Rob Power talks to Snowpiercer artist Jean-marc Rochette
Snowpiercer, or Le Transperceneige in its native France, isn’t exactly fun and games. Set on a giant train that circles a world that has been plunged into a new ice age, it’s a gritty dystopia that will make you think twice about your morning commute.
Created by French comic book legend Jacques Lob in the late ’70s, Snowpiercer is a story of grim determination and the remnants of society tearing itself apart – so, perfect for the cinema, then…
“The story was simple and pure, as great stories often are,” says artist Jean-Marc Rochette. “I also really love Kafka, and there is a little bit of Kafka in Snowpiercer.
In 1982 Jacques Lob started looking for a new artist to create Snowpiercer. His first choice, Alexis, died in 1977 after drawing 17 pages of the first version. Lob tried other artists, but eventually decided on Rochette – much to the young artist’s surprise.
“This is strange because I was mostly an underground cartoonist, best known for Edmond le Cochon, a story like The Cat, and without any experience of realistic drawing,” says Rochette.
“I learned to draw in a realistic way with Snowpiercer. My masters were Noel Sickles and Alex Toth; for me they were the best, and they’re always the best...”
Rochette deployed his influences to devastating effect, creating a darkly compelling comic that resonated so hard with Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho that he had to make it into a film. Although still yet to receive a UK or US release date (and with rumours that its US distributors plan to butcher it by
The story was simple and pure, as great stories often are
20 minutes), the film has already been a huge success in France and South Korea.
“It was like a miracle, a kind of destiny,” says Rochette of the news that Snowpiercer was to be reborn on screen. “I saw the film five times. For me, it is a masterpiece: the real Snowpiercer as a movie… and I think the book was like a try out for the movie, but sometimes some sketches are indispensable for big paintings…”
That those “sketches” from the book have ended up on film is actually a fitting conclusion to the Snowpiercer story, considering Rochette’s approach to creating the look of the comic. “My visual influences were from movies: Alphaville by Jean-Luc Godard, and The Trial Of Orson Welles,” he explains. “I wanted to show a pretty normal world, sad and grey like the suburbs of Paris occupied by Russian soldiers.”
Although Snowpiercer creator Lob passed away in 1990, the film version – and a continuing story in comic-book form – is giving his legacy a whole new lease of life. “It was a very difficult decision because Lob didn’t want a new story,” concludes Rochette. “But after almost 20 years Snowpiercer was almost forgotten. It was the right choice: no film, no rebirth…