Jean-Christophe Menu, in Plates Bandes. asked the question of the format as the most salient aspect of the French comic book industry. Menu christened the national industrial standard for comic books in the french-speaking market: 48CC, is the abbreviation for a forty-eight-page hardbound full-color printed album, whose predecessor can be found in children’s books from the 1950s and that has now been largely adopted by mainstream publishers Dupuis, Dargaud, Lombard and Casterman for their serialized narratives. In the center of the book standardization process in the publishing microcosm, Menu blamed the corporate ethos of publishers, and the retailers who did not have much use for L’Association’s extra-ordinary formats. The ubiquity of the 48CC format, and the various camp practices organized around its collections and discussions, could be seen as an impoverishment compared to previous publishing practices, where a multitude of different formats, layouts, technical features constituted a much more varied publishing landscape against the uniform landscape of a “monoculture”. It certainly functioned also as an insulation from the larger book industry where purposely comics in french are not described as books but as albums. The standardization of the comics album that took place in the 80s came, according to Menu, as a natural step of the withdrawal of the Author. Mainstream comics are no longer described so much as author productions but as situated in a constellation of descriptives and production categories, such as Genres, Heroes, Series and album Formats (Menu, 2005, p.18). Menu capitalizes all those terms, ironically conferring them equal value as the Author’s name. Nonetheless, his manifesto historicized the consolidation of the mainstream, as an important step towards the creation of the authorial ethos and the rediscovery of the avant-garde in comics, a term that might produce the counter-effect of further confining comics to the status of a paraliterary medium (Baetens, 2012), buffering any meaningful exchange with other book arts and publishing practices.
This is an unauthorized, literally “stretched” facsimile version of Levis Trondheim Un Monde Un Peu Meilleur. After becoming Chief Editor of legendary art comics publishing house L’Association, Trondheim’s publishes his commercial series under the new 48CC imprint as a way to deface his predecessor Jean-Christophe Menu, and to gentrify his polemical stance against the industrial formats in commercial comics. My pirate edition is a retaliation on the very same site of dispute, a monstrous mutation of the original book that contributes to bring to the question of format the sustained attention required from the entire community of comics artists: the format in comics as the medium’s main political mode of address.
Belgium: La Cinquieme Couche | 48 pages | hardcover edition | CMYK | 2020 | 290mm x 290mm | SOLD OUT