Mobilities, Supermodernity, and Apocalypse: Revisiting Druillet’s Psychedelic Cityscapes

Authors: Steven Spalding*, United States Naval Academy
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Graphic Novel, French, Urban Culture, Science Fiction, Apocalypse
Session Type: Interactive Short Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 1:20 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Jackson, Marriott, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over his several decades-long career Philippe Druillet has played multiple influential roles in the French “BD” or graphic novel scene, as a writer, artist, editor and publisher. For instance, the monthly zine Métal Hurlant he co-founded in 1974 became a key laboratory of sorts for sci-fi graphic novelists well into the late 80s, and formed the template for an American version called Heavy Metal, which has itself had a long and important run. His frequently recurring protagonist, Lone Sloane, has appeared in volumes spanning fifty years, and is without question the central figure of Druillet’s science fiction universe. This work examines the Lone Sloane saga as the privileged vehicle for Druillet’s assessment of the city and urban culture. Throughout Sloane’s chaotic journeys through the universe, he makes stops—some planned, some not—at great and vast cities of all kinds. Long gone from the Druillet universe are the desolate rocky landscapes of traditional sci-fi: instead, each new civilization Sloane encounters is presented through and characterized by its urban life and spatial geography. Rendered in Druillet’s expansive, sprawling, and flamboyant style, and very often spilling over across two folio pages each time, these breathtaking cityscapes overwhelm the eye with their excessive detail, incredible perspectival depth, and stunning color palettes. My assessment of Druillet’s urban fantasy-scapes emphasizes their overt commentary on the 20th century city—heightened, even exaggerated, but highly recognizable as the stage for a human, all too human drama of apocalyptic proportions to play itself out.

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