Sunday, 22 July 2007

Review: Tiny Tyrant

Tiny Tyrant by Lewis Trondheim (writer) and Fabrice Parme (artist), translated by Alexis Siegel, First Second Books, 2007 (from original stories published 2001-2004), 120 pages of strip, US$12.95

This is a collection of a dozen stories about Ethelbert (Adalbert in the original French), a little boy who is absolute monarch of the pocket-handkerchief kingdom of Portocristo. He is spoilt, selfish and greedy, an untrammelled id who generates absurd chaos all around him, but who somehow never loses the sympathy of the small child inside the reader.

The tone is that of an animated cartoon, with the bizarre Looney Tunes logic of Trondheim’s stories matched by Parme’s cartooning, which is reminiscent of the modernist animation of Gene Deitch crossed with the decorative impulses of Ronald Searle. Free-form, borderless panels are anchored by coloured page backgrounds, and in this edition the art is given a miniaturist delicacy by the size of the paperback – about half the dimensions of the standard European album page for which Parme presumably drew these strips.

The translation is pretty much seamless, although the much-used phrase “Miss Prime Minister” sounds odder to British ears than it would to French or American (a tip: should you ever meet a British PM, just say, “Hello, Prime Minister,” not “Hello, Mister Prime Minister”).

Tiny Tyrant is playful and inventive, and frequently very funny. It’s also exquisitely pretty. Another little gem from First Second.

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