Move Over Jack Bauer… Meet Pierre Dragon
Ever wonder how the comics medium could translate the crackling excitement and dramatic tension of the TV series 24 in the world of comics? Rather than trying to duplicate the series on the page, a publisher might be better off creating his own "Jack Bauer." Or, better yet, look for a "real" one.
So begins the fascinating story of Pierre Dragon, an ex-commando and anti-terrorism chief in France, who, with Swiss cartoonist Frederik Peeters, hit paydirt this past spring in Europe with the debut of their graphic album, RG: Riyadh on the Seine from Gaillimard, as skillfully described by Sebastian Rotella in today's Los Angeles Times.
The RG (Renseignements Generaux, or General Intelligence) series was hatched, in part, as a means to humanize the lives of anti-terrorism agents dealing with the tedium of investigations and surveillance with kids, shopping lists and family problems (a bit more mundane than teenage daughters fighting cougars), Dragon says, so you can see the obvious 24 parallels.
What interested me most about the LA Times story wasn't the realism or even its success, but how Dragon even considered the possibility of sharing his adventures via the Bande Dessinees format, the French hardcover equivalent of graphic novels in America, in the first place.
Remember the firestorm of protests overseas back in fall 2005 about a series of cartoons that parodied Muhammed in a Danish newspaper? When those cartoons found their way to the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, the following year, Dragon and his unit spent time protecting the staff and eventually met Joann Sfar, a Gaillimard editor whose awesome work (think The Rabbi's Cat and The Professor's Daughter) is receiving the attention it deserves in America. After Dragon shared some of his exploits, Sfar pitched the idea of a project with minimal imput that evolved into a collaboration with Peeters, according to the LA Times piece.
No surprise, the success of RG has spurred a second volume due next spring as well as more books by French police officers. The closest anyone has come to that kind of realistic gravitas in American comics in recent memory: The work of Andrew Vachss, primarily from Dark Horse.