This release is very special because it’s the first time that Nicole Claveloux’s short comic-book stories have ever been collected into English. If this edition is anything to go by, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that many more collections will follow.
Should you ever give up hope on finding Prince Charming? Can the act of undressing ever take so long it proves fatal? From a jealous bird that murders a newly arrived house plant, to a grouchy vegetable that dreams it’s a wild cat, to a rosy-cheeked baby who cheerfully shares his family’s talent for homicide, to a young girl whose fantasy about experiencing her first period assumes hallucinogenic Yellow Submarine-like dimensions, there isn’t a single frame in this book that isn’t a gloriously twisted, beautifully drawn vignette of imagination.
Originally published in the late 1970s, Claveloux’s work has a mesmerising, grand guignol-meets-tripped-out Lewis Carroll quality. Sometimes the stories are in colour and sometimes black-and-white, but everything she draws is richly detailed and exquisite, realistic and yet oddly grotesque. According to the interview at the back of this volume, Claveloux’s inspirations include Hieronymous Bosch, Gustave Dore and the vintage comic strip Little Nemo, and you can clearly see how she and her sometime-collaborator Edith Zha took those influences and sprinted into the sunset with them. There’s also a weird Moebius-does-Robert Crumb vibe to Claveloux’s art, so even though the stories in this collection are more psychedelia than sci-fi it isn’t surprising to discover that many of her early comics were published in Moebius’s stomping ground, the magazines Metal Hurlant and Heavy Metal.
In his succinct introduction, Ghost World’s Daniel Clowes compares Claveloux’s art to the early films of David Lynch and says that “Her work is difficult to talk about because it arouses feelings that can’t be quantified or explained”. He’s not wrong. This is a collection that both seduces and repels and connects with the reader on conscious and unconscious levels – if some of these stories seem narratively scant and lightweight, don’t be fooled: this is the kind of art that can be enjoyed on multiple levels and there’s a Jungian quicksand bubbling beneath the surface of every panel, waiting to sneak behind the eyes and explode the synapses of the unwary.
The only question that remains is - why has it taken so long for Nicole Claveloux to be translated into English? More please, tout suite!
THE GREEN HAND AND OTHER STORIES / AUTHOR: NICOLE CLAVELOUX / PUBLISHER: THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 23RD