining pages, whereupon 'Celui Qui Achève' (1991) could still be published.


Literary adaptations: Jean-Patrick Manchette
Between October 1977 and April 1978, Tardi's first comic book adaptation of a pre-existing novel, 'Griffu' (1977-1978), appeared in the magazine B.D. of Éditions du Square. Based on Jean-Patrick Manchette's police novel of the same name, readers follow the investigations of private detective Griffu. Despite being a supposed "man of justice", he doesn't hesitate to take a criminal path if it suits his own profits. For instance, he commits a burglary in the Morel Frères company, just to pick up some files at a girl's request.

Tardi adapted other novels by Manchette too, such as 'Le Petit Bleu de la Côte Ouest' (2005), 'La Position du Tireur Couché' (2010) and 'Ô Dingos, ô Châteaux'! (2011). 'Le Petit Bleu de la Côte Ouest' revolves around an advertising director who plans a family vacation in the South of France. Along the road he notices a traffic accident and brings the victim to a local hospital. A few days later, he is shocked to learn that he is now targeted by unknown assassins. 'La Position du Tireur Couché' (2010) follows an assassin-for-hire, Christian Terrier, who concludes his final mission with the intention of retiring, only to find out that everything he planned takes a turn for the worse... 'Ô Dingos' takes off when billionaire Michel Hartog picks out a woman, Julie, to take care of her nephew, Peter, whose parents have passed away. A group of mobsters then kidnaps Julie and her nephew, as part of a bigger conspiracy...

Nestor Burma, by Jacques Tardi
'Nestor Burma'.

Literary adaptations: Léo Malet's Nestor Burma
Since 1981, Tardi has adapted Léo Malet's novel series 'Nestor Burma' as a series of graphic novels. The title character is a private detective in the 1950s. The comics breathe the atmosphere of a suspenseful film noir, with plenty of violent and erotic tension. Malet himself felt Tardi's comics were the finest adaptation of his work, because he really understood the characters. The first five stories, 'Brouillard au Pont de Tolbiac' (1982), '120, Rue de la Gare' (1988), 'Une Gueule de Bois de Plomb' (1990), 'Casse-pipe à la Nation' (1996) and 'M'as-Tu Vu en Cadavre?' (2000) were all illustrated by Tardi himself. From the sixth album on, 'La Nuit de Saint-Germain-des-Prés (2005), Emmanuel Moynot took over the series. He also made the next albums 'Le Soleil Naît Derrière Le Louvre' (2007) and 'L'Envahissant Cadavre de la Plaine Monceau' (2009), after which Nicolas Barral made 'Boulevard... Ossements' (2013) and 'Micmac moche au Boul' Mich'' (2015). In 1981, Gerard Dôle recorded a musical single, 'La Chanson de Nestor Burma' (1981) for which Tardi designed the cover.

Literary adaptations: Jean Vautrin
In 1990, Tardi created 'Tardi en Banlieue' (Casterman, 1990), a graphic novel about the Parisian suburbs, based on works by Jean Vautrin. Two decades later he adapted Vautrin's monumental book series 'Le Cri du Peuple' ('The Cry of the People', 2001-2004). The novels are set in Paris in 1871, during the revolt of the Communard movement. The historic event is told though the eyes of four characters: Captain Antoine Tarpagnan, Grondin and police officer Hippolyte Barthélémy. In 2002, the first volume, 'Les Canons du 18 Mars' (Casterman, 2001), won both the Alph'Art du Meilleur Dessin (Alpha Art Award for Best Drawing) and Alph'Art du Public (Alpha Art Audience Award) at the 2002 Festival of Angoulême.

'Le Cri du Peuple'.

