TJ Editions Releases Stories of European History, Ypres Memories and Scout’s Honor
TJ Editions is a relatively new publisher (started 2013) out of London and Belgium focusing on European graphic novels about either history or sport (such as their graphic history of the Manchester United football club). What I’ve seen so far from them has been firmly in the “boys’ adventure” tradition.
Ypres Memories by Philippe Glogowski came out last spring. Focused on “the plight of the Scottish Military who fought during World War I”, it was named the “official graphic novel of the 100 year commemorations of the 1st World War” in the UK.
A grumpy old man in 1986 goes to a military parade exhibition, which throws him back into his memories of the struggle of battle in 1914. (The timeline is barely workable.) Another story illustrates the diary of a lieutenant at the lines.
The art is solid, but the heavily captioned and narrated work doesn’t take full advantage of the comics format. The publisher is emphasizing the educational elements, so perhaps that’s why this feels like an illustrated text. Unfortunately, not enough context is provided for those who, like most Americans, don’t understand the importance of this battleground. The result is a generic “war is terrible” piece that feels overly familiar, made up of a series of horrific incidents, and is a struggle to get through.
The first tells of the first scout camp at Brownsea in 1907, led by Baden-Powell, whose tales of military adventure fire the boys’ imagination while they work together to build camp and pretend to hunt stag and whale. If you aren’t familiar with Robert Baden-Powell, acclaimed founder of scouting, the next story goes in to detail about his war service, with a digression into the Jungle Book work of his buddy Rudyard Kipling.
Oddly, the comic has all its dialogue in the word balloons also contained in quotes. Perhaps that’s to indicate authenticity — although no sources are cited — but I found it annoying and distracting.
The other stories include a modern scout’s encounter with a bear; a short version of the life of Guy de Larigaudie, a French venture scout, writer, and world traveler; the tale of a group of Girl Guides who worked underground during the Nazi occupation of Paris; and a hypothetical about a young Paul McCartney and Keith Richards meeting on a scout campout. Boys who adore scouting might enjoy this look at other times and places, but others may weary of the scattershot anthology. (The publisher provided review copies.)