We are excited to announce our first major editorial effort since the 2013 American reissue of The Adventures of Jodelle. In the fall of 2018, we will be publishing The Game & Other Stories, the first collection of Guy Peellaert’s experimental bandes dessinées, created between 1968 and 1970 for Hara Kiri. Originally published in the immediate wake of Peellaert’s iconic Pravda La Survireuse (1967) these works are unsuspected milestones of the artist’s explosive Pop period, having never been published in book form since their fleeting appearance in the groundbreaking countercultural paper.
Created and published consecutively as a series of monthly episodes, these « stories » emphasize the phenomenal diversity of the artist’s visual research and underscore his unique approach to bande dessinée, a mostly juvenile and disregarded medium he had conquered almost by accident as he brazenly upended its traditions with Jodelle in 1966. Following his own singular trajectory, he would proceed to use this « sub-culture » as a laboratory for radical and relentless visual experimentation, introducing some of the key techniques that would prove decisive to his most emblematic artistic achievements in the following decade. Steadfastly refusing to capitalize on any previous momentum, Peellaert would forever leave bande dessinée behind after these last meteoric contributions at the dawn of the 1970s.
The Game (1968) is a surreal allegory of the Vietnam war, centering around the tragic fate of a star football team whose bombastic self-confidence is put to the test when its players are mysteriously transported into a strange and morbid adventure as they take part in a frenzied game. This stunning work, which for the first time combines the streamlined draughtsmanship of the « Jodelle style » with photographic collages appropriated from popular media, highlights Peellaert’s characteristically ambiguous obsession with America, an oscillation between fascination and indictment first explored in Pravda the previous year. The kinetic visual stimuli of an all-conquering consumer society and the rise of sports as mass entertainment provide the canvas for a cruel and absurdist antiwar story which counts Richard Lester’s black comedy How I Won the War among its notable influences.
She & The Green Hairs (1968-1969) is an hallucinatory road trip for which Peellaert relinquishes the pleasures of draughtsmanship in favor of intricate psychedelic photomontages splashed with loose garish strokes, breaking away from all the visual and narrative customs of bande dessinée by combining elements of stream-of-consciousness writing with the photo novel. Taking the peregrinations of a mysterious blue-haired girl as a narrative pretext, the artist soon begins crafting largely improvised, compressed and elliptical stories expressed through frantic compositions unmistakably influenced by the use of psychedelic drugs.
With Carashi! (1969-1970) Peellaert momentarily leaves behind his experiments with photography and returns to the drawing board, this time resolutely eschewing the sophistication of the Jodelle style for a radically vulgar aesthetic. This outlandish saga is an anarchist killing spree in which three female protagonists—in turn victims or butchers—come to grips with a wide variety of allegorical figures representative of the religious and political establishment within a farcical phallocratic society. Among Peellaert’s works from the Pop period, this inflammatory assault on bourgeois tastes and values is most emblematic of the self-described « silly and mean » mindset that characterizes Hara Kiri’s singular brand of free-spirited black humor. In subtle ways, the subversive grotesque sensibility of Carashi! also finds resonance in Robert Crumb’s « underground comix », which were produced around the same time.
Several months before its publication, Marsha Bronson (1970) was advertised as the « great new peellaertian heroine, after Jodelle and Pravda » on the back cover of Hara Kiri, and was therefore the subject of great anticipation. But the restless multi-hyphenate artist, who had always acted as a special guest rather than a full-time member of the Hara Kiri family, was becoming tired of his repetitive monthly contributions, and he resented the more serious political turn taken by the publication following the upheavals of 1968. By 1970, Peellaert was spending extensive time in West Germany working on experimental television techniques, and he was already elaborating the project that would become Rock Dreams when he chose to bid adieu to his breathtaking 4-year collaboration with a characteristically offhand parting gift : did he ever imagine that this rushed 4 pages story was going to be his last, and that he would never publish another bande dessinée ?
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of The Game and to mark the first 10 years since Peellaert’s passing, we are thrilled to introduce these stunning yet unfamiliar works. Very few people have had a chance to experience them since they were first published in the pages of Hara Kiri, and we’re hopeful that the renewed interest in the legacy of the pioneering publication will bring along a reappraisal that is long overdue.
The Game & Other Stories will be published in collaboration with Éditions Prairial, a Paris-Based publisher specializing in the reissue of out-of-print classics such as Max Ernst’s La Femme 100 Têtes or Raoul Dufy and Guillaume Apollinaire’s Le Bestiaire.
A new essay examining the context and legacy of Peellaert’s last bandes dessinées will be contributed by curator and critic Alexandre Devaux.