Set in Paris 1911, against a backdrop of thieves, bohemians and anarchists, The Illegalists is a graphic novel about a struggling mechanic is forced into crime, becoming France’s most dangerous and wanted man.
Created by Stefan Vogel and Laura Pierce, this story based on true events features beautifully rendered artwork by Attila Futaki, best known as the artist on Scott Snyder’s Severed series at Image a few years ago.
The graphic novel is currently on Kickstarter, so give it a look before the campaign ends on March 31 and join Vogel below for an Inside Look at the project.
by Stefan Vogel
I first discovered ‘THE ILLEGALISTS’ a.k.a ‘THE BONNOT GANG’ in London’s oldest radical bookstore Housmans in 2009. What struck me most was, they weren’t just ‘criminals’, they were anarchists. They had strong anti-establishment beliefs, fighting low wages and the 12 hour work day; a lot of them were blacklisted for draft dodging and unable to work. Paris in 1911 was a city of riots, strikes and savage repression.
These anarchists evolved into illegalists because they had no other choice – they stole to survive. I was reminded of the final scene from the film “I’m a fugitive from a chain gang” where Paul Muni meets his girlfriend to tell her he’s leaving town, she asks ‘But how will you live? And as he slips into the darkness, unseen, he responds ‘I steal’.
The opening page is based on photos of actual events from the spectacular shoot-out
where 500 armed police officers, soldiers, fire-fighters, military engineers and private gun-owners surrounded Jules Bonnot. Attila’s life-like artwork is jaw-droppingly beautiful and his realistic style perfectly matches the real-life subject matter of The Illegalists.
Pages 7 & 8
Jules Bonnot, our lead character is an underpaid and overworked mechanic, working on motorcars for the rich and famous. He lives in a dirt poor apartment with his wife and child on the verge of being destitute. Greg Guilhaumond’s gritty undertones of colour really capture the underlying moods, his lighting and shadows are brilliant and his colours spill emotion into the panels like sombre blues or violent reds.
After a co-worker is injured at the factory and cast aside, Jules is provoked by an anarchist co-worker into attending a clandestine meeting. They wind their way through the seedy alleyways and subterranean pathways of Paris to a secret giant hall where anarchists regularly meet. The hall is fraught with political argument led by a fiery Russian Anarchist.
Todd Klein’s lettering is an art in itself; we are so fortunate to be working with him. He conveys the words with perfect concision, never obstructing any artwork but more so, flowing with it. His SFX are EFFIN COOL to BOOT!
Pages 13 & 14
The Police Chief, Xavier Guichard and his men raid the meeting, cracking heads and taking names. In this melee Jules and the Chief violently come face to face. Laura Pierce my co-writer adapted the screenplay (this started out as film) to comic script – panelling out all those crucial sequences. Her understanding of structure and storytelling has been paramount in bringing this graphic novel to life.
One of my favourite panels is Jules striking the Police officer, enabling his co-worker to escape, the motion captured in the punch, the expression on the cop’s face, his hat moving one way, the stream of blood the other, Jules’ gritting his teeth, they all come together beautifully to capture this heated moment of résistance!
Jules is badly beaten, shackled and boxed into a jail cart with a rogue’s gallery of anarchists (a number of whom will become his accomplices later in his life).
In a dingy cell with no one but faceless voices echoing in the darkness, Jules sinks deeper and deeper into despair. His wife visits to tell him their son is sick, but has no means to pay for medicine.
When a hungry, weakened Jules finally returns home, his wife packed and ready to leave attacks him in a violent outburst of helplessness, revealing their son has died. Jules descends into a world of pain. He is now the most dangerous type of man; one with nothing to lose. His transformation begins into France’s most fearless, clever and notorious criminal.