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Les Cités obscures

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Les Cités obscures
Doorgang.jpg
Comic wall in Brussels, Belgium
Created byFrançois Schuiten
Benoît Peeters
Publication information
PublisherCasterman
NBM Publishing
Editions Flammarion
Alaxis Press
IDW Publishing
Title(s)
Les murailles de Samaris
La fièvre d'Urbicande
La Tour
La route d'Armilia
Brüsel
L'enfant penchée
L'ombre d'un homme
La frontière invisible
La Théorie du grain de sable
FormatsOriginal material for the series has been published as a strip in the comics anthology(s) À Suivre magazine and a set of graphic novels.
Original languageFrench
Genre
Publication date1983
Number of issues11
Creative team
Writer(s)Benoît Peeters
Artist(s)François Schuiten
Reprints
The series has been reprinted, at least in part, in Dutch, English, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Russian.

Les Cités obscures (literally The Obscure Cities, but initially published in English as Cities of the Fantastic) is a graphic novel series set on a Counter-Earth, started by the Belgian comics artist François Schuiten and his friend, writer Benoît Peeters in the early 1980s. In this fictional world, humans live in independent city-states, each of which has developed a distinct civilization, each characterized by a distinctive architectural style.

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Background

Schuiten's graphic representations and architectural styles within Les Cités obscures is, among other historical themes, heavily influenced by Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta, who worked in Brussels at the turn of the 20th century. An important motif is the process of what he calls Bruxellisation, the destruction of this historic Brussels in favor of anonymous, low-quality modernist office and business buildings. Coming from a family of architects, Schuiten had many relatives, especially his father and brothers, who were instrumental in Bruxellisation, an important part in Schuiten's and Peeters' 1950s childhood memories of the city. Schuiten was brought up to study architecture by his father, both in university and early on at home, while young Schuiten preferred to pursue his escape to the world of Franco-Belgian bandes dessinées such as those he found in Pilote magazine that his older brother introduced him to, with René Goscinny, Morris, and André Franquin among his early favorites.

Around 1980, having become an emerging established graphic novel artist who had made himself a name publishing in Métal Hurlant and creating a number of standalone albums, Schuiten began drafting a parallel world of vintage architectural splendor reflecting his childhood memories of Brussels, a world which can be reached primarily through remaining buildings of these times gone by. In an ongoing attempt to prevent the spread of knowledge of this parallel world, mostly faceless authorities in our world increasingly have these buildings torn down, and in Schuiten's world this was the true reason for chaotic, headless Bruxellisation where functional and organic buildings were destroyed in favor of ill-planned, useless, and confusing structures such as ill-planned roads, detours, freeways, and anonymous office buildings that destroyed the organic fabric of a city and resulted in dysfunctional traffic and living routines.

Approaching his friend Peeters, who by now had become a comic writer, about this imaginary world, Peeters infused his own philosophical ideas into plot lines he developed for the project, and in 1982 the first Les Cités obscures album, Les murailles de Samaris, began publication as a serial in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre. Requiring a few revised editions of the early albums, the basic tenets and elements of Le monde obscure were laid down since the late 1980s.

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Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau is an international style of art, architecture, and applied art, especially the decorative arts. The style is known by different names in different languages: Jugendstil in German, Stile Liberty in Italian, Modernisme in Catalan, and also known as the Modern Style in English. It was popular between 1890 and 1910 during the Belle Époque period, and was a reaction against the academic art, eclecticism and historicism of 19th century architecture and decoration. It was often inspired by natural forms such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. Other characteristics of Art Nouveau were a sense of dynamism and movement, often given by asymmetry or whiplash lines, and the use of modern materials, particularly iron, glass, ceramics and later concrete, to create unusual forms and larger open spaces.

Victor Horta

Victor Horta

Victor Pierre Horta was a Belgian architect and designer, and one of the founders of the Art Nouveau movement. His Hôtel Tassel in Brussels, built in 1892–93, is often considered the first Art Nouveau house. The curving stylized vegetal forms that Horta used influenced many others, including architect Hector Guimard, who used it in the first house he designed in Paris and in the entrances he designed for the Paris Metro. He is also considered a precursor of modern architecture for his open floor plans and his innovative use of iron, steel and glass.

Brussels

Brussels

Brussels, officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. Brussels is the most densely populated region in Belgium, and although it has the highest GDP per capita, it has the lowest available income per household. It covers 162 km2 (63 sq mi), a relatively small area compared to the two other regions, and has a population of over 1.2 million. The five times larger metropolitan area of Brussels comprises over 2.5 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is also part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people.

Brusselization

Brusselization

In urban planning, Brusselization or Brusselisation (UK variant) is "the indiscriminate and careless introduction of modern high-rise buildings into gentrified neighbourhoods" and has become a byword for "haphazard urban development and redevelopment."

