I have a confession to make. I have never read Tintin. I know it's a classic, but it always seemed out of reach for one reason or another. But on my recent trip to Copenhagen, I came across an amazing store called Faraos Cigarer, and rectified the situation by picking up an album.
This was one of many amazing stores I came across on my travels, and all of them were impressive. Full of everything from comics, toys, props, games, costumes, and novels. As you can see below, there was plenty of great eye candy.
When I was walking through the aisles, I was reminded how beautiful European comics are, particularly in the album format. Longer than an average American comic in story length, but shorter than a graphic novel. They’re usually oversized, in hardcover format, on quality paper stock, and usually accompanied by gorgeous colors. Little to say, I was a bit disappointed that all these beautiful comics were not in English. But I’m sure my wallet (and my wife) were more than happy.
My fascination with them started when I came across Dark Horse’s release of Blacksad. I’m sure quite a few of you have read, or at least heard of this series. But if you haven’t, DO check it out. It follows the cases of a hard-boiled detective (who’s also an anthropomorphic panther) in the 1950s. What more can you want?
Aside from my interest in the premise, the art is jaw dropping. The illustrations painted with quite a few more panels per page than your average American comic, sometimes up to 12 or more. As I devoured these books, I went on a hunt for more. I discovered the publisher Humanoids, that publishes many of the classic European titles in English, in fantastic hardcover collections. Now they can be expensive, but totally worth it. Plus, due to there being decades of material to gather from, there’s plenty to pick from in all genres.
Also in recent years, Comixology has done a great job of providing plenty of these titles digitally. Not quite the same experience, but very affordable, and a great way to sample stories. Here’s an example of “all those panels” I was referring to with a page from Blake & Mortimer.
Ultimately, it was these amazing books that inspired myself and my co-writer Peter, to create Aldous Spark. We wanted to make our own European album, on an indie comic level (which had more obstacles than I can count, but I’ll save that for another post). We wanted to stretch our wings, and experiment. That meant packing a whole lot of story in fewer pages, but also having the opportunity for more panels per page. Would that be enough?
I almost felt bad at first. Asking an artist to do more than 5-6 panels can be borderline torture. The thing is, Mauricio tended to add panels without us even asking! He’s just that type of guy. I know this first volume, although having more panels than previous projects, still doesn’t match 12 or so panels per page. In volume 2 however, I think we’re starting to find our groove.
Well, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed seeing a bit of what inspired us to choose the format we did for Aldous Spark. Maybe it will even inspire you to check out some European comics on your own if you haven’t already. Feel free to reach out and let me know any of your favorites or recommendations. I’d love to hear about them!