Comic Barcelona | Grange and Tardi: “The guitar can be a fearsome weapon to fight against injustice”


Drawing inspiration from her own youth, the singer Dominic Grange (Lyon, 1940), has decided to tell his fight against exploitation, social injustice and racism as a result of the protest movement of May 68. An adventure in which she is accompanied by her husband, the cartoonist Jacques Tardi (Valence, 1946). together they publish Elise and the New Partisans (Salamandra Graphic), which is based on that militancy of Elise in those early 70s.

A time when Dominique, then a Maoist militant, changed molotov cocktails for songscomposing one of the most famous hymns of that time: Nous sommes les nouveaux partisans; a mythical theme from which the title of the book comes.

At the Barcelona Comic Fair we asked Dominique what a guitar can do against injustice: “I think it was Dylan who said that his guitar was a fearsome weapon to fight against injustice. And not only the guitar, but also the union of the words and the guitar. He said something like “This guitar kills fascists.” Although, now that I think about it, I’m not sure it was Dylan “(Actually that phrase was written on his guitar Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)”

“The important thing -adds Dominique-, is that every time a song with a message is written, is able to unite people And on the other hand, they almost always end up being censored or banned. That is why I believe that songs are very powerful to unite people and, at the same time, the forces of repression cannot bear that people sing, that they raise their voices to express the desire for change”.

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“Furthermore -adds Dominique- songs are very practical instruments because they areThey are like birds that can fly freely, cross walls, reach prisons, be translated into other languages. And they can be sung everywhere. That is extraordinary to me. Poetry also shares some of that power, but for me singing is much more liberating than anything else.”

Her husband, Jacques Tardi, is one of the great European cartoonists, who has denounced the futility of war in titles such as fucking war either trench warfare. We asked him if he thinks that comics also have the power to change things: “I think so, because it is a popular means of expression, with all that is good about it. It is also a way to fight against mediocrity”.

“Although it is very different from music because it depends a lot on where it is published. You won’t find the same comic in pif le chienwhich was a publication of the communist party that in Pile either charlie hebdo. It depends a lot on the base but comics can express ideas very strongly. We have been able to verify it in its history”.

“I would like to add – Dominique interrupts – that the songs are sung by many people, which gives them great strength, a lot of power. Before, in the demonstrations, the Internationale was sung and everyone knew it. Now they put up trucks with loudspeakers that spit out music and people don’t sing anymore. But I remember that, for example, when a comrade was killed, we all sang together and there was an emotion, a force, a power, sometimes almost violent, that united people. And I don’t see that anymore.”

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“On the other hand,” adds Dominique, in France there are many choirs that sing this kind of revolutionary songs and that is also very interesting. I don’t know if that happens here in Spain”.

The most powerful thing about a song is the way it unites people Tardi assures. One thing that doesn’t happen in the comic, which is read individually.”

‘Elise and the New Partisans’ page

“I was moved that the Yellow Vests sang my songs”

We asked Dominique what she feels when she listens to her songs at a demonstration: “It moves me a lot -she confesses-. But it is not a narcissistic pleasure, but I think I have managed to get people to listen to my messageWhat I wanted to tell you.”

“During the demonstrations of the Yellow Vests in France, which were repressed with great violence – he adds -, to the point that many people lost an eye or a hand, one day a friend He sent me a video in which those Yellow Vests sang Nous sommes les nouveaux partisans…And then he filmed another sequence in which they sang Let’s end the police statewhich I wrote in May ’68. So I thought, 50 years later, that song was still responding to a real need..

“And there is a young man who goes to all the demonstrations with his guitar and sings, on a loop, Let’s end the police state. And he gets many people, even if they don’t know the song, to end up singing it. They all end up singing some verses together”.

‘Elise and the New Partisans’ page

“I hate that they say that I am an icon of May 68”

In the comic Eloise recounts her struggle as a Maoist militant, her escape after a Molotov cocktail exploded on her (which was about to end her life) and how he ended up changing everything for the guitar with which he was going to sing for the factory workerss (she herself worked in a factory 55 hours a week).

We asked Dominique Grange why she has named the protagonist Eloise and to what extent the comic is based on her own story: “99% of the comic is my story -he confesses-, but I didn’t want that fight to focus on me, because I have read some journalists who say that I am an icon of May 68 and I hate that idea.