Modern architecture

Modern architecture

Modern architecture, or modernist architecture, was an architectural movement or architectural style based upon new and innovative technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel, and reinforced concrete; the idea that form should follow function (functionalism); an embrace of minimalism; and a rejection of ornament. It emerged in the first half of the 20th century and became dominant after World War II until the 1980s, when it was gradually replaced as the principal style for institutional and corporate buildings by postmodern architecture.

Pilote

Pilote

Pilote was a French comic magazine published from 1959 to 1989. Showcasing most of the major French or Belgian comics talents of its day the magazine introduced major series such as Astérix, Barbe-Rouge, Blueberry, Achille Talon, and Valérian et Laureline. Major comics writers like René Goscinny, Jean-Michel Charlier, Greg, Pierre Christin and Jacques Lob were featured in the magazine, as were artists such as Jijé, Morris, Albert Uderzo, Jean (Mœbius) Giraud, Enki Bilal, Jean-Claude Mézières, Jacques Tardi, Philippe Druillet, Marcel Gotlib, Alexis, and Annie Goetzinger.

René Goscinny

René Goscinny

René Goscinny was a French comic editor and writer, who created the Astérix comic book series with illustrator Albert Uderzo. Raised largely in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he attended French schools, he lived for a time in the United States. There he met Belgian cartoonist Morris. After his return to France, they collaborated for more than 20 years on the comic series Lucky Luke.

André Franquin

André Franquin

André Franquin was an influential Belgian comics artist, whose best-known creations are Gaston and Marsupilami. He also produced the Spirou et Fantasio comic strip from 1946 to 1968, a period seen by many as the series' golden age.

Les murailles de Samaris

Les murailles de Samaris

Les murailles de Samaris is a graphic novel by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the first volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in serialized form in 1982 in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre (#53-56), and as a complete volume first in 1983 by Casterman. In English, it was published as The Great Walls of Samaris as a serial in Heavy Metal from November 1984 to March 1985, then in 1987 as a complete volume by NBM Publishing.

À Suivre

À Suivre

À Suivre or A SUIVRE was a Franco-Belgian comics magazine published from February 1978 to December 1997 by the Casterman publishing house. Along with the comic book magazines Spirou, Tintin, Pilote, and Metal Hurlant, it is considered to have been one of the major vehicles for the development of Franco-Belgian comics during the 20th century.

Influences

Various commentators, as well as Schuiten himself, have identified visual and theme influences in Les Cités obscures from as diverse works as those by Jules Verne, Winsor McCay, Franz Kafka, René Magritte, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Victor Horta, Henry Fuseli, and Jean-Léon Gérôme.

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Jules Verne

Jules Verne

Jules Gabriel Verne was a French novelist, poet, and playwright. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages extraordinaires, a series of bestselling adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864), Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas (1870), and Around the World in Eighty Days (1872). His novels, always well documented, are generally set in the second half of the 19th century, taking into account the technological advances of the time.

Winsor McCay

Winsor McCay

Zenas Winsor McCay was an American cartoonist and animator. He is best known for the comic strip Little Nemo and the animated film Gertie the Dinosaur (1914). For contractual reasons, he worked under the pen name Silas on the comic strip Dream of the Rarebit Fiend.

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. His work fuses elements of realism and the fantastic. It typically features isolated protagonists facing bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible socio-bureaucratic powers. It has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity. His best known works include the short story "The Metamorphosis" and novels The Trial and The Castle. The term Kafkaesque has entered English to describe absurd situations, like those depicted in his writing.

René Magritte

René Magritte

René François Ghislain Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist, who became well known for creating a number of witty and thought-provoking images. Often depicting ordinary objects in an unusual context, his work is known for challenging observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality. His imagery has influenced pop art, minimalist art, and conceptual art.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Giovanni Battista Piranesi was an Italian Classical archaeologist, architect, and artist, famous for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric "prisons". He was the father of Francesco Piranesi, Laura Piranesi and Pietro Piranesi.

Victor Horta

Victor Horta

Victor Pierre Horta was a Belgian architect and designer, and one of the founders of the Art Nouveau movement. His Hôtel Tassel in Brussels, built in 1892–93, is often considered the first Art Nouveau house. The curving stylized vegetal forms that Horta used influenced many others, including architect Hector Guimard, who used it in the first house he designed in Paris and in the entrances he designed for the Paris Metro. He is also considered a precursor of modern architecture for his open floor plans and his innovative use of iron, steel and glass.

Henry Fuseli

Henry Fuseli

Henry Fuseli was a Swiss painter, draughtsman and writer on art who spent much of his life in Britain. Many of his works, such as The Nightmare, deal with supernatural subject matter. He painted works for John Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, and created his own "Milton Gallery". He held the posts of Professor of Painting and Keeper at the Royal Academy. His style had a considerable influence on many younger British artists, including William Blake.

Jean-Léon Gérôme

Jean-Léon Gérôme

Jean-Léon Gérôme was a French painter and sculptor in the style now known as academicism. His paintings were so widely reproduced that he was "arguably the world's most famous living artist by 1880." The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits, and other subjects, bringing the academic painting tradition to an artistic climax. He is considered one of the most important painters from this academic period. He was also a teacher with a long list of students.

