Pow! To the People 01.09.09

alanswar-header.jpgThe recording of Art Brut’s new album kept Eddie Argos a bit too busy to read comics over the last few months, but he’s back with a new favorite: Emmanuel Guibert’s unique soldier’s memoir, Alan’s War.





It’s been ages since I’ve written a Pow! to the People. I’ve barely had time to read a comic let alone write about one. I’ve been preparing to record the new Art Brut album with Black Francis. I’ve written all the words for the record in advance this time, though. So now I’m living on the side of a motorway in Salem for two weeks, with only a little bit of rewriting to do. I’ve finally got some spare time to catch up and read some comics. I might even write a Pow! to the People everyday whilst I’m here. Jason at Playback has luckily just sent me a load of comics, too. So whilst everybody else is hammering away at their instruments, I’m going to be reading comic books and drinking chocolate milkshake. Hooray!


I wrote that first paragraph over a month ago. I seriously over-estimated how much spare time I was going to have. The album is finished and sounding great but I only had time to read one comic before all the festivities of Christmas began. It was quite a big one, though—I read Alan’s War by Emmanuel Guibert. It is the memoir of a man called Alan Cope who was drafted into the Second World War in 1945. It isn’t really about the war, though. In the introduction, Emmanuel explains that both him and Alan didn’t consider themselves historians when they were writing it, and that "Alan’s War is the product of the meeting of an elderly man, who had a gift for telling his life story, and a young man, who spontaneously felt compelled to write and draw it."

The introduction also admits that not a lot happens in the book, so I thought it would be a perfect book to read whilst I was recording. I could just pick it up and put it down when I got busy. I was wrong. Although the book is full of anecdotes in which very little happens, the voice that tells those stories is so compelling that it’s impossible to put the book down. I’ve never had an interest in war stories before, so I found my sudden voracious appetite for stories about this soldier surprising. At one point, so I could finish reading a part of the story about Alan driving an armored car through Bavaria at night, I hid round the back of the studio. Even more surprising is how enthralled I still was with Alan’s stories from after the war—the stories of him driving around in his van, looking for work and searching for old friends. I found myself hiding from the rest of my band again and again so I could read the tales of this peculiarly intriguing man without being disturbed, and often found myself round the back of the studio in the snow reading stories that I’d have absolutely no interest in if they were told by anybody else.

I love the way Emmanuel Guibert has illustrated Alan’s tales. The book looks exactly as I’d imagine drawings of somebody else’s memories to look. At the start of the book, Alan is often drawn on a blank background with only the most important scenery drawn in; but as the book progresses and we get nearer the present day, more and more detail is added. This is because Emmanuel had a chance to visit some of the places Alan is talking about, but I presume also because Alan’s memories were clearer of his more recent past. So as well as looking incredible, the art also adds to the authenticity of what your reading.

Sample art from Alan's War by Emmanuel Guibert. Click for a larger image.There can’t be that many men who tell a story as well as Alan or artists as well-equipped as Emmanuel to capture those stories, but I hope more young artists randomly bump into old men with stories to tell. Despite Emmanuel and Alan not considering themselves historians, I learned a lot from this book that other history books don’t tell you. Nothing that would be useful in a history test, but interesting all the same. | Eddie Argos

Click here for more information and an excerpt of Alan’s War, courtesy of Macmillan.

In this edition:

Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope (:01 First Second)

336 pgs. B&W; $24.00

(W / A: Emmanuel Guibert)


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