Brian Chin, the illustrator of History of the Maginot Line answered a few of our questions about his work with author Marc Halter, the job of being and illustrator and the importance of bandes dessinées in France.
How did you become involved with this project?
My personal travels to France bring me in contact with French history buffs of the “baby-boom” generation, interested in the recent history that literally occurred in their own backyards. The book’s publishers, Moselle River, are a group of military enthusiasts from the Lorraine region in eastern France, the site of famous battles as well as major parts of the Maginot Line. I had recently produced a “comic book” for them on a different WW2 subject and they wanted the same format in a graphic and historically detailed book about the Maginot Line. At the same time, in the neighboring French region of Alsace, one of the leading Maginot Line authorities had a similar idea, so we all got together and created this unique way to tell the Maginot story.
Were you familiar with the French tradition of bandes dessinées before you became involved with this book? Can you explain to U.S. readers the significance of this tradition?
Growing up, I read Mad magazine, DC war comics, and the Belgian Tin Tin books, so I am equally influenced by all these things American and European. The bande dessinée is an honored form of literature in European bookstores and the typical French household has a treasured selection of these on the bookshelf. The subject matter is vastly more varied than in American comics and consequently bande dessinées and their creators are well-respected by the European public. So specifically in the case of our book, The History of the Maginot Line, the bande dessinée format is not seen as a vulgarisation of the subject, but rather a respected way to recount the history.
As an author and illustrator, what type of research do you undertake before a new project? Did you visit the ouvrages and other defenses in preparation for The History of the Maginot Line?
My interest in the Maginot Line long predates this book and I had already visited many of the sites on my own. Also the job was made easier because I speak French and I have a good number of French publications on the subject but I’ve never considered myself knowledgeable except in a general way. The expertise is left to the French and the Maginot Line is France. I merely followed author Marc Halter’s text in drawing the pictures in our book and all photo references can be found by searching the internet.
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