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Drawing the city – recommendations from the French Comics Apéro

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

During the last session, we looked at urban sketches and how comic book artists have drawn cities over the years, from imaginary worlds to realistic impressions. As such, the talk was divided into three parts: futuristic cities, travelogues and depictions of the French banlieue. We have compiled here the many recommendations that were made by participants on Tuesday 16 June.

Benoit Peeters in an interview for la Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine explains how modern architecture and the art of comics are closely intertwined and how they both expanded into common culture in the 1900s. Drawings of the city in the press are, first and foremost, a means of inciting a feeling of fascination. The verticalisation of structures, technology (planes) and the advantages of new materials (glass, steel) appear, for instance, in Winsor Mccay's Little Nemo in Sumberland and for many years, the comic was hugely popular and the architecture featured in it considered a real wonder. While the XIXth century was a time of optimism, the XXth century saw the emergence of a different kind of artist. The focus also switched and the entire world started looking at what Europe was doing in terms of comics. Jean Giraud (Moebius), François Schuiten, JC Mézi, and Enki Bilal, among others, started drawing dystopian cities and did not hesitate to add a subversive twist to their stories.

Nowadays, architecture still appears in comic books in a perhaps more nuanced matter. It often is the background of real cities and builings, metro stations, streets, houses add to the overalll atmosphere and feeling of the story. Yet comic books in Europe count so many sub-genres that science fiction or visions of the periphery - now often appearing in narratives taking place in the banlieue - still have a soft spot in many hearts.


Les cités obscures

Les cités obscures: Brüsel de Benoit Peeters et François Schuiten, Casterman

Cities of the Fantastic: Brüsel by Benoit Peeters and François Schuiten, NBM Publishing


Bug: Tome 1 et 2 de Enki Bilal, Casterman

available to borrow at la Médiathèque

The Long Tomorrow

The Long Tomorrow by Moebius and Dan O'Bannon, Les humanoïdes Associés

A special hommage available on the French publisher's website.

Paris 2119

Paris 2119 de Zep et Dominique Bertail, Rue de Sèvres

available on Culturethèque


Negalyod de Vincent Perriot, Casterman

available to borrow at La Médiathèque


Valérian de Jean-Claude Mézières et Pierre Christin, Dargaud

available to borrow at La Médiathèque

Valerian and Laureline: The city of shifting waters by Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin, Cinebook


Prosopopus de Nicolas de Crécy, Dupuis


Paul dans le métro

Paul dans le métro de Michel Rabagliati, La pastèque

available to borrow at la Médiathèque

Tokyo on foot

Tokyo on foot by Florent Chavouet, Tuttle Publishing

available to borrow at La Médiathèque

Chroniques de Jérusalem

Chroniques de Jérusalem de Guy Delisle, Delcourt

available to borrow at La Médiathèque

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle, Penguin Books


Portugal de Cyril Pedrosa, Dupuis

available on Culturethèque

Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa, NBM Publishing

Bye Bye Babylone

Bye Bye Babylone by Lamia Ziadé, Penguin Books

O nuit, ô mes yeux

O nuit, ô mes yeux de Lamia Ziadé, P.O.L

Drawing the French banlieues

La petite couronne

La petite couronne de Gilles Rochier, 6 pieds sous terre

Demain, demain

Demain, demain, Tome 1 et 2 de Laurent Maffre, Actes Sud BD

Webdocumentaire : 127, rue de la Garenne | Le bidonville de La Folie, Nanterre

This original documentary brings to life the graphic novel by laurent Maffre through sound archives by Monique Hervo and sound creations by Fabrice Osinski. This frieze, made for Arte from "Demain, Demain", received the SCAM award for new digital writing in 2012.

Saison des roses

Saison des roses de Chloé Wary, FLBLB

available on Culturethèque

More comic books that feature interesting architectural elements

Le patient

Le patient de Timothé le Boucher, Glénat

available to borrow at la Médiathèque

La Mouche

La mouche de Lewis Trondheim, Seuil

available to borrow at la Médiathèque

The Family of Mr Lee

The Family of Mr Lee by Yoshiharu Tsuge, Drawn and Quaterly

Tintin: Le temple du soleil

Tintin: Le temple du soleil d'Hergé, Casterman

Tintin: Prisoners of the sun by Hergé, Egmont UK

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