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A new comic strip on the problems of reintegration and the ill-being of mutilated facio-muscular First World War : "facial", "slobber", "slit", "meat hole", "furrowed", "wild boar" or "marten" mouths, "duckbills" or "jaws" de serpent ”as they were nicknamed… In addition to a very specific drawing, the particularity of this comic is to be particularly attached to the sexuality of those individuals who have as much difficulty in being accepted as in accepting themselves.
July 14, 1919: parade under the Arc de Triomphe, fanfare, festivities, acclamations, medals ... And a man destroyed, wounded in the war, his mouth blown away by a shrapnel, who refuses to play this little game memorial. One of those broken faces that his wife only looks at as an additional stain, and yet she has accepted it, which is not the case with all her comrades. A man living on his pension, reading the disgust or fear in the eyes of his fellow citizens, forced to pay a high price for the prostitutes in the area. It is there that he meets Sembene known as "the cannibal", an African colossus who also lives off his ugly head, but differently, by performing in a reconstruction of an African village. The two men befriended, sharing their knowledge and joining the small circle of the Countess, an eccentric woman of a general who loves bondage and sadomasochistic parties ...
The theme of rehabilitating the wounded from World War I seems particularly fashionable these days in the comic book world. Here the choice fell on the broken faces, as for the comics "Pour un peu de Bonheur" or "Gueules cassées." For the benefit of cowards ”. The subject is however treated in a completely different way, primarily from a graphic point of view since here the drawing contrasts with realism to come closer to expressionism. The drawings by Delphine Priet-Maheo are reminiscent of the style of Otto Dix or Edvard Munch (think of the famous painting "The Scream"), in the three artists we find the desire to translate a deep existential angst. The choice to abandon realism in order to translate the suffering of the war wounded had already been made for "Lives trenches", and it will surely appeal to as many readers as it will put off as receptivity to graphic styles is a personal matter. Without a doubt, some will regret this expressionism knowing that realism has already been able to brilliantly handle this theme in "Pour un peu de Bonheur", and even in another context the theme of the sexuality of the disfigured in a comic book like "After the night »From Guérineau and Meunier. We will let the reader position himself on this subject.
We talk about sexuality because it is one of the major themes of this comic, the cornerstone. Certainly in the first volume of “Pour un peu de bonheur” this theme was also addressed, but it is omnipresent here: masturbations negotiated with nurses, resorting to prostitution (with conditions on prices and positions), provision of brothels for the disabled and even the organization of bondage and sadomasochist evenings… As it were, the theme of the sexuality of war disabled had never been so in-depth in comics.
We could almost go so far as to say that it is becoming obsessive and that sexuality hides in comics the other facets of broken-mouthed life. However, there are many other elements in the background: the relationship with civilians, with the family, the camaraderie between disabled veterans, the difficulties in daily life (meals, etc.), the prosthesis market, the organization of the national lottery. to pay pensions, families who use the disabled as livelihoods without taking care of them ...
Finally and finally, let us note that this comic offers its readers something that we particularly appreciate on HPT: a documentary dossier of about fifteen pages. Richly illustrated, this postface by Sophie Delaporte (Lecturer at the University of Picardie Jules Vernes - CHSSC) reviews several points addressed by the comic strip and offers the reader a good historical introduction to the theme by talking about the association of Colonel Picot , facial surgery, progress in prostheses (but also their refusal by the disabled ...), close links that are forged between the patient and the caregiver ... The resumption of Sophie Delaporte is not however a simple repetition of this which was seen in the comic, she endeavors to return to certain points of the scenario to clarify them, or to put them into perspective (on mutilated / nurse marriages, on suicides…).
She even goes much further by offering in the end a beautiful article that tackles the subject in a much more complete way than the comic strip, but it is true that Sophie Delaporte is a specialist in the subject since she has already published "Les Gueules cassées de la Grande War ”published by Agnès Vienot, and articles on medicine during the war of 14-18. It is therefore a good initiative to entrust an afterword to a historian to allow the reader to make the link between fiction and history. Comics are without doubt a formidable vector of popularization in the noble sense of the term.
Screenplay: Aurélien Ducoudray
Drawing: Delphine Priet-Mahéo
Afterword: Sophie Delaporte
Editions: The bubble box
Delaporte Sophie, “The Broken Gueules: the wounded from the face of the Great War”, Editions Agnès Vienot, 2001.