Wednesday 10 June 2015

Inspiration from comics... the occidental side

Being of an obsessive kind comes in different flavours... spending a lot of time/energy/money on little soldiers is one kind but obsession rarely comes alone...
One of the obsessions that has been accompanying me for as long as modelling has is comic books. I'd even go as far as to say they're 2 sides of a same thirst for escapism.
I was reading Colin's articles about 2000Ad publications and about the Incal and thought I could probably add a few inspirations of mine. The inspiration used to create the Warhammer universe through books and films (Starwars, Alien and many others) is well known but there are plenty of sources that are either not as well known and which have influenced game designers in the past OR new material that can inspire them and most importantly US hobbyists.

I'll take this occasion to share my collection, or at least part of it, with you and I really hope I can give you the will to open some of those. (I'm not posting it to brag or anything but more to let people get the exact references and see what others things I read I didn't mention here).

Now my collection is an atrocious mixture of comics of all sorts and origins (both in time and space) so I'm going to split this review into east and west like in good ol'days. I'll start with the occidental side of the collection based on pieces from Europe (and therefore UK) and the US with a slight southern America detour...

Being french, you'll find that all this is very oriented as all countries don't have the same access to the same titles and the translation issues may also have helped or handicaped some of them getting to France or getting out of it. My point is that I'll comment on what I know of the french versions of the titles (except for a few for which I've had the opportunity to compare with originals).
Not all of those titles will be available abroad depending on where you live but if you ever feel like giving a go at one of them, please do not hesitate to ask me for help/advice.

Since I'm failing at finding a proper order for all this I'll just list things as they appear on the shelves. The way books are placed in the shelves is due to the place available for a good part but I've also tried to keep a certain consistency as you'll see... (I'll be skipping some titles that have little relevance to the kind of models I paint but that doesn't mean one bit they're no good, far from it).

First shelf is mainly a fantasy one with true classics :

The black moon chronicles (Chroniques de la lune noire) :

A true french classic, written by Froideval and drawn by Olivier Ledroit (all covers and 5 first tomes) and then by Cyril Pontet (following tomes), the Black Moon Chronicles tell the tale of Wismerhill, a half-elf climbing the steps from his naive mercenary days to the champion of humanity and even more...
The scenario is quite basic is the way it works as a classic oldschool RPG story (with characters being upgraded after each quest) but it's done in a very fresh way and the wonderful drawings are inspiring as ever (and there's probably the best/most badass paladin ever in this story). The style in tone and drawing has changed a lot over the years and every reader will have his own golden era but there's plenty to get in those.
The main series has some spin-offs revolving around other characters and the universe has even given  birth to a (unfortunately) discontinued series of exquisite models by Ilyad games :

La porte écarlate (The scarlet gate ?) :

Story and art from Olivier Ledroit once again (you'll see I'm quite a fan), this unfortunately aborted story is a post apocalyptic series about adventurers getting out of their bunkers after a nuclear holocaust. The graphic style is impressive as it only uses Black, white, red and a touch of blue in the whole book, a real pity we didn't get more :


A very good duo here with Olivier Ledroit and noone else than Patt Mills himself (yep, the vey same you're thinking about).
It's a trilogy in a Sci-fi universe with a mixture of inquisition, Celtic folklore, Art déco, robots and with a good dose of that Patt Mills cynism with extreme sports, extreme food, extreme sex and so on.
The drawings are all absolutely marvellous (Maybe Ledroit's best of all) and the scenario makes no compromise. A really epic and short story which gives the "grimdark" concept a whole new level. A masterpiece.

Requiem :

Once again the Ledroit/Mills duo works to give a totally original take on the myth of vampires, ghouls and other creatures of the kind. Hell is a place where time is running backwards and where people get reincarnated into a form depending on their former actions (vampires being the most nastyduring their former life).
The Hero takes a lot from Elric Of Menilbone and the overall aesthetics are breath taking, showing once again (if proof was still needed) that Olivier Ledroit is a true genius.
The series revolves around Requiem, a former SS officer who betrayed his jewish lover but a spin-off by Tacito (with a much lighter tone) deals with the sexy (yet insane) Claudia.
Be prepared to see every famous horror character you know in this comic but in a twisted and perverted way :

For having seen originals in real, I can attest most drawings are done at a much bigger scale than shown which makes every picture a window you want to stare at to grasp the whole universe offered here :

Broz :

Patt Mills and Adrian Smith (the one you loved in the Realm of Chaos tomes, not the one you loved in Iron Maiden) together hand in hand for a very peculiar steampunk/fantasy story involving demons and treemen, mushroom men and all sorts of strange creatures...
A shame this one is stalling like it is but who knows, maybe we will get something more than the few available tomes at some point !

