After the Metronome and its TV adaptation, Lorànt Deutsch embarks on as a co-writer in a collection of historical comics. The main idea is to tell the story of a character well known to the general public (Louis XIV, Napoleon…) with that of one of his contemporaries less known, but just as fascinating (Fouquet, Charrette…). François I and the Constable Charles de Bourbon So open the ball with this first volume widely awaited at the turn after the debate that had ignited around the Metronome. Refusing any prejudice, Histoire pour Tous takes an eye as independent and constructive as possible on this new project of the artist.
On the evening of February 24, 1525, Francis I, King of France, was defeated with his army in Pavia. As he himself will write, all is lost except honor: the king is taken prisoner by the Imperials. At the head of this imperial army is however a Frenchman: Charles de Bourbon. This man was one of the richest princes in France, one of the best fighters with Louis XII and François I himself with whom he had fought in Marignan ten years earlier. How could this great character of the Italian wars, always on the go to push back the Imperials, so he changed sides? That evening, the prisoner king and the former Constable come face to face in the tent for final explanations, rejecting each other's treason. Wouldn't Charles de Bourbon be just an ambitious man seeking the hand of an imperial princess and a duchy in Provence? Where is all this only the consequence of the downfall of a man on whom fate and royal power have strived? His children and his wife swept away by disease, his lands plundered under the pressure of Louise of Savoy (mother of the king), did he have any other choice than to fight those who had been the cause of his misfortune?
But Pavie's victory does not break the curse that seems to hang over the Constable. Marginalized by François Ier, he is now disappointed by Charles V who visibly only uses him as a pawn. The hope of an imperial marriage flies, the Duchy of Provence is nothing more than a mirage, and Charles finds himself in the Milanese at the head of a troop of mercenaries that he does not have the means to pay. Abandoned by all, only able to hope to keep control of his men by offering them a large and rapid booty, Charles de Bourbon marches towards the tragic apotheosis of his disastrous expedition: the capture of Rome.
While we were taking this new historical comic in our hands, a sticker reminding us that we were dealing with the same author as the Metronome brought back in us the bitter taste of the graphic disaster of the TV version. This was not necessarily a good omen for a comic book, but it was still whispering " Hope »(Motto of Bourbonnais) that we opened this first comic book by Lorànt Deutsch… And there, it is clear that Eduardo Ocaña's drawings and Luca Merli's coloring offer a much better quality than what we we could have seen on the small screen… The style is modern and epic, it is certainly sometimes detrimental to historical realism (armies of blue standards facing armies of red standards…), certain warlike scenes put more emphasis on the aesthetic aspect than realistic, but in return we gain in dynamism and intensity. Although brought up to date by series like "The Tudors", this period is still largely unknown to the general public. The catchy nature of these boards can encourage everyone, and especially young people, in a 16th century story that they thought was dusty and that they are discovering more alive than ever! On the whole, therefore, the neophyte reader will be carried away by the image. However, the enlightened enthusiast will notice some anachronisms such as the Château de Chantelle, very well represented, but unfortunately as it is now and not as it was when Charles de Bourbon passed by (the château was subsequently in large part destroyed by Richelieu). Likewise, if the insertion of paintings in the drawings can be beneficial to the details (this is notably the case for the Sistine Chapel represented in full page) the choice of these paintings is not always judicious: thus we see Charles Quint pass in front of a painting which is none other than "The beautiful lady without mercy" by Sir Frank Bernard Dicksee painted around 1890 ... It is astonishing that Lorànt Deutsch, strongly questioned on the Metronome, was not more picky about these few elements.
