“At the bottom, there’s always a pull to tell you what you have the right to do or not do. Here, the mountain decides. No other.”
This sentence, taken from one of Jean-Marc Rochette’s latest books, sums up the man’s philosophy well.
The mountain, experienced as a time of freedom and humility at the same time. The mountain took loved ones from him and he almost took his own life, but in recent years, he has directed his work into books titled Cold Wing, The wolfwhich has been translated into more than ten languages and today The Last Queen.
The mountain, but not turned into stone, the forested mountain, the river and how to live with it, as UNESCO announced today the programmed loss of some glaciers for 2050.
This title The Last Queen refers to the last female bear that was killed by a gunshot in Vercors in 1898. And Jean-Marc Rochette tells the story of men’s determination to get rid of this animal for centuries and centuries.
The Last Queen is also a love story between two beautiful rebels. Two rebellious people with a sense of righteousness. History often crushes people like that. But perhaps their attitude to life will remain.
Excerpts from the interview
the last queena more intense love story than expected
the last queen is the love story between an animal sculptor and a foul-mouthed character. This is the first time Jean-Marc Rochette has put a love story at the heart of one of his books.
Jean-Marc Rochette explained: “I don’t know why I waited so long. It took me time to find a strong female character. I found Jeanne Poupelet who really existed. He’s an animal sculptor who remakes faces.”
I never thought that the love story of the two characters would be this intense. But obviously, they love each other under my pen. I was surprised by the level of intensity of their relationship which turns into a kind of full-fledged love. It was he who fell in love with her, while Edouard Roux thought, by his face, that it was over. It was a Hercules with a magnificent body… And he discovered it by sculpting it. By kneading the clay, he touched her from afar. This is an inverted relationship compared to what was usually done at the beginning of the 20ᵉ, where sculptors carved women. »
The nature that surrounds it
The designer continued: “I have a unique relationship with the mountains that surround my house. I will be about them. When I find them, it’s like physically coming home. When I’m away from my shelter, I feel like a part of me is crushed. Like a bear that loves its valley, and its smell… Then the forest… It’s one of the hardest to draw, because it’s an indescribable chaos. The plans are many. So you have to choose, you can’t show everything. Drawing is always a story of choice. There, I used images of the last major European forest found in Poland. Fir forests are “plank forests”. They are used for production, but inside there is death. Real forests strengthen me. I tell myself I can hide here. »
Wildlife is everywhere in his latest comic. Jean-Marc Rochette explains: “I draw animals to show that there is more than humans on Earth. It is enough to meet the gaze of an animal in the forest to know that it is surely looking at us rather than we are looking at it. It happens to me to see myself face to face with foxes, or chamois that all have their own characteristics. The ermine is present. Very curious, he can come to you. Then when he realizes that you are too big, that he won’t eat you anymore, he will leave.
Jérémie Villet, a photographer, said: “As soon as you stop moving in the forest or in nature, animals appear”. However, people move all the time and therefore see nothing. But all it takes is a good half hour quiet break for the animals to come behind one. It gives the scenes a bit of mystery. I chose to evoke the bear, because it is almost at the top of the trophic chain. When he has a rifle, a man can see himself above him, but with an oar, below… I am fascinated. In my valley there are five wolves. I’m not too worried, but if there are two bears, I don’t know…”
Writing is a real pleasure
Contrary to popular belief, it is not drawing that attracts the author of the last queen : “Strangely, I enjoy writing the most. For a long time, I believed I was just a designer. Then, little by little, came confidence. I have improved in writing, especially dialogues. More than the storyboard, the presentation or the drawing itself. Drawing is the hardest part of comics.
It took me a long time to find peace in my writing. I became dyslexic. And in the 1960s, I was taken for a semi stupid. They want to send me to the factory. For a long time I thought I couldn’t write because I made a spelling mistake. So I worked on the stories with the screenwriters. And one day, I had confidence. There are always surprising things… Sometimes the characters start talking almost to themselves. »
“The characters have to be believable, they have to always look the same. This is why drawing is necessary. But the reader should not see the work. Above all, the reader should not look at a drawing, he should be completely absorbed in the flow of the narrative. Like when I was a kid and I was reading Tintin: I couldn’t tell myself whether it was well drawn or not well drawn. I was drawn to the adventure. At 98%, the reader is reading, and not a comic viewer. My drawing is rough, because maybe I liked German painting too much! »
The flesh of the world
“One of the first works I saw was by Soutine: The skinned beef. It is a mystery. I don’t know why I liked him. He made me wonder what it is to be an artist: it is someone who has nothing to do but make his art. For him, this is an almost essential need. Soutine was painted with his blood. Merleau-Ponty speaks of “the flesh of the world”. That we can recognize ourselves. The artist seeks the flesh of this world to bring it to the surface of the painting. On the last board of La posterior reine, I had a health problem, I had to call helicopters to pick me up. So when I say that art is drawn by its blood, in my case, it’s quite like that (laughs). »
Jean-Marc Rochette selected an excerpt from his first book published in
Edition floors, The Bestiary of the Alps, the publishing house he created with his girlfriend.
Polaroid by Jean-Marc Rochette