Snow Joke

Rob Power talks to Snowpiercer artist Jean-marc Ro­chette

Comic Heroes - - Front Page -

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…

The movie stars Cap A and Hu­man Torch ac­tor Chris Evans.

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