Albert Chartier is one of Quebec's comic book pioneer and was one of Canada's best cartoonist. The strip he is mainly known for, Onésime, appeared for more than 50 years in Le bulletin des agriculteurs.
He was also introduced in The Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame in 2007, three years after his death. He was, as many people say it, an unknown legend. Much of his work appeared in rural newspapers which might explain why he did not received the fame he should have. Even today, most of his work is still unavailable or was never reprinted in the first place. So when Les 400 coups announced last year that they would publish a book containing unpublished strips, I was quite eager to read it. After all, I didn't know Chartier's work that well and it would be a good opportunity to learn more about him.
Une piquante petite brunette contain mainly rejected materials by different editors across the globe. In the early 60's, Chartier started proposing strips about a young and liberated woman. Depending on which proposal it is, this little brunette is either called Kiki, Suzie or Suzette. Many of the gags evolve around the more feminine assets of the characters. Whether it's dating, shopping or doing sports, there is always a funny situation going on. Many of the gags often appear twice or thrice in this collected edition. Since Chartier proposed his strips to many editors, he sometime made changes between proposals. This can be considered uninteresting to some, but I particularly appreciated to see how a gag would evolve through time and how it became more and more effective whether it was wordless or not. Aside from that, I also appreciated the humor used even if, as I said above, almost everything is build on the little brunette's charming attributes.
Visually, it's hard not to recognize Chartier's style. His curvy line that made his work so fluid is present here and is perfectly suited to draw the ladies. The only letdown with this collected edition is the quality of the reproduction. I'm sure the editors did everything they could to get the best quality possible, but since the original art is lost they had to work from photocopies and prints. This sometime lead to spotty drawing and unequal results throughout the book. Luckily, Chartier's pencil his clear and cartoony which does help making it easy to understand.
This book also contains other work by Chartier such as advertising done by him, letters from editors, a couple of pictures and various other illustrations. These are nice additions to put help into context the period where those strips where created and to get a better sense of the diversity his work had.
Bottom line, if you are interested in Canadian comic book history or if you would like to discover classic materials from a great author, you should definitely check this book. Furthermore, most of it is wordless or in English which makes it accessible to everyone. But keep in mind that it contains works that were rejected many times by editors. Even if I appreciated it, I do feel that they were right in some sense and that it would have needed a bit more polishing before seeing publication.
I rate this strip collection 8 out of 10. It will proudly stand in my shelf next to more modern Quebec's cartoonist as a reminder that we have a longer tradition in the ninth art than we think.