Other literary adaptations
In 1992, Tardi made the one-shot graphic novel 'Jeux Pour Mourir' (Casterman, 1992), based on the novel of the same name by Géo-Charles Véran. Set in the 1950s, a group of young hoodlums kill an old lady to steal her jewelry. The gang leader happens to be the son of the violent and alcoholic police inspector who leads the investigations. The story is an intriguing character study and period piece at the same time. 'Jeux Pour Mourir' won both an Alph'Art du Public (Audience Alpha Art Award) at the Festival of Angoulême, as well as the Max und Moritz Award in 1994.

In 1999, Tardi and Daniel Pennac created 'La Débauche' (Futuropolis, 1999), a story about a man who is locked inside a zoo cage. He is fed like any other animal, which attracts a lot of media attention. Tardi also adapted Pierre Siniac's novel 'Le Secret de l'Étrangleur' ('The Secret of the Strangler', Casterman, 2006) into a comic book. Set during a foggy night in Paris in the 1950s, mistanthropic book salesman Valentin Esbirol notices that the streets are practically deserted. He decides to take a chance and conduct a series of strangulations. Frustrated that he was never able to make a career as a writer, he decides to murder a theatrical actor as his first victim. While he acts out his "revenge", he gets help from a young kid who wants to impress him...

'Le Secret de l'Étrangleur'.

Book illustrations
Naturally it was only a small step for Tardi to illustrate actual novels and books. Among the novelists whose pages he livened up were Laurent Albaret ('Guerre et Poste. L'Extraordinaire Quotodien des Français en Temps de Guerre', 2007), Tonino Benacquista ('Le Serrurier Volant', 2006), Isabelle Bournier ('Des Hommes Dans La Grande Guerre', 2008), Pierre Debuys ('L'Impasse', 2004), Michel Lebrun ('L'Almanach du Crime 1983. L' Annéé du Roman Policier', 1982), Jean-Patrick Manchette ('Ô Dingos, Ô Châteaux!', 1972, 'Fatale', 1977, 'La Position du Tireur Couché', 2010), Thierry Maricourt ('Frérot Frangin', 2005), André Norton ('The Bear Planet', aka 'La Planète des Ours', 1977), Daniel Pennac ('Au Bonheur des Ogres', 1985, 'La Fee Carabine', 1987, 'La Petite Marchande de Prose', 1989, 'Le Sens de la Houppelande', 1991, 'Monsieur Malaussène', 1995, 'Les Chrétiens et des Maures', 1996, 'Aux Fruits de la Passion', 1999), Daniel Prévost ('Sodome et Virginie', 1996), Nicolas Will ('Le Père-Lachaise', 1995) and Jean Vautrin ('Patchwork (Nouvelles)', 1995, and the 'Quatre Soldats' series, 2004).

He also picked out stories by classic writers like the Brothers Grimm ('Le Cochon Enchanté', 1984), Orson Welles ('La Toison d'Or', 1984), Franz Kafka ('L'Amériques', 1992), Jules Verne ('Un Prêtre en 1839', 1992, 'San Carlos', 1993), and, controversially, Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Céline was a veteran of the First World War who grew so embittered after returning to civilian life that he ventilated his frustrations in masterful proze. Unfortunately the author was also a raving antisemite and Nazi collaborator during World War II. Tardi's father actually suggested Céline's novels to him, since he felt they were the best accounts about war he'd ever read. The artist shared the same opinion and claimed that Céline's novels deserved more attention. When asked about Céline's antisemitism, Tardi replied that he didn't illustrate Céline's anti-Jewish pamphlets for that very reason, only his more neutral and far superior works of fiction. In total, Tardi illustrated eight novels by Céline: 'Casse-pipe' (1987), 'Mort à Crédit' (1991), 'D'un Château l'Autre' (1991), 'Rigodon', 'Nord', 'Entretiens avec le Professeur Y', 'Féérie Pour Une Autre Fois', and Céline's signature work, 'Voyage Au Bout de la Nuit' (1988).

Guerre des Tranchees, by Jacques Tardi
'La Guerre des Tranchées'.

