The conceptual comic book Noirs that engages with the original Les Schtroumpfs noirs‘ cultural industrial production and decision-making is a facsimile of the original edition: the same cover, the same number of pages and the same format. Noirs comes as closely as one can get to the original edition, except of one single difference; its colours. Offset colour separation is the industrial standard for printing comic books based on the act of breaking down a composite colour graphic into basic single-colour layers (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) that are printed separately, one on top of the other. In Noirs, the four different colour plates have been uniformly replaced by four plates of cyan, resulting in one single monochromatic composition. Noirs suspends for a moment the reading process. The book blurs the different stages of contamination in the characters of the original plot making the difference barely legible. By deprogramming the expedient efficiency of colour-coding, this facsimile edition argues for a state in which the distinctive category of ‘contamination’ and the fiction of normalcy becomes moot. In Noirs, reading and decoding mechanisms rely instead on features related to a contextual reading. The book follows Lennard Davis’s concept of the ‘deafened moment’ in disability studies, construing deafness, not as an essence but as a dynamic modality (contextualised) that occurs to everyone, in time; the author gives the example of the reader as someone that expresses this dynamic tension, stating that ‘all readers are deaf because they are defined by a process that does not require hearing or speaking. Similarly, Noirs produces such a moment; a moment that transcends categories of health and sickness, not with the goal to rebuff or iron out the specifics of different conditions, but instead to reveal how many of our assumptions about what is normal are embedded with assumptions about attributes related to colour, race and other majority identitarian features.
Noirs sheds light on the industrial fabrication of a book through the lenses of offset printing technology. Offset, a supposedly transparent and mechanic process, is revealed as a meaningful signifying device. By bottlenecking the different colours into one monochromatic composition, Noirs claims that the mere act of intervening in the printing process, exercising the most minimal amount of intervention possible, constitutes a craft by itself, not unlike the institution of deskilling practices in conceptual art. The goal of this endeavour, apart from reaffirming the toxicity of comics as traditionally addressing the lower common denominator, is to problematise the innocuous naturalisation of the ideological potential of colour through a formal experiment into a language (offset technology) acting upon another language (the book’s content).