Now let's move on to the scenario, the second part of the comic strip. This scenario, inspired by the form of the play “Le Souper” (Jean-Claude Brisville, 1989), is the work of Lorànt Deutsch himself and Sylvain Runberg (whose name does not have any the right to the same font size on the cover… it seems by editor's choice). First point to the credit of the writers: we do not have a Manichean scenario that would have pitted the good King François I against the obscure traitor of Bourbonnais. Far from this caricatural image, Lorànt Deutsch and Sylvain Runberg were able to qualify the picture and paint a convincing portrait of the two main characters. The verbal jousting between Francis I and the Constable offers everyone the opportunity to present their version of events, thus showing the reasons and the wrongs of each. The thread of the conversation takes us back to a series of flashbacks retracing the main stages of the Constable's life: his education by Anne de Beaujeu, his marriage to Suzanne de Bourbon-Beaujeu, his service to Louis XII and François I during the wars in Italy, the death of his brother in Marignan, then the death of his children and his wife, the legal fury of Louise of Savoy to dispossess him, his flight from Charles V, the recognition of Henry VIII as King of France, the failure of the Provence campaign… It is also an opportunity to bring in other famous characters like Bayard, and in the end the writers succeed in the feat of squeezing all the main lines of the Constable's life in a perfectly fluid way and in just 56 pages! We note, however, the notable absence of Cellini, who nevertheless took an important part in the defense of the Castel Sant'Angelo and even claimed to be the author of the shot that put an end to the Constable's days. Another damaging omission is the religious aspect of the sack of Rome in 1527.
Indeed, if the effervescence in the ranks of unpaid mercenaries is well captured in comics, there is never any question of the religious aspect that marks the sack of Rome. Rome, seat of Catholicism, was on this occasion sacked by Protestant mercenaries who committed the worst atrocities. This aspect, associated with the non-payment of salaries and the death of certain leaders, is nevertheless essential to explain the relentlessness of Charles de Bourbon's soldiers. However, the religious aspect is never discussed, limited to a vignette showing mercenaries looting a church. Doesn't this “minimal” vision of what was one of the greatest traumas of Christendom aim to end with a more heroic, less tainted image of the Constable who died in combat? In addition to these omissions, we were also surprised by a dubious assumption according to which the relentlessness of Louise of Savoy was justified by an unfulfilled desire of the Constable. There, the shoe pinches and we would like to know what justifies this accusation. Did the writers simply let their imaginations run wild to explain a virulence that could not be free?
It is possible, because in an interview for 20 minutes, Lorànt Deutsch announced that he had chosen this medium of the comic book because he " leaves more room for the romantic aspect of the story ". Moreover, he is absolutely right on this point, we cannot ask a historical comic strip the same precision and the same methodology as a historical work. The drawing, the reconstruction, are already an interpretation where the artistic aspect has a place to play. There is also nothing to prevent making a fictional, or very largely fictionalized, comic with a historical background. The important thing is not to try to pass off fiction or the novel as History. This is, moreover, the major and recurring flaw in historical comics. On this point, we can only advise, as we always do with other authors and other publishers, to associate a small historical file with the comic. Many do it now, in a more or less successful way it is true, but we now see comics ending with succinct biographical notes, with a short presentation of the historical context ... Some even go so far as to give their sources clearly in explaining the historical part of their scenario and the part they allowed themselves to romanticize. We think that Lorànt Deutsch, on the initiative of this project, should dig in that direction. In doing so, playing on transparency, he would free himself from purely historical criticisms. In addition, these files would become springboards between a comic book based on epic and History in its more traditional form. The “Histoires de France” collection could in this way become a good tool for popularizing this fascinating History of France that Lorànt Deutsch sincerely seems to want to share.
Finally and to conclude, we would like to point out that, contrary to what he announced in various interviews around the release of this comic, any criticism of his work does not come only from activists seeking to make people talk about them. On the contrary, we agree with him on this sentence: " I think we are all fighting on the same side. To make people want to open history books "! So if our remarks can be constructive for future comics and historical works, it would be beneficial for this "cause" which is History ... " Hope! »
"Histories of France"
- 16th century: François I and the Constable of Bourbon
Scenario: Lorànt Deutsch & Sylvain Runberg
Drawing: Eduardo Ocaña
Color: Luca Merli
Lettering: Fanny Hurtel
Collection director: Jean-Philippe Salmon
Editions: Casterman, Michel Lafon, Steinkis