By Levi Manchak
From France and a satirist himself, Roche draws inspiration from Charlie Hebdo and some of the artists who were killed by gunmen last January. He shows me his copy of the premiere issue of Charlie Hebdo from Nov. 1970, lamenting what the recent events will add to the value of the issue on eBay.
While Roche says Charlie Hebdo was his gateway to satirical comics, his interest in social criticism led him to Charlie’s radial predecessor, Hara Kiri. Created by some of the humourists that contributed to Charlie Hebdo, Hara Kiri was published from 1960 to 1969. It took direct aim at the French establishment in such an uncompromising manner that it was banned by the government and forced to change its name to Charlie Hebdo.
Explains Roche, “The original Charlie Hebdo was a response to the censorship of Hara Kiri. I was really into Hara Kiri. In one year, I bought almost all the first hundred issues. I was a super addict.”
Roche adds he became seriously engaged with politics reading print and online news publications during the early 2000s, and found extreme right-wing policies and opinions, promoted by politicians like Jean-Marie Le Pen, more than a little irritating. “I was very angry. I thought, ‘I should start to be implicated in something? I know how to draw a little bit, so I’m gonna draw.’ It’s good to criticize. At some point you have to do something.”
In 2012 he arrived in Edmonton to undertake a post-doctoral fellowship in earth sciences at the University of Alberta. In addition to his academic output, you can find Roche’s thoughtful style of comics in a bi-monthly satirical zine entitled Fat-Ras.
Roche’s partner and fellow Fat-Ras contributor, Sara French, says while Fat-Ras vaguely anglicizes to “Hodge Podge,” the direct translation of the title playfully mocks the treadmill or “fat race” contemporary culture is consumed by.
Roche’s cartoons avoid news ephemera, though Roche imposes no limits on Fat-Ras’ scope. “I don’t try to talk about specific things. I try to talk about concepts. Mainly I criticize stupidity. I’m not going to say someone is stupid, I’m going to point out a stupid thing.”
Roche claims satire is at its best when it’s able to be “shocking, visceral” yet presented in a way that is digestible and universal. “I want people to think. A good drawing is one that you can read now and it’s funny, and if you read it in one year it’s funny. And if you read it in 10 years, it’s funny.”
Fat-Ras is making its second appearance and is nominated for the prize in the alternative comic category at the Festival of Angoulême — the Comic-Con of Roche’s home country, the largest comic festival in France and third largest comic festival in the world.
Fat Ras publishes bi-monthly and is available in print at Happy Harbour Comics in Edmonton and online at fatrasmagazine.wordpress.comAB, Alberta, Charlie Hebdo, Fat-Ras, Hara Kiri, satire, satirical cartoons