Roxanna & The Quest For The Time-Bird

By | Saturday, August 11, 2007 3 comments
I'm visiting the 'rents this weekend and made a casual browse through one of my dad's old bookcases that contains the graphic novels he picked up while waiting for at various comic book shops and shows in my youth. One series that stands out, in retrospect, is Roxanna and the Quest for the Time-Bird. It was a series of four graphic novels by Le Tendre and Loisel. I believe it was originally French and has an original copyright of 1983, though the American version was printed in 1987.

The story was, not surprisingly, a quest this Roxanna character was on to find... well, a time-bird. It had a lot of classic sword-n-sorcery things going for it with the added bonus of the titular character being rather well-endowed. What strikes me as interesting, flipping back through these books, is that despite her "assets" and the fact that many of the male characters went absolutely beserk trying to get a better look at them, her sexuality was never really an issue for an issue for her. She was a person first and foremost and was earnestly on this quest. She took offense when male characters tried to take advantage of her feminity in any capacity or, for that matter, even addressed her as anything other than an individual. (As opposed to a sex object, weakling female, or what-have-you.) That being said, she was conscious of the effect her body had on men, and she did, on occasion, make use of that -- providing timely distractions for her companions with her naked body, for example.

So while she was often seen by others as all the nasty stereotypes that are heaped on women, she very clearly did NOT fall into those stereotypes. She was a powerful character and curse those who see her as something less than one.

In retrospect, it was an extremely progressive approach to depicting females in the medium. We still see today, 25 years later, many female characters being portrayed as sex objects or "women in refirdgerators" when it was shown handily how to depict a sexually attractive woman without making it demeaning. Roxanna took the views many comic creators and fans had of how to use women in a story, pointed out the flaws in that thinking, and then went on to show how it could be done properly.

The art is extremely smooth and well-done. The illustration is clearly European in style, and very elegant in its execution. I've never seen the French original, but the English translations, at least, are very natural and move the story along very well. The credits only cite "Script: Letendre Art: Loisel" so I'm unclear as to who actually wrote the overall story, and I also haven't found any significant information about either creator, or what else they may have worked on.

The American printings were by a company called Nantier-Beall-Minoustchine (NBM for short) although their web site suggests that the books' are all out of print currently. A quick search turned up a few on eBay, and I'm sure a number of comic shops have them as well.

Well worth tracking these down to see how a female lead can be done right, even if she does have large breasts.
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3 comments:

Althalus said...

Heh... never knew there was an english version of this. I've read the German translation a couple of years (10?, 15?) ago.

Maybe you'll be interested to hear that, although the core story was finished in those four volumes (1983-1987), a fifth volume of the series came out in France in 1998 and a sixth volume is scheduled for publication just this winter (and a seventh one is obviously planned).

The series is a bit of a classic there, I guess (judging from the numerous re-editions it has gotten over the years), even though Loisel is actually better known for his later works these days, like his take on the Peter Pan story, and his current series, Magasin général.

You can see some preview pages for volumes 5 and 6 on Loisel's webpage under the original title "La Quête de l'Oiseau
du Temps".

A list of other works from both creators can be found at Bedetheque, for example: Le Tendre, Loisel.


~Althalus

Good to read a review of this very good European comic. A few days ago I finished rereading my own copies of the four volumes.
I really enjoyed the story all over again and wished the other stories had been translated to English.

I found it odd that two of the major male characters had their faces covered for 99% of the series.

Frank said...

!!! SPOILER ALERT !!! - a BIG one.



All the more ironic then that, if you remember the ending, Roxanna was in fact not a real woman, but a mental projection of her pet animal designed to fool her alleged father.

Her character traits were no doubt chosen with that in mind. In a sense she is the perfect embodiment of a male fantasy, in this case, her father's idea of the perfect daughter.