Monday, 6 July 2009
I'd say most of us first encountered Gallic Space Siren Barbarella through the camper than camp Jane Fonda movie, which seemed to be on TV every Friday night throughout The Bronze Age.
Barbarella the comic strip was created by French artist Jean Claude Forest in 1967 for V-Magazine, to be a more adult version of Flash Gordon, and went on to appear in 4 increasingly saucier sequels.
But it wasn't until 1978 that English-speaking fans actually got to read a Barbarella strip for real, courtesy of Heavy Metal, with a serialization of the 3rd book The Moon Child.
Having seen the movie endlessly, reading the actual comic was a bit of a surprise, it being considerably stranger, and sexier, than it's adaptation. This is a strip that could only've come from France, with it's mixture of high-brow philosophy & low-brow erotica. And Forest's languid, surreal, achingly European drawing style was a revelation to readers more used to the heroic, action packed look of American comics. In this universe, everybody, including the heroine, looks a little off-kilter and odd, and in places, it's almost like a comic strip by Toulouse Lautrec. Barbarella herself, need I add, is proportioned more or less like a real woman, and not like a barrage-ballooned, muscle-bound freak, as so many comic women are drawn these days. Unlike a lot of artists working today, Forest had actually seen a naked woman in the flesh, making the strip genuine erotica, as opposed to cheap porn. Here's the first episode.
And here's a few more classic scenes from the other, mostly untranslated, books.
And what the hell, here's some more Jane Fonda.