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Beatifica Blues (revisited), or “My badge says I don’t exist”

Story: Jean Dufaux

Art: Griffo

Dargaud Benelux, 1987-1989

LIFE WAS SUPPOSED TO GET BETTER. People power was supposed to bring us to our senses, but then the spawn always spawning call it a spawn and nothing else with a name took us to the brink of destruction and beyond. Dystopian fantasies of the 1980s fondle this theme as an inevitable fate. I resurrect the notion to retrieve one of my top favorites, BEATIFICA BLUES, by Belgian artists Dufaux and Griffo, maximal veterans in the art. The strip appeared in three volumes from 1987 to 1989, and was later collected in one hardbound book. I have it in three oversized Dutch albums. Naturally, it also comes in the original French (everything is better when it begins in French we learn here once again). Strips much like it also appeared and continue to appear in English in Heavy Metal magazine.

Beatifica Blues - BD, informations, cotes

Reviewing these lovely pages, the story bubbles forth like oxygen popping over the surface of a magma lake. The landscape is post-apocalypse, displaying the flooded desert planet we aim to inhabit, yet life persists. The story ends toasting the hero’s name, “Vlack Saldo,” so it must be worth mentioning, something about the name matters; maybe especially when the world is telling you you don’t exist, or shouldn’t exist any longer.

I stumbled upon my favorite line once I recognized Zelda Kurovski with a long, slender stiletto up her sleeve at the moment she turns to stab the guy pawing her in the elevator, declaring in Dutch, where it comes out more lyrical, “Het belangrijkste is dat je recht op je doel afgaat, vind je niet?” [“Most important is that you go straight at your goal, don’t you find?”]. She is the femme fatale in the story, the black widow with a mission in the background, trailing Vlack Saldo and his family across the landscape evading the poison rain that kills, and other humans about as deadly.

Beatifica Blues - BD, avis, informations, images, albums -

Beatifica helps keep the population alive, inhabiting dreams of the past, when culture survived and there was something to do worth doing. We get scenarios with Schubert, or Andy Warhol and Lou Reed, and space travellers, I can’t tell, and neither can Vlack Saldo. This is like Fellini on paper, really. The art is exceptionally fine, everything fully and completely formed in a stylized reality too cartoonish to be exactly real, yet too real to be mistaken for a cartoon. This balance appears to be the best way to make art pop into life. I love this story, though I am still not sure where it goes exactly or how it gets there, or why it had to end.

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