Slaine :

I know it will come as a shock to some of the brits amongst you but I only got to know Slaine with Simon Bisley and the later artists (I will get on the older Mac Mahon art at some point for sure). The drawings are simply superb and the 4 first tomes are some of the comics I've read the most in my life (must have got those when I was 11). 

I've loved the later ones a lot too and especially the ones with Arthur and even the latest Langley ones  with the digital art are great fun (in a totally different style).

What can I say apart that I even got as far as to wear yellow tartan shorts between 16 and 18 years old being the fanboy I was... (how I lost my virginity with such a dreadful fashion faux-pas is a mistery that has yet to be solved).

666 :

In the vein of the black moon chronicles (same author and drawer who worked on Requiem spin-offs) this comics makes little compromise. Explicit sex, violence, swearing, blasphemy, dark humour, you name them, you'll find all of that in this series with added references to many classics (though it became one itself). The post-apocalyptic setting and the many heavy metal/punk reference will rejoice 2000AD fans as well as anyone with a love for dark humour and bare breasts every page...

Lanfeust of Troy : 

Probably one of the best selling fantasy comics in France, Lafeust of Troy is a a bit different in style to those I presented earlier. It's a ligne claire to begin with (not the style I usually favour) but the humour, very numerous puns and easter eggs hidden everywhere make it a avery enjoyable read. It draws inspiration from many sources with very original concepts too. The Original fantasy series being a huge success, it evolved in a multiverse leading to loads of other series.

The eponym hero Lanfeust is a goody two shoe with more courage than wits but the side characters are always very tasteful making the series a sort of parody of all fantasy clichés. The graphic style evolves a lot during the whole series but the creativity for weird creatures and beautiful youg maids is a constant through the whole series.

For the second shelf, I'll leave the Japanese comics aside (for now) and will concentrate on a few interesting (for our present concern) books.

The main series from above that is of relevance to wargamers/Roleplayers is "The Dungeon"

This incredible series is very peculiar in the fact it's been written simultaneously at 3 different time : dawn, zenith and dusk. All tomes are numbered to let you know the exact chronological order as you also get side albums focusing on other characters. The earlier tome begins at -400 (no mistake here) and ends at 111 ! All numbers don't have tomes but some numbers have multiple tomes (I know it gets confusing).
The fact the story was randomly updated with bits form the past, present or future was a real pleasure and the different ages all have their own charm and ambiance (and drawer).
Though the graphic style is a very simple one and the tone may seem childish at first, the authors (real RPG fans) have twisted all clichés into a unique piece of art. All those who've read (being comics or RPG fans or not) have fallen under the charm of this magnificent story.

One of the most impressive feats of this series is that despite the numerous tomes and time over which the story has been developped, it's is very precise and astute readers will only get answers to questions asked in a given tome in another one taking place in the past (but released afterwards for example) very few things are not developped and you can be pretty sure if any character says he'll do something at a point, you'll see the consequences of it in the future...

Very few comics can make you break ribs in laughters, cry like a child and give you your dose of fantasy heroism all of these with simple (but bloody efficient) drawings and lines.

The first part (Dawn) is very sinister and is drawn by Christophe Blain. The characters are all set here and you discover them in all their depth and contradictions with still lots of pieces of dark humour (the necromancer being one of the best characters of all) :

The second phase is the Zenith which is very light hearted and colourful. Drawn by Lewis Trondheim (one of the co-authors), this part looks like a basic RPG session but with the GM and random monsters being the heroes and the treasure-seeking adventurers being the anonymous hordes to hunt. The story quickly develops around the hero whose tenderness echoes that of Fry in Futurama and it quickly becomes and addictive.

The necromancer at work

The last period of the storyline is "Dusk" and takes place after a giant cataclysm. Drawn by Joann Sfar, in this part you'll find all the characters you know thrown into a strange world where pieces of the earth float in the sky and meet each other, making clash different parts of the world (any similarity with another famous fantasy setting...).

