Les 24 Heures du Mans is near and many motorsport fans are impatient to see the race. The question, when it comes to the French classic, is often the same: who will win? Expectations are always up, and waiting can be tiresome. There are many ways to ease it: firing up your favourite sim and run on the virtual racetrack, re-watch races from the past editions, see the teams prepare and read news about the event. Today though, I want to offer you another possible pastime, which comes under the form of a stupendous graphic novel.
“STEVE McQUEEN in LE MANS”, Volume I, by Garbo Studio
This comic book is the fruit of Sandro Garbo’s passion for both the French race and the cult movie “Le Mans” by Steve McQueen. Sandro even states in the credits that the project was born right after the actor visited him in his dreams, one night in 2013! Given his passion for art and classic cars, he ventured on the quest of transposing the drama and the action of the film into graphics, with the help of Guillaume Lopez, who is a Michel Vaillant illustrator. He was later joined by many more artists and talented people, finally forming a group of seven in total. Unfortunately, one the team members, Florian Afflerbach, a German architect and author of a number of publications on architectural drawing, member of the Urban Sketchers community and of USk Germany, died on May 5, 2016, in a motorcycle accident in his country. This book is dedicated to him.
The comic was ready to print in October 2016 and is available for purchase since the 9th of December of the same year. It is the first volume, in a total of two (the second one is currently in the making). It is an official “24 Hours of Le Mans” licensed product (every copy comes with its own validating holographic sticker), and Chad McQueen has personally approved it.
Now, onto the book itself. Dimensions are 34.2 x 24.4 cm (H x W), which roughly translates as 13.4 x 9.5 inches. Pages are 64 in total, and weight comes at around 865 g (1.9 pounds). First thing you will notice when looking at it, is its high level of quality. The paper used is premium grade, and the materials from which the book is made of are excellent. All of the drawings look terrific, and images are sharp and vibrant. The sequence of pictures is very clear and the consecutio is always easily understandable.
The characters are very much believable, with McQueen having a perfect resemblance to his real self, portraying his iconic face expression beautifully. All of the other characters too share the same quality, and react to the events in a credible fashion, which helps the reader being immersed into the narration. Some expressions may be over-exaggerated at times, but that is perfectly in line with the style of a comic.
The cars, which are probably the real protagonists of the story, are detailed in all of their aspects, up to the tiniest ones. Many of them are even displayed as in a showroom in the opening part of the book, listing their most prominent technical aspects along with their magnetic lines. Skins are well painted and the colours choice looks fitting, overall presenting them as they were and looked back then. For sure, the style of a comic book concurs in amplifying the beauty of these classics, making them a spectacular welcome sight.
The colour palette is simply astonishing. The sunrise and sunset are stunning. The rain effects leave you in an awe for how good they look. The lighting, both at day and night time, is perfectly balanced. Combined with the quality of the drawings, it results in an artistic masterpiece of great value. It is clear that this project was realised by professionals, which left nothing to chance in their work.
One thing that I also really liked about this graphic novel is that it is not a mere replica of the movie, transposed on a book, however good it could be. It is actually much more! There are certain aspects and parts of the story in which the author, Garbo, goes deeper in, explaining more about some characters and some events. It helps you understand better the narrative on which the film is based, and in a sense, they complement each other. Absurd as it may sound, it almost seems like the movie was made having the reading of this graphic novel in mind. While at the same time, watching the movie after reading this book gives you that raw sensorial feeling, mainly thanks to sounds, that the tome cannot obviously give.
In conclusion, this short but very dense and well done comic book, coming also at a fairly inexpensive price tag, all considering, is, in my opinion, a must have for every Le Mans junkie and Steve McQueen admirer, while having also a collectible value. Every aspect of it says much about the team behind its production. A small group of genuine motorsport fans, and classic cars lovers. Bring on Volume II lads!
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This was the first issue of “Picked off the Shelf”. A new, exclusive, column, which will feature reviews about the best (and sometimes worst!) books, movies and documentaries about the motorsport!
Have you enjoyed this review? Would you like to see more? Do you have a copy of “Steve McQueen in Le Mans”? What are your thoughts about it? Let us know in the comments section!