Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Interview: The artists of "Tribute to Popeye"


When we published our Tribute to Popeye review, we had a very long internal debate over which pictures from the collection to include. Some funny, some weird and some just plain fantastic, we really agonised over the process; we love the book that much. It was at that point that we had the bright idea to gather together a handful of the artists to talk about their contributions. After all, the more articles about this fantastic piece of pop-cultural homage, the better, right?

Continue after the jump to read Arnaud Floc'h, CraomanDavid François, Raphaël B., Rica and Robin talk about how they became involved, their pieces and also their relationship with Popeye himself.

Please tell us about your contribution to the anthology.

Arnaud Floc’h: Dauvillier, the head of Editions Charrette is a great friend of mine, so it was a pleasure for me to contribute to the book! To me, Popeye is about an endearing character and family that I've known since I began to read almost 45 years ago. When Dauvillier asked me to collaborate to this anthology, I'd just returned from London, where I'd seen the Popeye exhibition organised by Jeff Koons at the Serpentine Gallery. I love that place and I think that Jeff Koons' work is wonderful.

Craoman: I'd been hearing a lot about Editions Charrette at the time, as they'd published quite a few cool books and anthologies.

David François: I plead guilty. I couldn't resist Loïc Dauvillier's invitation to collaborate.

Raphaël B.: I have to admit that I don't know Popeye very well. But, seen from a distance, it seems to me that the structure is always similar, and that it always ends in a fight between Popeye and Bluto and Olive is always manhandled (but in a way, she's kind of asking for it). From a graphic point of view, I use the "ligne claire" style. When I'm doing illustration work, I try to balance the rigidity of the line with dynamic composition and motion. That's why I decided to draw a good old-fashioned action packed scene, full of movement.

Rica: Loïc from Charrette asked if I would be interested in making a Popeye illo; I said yes. I'd had that idea for a long time, and this was the occasion to make it. The point is that I have a good friend who looks like (and is a big fan of) Popeye, and whose girlfriend looks like Olive: that was my main reason to do that illo.

Robin: Olivier Deloye, who works with Loïc Dauvillier, told me about the project. I thought that the idea  was fun and that the variety of artists and styles would be challenging; so I got back into reading Popeye's comics.

Arnaud Floc’h

Whats your relationship with Popeye?

Arnaud Floc’h: It's a relationship from childhood, especially with Swee'Pea. I've always been very worried about how Swee'Pea was taken care of, because he always looked like a new-born baby. I've always had the feeling that Swee'Pea was an abused child, and that his parents didn't really care about him.

It's also a relationship as an adult, as I discovered the real Popeye via the beautiful books published by Futuropolis in the early 80s. Popeye represents, for me, the same kind of attitude as Johnny Thunders, or Wayne Kramer, or others like Kerouac, Steinbeck, or Upton Sinclair: a real troublemaker, just the way I like them.

Craoman: Well, I remember watching the cartoon as a child (I'm 27 now), but those are vague memories; I've never read the comics themselves. What I really remember is that you had to eat fucking spinach to become "strong like Popeye". Honestly, there was nothing worse than spinach and beef tongue for lunch at the school canteen! Popeye the Sailor: YES; Propaganda disguised as cartoons: NO!

David François: None. By the way, up to this day my deep-rooted heterosexuality still prevents me from looking a plate of spinach in the eye. Olives, however...

Raphaël B.: Almost none. I actually had to go to Wikipedia to learn more about the character. After doing some research, it still seems to me that it's a work with a simple and recurrent structure: an unfaithful  (or tempted) woman is the start of a fight between two men.

Rica: Almost none, to be honest, except some childhood memories of watching the cartoon.

Robin: To me, Popeye was, above anything else, the cartoon of my childhood. Featuring the famous spinach; which is a good thing, because I like spinach.

Do you see your work as homage or parody? Is it more complicated than that?

Arnaud Floc’h: An homage, for sure; not a parody. In my drawing, I tried to express the pain  of parents who have lost a child - a subject that I've personally had experience with.

Craoman: For my part, I was born in a place where there were many fishermen. I have some friends from school who became fishermen, and I had the chance to hang around with them. I can tell you that they don't eat spinach before getting aboard their boats, but, rather, hard drugs; anything that can keep them awake and make them sleep at the same time. It's really a crazy job, sometimes shitty as well, so I wanted to pay homage to them.

David François: Homage. We could sum up my idea as: "Olive is beautiful because she is another man's woman".

Raphaël B.: Neither. It really is a sincere graphic interpretation of what I think is the recurrent theme of the cartoon.

Rica: Can't it be both?

Robin: To me, it's an homage, but a little "off-the-wall". 

"There used to be a time where you'd have fought to bring me my bath towel!" 

If you haven't already checked it out, Raphaël B's awe-inspiring contribution can be found in our review of the collection. We'd like to thank the artists (and their publisher, Loïc Dauvillier) who took the time out of their schedules to talk to us, and we hope to feature their work on the blog again in the near future.

A little tricky to purchase in the English-speaking markets, Tribute to Popeye is available to purchase via Amazon's French site (see link below). If interested readers don't feel comfortable shopping via the all-French site, please drop us at the usual address and we'll see if we can work something out for you. We're trustworthy, honest.


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