I should mention that the "Dungeon" series has given birth to an EXCELLENT RPG which is probably the best I've played so far. Rules can't be simpler really (4 stats) and you have almost no number as instead of percentages, each action comes with a difficulty from "piece of cake" to super tricky. Absolutely nothing is done to help powermongers but anyone willing to give a bit of soul into the characters will enjoy the game as no other. It makes the game extremely friendly for people who have never played a RPG or are even reluctant to the very idea.

Third shelf, now we're getting into the hardcore part. This one is mostly concerned by Sci-fi and a most of the Jodoverse :

For this lot I won't go from left to right but I'll try to procede by circles.

At the centre of it all, lies :

The Incal :

This is the centerpiece of the Jodoverse. The Incal takes place in a strange and uncomfortable future which shows every silly thing in our own society twisted and exaggerated to the extreme (not unlike many 2000AD publications...). The hero John Difool is weak, a coward and not particularly handsome nor witty but maybe it's the reason why we can relate to him as much. The whole series is tainted with Jodorowsky's metaphysical considerations (and drug-induced deliriums) and Jean Giraud  (AKA Moebius) 's drawings are just sublime.

The series has been augmented by a "before the incal" series and a "after the incal" one. Both worthy of a good read too.

The Metabarons :

Based on the character of the metabaron first seen in the Incal, this series is one of the most epic and inspiring space operas I know of. Put Dune, Starwars, some Shakespeare and greek dramaturgy in a blender and enjoy the delicious mix served with Juan Gimenez incredible drawings. The wholes series is heavily original as both drawer and author kept challenging the other with the most weird ideas through the whole process. The pedantic tone of the characters and exaggeration in a serious tone will make you smile and stay in awe at the same time. A very fine interpretation of the space opera genre.
The original series has been folllowed by a newer one by Travis Charest and I have to confess I have yet to read that new one (though the drawings seems spectacular as befits such a character).


Those side stories related to the Jodoverse ( you get references to certain aspects of the Incal universe) are like greek mythology in Space (think about Ulysses 31 with modern design). If you want to see characterful space pirates or cold and yet evocative techno-obsessed cultits, look no further.

The 4th power

Written and drawn by Juan Gimenez (drawer of the metabarons), the first tome is probably one of the best sci-fi albums I've read, it's dark and sexy, it has all the things you expect of a good sci-fi setting with very excellent ideas taken everywhere. It was followed many years after by 2 new tomes that fail to get the same vibe but which are still very pleasant to read and full of good inspiration for Rogue Trader ideas...

Leo Roa :

In the exact same vein of the 4th power, Leo Roa is the story f a journalist investigating on space pirates, Sublime drawings, excellent plot and all sorts of crazy ideas, If you loved the metabarons and the 4th power, do not hesitate...


Set in a close future where wars of religions have taken all the room in earth's life, here's a good source of inspiration fro Inq28 lovers and other weird blanchitsuness with techno assassins, cultists of all sorts and weird augmented humans.

The Nikopol Trilogy :

I will focus on the most evocatove series by Enki Bilal here but most of his titles will find grace to you if you love this one. Set in a close future with weird aristocracy and ridiculous practices echoing our present trends and fashions (see 2000AD and the Jodoverse), this comes served by Enki Bilal's unique graphic touch. A true classic.

Philippe Druillet :

I'd probably pick the Lone Sloan series if I were to advise any title and Salammbo would be my tome of choice. Be prepared to get lost, to forget where you are with these titles, the aim of it is to feel immersed in those universe, strange and familiar. It has inspired a lot of other authors and is at the source of many familiar concepts of the Early Laserburn and Rogue trader settings.

The ABC warriors :

Having lost my original coloured albums, I'm only left with the new computer aided designs if the late editions focusing on the background of each main character. People like Colin from the Leadpile will without a doubt tell you more and better about it than my good self but it's there so if you do not know those robotic bastards, hurry to the nearest book shop really :

From :

So now we can move to another shelf, this one

Sillage : 

Funnily, this title is one of the very few I like in the Ligne claire style but the very creative setting and  ambiance you get in each tome makes it a very pleasant series which gets better with every new tome (releases are also brilliantly  steady and frequent) You'll find one of teh best gallery for space aliens you can wish for and plenty of ideas fir all sorts of settings from fantasy, steampunk, space opera or more. Do not let yourself be fooled by the rather childish and manga inspired look of it, both writing and design deserve to stop and have a read.