C'était La Guerre des Tranchées (It Was the War Of The Trenches)
In 1993, Tardi's lifelong fascination for World War I culminated in the work many consider to be his masterpiece: 'C'était La Guerre Des Tranchées' ('It Was The War Of The Trenches', 1993). The book took a full decade to make, with all his previous comics being finger experiments to find the right tone. His graphic novel doesn't focus on one particular character, nor is there a specific "story". It's a series of vignettes built around the lives of individual soldiers. Tardi shows World War I as an endless slaughterfest, where young men die in pointless charges or get killed due to human errors. Generals command their troops to mow down defenseless women and children "because they might be shielding some German soldiers behind them." African recruits from France's colonies are merely brought in to compensate for the increasing lack of new troops. As the war drags on, soldiers grow cynical and desensitized. Some curse their generals, their fatherland, God, their government and their mother. Most just kill "the enemy" because they have to survive themselves. They've long forgotten why or for what they are fighting and just want to go home. But this insane conflict just carries on and on. The young men in the trenches feel scared, cold, undernourished and live in unspeakable disease-ridden filth and mud. Many can't take it anymore and freak out. Some commit self-mutilation or suicide, just to get out of this mess. Those who desert or disobey orders are put in front of a firing squad.

'La Guerre des Tranchées'.

Tardi draws everything in black-and-white, with grey tones to match the bleak circumstances these soldiers find themselves in. Violence is not sugarcoated: it's shown in all its gruesomeness. Many events are lifted from real-life testimonies, anecdotes and common military procedures. In one of the most powerful scenes, Tardi juxtaposes images of suffering and dying soldiers with quotes from real-life politicians, military officers and religious leaders, all glorifying their fatherland and battles without any clue what these common foot soldiers had to endure. Tardi also quotes authentic war-time correspondence from soldiers to their loved ones at home. He read and watched both fiction and non-fiction works about the war. He gathered an immense library of photographs. The artist talked with acclaimed historian Jean-Pierre Verney and surviving war veterans to doublecheck certain details. After a while he became such an expert that he noticed that several "authentic" World War I photographs were indeed taken at the battlefields, but staged for propaganda purposes. Tardi also included a few anecdotes which traumatized his own grandfather. One example was the horrific moment when his grandfather laid down low in the mud all night, only to discover the next morning that it were actually the guts of a corpse.

'It Was the War of Trenches' received excellent reviews upon its release and was a huge bestseller. It was translated in many languages and various history teachers have used it in their lessons. Art Spiegelman named it "an essential classic". Joe Sacco felt "Tardi's rendition of the First World War is so impassioned and visceral that it can be compared to the work of the artists who actually served in the trenches." In 2011 the book won the Eisner Award.

'Putain de Guerre!'

Putain de Guerre! ('Goddamn This War')
Between 2008 and 2009, Tardi and historian Jean-Pierre Verney created another graphic novel about World War I, first published monthly in six separate little books originally made available for libraries. Each episode follows one year of the First World War (1914-1918) chronologically, with the final volume devoted to its aftermath in 1919. All volumes were eventually compiled into one graphic novel: 'Putain de Guerre!' ('Goddamn This War', 2009). 'Putain de Guerre!' follows the same gruesome anti-war sentiment as 'It Was the War of the Trenches', but is more ambitious in scope. We follow an actual protagonist - a young French soldier - throughout the entire length of the conflict. In six chapters we experience the years 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918 and 1919 through his eyes. The book is longer than all of Tardi's previous works about the war and published in color. But the bright colors only appear in the first chapters and gradually desaturate, becoming grey and eventually black and white by the final chapters. Readers feel the demoralizing effect this seemingly never-ending conflict has on the soldier. Tardi takes time to address many different historical events and aspects he didn't touch upon in 'It Was the War in the Trenches'. 'Putain de Guerre!' has an equally detailed epilogue: a chronological text by Verney about World War I, illustrated with photos from his personal collection.

