An Autopsy

in European Comic Art
Jean-Christophe Menu
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Fabrice Neaud
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In this email exchange, Jean-Christophe Menu inveighs against the deterioration of comics autobiography into a formulaic ‘genre’. Fabrice Neaud maintains that the autobiographical enterprise is necessarily a dangerous undertaking in which a precarious subject comes into being, unlike the ‘proximate’ autobiography featuring a ready-made persona in search of peer approval. He employs a Darwinist evolutionary metaphor to demonstrate the colonisation of the ecological niche that houses comics autobiography by an ‘autobiography-lite’ better adapted to the market. He details the criticisms that have been made of his work (‘egotistical’, or formally over-conservative) and laments the tendency to equate artless scribbles with ‘sincerity’. Menu regrets that a distanced and selective portrayal of family life can be read as invasive of privacy, with devastating legal consequences.

Contributor Notes

Jean-Christophe Menu is a comics artist, publisher and theorist. He was one of the founder members of L'Association in 1992, the first and most influential of many small presses devoted to auteur comics, and, as an editor, nurtured the careers of many comics artists, including Marjane Satrapi and Dominique Goblet. He left L'Association in 2011. As well as many comics, he has produced two key critical works: Plates-bandes in 2005, in which he inveighs against the attempts by mainstream publishers to imitate the format of small-press publications, and La Bande dessinée et son double, in 2011, his doctoral thesis.

Fabrice Neaud studied philosophy and fine art. The first volume of his Journal in comics format was published in 1996 by the small press Ego comme X, of which he was a co-founder. It won the Alph'Art Coup de Cœur prize at the Angoulême Festival. He produced three further volumes of the Journal between 1998 and 2002, and a revised version of Journal 3 in 2009. In 2000, he published Émile, which contained no images of people. He won the Petit Robert prize in Saint-Malo in 2003 for his lifetime achievement, and a retrospective exhibition was devoted to his work at Angoulême in 2010.

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