Books in the Cités obscures series

The stories of the cités obscures appear in a series of graphic novels and related books, published by Casterman. Most of them remain unpublished in English, whereas those six published in English (first in serialized form in Heavy Metal and Dark Horse Comics' Cheval Noir, then as complete albums by NBM Publishing) so far often had different cover design and page size. The books published in French so far below:

Official series

  1. Les murailles de Samaris (1983, published 1987 in English as The Great Walls of Samaris (Stories of the Fantastic), paperback, ISBN 0-918348-36-6)
  2. La fièvre d'Urbicande (1985, published 1990 in English as Fever in Urbicand (Cities of the Fantastic), translated by Jean-Marc Lofficier & Randy Lofficier, paperback, ISBN 0-918348-86-2)
  3. La Tour (1987, published 1993 in English as The Tower (Stories of the Fantastic) translated by Jean-Marc Lofficier & Randy Lofficier, paperback, ISBN 1-56163-070-5)
  4. La route d'Armilia (1988, available in English as "The Road to Armilia" (unofficial edition))
  5. Brüsel (1992, published 2001 in English as Brüsel (Cities of the Fantastic), hardcover, ISBN 1-56163-291-0)
  6. L'enfant penchée (1996, published 2014 in English as The Leaning Girl)[1]
  7. L'ombre d'un homme (1999)
  8. La frontière invisible, Volume 1 (2002, published in English as The Invisible Frontier (Cities of the Fantastic), hardcover, ISBN 1-56163-333-X)
  9. La frontière invisible, Volume 2 (2004, published in English as The Invisible Frontier (Cities of the Fantastic), hardcover, ISBN 1-56163-400-X)
  10. La Théorie du grain de sable, Volume 1 (2007)
  11. La Théorie du grain de sable, Volume 2 (2008)

Spin-offs

Encyclopédie des transports présents et à venir by Axel Wappendorf, a spin-off of the official series
Encyclopédie des transports présents et à venir by Axel Wappendorf, a spin-off of the official series

Beside these "official" parts to the story, Schuiten and Peeters also collaborated, partly with other authors, on a number of works that were not originally linked to the series but that were set in similar settings, were linked to it later, and/or highlighted particular aspects of the Obscure World without being a traditional narrative.

  1. Le Mystère d'Urbicande (1985)
  2. L'archiviste (1987)
  3. L'Encyclopédie des transports présents et à venir’‘(1988);Casterman 1988 ISBN 2-203-90302-3
  4. Le passage (1989)
  5. Le Musée A. Desombres (1990: booklet and audio CD)
  6. L'Écho des cités (1993)
  7. Souvenirs de l'Eternel présent (1993), an adaptation of the film Taxandria (see below)
  8. Mary la penchée (1995)
  9. Le Guide des cités (1996), an illustrated tourist guide to the Obscure Cities
  10. L'etrange cas du docteur Abraham (2001)
  11. L'affaire Desombres (2002: booklet and 90-minute DVD)

The volume Voyages en Utopie (2000) presents the ongoing and completed work carried on by these two authors, in parallel with the Cités obscures series. Another book Schuiten and Peeters collaborated on in reference to Les Cités obscures is Les Portes du Possible (2005).

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Casterman

Casterman

Casterman is a publisher of Franco-Belgian comics, specializing in comic books and children's literature. The company is based in Brussels, Belgium.

Heavy Metal (magazine)

Heavy Metal (magazine)

Heavy Metal is an American science fiction and fantasy comics magazine, published beginning in 1977. The magazine is known primarily for its blend of dark fantasy/science fiction, erotica and steampunk comics.

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse Comics is an American comic book, graphic novel, and manga publisher founded in Milwaukie, Oregon by Mike Richardson in 1986. The company was created using funds earned from Richardson's chain of Portland, Oregon comic book shops known as Pegasus Books and founded in 1980.

Cheval Noir (comics)

Cheval Noir (comics)

Cheval Noir was a black-and-white anthology comic book published between 1989 and 1994 by Dark Horse Comics. First edited by Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson, Cheval Noir aimed to showcase the best work by international creators to the English-speaking audience.

NBM Publishing

NBM Publishing

Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing Inc. is an American graphic novel publisher. Founded by Terry Nantier in 1976 as Flying Buttress Publications, NBM is one of the oldest graphic novel publishers in North America. The company publishes English adaptations and translations of popular European comics, compilations of classic comic strips, and original fiction and nonfiction graphic novels. In addition to NBM Graphic Novels, the company has several imprints including Papercutz with comics geared towards younger audiences, ComicsLit for literary graphic fiction, and Eurotica and Amerotica for adult comics.

Les murailles de Samaris

Les murailles de Samaris

Les murailles de Samaris is a graphic novel by François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the first volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in serialized form in 1982 in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre (#53-56), and as a complete volume first in 1983 by Casterman. In English, it was published as The Great Walls of Samaris as a serial in Heavy Metal from November 1984 to March 1985, then in 1987 as a complete volume by NBM Publishing.

