With his feet on the ground, his head in the imagination, screenwriter Pat Perna, accompanied by designer Fabien Bedouel, revisits the story of the conquest of the Moon like fake news with the aim of a good dose of entertainment and a bit of reflection. ..
What if, as some not always well-meaning people have claimed and still claim today, Americans had not set foot on the moon’s soil, or at least were not the first to do so. Inspired by fake news and other conspiracy theories that did not wait for digital social networks to flood the planet, Pat Perna imagined the Kosmos scenario, beautifully brought to life by his accomplice Fabien Bedouel.
We are the July 20, 1969, man sets foot on the moon for the first time. A small step for man, a big step for humanity, the images go around the world, the United States is essential in the conquest of space. And then patatras … By joining his module, Armstrong sees in the distance a Soviet flag and a Russian lunar vehicle, further away the body of a dead astronaut: a woman.
The United States capped at the pole? The humiliated male sex? On 210 breathtaking pages, the authors give us here a great story of space adventure at the same time as a basis for reflection on fake news and their capacity for nuisance … Interview!
Kosmos is the tenth album that you make with Fabien Bedouel drawing. What brings you two together?
Pat Perna. Difficult to define this question, and even more so to answer it… The nature of a working relationship is always subjective and changing. Regarding the link that unites us through our albums, it is above all the desire to do well, without worrying about the eyes of the “experts”, but taking into account, as a priority, that of the reader. We both seek to entertain our audiences.
We felt it with your previous project, the enjoyable one Valhalla Hotel, you like to indulge yourself both in writing and in drawing. Was that still the primary objective with Kosmos?
Pat Perna. Yes. We are fortunate to have an exciting job and to be able to say or do almost anything we want. With Kosmos, I admit that we also needed to take a step back from our previous albums. The historical subjects that we have dealt with so far were often qualified by “the professionals of the profession” as “very well documented”. It’s quite funny as a remark. It implies that the interlocutor who judges knows perfectly what he is causing … that he has well defined the question, masters the subject. However, this is rarely the case, in truth. Today the main source of information comes from social networks, Wikipedia in the lead. I wanted to play with that by pushing the slider all the way. Most of the information in Kosmos is true, but the context, the dates, most of the characters are fictitious. In the end, it’s hard to know where the truth lies. This is the whole point of the book.
The album takes up the codes of the genre, it’s a kind of lasagna that alternates a layer of truth, a layer of fake news
You’ve done quite a bit in history and humor previously. With the Kosmos album, you tackle a whole different genre that is not really SF, not really Uchronia, not really documentary and not really historical narrative. Where do you locate it and especially how did you come up with the idea?
Pat Perna. Kosmos could be a documentary broadcast on Youtube or some other streaming platform. The album takes up the codes of the genre and, as one of the speakers of the book says, it’s a kind of lasagna that alternates a layer of truth, a layer of fake news. It was while drinking documentaries and pseudo reports during confinement (I had shut down all the Netflix, Amazon series …) that I realized that it was quite possible to tackle any question through the prism of “truth” reporting. It is enough to look at the success of certain documentaries on the networks to understand that this mode of narration can be dangerous. It instills doubt in the minds of the spectators. From there, if you’re with bad intentions, it’s easy to rewrite a story.
Kosmos is built like a huge fake news. With what objective?
Pat Perna. Precisely, that of demonstrating what I said above: Today, without putting into perspective a historical event, it is almost impossible to distinguish between real information and fake news. This story of phantom cosmonauts (conspiracy theory, editor’s note), I discovered it on the net. I let myself be taken like a lot of people. The story of this Russian cosmonaut (Ivan Istochnikov), whose empty Soyuz was just found spinning in orbit followed by a bottle of Vodka, swept me away. There is such an evocative power that I was convinced that it would give a great starting point to a script. I believed in it… before discovering quite quickly, fortunately, that it was a “fake news” fabricated from scratch by the artist photographer Joan Fontcuberta (project Sputnik).
Few dialogues, many full pages, a very slow rhythm, a refined design, large black areas … enough to have a feeling of total immersion and weightlessness … We think of 2001 A Space Odyssey. A reference for you?
Pat Perna. Obviously. Especially from an aesthetic point of view. I humbly admit that I still haven’t understood everything about Kubrick’s film. I am more a client of genre films on the subject: Apollo 13, The Cloth of Heroes… Fabien’s black and white drawing is ideal for setting up the contemplative atmosphere that I wanted to highlight. Its staging makes it possible to underline my own neuroses throughout the story: Claustrophobia, fear of emptiness, anxiety of separation …
Speaking of 2001, what soundtrack could you offer readers? Personally, I tested The beautiful blue Danube by Johann Strauss and it goes very well …
Pat Perna. Yes it works… of course. Mozart’s requiem could also lend itself to this. It’s a little agreed what I’m going to say, but the soundtrack of the film Interstellar would suit me!
How do you see SF production in general?
Pat Perna. I was bottle-fed on SF. As a child, it was Goldorak and Albator who opened me up to science fiction. Young teen, I discovered Star Wars at the cinema (the shock of my life!), I devoured Dune (all the volumes, several times!), trembled with Alien… inevitably there is always something left. Besides, my first album in 1991 (Ouch!), With Stéphane (Fane), was SF (Shot published by Vents d’Ouest). It was a mix of all our influences from the time: Mad Max, Dune… Concerning modern productions, I am an absolute fan ofInterstellar, which for me is an absolute masterpiece. I really liked the Dune by Denis Villeneuve and in comics, the Grendizer of Dorison, Bajram, Sentenac, Cossu and Guillo… necessarily.
What did the first steps on the moon inspire you before the making of this album?
Pat Perna. Like many people, an absolute fascination. When you see the vintage footage, you find it hard to believe it’s real. I understand that the most critical minds may have questioned the veracity of the event (even if this is not my case at all). We have the impression that this is all bogus. Puppets in spacesuits jumping in slow motion in an abandoned quarry … it makes one think furiously of a bad B series.
Thomas Pesquet is the absolute hero. The guy is handsome, nice, courageous … he’s the Greek hero in all his glory
Today, the conquest of space seems well and truly relaunched. First the Moon, Mars in sight and Thomas Pesquet in the starting blocks. Is it a news that fascinates you, that you follow diligently?
Pat Perna. Yes. I find it fascinating. In addition Thomas Pesquet is the absolute hero. The guy is handsome, nice, courageous… he’s the Greek hero in all his splendor: Achilles, Ulysses… In addition, he perfectly masters communication which makes him even more “accessible”. The fact remains that this story of space conquest is fascinating. I think that if he walks on the Moon (or rather when he walks on the Moon…) we will experience a planetary event whose intensity will exceed that of Armstrong’s first steps. I hope to still be able to watch the first steps of a human on Mars …
What about your near future? Your projects ?
Pat Perna. I have just moved to a very small village in Maine et Loire, a few kilometers from Angers in the middle of nowhere, in the slopes of Layon … it’s a radical change of life for the suburbanites that I am. No doubt this will affect my writing work, although I don’t know in what direction yet. In the near future, we will be completing the third and final volume of Valhalla Hotel ; I also have on fire (with Jean Baptiste Hostache in the drawing) the adaptation of a cult novel (Shibumi de Trevanian), which will appear at the Arena next year.
Thank you Pat, interviewed on November 24, 2021
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© Delcourt / Perna & Bedouel
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