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ARCHIVED - Groups and Creators
In the 1980s, the European comic strip was in crisis. Magazines disappeared one after another. The comics market was saturated and competing publishers resorted to all kinds of strategies -- comics in pocket-book form, special and limited printings, exclusive seriographs, figurines. A full-blown industry developed around comics. In the United States, the arrival of speculators who bought popular series in great quantities led to an explosion in the comic book market, with some titles reaching astronomic prices. When these speculators eventually lost interest in comic books, the market abruptly deflated and the major American publishing houses recovered with great difficulty. In the aftermath, at the beginning of the 1990s, "mangas"1, and Akira in particular, began their conquest of European and North American markets.
Closer to home, Titanic's efforts and, to a lesser degree, Croc's persistent success, energized Quebecois comic-strip creators. Even though Titanic ultimately failed, its existence gave rise to much hope and optimism. As they had been during the "springtime" of the Quebecois comic strip in the 1970s, creators were concentrated in three large cities: Montréal, Québec and Sherbrooke. Increasingly, they felt the need to regroup and get organized.
Authors' Associations (1985-1997)
Several regional associations of comics creators were formed starting in 1985. These groups played an important role in the recognition, promotion and distribution of the Quebecois comics. They also supported authors in terms of presenting portfolios or signing contracts.
The first of these associations, BD Estrie (originally named Association BD de l'Estrie), gathered authors from the Estrie region. Founded in 1985, this association issued several albums and fanzines, both collective (the Album series, Où est donc passée Brigitte?, Joker, Encrage) and individual (Mes plusse beaux dessins by Paul LeBrun). They also produced a liaison bulletin, L'Entre-cases, and later, Le Pep.
The Société des Créateurs et Ami(e)s de la Bande Dessinée (ScaBD) of Québec was established the same year. It brought together creators from the Québec region and the eastern region of the province. Active until 1997, this association organized exhibitions (Et vlan!, On s'expose and La BD sort de ses gonds), published several collective fanzines (La Grand Place, Correspondance, Vol de nuit and Rock and Roll), an information bulletin (Zeppelin, Mémo, and Némo) and a magazine (Zeppelin), and opened a documentation centre.
Finally, the Association des créateurs et intervenants en bande dessinée (ACIBD) of Montréal tried to represent all Quebecois creators. Founded in 1986, this association took part in the organization of the 5th, 6th and 7th Festival international de la bande dessinée de Montréal, submitted a memorandum on the situation of the Quebecois comic strip to a parliamentary commission, distributed awards to creators (the Onésime award and the Albert-Chartier award) and produced an information bulletin, La Dépêche.
Relying on volunteers, these associations ceased their activities during the 1990s when there was no one to take over. Lately, BD Estrie has given a few signs of life and a return of the ACIBD and the ScaBD are sometimes contemplated.
Renaissance of the Underground Movement (1985- )
The economic difficulties (unemployment and recession) at the end of the 1980s and at the beginning of the following decade gave rise to a new movement of unrest, primarily urban, which ushered in the return of the underground. Understanding of the medium had evolved since the 1970s; thus, unrest was reflected not only in the text of strips but in their form as well. Panels were presented as works of art in their own right, with less emphasis on traditional narrative. Instead of trying to change society, authors seemed satisfied with denouncing its failings in as shocking a way as possible. The popular appeal of the photocopier gave everyone a chance to express themselves. The new creators produced their own zines in the name of freedom of expression. In spite of numerous collective zines, initiatives to found a real collective magazine only became more rare. The emphasis was on self-expression.
It has been seen that the underground was intrinsic to the first series of Iceberg magazine in 1983, represented by authors such as Diane O'Bomsawin, Henriette Valium (Patrick Henley) and Normand Hamel. Rectangle, a fanzine which married francophone rock music and comic strips, founded by Yvan Pellerin and Éric Thériault and published from 1987 to 1991, presented several authors that had sprung from this essentially Montréal movement: Valium, Luc Giard, R. Suicide, Siris, Jean-Pierre Chansigaud, Éric Braün, Alexandre Lafleur, Simon Bossé, Martin Lemieux and Julie Doucet. Underground zines multiplied and English and French mixed happily together in titles like Dirty Plotte, Mille Putois, Mac Tin Tac and Zen Zen Shit.
In the 1990s, several collective bilingual anthologies such as Guillotine, Mr. Swiz and Fœtus brought forth new authors with original styles: Luc Leclerc, Mathieu Massicotte-Quesnel, Martin Guimond, Geneviève Gosselin and Kurt Beaulieu, among them. These group fanzines published works that had already appeared elsewhere; the underground movement recognized no borders and there were trans-Atlantic exchanges as well as Canadian-American.
Evenings dedicated to comic jams2 and many fanzine launches promoted a sense of community among creators. The underground movement also introduced group exhibitions (B.D. Bande à part) and festivals (Komikaze), as a result of which, Montréal came to enjoy a good reputation in the underground milieu.