La fièvre d'Urbicande

La fièvre d'Urbicande

La fièvre d'Urbicande is a graphic novel by Belgian comic artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the second volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in serialized form starting in 1983 in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre (#68–73), and as a complete volume first in 1985 by Casterman, winning the Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Best Album in the same year. In English, it was published as Fever in Urbicand in 1990 by NBM Publishing.

Jean-Marc Lofficier

Jean-Marc Lofficier

Jean-Marc Lofficier is a French author of books about films and television programs, as well as numerous comics and translations of a number of animation screenplays. He usually collaborates with his wife, Randy Lofficier, and the reason why credits sometimes read "R.J.M. Lofficier", after the initials of both spouses.

La Tour (comics)

La Tour (comics)

La Tour is a graphic novel by Belgian comic artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the third volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in serialized form in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre (#96-106), and as a complete volume first in 1987 by Casterman. In English, it was published as The Tower in 1993 by NBM Publishing, and as The Tower in 2022 in a new translation by IDW Publishing.

La route d'Armilia

La route d'Armilia

La route d'Armilia is a graphic novel by Belgian comic artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the fourth volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in an early, notably different version in Danish as Vejen Til Armilia in 1987, in its final form in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre (#123), and as a standalone French album first in 1988 by Casterman. Although subsequently also published in at least Dutch and German, La route d'Armilia remains unpublished in English as of 2008; however, an English translation authorized by Casterman is available on the internet as a .txt file. An unofficial digital edition has been produced by lettering French scans with this English manuscript.

Brüsel

Brüsel

Brüsel is a graphic novel by Belgian comic artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the fifth volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in serialized form in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre, and as a complete volume first in 1992 by Casterman. In English, it was published as Brüsel in 2001 by NBM Publishing.

L'enfant penchée

L'enfant penchée

L'enfant penchée is a graphic novel by Belgian comic artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the sixth volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in serialized form in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre (#193-212), and as a complete French volume first in 1996 by Casterman.

Worldbuilding

The world (or "continent", according to the authors) of the Cités obscures forms a disparate grouping of cities located on a "counter-Earth", which is invisible from our Earth because it is situated exactly opposite it on the other side of the Sun. A map illustrated on the final page of Les Murailles de Samaris first hinted at the extent of this alternate world,[2]: 85  and a full world map shown in the opening pages of La Fièvre d'Urbicande, labeled many more city names.[2]: 105–106  Next, L'Archiviste, an oversized poster book, illustrated many of these cities in a series of decontextualized images.[2]: 269–325  Some of the images from L'Archiviste were revisited in later albums or stories, while others remain unexplored. In 1996, Le Guide des Cités was published, presented as a guide book which catalogued the cities of this world as tourist destinations.

Despite such similarities to transmedia storytelling in media franchises, Les Cités obscures departs from such worldbuilding techniques by keeping its fictional universe "open" and "ad hoc" in nature. There are no central characters or settings, and there is no unifying narrative. Commentary on the series has also emphasized the absence of a bible for the setting.[3]: 97, 100 

The openness of the Cités obscures setting has also allowed readers to participate in worldbuilding, especially after the authors introduced the notion that travel between the two worlds is possible by means of "gates" (portes) called Obscure Passages. These are mostly to be found in buildings and constructions similar or identical to each other on both planets, whereas the distinct architectural style of a structure makes it a potential candidate to harbor an Obscure Passage to an Obscure City whose distinct style it resembles.

On websites such as Web of the Obscure Cities (which is no longer online but is documented on AltaPlana.be, an online encyclopaedia for Obscure Cities) and Office of the Obscure Passages, Schuiten and Peeters present alleged reports, often illustrated with photos and drawings, from people that shortly crossed over into the world of the Obscure Cities via Obscure Passages by accident, and by so-called Obscurantists who have been seeking Obscure Passages for years (compare Obscurantist, a term based upon the Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum, aka "Letters of Obscure Men"). These reports on the internet correspond to the pseudorealism of Schuiten and Peeters when enclosing "authentic" documentary or amateur CDs (Le Musée A. Desombres, 1990) or DVDs (L'affaire Desombres, 2002) to their print publications regarding the Obscure Cities.

As both the authors and fans have extensively used pseudepigrapha and created false documents in the Cités obscures setting, various works and media of unclear provenance have come into existence. Notably, Schuiten and Peeters claim to have corresponded with an unknown person, identifying as the character Mary von Rathen, by private mail and e-mail for a number of years, and are also in possession of a printed and bound book which they supposedly received as a compilation of this correspondence.[3]: 98  Fans who also received copies of the same book report that it contains voluminous in-universe details and assertions regarding the Cités obscures setting, much of it not established by the published albums. The true source of this material remains unverifiable.

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Guide book

Guide book

A guide book or travel guide is "a book of information about a place designed for the use of visitors or tourists". It will usually include information about sights, accommodation, restaurants, transportation, and activities. Maps of varying detail and historical and cultural information are often included. Different kinds of guide books exist, focusing on different aspects of travel, from adventure travel to relaxation, or aimed at travelers with different incomes, or focusing on sexual orientation or types of diet.

Transmedia storytelling

Transmedia storytelling

Transmedia storytelling is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.

Fictional universe

Fictional universe

A fictional universe, or fictional world, is a self-consistent setting with events, and often other elements, that differ from the real world. It may also be called an imagined, constructed, or fictional realm. Fictional universes may appear in novels, comics, films, television shows, video games, and other creative works.

Bible (screenwriting)

Bible (screenwriting)

A bible, also known as a show bible or pitch bible, is a reference document used by screenwriters for information on characters, settings, and other elements of a television or film project.

Obscurantism

Obscurantism

Obscurantism and obscurationism describe the practice of deliberately presenting information in an imprecise, abstruse manner designed to limit further inquiry and understanding. There are two historical and intellectual denotations of obscurantism: (1) the deliberate restriction of knowledge—opposition to disseminating knowledge; and (2) deliberate obscurity—a recondite literary or artistic style, characterized by deliberate vagueness.

Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum

Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum

The Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum was a celebrated collection of satirical Latin letters which appeared 1515–1519 in Hagenau, Germany. They support the German Humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin and they mock the doctrines and modes of living of the scholastics and monks, mainly by pretending to be letters from fanatic Christian theologians discussing whether all Jewish books should be burned as un-Christian or not.

Pseudorealism

Pseudorealism

Pseudorealism, also spelled pseudo-realism, is a term used in a variety of discourses connoting artistic and dramatic techniques, or work of art, film and literature perceived as superficial, not-real, or non-realistic. By definition, the term is highly subjective.

Pseudepigrapha

Pseudepigrapha

Pseudepigrapha are falsely attributed works, texts whose claimed author is not the true author, or a work whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past.

False document

False document

A false document is a technique by which an author aims to increase verisimilitude in a work of fiction by inventing and inserting or mentioning documents that appear to be factual. The goal of a false document is to convince an audience that what is being presented is factual.

Taxandria

Benoît Peeters had collaborated with director Raoul Servais before on a documentary entitled Servaisgraphia on Servais's unique animation style that was released in 1992. Subsequently, there is a loose connection between the increasingly multimedia series of the Obscure Cities and the Belgian fantasy film Taxandria (1994) directed by Servais (starring, among others, Armin Mueller-Stahl), where Schuiten served as production designer. In the Obscure Cities series, at times characters refer to the vanished city-state of Taxandria which was accidentally removed from the planet during a failed scientific experiment.

A common theme in steampunk-influenced Les Cités obscures, Taxandrian clothing and technology appear to resemble Victorian times on our earth, Taxandria's architecture is reminiscent of Schuiten's trademark phantasmagorical architectural fantasies, and another feature the film shares with Les Cités obscures is a bloated absurd, Kafkaesque bureaucracy. It is however under dispute among fans of the series whether Taxandria is truly one of the Obscure Cities due to a perceived appearance of a light-hearted children's fantasy movie to Servais's film.

A reinterpreting graphic novel adaptation of the movie Taxandria was published by Schuiten and Peeters one year prior to the film's official release under the title Souvenirs de l'Eternel Présent: Variation sur le Film Taxandria de Raoul Servais (Arboris, 1993, ISBN 90-344-1011-0, ISBN 978-90-344-1011-5), also including production background information on the film.

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Raoul Servais

Raoul Servais

Raoul Servais is a Belgian filmmaker, animator, and comics artist. He was born in Ostend, Belgium, and is a fundamental figure of the Belgian animation scene, as well as the founder of the animation faculty of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (KASK). Servais received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Festival of Animated Film - Animafest Zagreb in 2016. He is best known for the 1979 animated film, Harpya. At the 9th Magritte Awards, he received an Honorary Magritte Award from the Académie André Delvaux.

Taxandria (film)

Taxandria (film)

Taxandria is a partially animated fantasy film by Raoul Servais, collaborating on a script with Frank Daniel and French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet, and starring, among others, Armin Mueller-Stahl. Being Servais's first and to date only feature film, Taxandria is notable for the use of Servais's distinct animation style, the servaisgraphie, as well as its connection to the Belgian graphic novel series Les Cités Obscures whose creator François Schuiten was the film's production designer.

Armin Mueller-Stahl

Armin Mueller-Stahl

Armin Mueller-Stahl is a retired German film actor, painter and author, who also appeared in numerous English-language films since the 1980s. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Shine. In 2011, he was awarded the Honorary Golden Bear.

Steampunk

Steampunk

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction that incorporates retrofuturistic technology and aesthetics inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the Victorian era or the American "Wild West", where steam power remains in mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.

Victorian era

Victorian era

In the history of the United Kingdom and the British Empire, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period, and its later half overlaps with the first part of the Belle Époque era of Continental Europe.

