Michel Rabagliati's upcoming book is the perfect distraction
What a stroke of luck that I remembered to throw the advance copy of Michel Rabagliati’s Paul Moves Out into my bag before flying out of the office for the holidays. Turns out I spent most of my first days off in a year and a half – sigh – on my back, and not in a fun way. I, like many of you I’m sure, spewed phlegm and hacked the lungs right out of my chest from December 25 to January 2, inclusively. Oh cruel fate! But it gave me a lot of time to read.
Paul Moves Out is the third instalment of Rabagliati’s Paul series, which began with Paul in the Country in 2000 and Paul Has a Summer Job in 2003. The originals were published in French by Les Éditions de la Pastèque, but Drawn & Quarterly, that most efficient of local comic providers, has set out to translate them all for our multilingual reading pleasure.
Rabagliati’s Paul series is the kind of clean, easy comic that unsuspectingly whiles away the hours by engulfing you in its universe of innocence. The stories are set in Montreal, where the character Paul lives. The city is represented with much more intimacy and detail than one would expect from Rabagliati’s pared down, stylized form; as Paul walks down the street we see a background of Boulevard St-Laurent, Mount Royal, St-Léonard. The stories told are the anecdotes that make up a happy, secure life – nothing dramatic or spectacular, but readably discreet and charming. Unlike other biographical comics, the Paul series is not autobiographical, so it maintains a refreshing distance from Rabagliati and the fashionable (and often cloying) self-referential exploration of the creative process.
Paul Moves Out updates readers on Paul’s life as a 19-year-old design student who has just moved out of his parents’ home to live with his girlfriend Lucie. The book builds a generously rounded out narrative illustrating this time in the character’s life, from his meeting of Lucie to his relationship with a life-changing professor early in his studies, to his inner debate of sexual identity issues, to the death of a cherished aunt. These are small parables, in the grand scheme of things (or compared to a comic series like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis), but they make up most of our lives, and as such are relevant and unsentimentally important.
Rabagliati only began drawing comics at age 36, after working as a graphic designer for 20 years; when he was asked to design a logo for Drawn & Quarterly he encountered the whole new world of comics. He counts as his (highly recognizable) influences Tintin, Spirou and Gaston Lagaffe. Like them, he has an implacable sense of storytelling.
Look for the release of Paul Moves Out in early spring, that glorious time when, with the melting snow, colds flow out of our thawing bodies to become distant memories. Achoo!