Nicolas Wild did not expect his works to be translated in English for Indian readers. “Being published in India made me very happy. I wasn’t sure whether my books would be understood in another culture. Nobody wanted to publish them in the UK where they were seen as too French, too graphic, too I don’t know what. So being translated in English for India was a very grateful thing,” he told me in an interview I’d done with him for The Times of India during his appearance at Mumbai Comic Con.
Travelling around the world and turning his observations into brilliant comic art, Nicolas is most well-known for Kabul Disco, a graphic novel series set in Afghanistan. The theme is war and what it does to a country.
Born in 1977 in the Alsace region, Nicolas is a former student of the famous illustration workshop at the Strasbourg School of Applied Arts. He started creating comics as a co-writer of Le vœu de Marc, together with Boulet and Lucie Albon. In this comic book for all ages, he employs a dark humour that had already been revealed in a series of comic strips published in 2000: Le Bourreau (The Executioner).
In 2005, he accepted a job offer in Afghanistan where he was given the task of drawing an adaptation of the Afghan constitution. In 2007, he launched a series of graphic novels called Kabul Disco, in which he talks about his life as an expat. The discovery of the Persian world then led him to Iran: in 2014 he completed the album Ainsi se tut Zarathustra (Silent Was Zarathustra), an eye-opening journey through current events in Iran.
Excerpts from his latest novel in his travelogue series titled, Kabul Disco: How I Managed Not To Be Abducted in Afghanistan.
Book synopsis: It’s 2005. Nicolas Wild is a French cartoonist. He’s broke and about to be homeless. He’s a man without a plan. That is until destiny shows up in his inbox: a paid job… In Afghanistan! In his graphic Travelogue series, Nicolas Wild brilliantly explores the differences between the Afghan cultures around him and his own, as he and his fellow expat friends crash Asura celebrations, avoid the afterlife, and muse on the differences between Christian Easter egg hunts and Islamic penance.
What follows after is an interview done earlier with the unassuming graphic novelist.
On French & American graphic novels
“I don’t know how popular French graphic novels are in America. They probably interest a small niche of Francophile readers. From my own experience, I know it’s difficult to export your work in the USA. Besides manga, few foreign comic artists are popular in America. Even Tintin didn’t sell well over there. In France, American graphic novels are more popular. Many Americans received awards in French comic festivals. The father of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson has won the Grand Prix at Angouleme Festival.”
“But strong connections can be made between the two shores of the Atlantic. The graphic novel Maus from American cartoonist Art Spiegelman echoes with The Rabbi’s Cat from Joann Sfar. Habibi by Craig Thompson echoes with Persepolis from Marjane Satrapi or L’arabe du futur from Riad Sattouf. You would find biographic comics in both countries. In terms of quality and diversity of topics, I would say French and American are boxing in the same category. Another interesting scene to explore is the Quebec one, the French-speaking Canadian have been creating an impressive body of work in the past decades.”
‘Writing comic books is a monk’s work’
“You spend a lot of time alone, sketching pages for months. Once your book is released and you have the chance to meet with readers, you step in another world.”
Graphic novels have taken over the world: