Coda, a tormented love story draped in fantasy

LA CASE BD – The designer Matías Bergara has built ex nihilo the abundant visual identity of this comics selected in Angoulême. It analyzes for Le Figaro the bittersweet reunion of the Hum-Serka couple imagined by screenwriter Simon Spurrier.

A dragon, a unicorn, a wandering bard … From the first pages of Coda, no doubt, we are swimming in fantasy! Except that the dragon, paralyzed because reduced to the state of a skeleton, orders that he “Scratch your ass” ; the unicorn is in fact a mutant pentacorne prone to ultraviolence; and the bard, far from the flamboyant temperament of the Dandelion The Witcher , prefers to be brooding.

Available at Glénat since October 28 and in the honor of the official Angoulême selection, this very “meta” comic has fun twisting the commonplaces of fantasy with its obese and manipulative “black mermaid”, its magic potions. ‘Ichor which are related to super-amphetamines, its places and objects with the names “Old-fashioned” (M’Raziin’s twilight tower, night blood club, etc.).

Sometimes a magic sword is not enough … Simon Spurrier & Matías Bergara / Glénat Comics

To speak of parody would however be exaggerated because Coda has a real personality, especially visual, despite strong references to Lord of the Rings (the Urkens, “forged” by the Pale Lords, recall Tolkien’s Uruk-hai). British screenwriter Simon Spurrier and Uruguayan designer Matías Bergara above all demonstrate their sincere love of the genre. “I think fantasy allows us to build and develop our own type of mythology, our own archetypes and cosmologies, things that are very appealing to a mind with a propensity for the imagination and fiction”, believes Matías Bergara, contacted by Le Figaro.

“When I worked in video games, I had to learn to use 3D modeling software and I did it for years. It left in my brain a sort of three-dimensional reference map of how things look in perspective and how surfaces and objects deform, ”says Matías Bergara. Simon Spurrier & Matías Bergara / Glénat Comics

“I remember being very struck and amazed, as a child, watching History in the end (1984) , for all the crazy things it contained, continues the 36-year-old artist, but above all because of its strong pro-imagination message. I loved it, the fact that there is an endless place to create in the world of fiction. Coda has been my best and most honest attempt to nurture and develop a universe like this and I had a lot of fun doing it. ”

The result, inspired and coherent, impresses. Especially since “A lot of details, characters and things have been improvised in ink without even a pencil drawing before” ! Regarding the very wide palette of colors used, Matías Bergara explains having applied “A formula” 50% aesthetic, 50% narrative effect “to avoid being too predictable or repetitive, but always guiding the emotional progression of the story”

Hum’s wife Serka also has an impressive steed. Simon Spurrier & Matías Bergara / Glénat Comics

But what does Coda ? It’s the story of a bard named Hum who thinks only of one thing, saving his wife’s soul, in a once-lavish medieval world in which magic has all but disappeared. Cynical and disillusioned, our hero will of course be caught in the whirlwind of elements that overtake him …

Behind its corrosive humor and its uninhibited violence, this comic book, as fun as it is generous, succeeds in offering an epic fresco, full of action and twists, coupled with an intimate and touching story, with which any reader who has ever been in love will be able to identify yourself (see BD box below).

I think Hergé’s work laid the foundation for modern comics in the 1940s, narratively and sequentially.

Matías Bergara

If the abundant graphic universe of Matías Bergara sometimes evokes Moebius, it is not by chance. The South American cartoonist indeed claims the influence of “The whole team of Métal Hurlant”, but also other Europeans such as Hugo Pratt, Christophe Blain and Bastien Vivès.

“My first attempt to collect comics was with the Tintin and Asterix albums, in their Spanish editions which were widely available, adds the native of Montevideo, where he still resides. They had a profound impact on me. I think Hergé’s work laid the foundation for modern comics in the 1940s, narratively and sequentially. ”

That said, his art of cutting and movement probably comes from animation, whether Anglo-Saxon – he quotes The Thief and the Shoemaker, a cursed and unknown masterpiece – or Japanese (Hayao Miyazaki, among others).

Simon Spurrier and Matías Bergara are currently working on a new project. It will still be fantasy.

The BD houses

Please note, the following paragraphs focus on a key moment in the plot. If you want to keep the surprise intact, go your way!

The designer demonstrates a sense of cutting and very cinematographic setting. Simon Spurrier & Matías Bergara / Glénat Comics

The chosen plate describes the reunion of Hum and his wife Serka, following a chaotic fight in the midst of a terrible storm. The bard wishes to give his wife a potion for the “to fix” because, during her fits of rage, she transforms into a terrifying creature with hypertrophied musculature. Recall here that, unlike her human husband, Serka is an Urken, a sort of orc with purple skin, artificially conceived. What if Serka doesn’t want to be saved? That she wanted to accept herself in her entirety, her “Devil” interior included?

“This is the climax of the story in terms of emotion, the supposed ‘end’ of Hum’s quest, and it shatters before our eyes when we realize that Serka is right, that it was a quest. selfish without any redemptive value. Our hero falls to his knees in the face of reality. And all this while the world around explodes and swirls ”, comments Matías Bergara, who adds that he was intimidated by the making of this key scene, for fear of not “Go to the end of your potential”.

The reader must accept this bitter reality: he was complicit in this plan, thinking, like him, that it is for the best.

Matías Bergara

First presented from behind and squatting, Serka resembles a human, except for her skin color and pointed ears. In the second box, the Urken is framed imperfectly to show that it straightens and, perhaps, to underline the “other” character, almost intimidating, of its physiognomy: pink eyes, tattoo (?) In Y, bone in the nose, blood flowing… The third box shows Serka in full, standing, in contrast to Hum, who has dropped to one knee. “Um is really small and fully confronted with the fact that he wanted to trick Serka into a trap.” The reader must also accept this bitter reality: he was complicit in this plan, thinking, like him, that it is for the best, decrypts the designer. Serka is standing tall and naked – in her true form, free from the constraints of false pretense – and Hum is collapsing under the weight of her own assumptions about the world. ”

Another feature of the sequence: its very reduced chromatic palette compared to the multicolored effusions that dot the rest of the comics. “I used warm colors for this whole storm scene, almost hellish in nature, to emphasize the drama and urgency of those few moments which, like a dust storm, can be unsettling and moving”, explains Matías Bergara, who has multiplied the drawing techniques according to the pages (pencil, charcoal, paint, digital tablet …).

The following board, which forms a whole with the previous one, shows the other side of Serka. Simon Spurrier & Matías Bergara / Glénat Comics

“This sequence is probably my favorite part of my favorite number (the series was initially published in 12 issues, Editor’s note), confesses the artist. When I received the script [du numéro 8] from Simon, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Nothing was planned in advance. I read it voraciously and when I finished it my heart was racing and my mind was in a state of restlessness and shock. I went on Twitter and wrote that what exactly was happening to me: I wanted to draw this whole issue immediately, the story played in my head in real time like a movie, the most apotheotic and lyrical movie ever , and I hated that it was going to take me a month to achieve it. ”

As The Lord of the Rings in his days, Coda takes a keen interest in the inner tensions of his characters, their doubts and weaknesses, which are in fact the engine of the plot. “I put a lot of myself into creating this scene and what happens to these characters. I was emotionally very invested and it was a pivotal moment for them and for me. I tried to experience my emotions through the art as honestly as possible, hoping it would resonate with the feelings of the reader. I am very proud of the result ”, concluded Matías Bergara.

All coda; by Simon Spurrier (screenplay) and Matías Bergara (drawing), Glénat Comics, 336 pages, 29.95 euros.

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