“Graphic Parenthesis and Nationalist Anxiety: (Re)membering Jacque Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec and Paris” was presented as part of “Redrawing the Nation,” a panel that examined visual representations of nationalism in modern, non-Anglophone comics and graphic novels.
The paper focused on French bande dessinée Jacques Tardi’s Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec series and how it narrativizes nationalism and visually engages with Etienne Balibar’s idea of “retrospective illusion,” the process by which each succeeding generation inherits a story and transforms it into a narrative of destiny.
According to Serrano, “Tardi’s Adèle series is a graphic model of this ‘retrospective illusion’ because it parenthetically (re)inscribes French nationalism through its visually enthralling portraits of Paris and Adèle’s adventures.”
“Put simply,” Serrano said, “in the albums, Adèle is not a witness to World War I; she ‘misses’ the war and Tardi’s Paris is never seen under siege. All of the adventures are literally outside of war, a ‘graphic parenthesis’ in which Tardi attacks nationalist mythology as well as pays homage to it.”
Serrano argued that Tardi is thus caught in a nationalistic conundrum, a modern anxiety of nationalism that vacillates between pride, scorn and unease because he parenthetically saves Adèle.
The 2016 International Comics Arts Forum was co-sponsored by the Comics Studies Society (CSS), a learned society and professional association for comics researchers and teachers from around the world. Serrano serves on the CSS executive board as treasurer.