Multimedia

Schuiten and Peeters increasingly seek to transcend their world of the Obscure Cities from graphic novels into other media to create an entire universe, even though their comic albums remain the core foundation of Schuiten and Peeters's emerging multimedia franchise.

Books, CDs, films

This trend for multimedia expansion began with the book Le Mystère d'Urbicande (1985) which marked the series' acquiring a life of its own and whereby Schuiten and Peeters began to realize the true potential of their concept. Written by Belgian author and Obscure fan Thierry Smolderen (under the pseudonym Professeur R. de Brok),[4] Le Mystère d'Urbicande purports to be a scientific essay bent to debunk the events of La fièvre d'Urbicande, heavily annotated in emotional handwriting by Eugen Robick, the main character of La fièvre d'Urbicande who is now locked up in Brüsel's Sixth Hospice, the city's mental asylum. Schuiten contributed the book's illustrations under the pen-name Robert Louis Marie de la Barque (whereas the French word barque, meaning barge or rowboat in English, translates to schuiten in Dutch).[4]

Drafting and developing stages of the above-mentioned film Taxandria and its accompanying graphic novel adaptation began between Schuiten and Peeters as early as 1988.

In 1990, the development was further explored with Le Musée A. Desombres, an audio CD with a small booklet drawn by Schuiten, purporting to be an exhibition catalogue of paintings by Auguste Desombres, an artist living in our world in the late 19th century. The CD contains an audio play that is partly a fake report from Desombres's first exhibition, partly chronicles Desombres crossing over into the world of the Obscure Cities by accident by means of his own exhibition.

In 2002, Schuiten and Peeters published the DVD L'affaire Desombres, a sequel to Le Musée A. Desombres.

A setting of La fièvre d'Urbicande, cult album in the Obscure Cities series, appears in the 2012 Canadian science fiction movie Mars et Avril by Martin Villeneuve, based on the graphic novels of the same name. As a matter of fact, François Schuiten agreed to have a 3D model made out of his futuristic auditorium, for a scene taking place inside the Temple of Cosmologists. The director had this image in mind when writing his books, a few years before Schuiten joined the team as production designer. Before the shooting, even the extras were chosen to look like the characters in the comic book.[5]

Urbicande.be

In 1996, Urbicande.be, the official website of the Obscure Cities went online where Schuiten and Peeters encouraged their fans all over Europe to send in their own ideas regarding the Obscure Cities and accounts of their own experiences in search for Obscure Passages. The response was so overwhelming that Schuiten and Peeters were able to expand their online activities into a complex network of in-universe sites, mainly branching from the URL ebbs.net of their official Obscure magazine called Obskür, where many amateur reports, illustrated by photos and Schuiten's drawings, and various mysterious Obscure artifacts can be found. Along with these, a number of conspiracy theories are explored, regarding authorities of our world intending to prevent the spread of knowledge regarding the parallel world and destroy various Obscure Passages. In May 2015, Urbicande.be was taken offline[6] and archived at AltaPlana.be, an official online encyclopaedia of the Obscure Cities universe.

La maison Autrique

After having colorfully satirized the destructive modernizing fad of Bruxellisation in the Les Cités obscures album Brüsel in 1992, Schuiten and Peeters convinced the community of Schuiten's childhood district Schaerbeek to acquire one of the last remaining buildings in Brussels built by Art Nouveau architect Horta, La maison Autrique, and in 1999 opened a permanent pseudo-documentary exhibition inside, regarding the Obscure Cities, 19th century Art Nouveau Brussels, and detailing its ongoing Bruxellisation destruction during the 20th century, tying in with aforementioned conspiracy theories whereby Bruxellisation is supposed to be an attempt by the authorities to destroy a number of Obscure Passages situated in Brussels.

In 2004, Schuiten and Peeters published the illustrated book La Maison Autrique: Métamorphose d'une maison Art Nouveau (published as Maison Autrique – Metamorphosis of an Art Nouveau House in English) about the building, its restoration during the 1990s, and Horta's life and work. Also, their latest Les Cités obscures two-part graphic novel album La Théorie du grain de sable (2007; 2008) deals with the maison Autrique. As of 2021, the house also hosts a Cités obscures-themed escape room game.[7]

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Thierry Smolderen

Thierry Smolderen

Thierry Smolderen is an essay writer, and a scenario writer of Belgian comic strips, for example of Gipsy.

La fièvre d'Urbicande

La fièvre d'Urbicande

La fièvre d'Urbicande is a graphic novel by Belgian comic artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the second volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in serialized form starting in 1983 in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre (#68–73), and as a complete volume first in 1985 by Casterman, winning the Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Best Album in the same year. In English, it was published as Fever in Urbicand in 1990 by NBM Publishing.

Taxandria (film)

Taxandria (film)

Taxandria is a partially animated fantasy film by Raoul Servais, collaborating on a script with Frank Daniel and French writer Alain Robbe-Grillet, and starring, among others, Armin Mueller-Stahl. Being Servais's first and to date only feature film, Taxandria is notable for the use of Servais's distinct animation style, the servaisgraphie, as well as its connection to the Belgian graphic novel series Les Cités Obscures whose creator François Schuiten was the film's production designer.

