During the ten plus years that I have been routinely reading comics in all of their forms, I came to a point where I figured that I knew the countries where most were created: the UK, Japan, France, America, and South Korea to a degree. That can be seen not only in the way comic readers name these comics from around the world (for instance the French word “tome” translates over to English as “volume”), but the way certain publishers are set up. Maybe these countries just have more visible comic industries then others? Who knows? In an odd example of what interests me, my interest was piqued when I found the Swiss comic (yet to add to my confusion, this thing was originally released in French), 2001’s Blue Pills.
Blue Pills is by Frederik Peeters, and in a sad bit of bio-writing, other titles like Pachyderme and Lupus that showcase his art style’s improvement have not been translated over here in the States. This, and the fact that he seems to be behind all of Blue Pills creation leaves this to be a rather short creator’s bio- a rare change of pace indeed.
Frederik Peeters is an early to mid-twenties comic artist living in Geneva, Switzerland with his girlfriend Cati and her son Wolf (they do not actually name him Wolf but address him exclusively as Lil’ Wolf). After debating with Cati about the recent development about being called a discordant couple by their doctors, Frederik recounts his first meeting with Cati. Years ago Frederik witnessed, at a friend’s party, a young Cati, he saw a fun-loving individual who did not allow herself to lose her refined nature. But as might be the case in someone’s real life romantic experience, Frederik actually does not push the notion to Cati until a few years later after she has married and then divorced the father of her son Wolf. Soon after things start progressing; Cati admits to Frederik that she and her son are HIV positive.
To say that Blue Pills builds its Geneva style apartment complex with hanging verandas on the grounds of HIV related conflict is doing it a disservice. Frederik is taken aback yes, but not to a degree that causes melodrama. The bulk of this comic involves more of Frederik’s regular life with Cati and Wolf as both a loving boyfriend and supportive father figure respectively, tied with the titular Blue Pills that the two take regularly. The dangers of Cati’s and Frederik’s sex life, which was depicted pleasantly realistic and genuine, to the interactions of Frederik taking care of Wolf. Boiled down, that is all Blue Pills ever strives to be.
As addressed earlier about how his artwork has gotten better, someone might easily disregard the shocked owl eyed and early Simpsons toothed smiles of Frederik Peeters character designs. Such a person is not me, for I find these distinct facial features to be quite attractive not only in execution, but in the humble portrayal Peter gives to his comic avatar with his ever present stubble and sleep deprived eyes. He is not afraid to experiment with thrown around verbal metaphors in the form of visual quos (like how an albino rhinoceros comparison in dialog turnings into the animal equivalent of a rain cloud above the head).
This might sound a little odd but at times I had to remind myself that the characters in this comic might actually be based wholesale on the real people they represent. Keeping that in mind, Cati viewed as a fictional character might just be one of the more intriguing that I have seen in a while; not only does she look and act the part of a fun loving pixie woman for lack of a better term, she also does all of this while demonstrating a responsible and down-to-earth demeanor. Putting it simply, the chemistry between these normally viewed odd duos is one of the reasons that I like romance stories.
Pros: As someone who rarely gets to see a genuinely interesting love story sprout up from the barren wasteland that is the Romance genre, this is something to treasure. What can I say, there is just something about his early art style that seems to keep my attention. Entire pages centered around raising Wolf shows this comic knows what it wants to do, and tries to do it right without over leaping its boundaries.
Cons: Translation over uses the ellipses to a point that I had to actively search for a comma. The part about day dreaming while on a Mammoth who spits quotes was oddly executed, which is saying something since the other visual metaphors were rather well done.
Blue Pills is put out by a company that seems to be a conglomerate named Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, yet I am also seeing the subset Cape Graphic Novels and Random House on the back cover. Speaking of the back cover, do not read the Wikipedia synopsis level plot summary on the back, for it reveals basically everything. Blue Pills is an enjoyable read that is quick and does not try to do something it cannot. The comments section is always there if you want to tell me that I just do not pay enough attention to all comics; for at least I try, country of origin be damned.