'Putain de Guerre!' won three awards, the Sproing Award (2013) for Best Foreign Comic, the Eisner Award (2014) for Best American Editon of an International Comic Book and the 2015 Urhunden Prize for Best Foreign Album.

'Le Der des Ders'.

Other World War I-themed publications
In 1994,Tardi illustrated Blanche Meupas' classic book 'Le Fusillé' (1933) for Éditions Isoète. Meupas was the widow of a French soldier, with whom she had two children. Her husband was executed along with three other corporals, because he was part of a regiment who had disobeyed an order to attack. He and his fellow recruits were merely executed to set an example. Only two hours after the execution news arrived that the French High Command had commuted their death sentences to forced labour. Blanche Meupas was outraged and fought the case in the courts, asking for amnesty for her late husband and any other soldier convicted for similar charges. Her book 'Le Fusillé' was a passionate plea and managed to actually convince a judge in 1934 to clear the four executed soldiers' names, but nobody else. Tardi's illustrated version was the first reprint in 60 years.

In collaboration with novelist Didier Daeninckx, Tardi made the two-parter graphic novels 'Le Der des Ders' (Casterman, 1997) and 'Varlot Soldat' (L'Assocation, 1999). The story follows Eugene Varlot, a private detective who gets drafted during World War I. In the trenches he criticizes his officers and the war itself, which gets him sent off to the firing squad for "treason". He realizes there are a lot of dirty tricks going on beneath the façade of the all-knowing French army… Tardi also illustrated 'Guerret et Poste' (2007) by Laurent Albaret, a book compiling letters from soldiers during the French-Prussian War, World War I and World War II to their loved ones.

In 2014, Tardi designed the cover of 'Chansons Contre La Guerre, 1914-1918', a song book written by his wife Dominique Grange. The book contains several anti-war songs, all related to the First World War, which the couple also performed during a tour. Accompanied by a musical quintet, Accordzéâm, Tardi recited dialogue from his comics, while his wife sang. This tour was completed with a new World War I graphic novel 'Le Dernier Assaut' (2016), which follows Augustin, a stretcher in the trenches who gets wounded after abandoning his post. Unusual about this comic book was that it came with a CD, which included a musical audio play adaptation of the comic book, once again performed by Grange and the Accordzéâm band.

'Moi, René Tardi, Prisonnier de guerre' - Stalag IIB, volume 1.

Moi, René Tardi
All throughout his career, Tardi made countless graphic novels about the First World War, a conflict which fascinated him far more than the Second one. As a child and teenager the battles in the trenches felt more vivid because his paternal grandfather had actually seen combat. His widow told young Jacques anecdotes which haunted his imagination. Tardi's father, René, on the other hand, had been stuck in a POW camp in Pomerania (at the German-Polish border) throughout the Second World War. To young Tardi this was far less exciting and a tremendous embarrassment. It wasn't until he reached his forties that he became more interested in what his father went through. As he was busy with other comics projects, including his masterpiece 'It Was the War of the Trenches', he asked his dad to write his experiences down in a notebook, for future use. The plus side was that when his father passed away, Tardi at least had his notitions. The down side was that he could no longer ask him extra questions.

When Tardi read the notebooks, he was surprised to learn that both his grandfather and father had actually fought in the same region, only 20 years apart from another. René Tardi was 18 when he was taken prisoner-of-war and only liberated five years later. During his imprisonment he was submitted to forced labour, saw people fall ill and die of typhus and witnessed a few executions. After his liberation, René Tardi's life didn't improve. He was tramautized by camp life and unable to sleep on soft mattresses anymore. He also felt ashamed to talk about it, since he wasn't tortured or murdered like some of his fellow prisoners. If all that wasn't humiliating enough, his own father - who fought in the trenches - scolded him for having seen far less combat than him and "being stupid enough to get locked up". René Tardi wanted to pick up his pre-war studies again, but all places were taken. He therefore registered in the army again to be stationed in post-war Germany. Yet again he never saw any real battle. All this experiences left him traumatized and embittered. 

