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Of fumetti and graphic novels: Film adaptation as a reflexive act – The Bunker of the Last Gunshots and the Autodafé imprint (France, 1980s)

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The formal analysis of the fumetti adaptation of the short film Le Bunker de la dernière rafale (Caro and Jeunet, 1981) and of its stylistic choices, as well as the examination of its editorial framework, offer a basis for a more general discussion of the emergence of ‘graphic novels’ in 1980s France as a term, as a format and as a specific aesthetics. This raises questions about the storytelling dimension of comics and their symbolic and formal boundaries with other art forms. The Bunker was adapted by its two authors, comic book artist Marc Caro and beginner film director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. They chose to use a rigid layout of two panels a page, quite different from the traditional comics-inspired fumetti, demonstrating their attention to the stylistic implications of the layout. The book came out in 1982 under the short-lived and innovative Autodafé imprint of the French ‘bande dessinée’ publishing house Les Humanoïdes Associés. There, the Bunker was published next to works of comic book authors Will Eisner, Jim Steranko, Serge Clerc, Keiji Nakazawa and Romain Slocombe. This eclectic array of creators and works shared a new format – smaller and longer books in black and white – and explored various forms of combination of text and image. The Bunker adaptation thus took part in an editorial reflexion on the possibility of ambitious comic books – the graphic novel. This new approach to comics was looking towards literature for its legitimatization but was also opened on other artistic fields (cinema, photography). Autodafé appears as a capsule of the questions, the possibilities and the ambiguities the ‘graphic novel’ genre and term entailed when they appeared – and still do. The fumetti adaptation of the Bunker embodies this attempt at a spontaneous combustion of the boundaries of comics that still inform some contemporary endeavours.
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Keywords: France; adaptation; bande dessinée; cinema; fumett; graphic nove

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Lorraine

Publication date: 2013-04-01

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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