Arts & Culture: “From Obscure Cities to Futuristic Cities” — French Comics Auteur Benoît Peeters Gives a Glimpse of His Award-Winning Graphic Novel

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The acclaimed French comics writer and novelist Benoît Peeters will be visiting Manila this November 25–26, 2019 to award Filipino comic creators, as well as for the launch of an exhibit “From Obscure Cities to Futuristic Cities” based on his award-winning comics series, “Les Cités Obscures”. 

To present his vision of a future that borders between utopia and dystopia, Peeters will inaugurate “From Obscure Cities to Futuristic Cities,” an exhibit based on the award-winning French comics series co-created by Peeters and artist François Schuiten. A portrayal of a post-futuristic era where the fabrics of society and time strata intertwine, the series Les Cités Obscures (“Obscure Cities”) won the Manga Grand Prize at the 16th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2012.

The comics writer, novelist, and comics studies scholar was born in Paris, France in 1956, and has spent over four decades writing and publishing over 60 works on a wide spectrum of topics. His first novel, Omnibus, was published in 1976. But it is his depiction of an imaginary world mingling on a Borgesian metaphysical surrealism against the detailed architectural vistas of the artist François Schuiten that has gained global recognition and brought him critical acclaim. 

Les Cités obscures (literally translating to “The Obscure Cities”, but was first published in English as “Cities of the Fantastic”) is a graphic novel series set on a Counter-Earth, as a collaboration between the Belgian comics artist François Schuiten and Peeters in the early 1980s. In this fictional world, humans live in independent city-states, each of which has developed a distinct civilization, characterized by a distinctive architectural style. The world (or “continent”, according to the authors) of the Cités obscures forms a disparate grouping of cities located on a “counter-Earth”, which is invisible from our Earth because it is situated exactly opposite it on the other side of the Sun.

Les Cités obscures (bande annonce)

Still, travel between the two worlds is possible by means of “gates” (or portes) called Obscure Passages, which are mostly found in buildings and constructions similar or identical to each other on both planets, whereas the distinct architectural style of a structure makes it a potential candidate to harbor an Obscure Passage to an Obscure City whose distinct style it resembles. 

The premier publication was in 1983 and there have been 11 issues in the series, which is currently still in progress. The titles in the series are: Les murailles de Samaris, La fiévre d’Urbicande, La Tour, La route d’Armilia, Brüsel, L’enfant penchée, L’ombre d’un homme, La frontiére invisible, La Théproe du grain de sable. 

Benoît Peeters has also worked with Frédéric Boilet on a series of comic albums, including Love Hotel (1993), Tokyo est mon jardin (1997), and Demi-tour (1997), and has collaborated on a series of photographic works with Marie-Françoise Plissart. 

He is also considered somewhat of a “Tintin expert”, having written and published a number of books on comics as a genre. Some of these notable works include Le Monde d’Hergé (1983), published in English as Tintin and the World of Hergé (1988), a biography of Hergé, Hergé, Son of Tintin, a study of comics pioneer Rodolphe Töpffer, and theoretical works such as Lire la bande dessinée (1988). 

In 2015, he was appointed as the UK’s first ever comics professor at the University of Lancaster. 

“From Obscure Cities to Futuristic Cities” will be on exhibit from November 25, 2019 to January 11, 2020 at the Alliance Française de Manille Gallery in Makati City. 

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