Tardi adapted his father's notebooks in the three-parter graphic novel 'Moi, René Tardi, Prisonnier au Stalag IB' (2012-2018). Everything is told through flashbacks, going back and forth between the 1940s and 1950s. Tardi depicts himself as a young boy asking his dad about his war past. In interviews the author claimed that this is a compensation for the conversations he wished he could've had with him.

'Moi René Tardi, Prisonnier de Guerre au Stalag IIB #2 - Mon Retour en France'.

Graphic contributions
Jacques Tardi made a graphic contribution to Marion Vidal's 'Monsieur Schulz et ses Peanuts’ (Albin Michel, 1976), an essay about Charles M. Schulz’ 'Peanuts’, illustrated with subversive parodies of the comic, that Schulz unsuccessfully tried to sue. Tardi was also one of several artists to make a graphic contribution to 'Pepperland’ (1980), a collective comic book tribute to the store Pepperland, to celebrate its 10th anniversary. He made illustrations for 'Paris Sera Toujours Paris (script by Pierre Christin, 1981), a homage to the French capital by several comic authors. In 1983, he was one of many comic artists paying homage to the recently deceased Hergé in a special issue of (À Suivre), titled 'Adieu Hergé'. In 1985, Tardi's wife, Dominique Grange, created 'Grange Bleue' (Casterman, 1985), a series of short comic stories illustrated by her husband, Enki Bilal and Georges Pichard. Tardi also participated with 'Rock Cartoon' (1990), in which various cartoonists pay tribute to a rock artist they strongly admire. In his case he made a comic about Bob Dylan. Tardi also designed the cover of Albert Algoud's 'Le Dupondt Sans Peine' (1997), a humorous analysis of the Thompsons from Hergé's 'Tintin'.

Cinematic contributions
Tardi designed several French-language movie posters, among them for Federico Fellini's 'E La Nave Va' (1983), Claude Berri's 'Uranus' (1990) and Robert Altman's 'Cookie's Fortune' (1998). Naturally he also designed the posters for two films he co-wrote the screenplays for, namely Luc Besson's 2010 live-action film adaptation of 'Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec' and the animated film 'Avril et le Monde Truqué' ('April and the Extraordinary World', 2015) by Franck Ekinci and Christian Desmares. The latter picture is a steampunk adventure set in Paris during the 1870s, following an alternate history where France plans a war against Canada to gain forests to clean up the polluted air in France. Its visual style was heavily inspired by Tardi's comics. The screenplay was written by Tardi, Benjamin Legrand and Franck Ekinci.

Radio career
In 1997, Tardi created a radio play named 'Le Perroquet des Batignolles' in collaboration with radio scriptwriter and TV producer Michel Boujut. Broadcast on France Inter, it tells the tale of Oscar Moulinet and his wife Edith who find a magnetic force inside a music box. The force reveals the testament of Emil Schmutz and the couple start a quest to find the document. But other people want to obtain it too... In 2011-2014 the radio play was adapted into a comic, illustrated by Stanislas Barthélemy

Tardi has always been a socially conscious individual, highly distrustful of nationalism and the government. In 1983 he married his longtime girlfriend Dominique Grange so they could legally adopt four Chilean orphans. The same year he was one of many artists to make a graphic contribution to 'À Ma Mer' (1983), a book promoting Greenpeace. He designed the cover of 'Où vas-tu petit soldat? - A l'abattoir!' (Monde Libertaire, 1989), a collection of anti-militaristic and anti-war writings, comics and cartoons by various artists. Between 2003 and 2010 Tardi illustrated a book series by Lucien Séroux named 'Anthologie de la Connerie Militariste d' Expression Française', which roughly translates to 'Anthology of Military Stupidity of French Nature'. The books collect several real-life letters, orders or statements by military officers which are all short-sighted, idealistic, blindly patriotic and/or xenophobic. The fact alone that Séroux managed to stretch it all the way up to five (!) volumes says a lot.