Clearly and shamelessly inspired by Slaine, Conan and all sorts of Moorcock, Tolkien and fantasy standards, Arawn still manages to succeed where other just "try". If you love the classics cited above, you'll feel at home like if you were reading a tome of Slaine you had missed...

Any similarities with known sources will be intended...

Next shelf gets a little further away, apart from the Spawn comics (which though excellent are of little relevance to our subject) there is the whole Freaks' squeele series.

Freaks' squeele :

Created by Florent Maudoux, this series focuses on a school of superheroes for losers... how is that even remotely relevant gven that a lot of Floren'ts inpiration is taken from mangas and US superheroes comics ? Well, for one, the drawings are superb, the story excellent and funny and because inspiration comes from many other sources. The author has worked in the Rackham studios for some time, designing sketches for little toy soldiers and the most astute readers will find many references to our passion with little lead men... The spin-offs around the main series all have a very different ambiance and the whole set crates a very evocative and immersive world I'd want to explore for as long as I can...

Last shelf and 2 series I'd like to recommend you :

Judge Dredd :

To be honest, tis one is one I only discovered about 5 years ago with the french reedition of the originals. The edition is absilutely disastrous (with some of theworst translations I've ever read) but the series can't help but being excellent and I will soon complete the collection with english tomes to get the full taste of puns and references (well at least what my modest english skills let me grasp).
From  the 4 first compilations, there's not a thing I've haven't loved so far so I expect the same from a good part of the rest...

Last but definitely not least  :

Last Man :

3 french artists decide to start a comics studio to release a story like in Japanese publication to have the fastest pace they can. the story starts with a martial arts tournament like you'd find in traditionnal mangas like Dragon Ball or Naruto... only with a distinctive french modern take and only to lead us to a post-apocalyptic world with echoes of Mad Max and other ideas, one of the best discoveries of teh past years for me and one I really can't wait to follow in the future tomes which all get better one after the other.

I really hope with all those titles presented here you'll find some inspiration, I know I do learn a lot from those and often read them again. And even if you do not get any inspiration, I hope you'll at least have had some good time !

Some other time, I'll present some of the mangas that inspire me for my hobby as well...


  1. Fascinating! Thanks for sharing :)

    1. Well I hope you find something that floats your boat amongst all those !

  2. Excellent library and excellent walk through excellent pages. Donjon, Les Chroniques, l'Incal et Freaks' Squeele are amongst the best pages of french comics. Very good choices ! :)

    1. Well it seems you have incredibly good taste as well ;) maybe I should try and post about the associations between comics and music at some point...

      Thanks a lot !

  3. Unless you know someone from another country or can speak another language it's very difficult to know where to begin searching out literature/art that you would find interesting.

    I'm so glad that you went to the trouble of photographing & describing some of your collection JB. It's definitely given me a lot of food for thought :)


    1. Well that's the aim of this all so if you ever need help or advice about some of those, you know where to find me !
      Many hobbyists around like Paul/Cheetor/Sho3box or Colin/Whiskey priest have lead me to explore some areas I knew very poorly before so I hope to be able to do the same in return !

    2. Well consider the favour well and truly returned JB: that's a mammoth post, dense with information. Very useful.

      I finally watched the Jodorowskys Dune documentary last week and I think that I will have to start with him, presumably via the Incalculable initially.

    3. Thanks, I really hop I can get some of you to like some mangas too (aim of a future post) as France is the second biggest consumer and because there are tryuly magnificent titles in the vast amount available.;)

  4. Impressive collection. I only share the Black Moon Chronicles in my library. I really enjoyed the first volumes drawn by Ledroit, while the later volumes have a style of drawing less intriguing. I bought many Ilyad Games Knights of the Light miniatures too, and painted some of them for my mordheim warband ;)

    1. The first tomes of the Black moon Chronicles are indeed excellent and some of the models by Ilyad were just stunning, my chaos giant is made from one of those and my DnD paladin is a knight of justice, (how I love Parsifal in those books...)

  5. Briliant JB. Just the kind of post I was looking forward to you putting up. My Amazon wishlist is now bulging with your amazon reccomendations.