Martin Villeneuve

Martin Villeneuve

Martin Villeneuve is a Canadian screenwriter, producer, director, actor, and art director. He was nominated at the Canadian Screen Award in 2013 for Best Adapted Screenplay, for Mars et Avril, his feature film debut, and Quebec's first true science fiction movie. Villeneuve is the first TED speaker to come out of Quebec, and he has worked for Cirque du Soleil as an artistic director for commercials and films. He is also known for The 12 Tasks of Imelda, his second feature film in which he portrays his own grandmother.

François Schuiten

François Schuiten

François Schuiten is a Belgian comic book artist. He is best known for drawing the series Les Cités Obscures.

Brusselization

Brusselization

In urban planning, Brusselization or Brusselisation (UK variant) is "the indiscriminate and careless introduction of modern high-rise buildings into gentrified neighbourhoods" and has become a byword for "haphazard urban development and redevelopment."

Brüsel

Brüsel

Brüsel is a graphic novel by Belgian comic artists François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, the fifth volume of their ongoing Les Cités Obscures series. It was first published in serialized form in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine À Suivre, and as a complete volume first in 1992 by Casterman. In English, it was published as Brüsel in 2001 by NBM Publishing.

Schaerbeek

Schaerbeek

Schaerbeek or Schaarbeek is one of the 19 municipalities of the Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium. Located in the north-eastern part of the region, it is bordered by the City of Brussels, Etterbeek, Evere and Saint-Josse-ten-Noode. In common with all of Brussels' municipalities, it is legally bilingual (French–Dutch).

Pseudo-documentary

Pseudo-documentary

A pseudo-documentary or fake documentary is a film or video production that takes the form or style of a documentary film but does not portray real events. Rather, scripted and fictional elements are used to tell the story. The pseudo-documentary, unlike the related mockumentary, is not always intended as satire or humor. It may use documentary camera techniques but with fabricated sets, actors, or situations, and it may use digital effects to alter the filmed scene or even create a wholly synthetic scene.

Escape room

Escape room

An escape room, also known as an escape game, puzzle room, exit game, or riddle room is a game in which a team of players discover clues, solve puzzles, and accomplish tasks in one or more rooms in order to accomplish a specific goal in a limited amount of time. The goal is often to escape from the site of the game. Most escape games are cooperative but competitive variants exist. Escape rooms became popular in North America, Europe, and East Asia in the 2010s. Permanent escape rooms in fixed locations were first opened in Asia and followed later in Hungary, Serbia, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and South America.

Publishing history

The full series is available in French and Dutch from Casterman; in German, Spanish, Polish (Manzoku and Scream Comics) and Portuguese by local publishing houses; in francophone Canada by Flammarion; and in Japanese in four collected volumes by Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions.

The first five books of the series were published in English by NBM Publishing; these went out of print in 2008. Alaxis Press (named after the "sulphuric" Obscure City of Alaxis) issued an English-language edition of The Leaning Girl (L'enfant penchée) in 2014. Leaning Mary, a spin-off picture book, was issued in 2015.[8][9][10]

In 2016, Alaxis partnered with IDW Publishing as the new North American publisher of The Obscure Cities, with Alaxis Press co-branding, and the original staff handling translation and editing.[11] IDW and Alaxis published The Theory of the Grain of Sand in 2016, Samaris in 2017, The Shadow of a Man in 2021, and The Tower in 2022. IDW then released The Fever in Urbicande and will release The Invisible Frontier in 2022, without Alaxis's involvement; however, the entire Obscure Cities series has been delisted from IDW's website prior to release of these books,[12] and it is not known whether the publisher is committed to completing the series.

The Leaning Girl received a 2015 Eisner Award nomination as Best U.S. Edition of International Material,[13] and The Shadow of a Man won the same award in 2022.

Discover more about Publishing history related topics

French language

French language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the Latin spoken in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

Dutch language

Dutch language

Dutch is a West Germanic language spoken by about 25 million people as a first language and 5 million as a second language. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives German and English. Afrikaans is a separate but somewhat mutually intelligible daughter language spoken, to some degree, by at least 16 million people, mainly in South Africa and Namibia, evolving from the Cape Dutch dialects of Southern Africa. The dialects used in Belgium and in Suriname, meanwhile, are all guided by the Dutch Language Union.

Casterman

Casterman

Casterman is a publisher of Franco-Belgian comics, specializing in comic books and children's literature. The company is based in Brussels, Belgium.

French language in Canada

French language in Canada

French is the mother tongue of approximately 7.2 million Canadians according to the 2016 Canadian Census. Most Canadian native speakers of French live in Quebec, the only province where French is the majority language and the only province in which it is the sole official language. Of Quebec's people, 71.2 percent are native francophones and 95 percent speak French as their first or second language.

