More questions with comic book writer Paul Benjamin
Matt Price: Are you still living in Austin?
Paul Benjamin: I am still in Austin and loving it! I recently enjoyed Reggaefest 2009 here. Not the big, official one held on Auditorium Shores. The small, impromptu one held by my neighbor across the street. It was basically just a bunch of neighbors hanging out, drinking beer, and listening to Bob Marley, but it made for a nice, relaxing evening.
MP: What are the major differences between French and American comics?
PB: French comics have evolved differently than American ones. In America, most people associate comics with super heroes. While there are plenty of American comics that don’t feature beautiful people in spandex hitting each other, many perceive that to be the entire medium. I love super hero comics, but that’s like making every single Hollywood film a romantic comedy. I love those too, but I want horror, drama, sci-fi, and more available when I go to my local multiplex (or the Alamo Drafthouse when I’m here in Austin).
In France, along with most of Europe, the industry never got influenced by McCarthy era self-censorship like in America. French comics aren’t even called comics. They’re called “Art Books” and each “album” is about 25% taller and wider than an American comic. French albums also tend to be around 48-52 pages per volume and feature hardcovers. The French have an overall love and respect for artists that translates into a love of graphic novels. French albums are read by men and women of all ages and all walks of life and the subject matter is just as varied. If it has been a film genre in the US, it has been done as an art book in France. As a result, French graphic novelists even hold a special place in society. In fact, there’s an entire, multi-million dollar Paris subway station that was designed by a graphic novel artist!
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