Whenever I`m in a foreign country I always try to pick up a local comic book or a humour magazine. Even if I cannot read it I find it interesting to see what is going on cartoon-wise in that country. My French is very limited but of course the French are the leading European force in cartooning. On my one and only stop at a newsstand in France last month I came across a new satire magazine called Siné Hebdo.
Siné? What a surprise! I didn`t know he had his own magazine. I had never seen it before. You see, some 45 years ago, the French cartoonist Siné also did the cat illustration for the French Rock`n`Roll band the Chats Sauvages (the Wild Cats, see above) and also the cover illustration for the faux-Hawaiian band the Beachcombers ( see further down)!
Siné just turned 80 on December 30, not exactly an age to be starting a new magazine. Siné Hebdo is very similar to Charlie Hebdo, the other French satire magazine that Siné worked for. A coincidence? It was not until I got home and checked the internet, that my questions were answered. The following illustrations are from Siné`s second book that was published by Rheinhardt in England in 1959. The photo is from the Diogenes book “Wer zeichnet wie?” from 1963, a book of portraits of cartoonists. Both books are from my collection.
Like others of his generation ( Andre Francois, Chaval, Bosc) he was influenced by the work of Saul Steinberg but later developed his own minimalist but effective style.
At 18 in 1946 he was already performing with a leftist cabaret singing anarchist and anti-militarist songs. He spent 8 month of his military term in prison. In the 50`s, during the French-Algerian war he was prosecuted two times for insulting the French military, but not convicted. He worked for many international magazines but also in advertisement. In 1962 he launched his own magazine: Siné Massacre.
He has worked for the most important French leftist satire magazine Charlie Hebdo for 25 years ( By the way, check out this site about the predecessor of Charlie Hebdo from the early 60`s: Hara- Kiri. Some of the craziest magazine covers I have ever seen!!! Amazing!)
Siné`s main feature was a mixed page or strip of a meticulously hand-lettered essay and cartoons. What I really like about his style is, that though simple and cute, he is always on the attack. As a political man he never forgets to cause trouble.
What really got him in trouble lately was a simple sentence he wrote last July in his column in Charlie Hebdo, relating to the son of French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The son of the president was going to marry a very rich girl. A heiress of a big evil electronics company. The girl was also Jewish. So the son of the president announced that he was going to convert to Judaism. Yeah you can see it coming too, right. Get away from there Siné! Don`t bother, too touchy! Well, old stubborn shit-stirring Siné didn`t listen and wrote something like:
” He`ll go a long way.”
So some journalist accused him of Anti-Semitism and started a big controversy. Charlie Hebdo`s editor then ordered Siné to write a letter of apology or face termination. So old stubborn shit-stirring Siné just said: “I`d rather cut my own balls off”, and was promptly fired.
Not ready to retire old stubborn shit-stirring Siné started his own magazine in September 2008: Siné Hebdo.
Sadly that generation of hardworking troublemakers that grew up during WW II is slowly dying out now. Guys like Siné caused trouble in the 40`s and 50`s and laid the ground-work for the turmoil of 1968 and after. Siné influenced radical primitive cartoonists like Reiser and those that followed him and continues to be a thorn in the side of the remaining not-so-radical leftist cartoonists that are working today. At 80 Siné continues to stick his neck out and is not afraid to touch on some heavy political topics.
Whether you agree with his opinions or not, guys like him are a dying breed. Most cartoonists today don`t hold radical political stands, actually most don`t hold any stands at all. A political perspective gives a cartoonist`s work an edge and defines it as something more than a simple style. The impulse to convey ideas rather than just moods and emotions can be a strong drive. I`m not a political cartoonist myself and right now I`m still more interested in social and cultural things. But there is a virtue in attacking the rich and powerful. So maybe in the future…
Finally, the record:
it would be a little far-fetched to say that Anarchism and Rock`n`roll go hand in hand, but here at least, they touched each other briefly for a first time. The Chats Sauvages were a leading French Rock`n`Roll group in the early 60`s. Their lead singer Dick Rivers later started a sucsessful solo-career. This is their first Ep. Go find their other stuff. It rocks!
LES CHATS SAUVAGES, Ma p`tite amie est vache, 1961
LES CHATS SAUVAGES, Le jour “J”, 1961
LES CHATS SAUVAGES, En avant l`amour, 1961
LES CHATS SAUVAGES, J`ai pris dans tes jeux, 1961