The color of things
by Martin Panchaud
Here and there, 236p., 24€
A friend of Martin Panchaud once described his book The Color of Things as “a mixture of Ken Loach and South Park”. The British director for the atmosphere of popular England, the American animated series for its minimalism and irreverence.
The comparison is very appealing to the author-draughtsman, young forty-something. As inspirations, this cinephile adds the nervous thrillers of Guy Ritchie or the tragicomic Trainspotting of Danny Boyle and, on the literary side, a little of Michael Connelly.
But Martin Panchaud is above all an explosive graphic style. His characters: circles. Scenery seen from above, like plans. Dialogues written in the margins, like captions. Pictograms, computer graphics to illustrate an emotion, a feeling… And the key, a sensational entry into the world of comics: the Fauve d’or at the Angoulême Festival, the ACBD critics’ prize, for his first album .
At the origins of this “language”, as he calls it, his training as a graphic designer. In his country, Switzerland, “graphic design is something important and serious”. “There is attention to the meaning of what we do, to the harmony of the page”, describes the author, who works “like an architect”, with vector drawing software as a pencil.
Dyslexia, a test that has become a driving force
This visual imagination also draws on the severe dyslexia from which Martin Panchaud suffers. Its publisher, Serge Ewenczyk, has an anecdote to illustrate the extent of this: “When he made the cover, we had to correct three times in a row a typo in the word “things”. “In dedication, I have to ask people to spell names as common as Paul for me,” confirms the author with a smile.
He jokes about it today, but it is an understatement to say that it has not always been a laughing matter for Martin Panchaud, who was only diagnosed at 15 years old. “Until adolescence, I was very poorly accompanied. Very quickly, I was banned from school. When I was 14, I was told that my future was in the factory…if I avoided prison! In fact, I came close to that world. I had friends who missed class because they were in police custody. I could have ended very badly. He owes his salvation to a nursing mother who never stopped supporting him.
Excerpt from “The Color of Things”. / Martin Panchaud / Here and There
The author has also put a lot of himself into The Color of Things. Simon, an English pre-teen from a poor family, mocked for being overweight, earns a fortune by gambling. The same day, her father disappears and a violent attack plunges her mother into a coma. The boy then finds himself tossed about between the home, the hospital, his father’s quest and all those who want the winning ticket on which depends the loot he has never been able to collect.
“Regularly, Simon finds himself in front of an office with a specialist, a shrink, a director of a home who lectures him, and that doesn’t help him at all. This is the most autobiographical aspect of the story,” explains Martin Panchaud.
A taste of revenge
A painful past which he made “a driving force to invent” this style which he defines as “an extension of reading”. “When you enter the book, you quickly understand the codes. Like a text that we forget is itself a set of abstract shapes that has a meaning. Martin Panchaud does not deny that he asks the reader to make an effort. An effort of reading, but also of imagination to put faces behind these little circles.
The plot with twists and its range of emotions are there to “reward” this investment. The dialogues, in this respect, are fundamental. Fan of Michel Audiard, the author still sees an effect of his dyslexia. “For me, words are spoken first, not written. I came to literature through audio books, with words punctuated by a voice, a tone. »
And it works. With the awards, goes the success – 23,000 copies sold, as many reprints scheduled. Martin Panchaud welcomes him with a feeling of assumed revenge. Revenge on his handicap, on a school system that almost crushed him, but also on the small elite of Swiss comics who never recognized him.
Also on the publishers, many of whom refused to publish it, judging the album too “experimental”, while he claims to have made a popular album. “It’s not a philosophical story with a subtext. It’s just a vehicle I invented to tell adventures. »