Monday, April 7, 2014

The Walls of Samaris Part One

'The Walls of Samaris' by Benoit Peeters and Francois Schuiten
Part One

In 1983, the Belgian artist Francoise Schuiten, who was a well-known contributor to the magazines Metal Hurlant (France) and Heavy Metal (US), joined with writer Benoit Peeters to produce a series of graphic novels under the title of Les Cites Obscures (The Obscure Cities). 

Eventually, 11 installments (not counting another 14 or so spin-off novels) would be produced by 2008, and many of these translated into multiple languages, including English.

'The Walls of Samaris' (1983) was the inaugural volume, and serialized in English in Heavy Metal from December, 1984 to March, 1985. Unfortunately, Heavy Metal only printed the first 33 pages of the 48-page comic.

I'm going to post those 33 pages of 'Walls' in two installments here at the PorPor Books Blog.

'Walls' was created as a response to (or protest of) the destruction of many of the historic older buildings in Brussels during the 70s and 80s, buildings replaced by the spectacularly ugly, dehumanizing Modernist structures molded on the architectural principles of the French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret - Gris (best known by his pseudonym 'Le Corbusier').

 Modernist-architecture apartment blocks common to the banlieues, or planned suburbs, of the larger metropolitan areas of France

The 'Cities' stories are set in an alternate Earth where political entities revolve around cities, rather than states or nations, and technologies have taken different paths from those in 'our' world.

While the idea of a comic series devoted to fantastical architecture (particularly Art Nouveau) might not seem intrinsically exciting, The Obscure Cities novels stand as example of a proto-Steampunk styling, as well as alternate-world sf. These comics feature impressive draftsmanship by Schuiten (who reportedly would spend an entire week to draw a single page).

Unfortunately, the English-language versions of The Obscure Cities titles - either those currently out of print, or those currently being produced - are very expensive, with used copies for some volumes starting at $35, and new copies priced at over $100, placing them out of reach of most readers. 

Here's the first of the two parts of 'The Walls of Samaris'............

1 comment:

mahendra singh said...

Thanks for posting, Schuiten's work was such a breath of fresh air back in the 80s.

It's not as uncommon as some readers think, for an artist to spend a week per page (I often do) … but the real question is, how much was Schuiten earning per page? It must have been a handsome sum because in North America, such devotion to detail and quality is almost universally sneered at as "impractical." And impractical is a euphemism for "don't expect pay equivalent to work done."

Should we all move to Belgium?