I was not an icon, not even a leader, I was just a grassroots militant. What I did was write and perform songs. But using the character of Elisa, who comes from a famous revolutionary novel of the time, gave me a certain freedom and makes it easier for people to identify with her, who is like a symbol, and not a specific person. Elisa is my avatar, my freedom”.

It also gives me some security -he adds- because there are things in the story that are delicate and that I have not insisted on, such as the theme of violence, which was used a lot. Therefore, it was also a way of keeping me at a distance, without saying that I made those Molotov cocktails.. It has been many years and everything has prescribed, but you never know when fascism can come to power and reopen old dossiers”.

Léo Malet said: “there is no prescription”adds Tardi, citing the famous noir novelist whom he has adapted to comics in some of his masterpieces, such as his series dedicated to Nestor Burma.

“The only penalties that do not prescribe are usually crimes against humanity,” says Grange. But right now the Italians want France to hand over the militants of the Red Brigades who have been living in Paris for more than 40 years, who are now grandparents and have lived under the protection of Mitterrand. Now, 40 years later, they could go to jail for things they did when they were 16 or 18 years old. And Macron seems ready to hand them over, 40 years later, when they are very different people. It is a delicate issue that the law has not resolved.

‘Elise and the New Partisans’ page

“I was 22 years old and I wanted to express my political ideas through comics”

We asked Jacques Tardi what he was doing in those years, while his wife sang songs at the demonstrations: “At the end of 1968 I finished my studies in Decorative Arts and I became familiar with those ideas of 1968, like the drawings on the walls, the general assemblies… and what I want at that moment is to express it in my work. But for that I also needed a place where I could post that.”

“It was then that the so-called “adult comics” began to fascinate people. Although it was not really for adult readers either, as may be the case with Barbarella. I was 22 years old and I wanted to express my political ideas through comics. It was then that I published my first comic in the weekly Pilote whose script was written by Pierre Christin (Valerian)”

“It was a post-68 story, which was precisely what I wanted to do at the time. Although there I discovered that I am not convinced by teamwork, but rather I prefer to express myself alone. The exception has been this comic with Dominique, whom I met in the night sessions of charlie hedbo (can be seen in the comic). Since then we have been together and in this comic we have practically worked in osmosiyes”.

The only screenwriter I’ve ever worked with without questioning his work was Jean Claude Forrest.the screenwriter of Barbarellawith whom I collaborated on Ici Meme and that he was a fabulous professional; I have had to say to some writers: “we don’t need so much text, we can move faster with the image”. That never happened to me with Forest, because he was also an artist. But I prefer to work alone.

Vignette from ‘Elise and the New Partisans’

They care more about Macron than Le Pen

The comic begins with a demonstration by Algerians living in the suburbs of Paris who are reprimanded by the police in a really violent way, even killing babies. We ask them if they fear the extreme right and the rise of Le Penwhich continues to demonstrate against foreigners.

In France we have not digested the independence of Algeria Tardi assures. There is still that rancor with Algeria and with that war of independence, even though millions of Algerians currently live in France. But racism has always been present. And I think the rise of the extreme right at the political and government level is very worrying, but, in the end, we know who they are.”

I’m much more afraid of day-to-day racism -says the author-. In the ’70s, ’71s, there were like 50 racist crimes in the same year.”

“Racism has always been a problem in France and, fortunately, Le Pen will not be presented again, because he has not achieved the expected results -adds the cartoonist- I don’t think Le Pen is a threat. On the other hand, Liberalism is very present in society and therefore I don’t think Macron’s victory is a gift to society”.

“We started the comic in a suburban neighborhood, inhabited by Algerians, because many young people today did not know them. They do not know that there was that discrimination” -says Tardi-.

“In exchange -Dominique interrupts- now there are tents in Paris, occupied with Algerians. But we wanted to start the comic with these slums because it is the point where the ideological formation of Eloise begins. Then we show the demonstration of the Algerians who leave those neighborhoods and are brutally repressed by the police, to the point that the police drowned babies in the river”.

“Obviously that was not filmed -adds Tardi-, but we wanted to reflect it because people do not know what really happened and how brutal the repression was”.

Undoubtedly, Eloise and the partisans, is one of the comics of the year. A fascinating work that reminds us that Freedom is not assured and we must be willing to fight for it.

Cover of ‘Elise and the New Partisans’


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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