French Graphic Novels in Translation, Part II: Papercutz

In today’s post, I’ll turn to another fabulous graphic novel (GN) publisher, Papercutz.  Founded in 2005, Papercutz proudly (with good reason) proclaims itself to be the only publisher that focuses solely on graphic novels for children—for “reluctant readers and gifted readers,” and “kids, tweens, and teens” in genres such as “humor, action, adventure, mystery, horror, and favorite characters.” This includes a number of licensed properties and GN adaptations of classic literature, for example, Alexis Nesme’s adapation of Jules Verne’s Children of Captain Grant** (translated by Joe Johnson) which was released in 2016 by the new Papercutz YA imprint, Super Genius. With a similar emphasis on European GN style and art-driven excellent storytelling as First Second, but with a greater emphasis on series and licensed properties, Papercutz GNs fit comfortably into the middle grade (and occasionally YA) age range they target, a niche that they serve superbly.

51s38jje1gl-_sy346_Navigating in a publishing sea of graphic novels and comic books geared primarily towards boys, Papercutz deserves a good deal of credit for the number of girl-friendly titles on its list, such as The Sisters** series by Christophe Cazenove and William Maury (with the first translated volume released in 2016 and the third volume coming out on August 1, 2017). With titles such as Just Like Family and Honestly, I Love My Sister, the books give readers a great glimpse in vignette after funny vignette of the close love-hate-love relationship between the two eponymous sisters.  In addition, as part of Papercutz’ girl-friendly offerings, the publisher has just launched a new tween imprint, Charmz, with its first volume-in-translation—of the popular French Scarlet Rose series—to be released in late November 2017. As a dedicated GN reader, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Charmz serves up!

51wzexzrvil-_sx359_bo1204203200_However, this is not to say that Papercutz’ list ignores boys by any means. For example, if one takes a look at a few of Papercutz’ published translations of GNs from French, past and present, it is hard to ignore—if only because of bookshelf bulk, not to mention silly cuteness and readability factors—the many books populated by those beloved imaginary Belgian creatures, the Smurfs. Papercutz  began issuing The Smurfs series (by Yvan Delporte and Peyo, translated by Joe Johnson) in 2010 with The Purple Smurfs, continuing to today with #22 The Smurf Menace (January 17, 2017) and #23 Can’t Smurf Progress** (June 20, 2017). In each volume, the irascible but adorable blue smurfs bumble—or as they themselves would say, “smurf”—through life’s situations, with smurfing jokes abounding on every page. The Seven Dwarves have nothing on these colorful guys (all but one—Smurfette—are male), who regularly deliver pure fun for young middle grade readers of either sex.

61ew67h3jfl-_sx359_bo1204203200_Another set of frequently cranky creatures—in this case, real ones from the distant past—for a decidedly boy-targeted GN (if the incidence of blood and guts is any indication) come to life in the Dinosaurs Graphic Novels** (by Arnaud Plumeri and Bloz, my translation, 2014-15), a four-volume series, plus a 3-D single volume. Papercutz is about to release the original four as a boxed set on April 4, 2017.  Narrated in 1-2 page vignettes by a wiseacre Compsognathos (who is constantly meeting his maker on his way to becoming a fossil), this terrific series is based on up-to-date paleontological findings and includes leading characters such as the perpetually downtrodden paleontologist Indino Jones. The jokes run wild throughout as the dinosaurs romp through the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras (among others). The fourth and final volume features an extra 8-page insert about a new, complete baby Parasaurolophus fossil recently discovered in Utah. Despite my having been a dino-loving kid (what’s not to love, right?), I learned more about dinosaurs in translating these books than I had ever known and encountered many dinosaurs I had never heard of. Exciting stuff!

51szwloqggl-_sx348_bo1204203200_Last but not least, at the start of 2017, Papercutz published the first volume in another new nonfiction series, Sea Creatures in their Own Words, by Christophe Cazenove and Thierry Jytery (my translation). With the same tongue-in-cheek humor he employs—or should one say, deploys?–in his Sisters series, Cazenove devotes 1-2 pages each to various creatures of the sea, using snarky talking marine animals, silly jokes, and scads of fascinating, fabulous factoids—as well as information about a species endangered status–to create this enticing example of middle grade edutainment. Volume 1: Reef Madness** was released on January 24, 2017 and Volume 2: Armed and Dangerous is due out on May 16, 2017. Much like the Dinosaurs Graphic Novels, Sea Creatures in Their Own Words looks to be a 4-volume series that will be every bit as enjoyable and equally educational.

There you have it: a “translator’s eye” view of a selected few of the wonderful works that have been translated into English by these two different but excellent GN publishers. They are by no means the only game in town for French GNs in translation, though. Abrams, Archaia Comics, Archipelago, Drawn & Quarterly, Europe Comics, Humanoid, Lerner, and SelfMade Hero, to name only a handful, all publish French GNs translated into English. To see more about GNs translated from French in 2016 and the  houses that are publishing them, visit http://frenchculture.org/books/news/french-books-us-2016-edition, a useful list put together by the Book Department of the French Embassy.

By Nanette McGuinness

**All images used with permission of the publisher:
Children of Captain Grant: ©2009/2014 Delcourt
The Sisters #3: Just Like Family: ©2008-10 Bamboo Édition
The Smurfs #3: The Smurf King: ©2010 by Papercutz
Dinosaurs vol. 1-4 box set: ©2012 Bamboo Édition
Sea Creatures in Their Own Words #1: Reef Madness  ©Bamboo Édition           

Award-winning opera singer Nanette McGuinness is the translator of over 40 books and graphic novels for children and adults, including the well-known Geronimo Stilton Graphic Novels. Her latest translations, California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second Books, from French into English) and Thea Sisters #7: A Song for the Thea Sisters (Papercutz, from Italian into English), will be released in March 2017.

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