    When you reffered to the colour versions of ABC warriors did you mean the Simon Bisley ones? Cos if you haven't got those then you need to seek them out. Staying in a 2000ad seam if you can get the Nemesis compilation do so, they realeased a coloured one recently which looked lush and they are also rereleasing Zenith which is also cool. Bad company and the ballad of Halo Jones are also worth seeking out and I'll sort you out with some Strontium dog ;)

    Great post!

    1. (Keeps noting names), phew, looks like my next Christmas list is already well prepared !

      The ABC Warriors I had were the Kevin Walker ones (maybe they also had some old Langley and others too. Anyway, I have plenty of things to get now, thanks a lot for sharing !

    It is black and white but its Bisley + Mills + ABC warriors!! Where can you go wrong?

    1. Geekboner, this one is the first order when I get some funds back, cheers for that, seems just like the fix I need !

  7. Thanks for posting these! Looks like a great source of inspiration for 40k/Rogue trader/INQ28 stuff...

    Unfortunately our library system (which pulls from most of California) has very few of these titles. I did manage to order the Incal and a couple of Dredd volumes (complete case files 001 and 002) so I should have some pleasant reading ahead of me.

    1. I understand availability with some of the titles will be more than problematic indeed... that said, with what's ahead reading wise you should definitely have some good time !

  8. Magnificent review of your shelves, which, by the way, are truly impressive!! I have some of the titles you talked about, and have read some others, but I'm noting down a lot more! I believe that almost every comic I purchased in the last few years was French (or French edited! You have quite a talent to keep the industry alive, which is great), but I think I can use some of your recommendations, thank you!

    1. Good, I've been collecting comics for as long as I've been collecting models (since 1991) so maybe that's the secret. I'd be interested in knowing which of those we have in common and what you think of them some time ;)

  9. Great post! I really enjoyed that tour and breakdown, Mr. ALMan! It is always fascinating to explore another obsessive's collection (no matter what the type of collection may be). Look forward to next installment...

    1. Well, it's good to read ! I was sort of reluctant to come out of the closet about my real obsession for Danish teaspoons since Comics and models are barely side activities to me but now I feel good enough to share my real passion with you all !

  10. Great post! Thank you, man!
    I recommend you also still "The Castaways of Ythaq" (Les Naufragés d'Ythaq). Great story with a lot of weird and wonderful ideas!

    1. As a matter of fact, I started that one at a friend's and totally forgot to continue it ! I loved the beginning which reminded me of Lanfeust somehow.

  11. I'm going to have to start paying more attention to the European tradition -- but keeping up with the American stuff is hard enough. :/

    1. I know what you mean, and you do not even want to consider asian production and its hellish production rate. Knowing to sort out the stuff you really like in all genres is a way to focus a bit without wsting too much energy/time/money...

  12. Holy shit man, haha!
    I used to read a few titles in the 90's, of note Heavy Metal, 2000 AD and Larry Hama's GI JOE (which was actually pretty cool)...a girlfriend turned me onto Metropolis years later.
    Cool stuff!

    1. Well, the very same cousins that lead me to play with little lead men and listen to heavy metal back in 1990 were the very same that drove me to read and love comics...Can't say I blame them at all ^^

  13. Not sure how I missed this post, but awesome stuff here. I still flip through my Slaine the Horned god regularly for inspiration.

    1. Oh gosh, The horned god was a massive uppercut for me back then and it still defines a lot of my present tastes !

  14. I read a few of your suggestions, and discuss here.

    1. Wow, nice ! Nothing can please me more than to see some people can discover some of those wonders !

  15. Wow wow wow

    J'avais pas lu cet article, et pourtant il est vraiment génial ! Je partage pas mal tes gout (Donjon, Requiem, Broz, Lanfeust, etc), même si je suis loin de tout connaitre.
    Je sens que certains titres vont rejoindre la "liste des idées pour Noël" que j'ai à fournir à ma copine ^^

    J'en profite pour te conseiller "Garulfo", une BD médiéval bourrée d'humour au dessin sublime :)

    1. Je connais de nom mais je me suis jamais attardé car il m'arrive d'être arrêté par des détails comme la ligne claire (alors que j'adore Sillage par exemple) ou les animaux anthropomorphisés (alors que j'adore Blacksad) , j'y jetterai un coup d'oeil plus approfondi du coup ^^.
      Il y a un paquet de titres que j'ai laissé de côté car ils n'ont pas une influence directe sur mon modélisme mais vraiement je considère la BD comme un art majeur.


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