'Anthologie de la Connerie Militariste d'Expression Française', Volume 4.

On 3 January 2013, Tardi was invited to be inducted in the prestigious Légion d'Honneur, but refused, "because I want to hold on to my freedom of thought and creation and refuse to receive anything, not from the current people in power, nor anyone else." He added: "I'm not interested. I don't ask for anything and didn't ask for this. You're not satisfied when you receive recognition from people you don't have any respect for." To him the only thing that might change his mind would be "the day that POW camp prisoners or soldiers executed to make an example for others are acknowledged and pardonned."

In 2015, Paris was hit hard by two terrorist attacks, one in the headquarters of Charlie-Hebdo in January, the other at the Bataclan concert hall in November. President François Hollande declared a state of emergency to thwart down terrorist threats. In this climate of fear and islamophobia, many people wanted to organize a demonstration to point out that immigrants aren't the real threat. The Parisian police forbid this manifestation, which nevertheless still took place on 22 November 2015. Afterwards many people tattle-taled names of participants to the police, which led to 58 French celebrities to sign an appeal, 'Appel des 58', to emphasize that even a state of emergency or police threats will not silence them from voicing their opinion. Among the many politicians, historians, writers, sociologists and media personalities to sign this petition was Tardi. In May 2018 Tardi signed a petition to boycot a cultural event called 'France-Israel' over Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people. In September of that same year he signed another appeal by Palestinian artists to boycot the 2019 Eurovision contest which took place in Israel that edition.

Jacques Tardi's work has often been awarded. He won the 1975 award for 'Best French-language Artist', the 1994 and 2002 Alph'Art du Public and the 2002 Alph'Art for 'Best Drawing', all at the Festival of Angoulême. The same festival also gave him a lifetime achievement award in 1985: the Grand Prix de la Ville d'Angoulême. Tardi received two Prix Saint-Michels (1977, 1979), the Adamson Award for Best International Author for his entire oeuvre (1986), two Max und Moritz Awards (1994, 2006), and a Sproing Award (2013), Eisner Award (2014) and Urhunden Award (2015) for Best Foreign Comic. In 2016 Tardi was inducted in the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall Of Fame.

In 1985 he was honoured as a Chevalier dans les Arts et des Lettres. His work has often been exhibited too.

Legacy and influence
Jacques Tardi is one of the most influential comic artists to emerge since the 1970s. Many European artists have been inspired by his atmospheric steampunk stories, literary adaptations and particularly his graphic novels about the two world wars. In France, he was a major influence on artists like Alfred, David B., Nicolas Barral, Amaury Bouillez, Serge Clerc, Franck Dumouilla, Sylvain Escallon, Frédéric Garces, Chantal Montellier and Pierre Wininger. In Belgium, he inspired Eva Cardon, Pieter De Poortere, Rino FeysJeroen Janssen and Katrien Van Schuylenbergh. In The Netherlands, he has followers among Skelte Braaksma, Lae Schäfer, Eric Schreurs, Frits SmidBerend VonkBenno Vranken and Erik Wielaert. Tardi's influence can also be found in Denmark (Bo Torstensen), Finland (Kari Korhonen), Sweden (Ola Skogäng), Portugal (Nuno Saraiva), Switzerland (Philippe WurmZep) and the Ivory Coast (Amanvi). Veteran artists like Charles Burns, Art Spiegelman and F'murr expressed admiration for his work as well. 

Books about Jacques Tardi
For those interested in Tardi's life and career, Numa Sadoul's 'Jacques Tardi. Entretiens avec Numa Sadoul' (Niffle-Cohen, 2000) is a must-read. The book 'Presque Tout Tardi' (Sapristi, 1996) by Alain Foulet and Olivier Maltret also offers a lot of information about the artist, though naturally somewhat out-of-date today.

From: 'Carnet tome 1' (2001).

Series and books by Jacques Tardi you can order today:


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