Groupe Flammarion

Groupe Flammarion

Groupe Flammarion is a French publishing group, comprising many units, including its namesake, founded in 1876 by Ernest Flammarion, as well as units in distribution, sales, printing and bookshops. Flammarion became part of the Italian media conglomerate RCS MediaGroup in 2000. Éditions Gallimard acquired Flammarion from RCS MediaGroup in 2012. Subsidiaries include Casterman. Its headquarters in Paris are in the building that was the former Café Voltaire, located on the Place de l'Odeon in the current 6th arrondissement of Paris.

Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions

Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions

Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions Co., Ltd. is a Japanese production company, a subsidiary of the Japanese publishing group Hitotsubashi Group. Prior to 2008, it was known as Shogakukan Productions Co., Ltd. .

NBM Publishing

NBM Publishing

Nantier Beall Minoustchine Publishing Inc. is an American graphic novel publisher. Founded by Terry Nantier in 1976 as Flying Buttress Publications, NBM is one of the oldest graphic novel publishers in North America. The company publishes English adaptations and translations of popular European comics, compilations of classic comic strips, and original fiction and nonfiction graphic novels. In addition to NBM Graphic Novels, the company has several imprints including Papercutz with comics geared towards younger audiences, ComicsLit for literary graphic fiction, and Eurotica and Amerotica for adult comics.

IDW Publishing

IDW Publishing

IDW Publishing is an American publisher of comic books, graphic novels, art books, and comic strip collections. It was founded in 1999 as the publishing division of Idea and Design Works, LLC (IDW), itself formed in 1999, and is regularly recognized as the fifth-largest comic book publisher in the United States, behind Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image Comics, ahead of other major comic book publishers such as Archie, Boom!, Dynamite, Valiant and Oni Press. The company is perhaps best known for its licensed comic book adaptations of movies, television shows, video games, and cartoons.

Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material

Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material

The Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material is an award for "creative achievement" in American comic books for material not originally published or available in the United States of America.

Awards

Source: "Les Cités obscures", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, November 25th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Cités_obscures.

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Notes
  1. ^ "Alaxis Press To Publish 'Obscure Cities' Graphic Novels in English". PublishersWeekly.com.
  2. ^ a b c Peeters, Benoît (w), Schuiten, François (a). Les Cités Obscures - Livre 1 (2017), Brussels, Belgium: Casterman, ISBN 9782203101685
  3. ^ a b Baetens, Jan (2020). Rebuilding Story Worlds: The Obscure Cities by Schuiten and Peeters. Critical Graphics. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-1-9788-0847-8.
  4. ^ a b Series overview on A comprehensive review of the Obscure Cities series for English-speaking fans
  5. ^ "Mars et Avril". Altaplana. February 3, 2018.
  6. ^ As stated in the entry for Urbicande.be in the official online encyclopaedia for Obscure Cities at AltaPlana.be
  7. ^ "Escape Game". La maison Autrique. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  8. ^ The Obscure Cities.com, official website of English-language publisher Alaxis Press and their Kickstarter campaign to bring the complete series to the English-speaking world
  9. ^ Schuiten & Peeters (2013). Official announcement of the English-language publishing project of Alaxis Press by Schuiten & Peeters on their official Facebook profile Alta-Plana, archives of the Obscure Cities, January 27, 2013
  10. ^ Entry for Alaxis Press on Alta-Plana, editable Wiki-style encyclopedia on the Obscure Cities
  11. ^ IDW Editions, theobscurecities.com
  12. ^ "Discover". IDW Publishing. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  13. ^ 2015 Eisner Award Nominations Archived 2015-06-13 at the Wayback Machine, Comic Con International
  14. ^ Kuroki, Takahiro (22 November 2013). "Gaiman Awards: Manga isn't only in Japan!". Pingmag. Retrieved 19 June 2014.
References
Further reading
  • Various (Schuiten & Peeters among others; 1994). Schuiten & Peeters: Autour des Cités obscures, Mosquito (in French)
  • Dossier FRANCOIS SCHUITEN, in Reddition, #32, 1998 (in German), Table of Contents & order
  • Schuiten; Peeters (2000). Voyages en Utopie, Casterman (in French)
  • Benoît Peeters (2004). The Book of Schuiten, MSW Medien Service Wuppertal (in English)
    • 2nd edition (2004), NBM Publishing
    • 3rd edition (2004), Casterman
  • Schuiten; Peeters (2004). Maison Autrique – Metamorphosis of an Art Nouveau House, Ed. Les Impressions Nouvelles
  • Schuiten; Peeters (2005). Les Portes du Possible, Casterman (in French)
External links

Official sites

Caution: All official sites by Schuiten & Peeters below treat the Obscure Cities from a strictly in-universe perspective (for example, all of their works related to the series are called "accounts" or "chronicles" rather than fiction stories).


Official website for the English-language market:

  • The Obscure Cities.com, official website of English-language publisher Alaxis Press and their Kickstarter campaign to bring the complete licensed series to the English-speaking world (differs from the above websites because not styled in in-universe perspective, i. e. mostly written from a real-world perspective)

Secondary sources

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