2010 Outstanding Writer – Maryse Dubuc

Robin Fisher participated in both the Story and Art juries this year, and she returned later in the evening to present the Outstanding Writer Award.

Robin Fisher has been living, eating, sleeping and breathing comics for the past 10 years.  She’s worked in comic book stores, she’s written for The Comics Journal, she’s attended comic conventions all along the West Coast and interviewed many comic creators as the host of The Onamatopoeia Show which runs every Sunday afternoon from 3-4 from Montreal on 1690AM CJLO. This is Robin’s second time serving on the Joe Shuster Awards jury.

Robin Fisher:

There were a lot of nominees this year, and the writing styles were very, very different.

You’ll have to forgive me in advance, as my discussion of the Outstanding Writer for 2010 and the book the writer is winning for is completely focused on my personal experiences with this book and appreciation for this author. This definitely was a jury decision, and we had a lot of interesting books and comics to read this year. As we began to discuss the nominees we quickly narrowed down our choices to two specific writers, both of whom were working in very distinct and different comics traditions.

Robin Fisher presenting the Outstanding Writer Award.

I’m an Anglophone. I moved to Montreal four years ago. While the culture, events and history of the region is all very  interesting to me, the thing that I was most excited about moving there was, because I’m a comics fan and commentator — to experience Quebec’s BD scene. Vancouver has a very small comics scene — and it is a wonderful scene, I’m not criticizing — but it’s that Montreal and the rest of Quebec have a completely different approach to comics in their daily lives – in the way that they treat, love and appreciate them.

One of the first reminders that I had entered a different world was when I noticed a Les Nombrils hardcover for sale at my local grocery store. FYI, Maryse Dubuc has been selected as the Outstanding Writer for 2010 for Les Nombrils, tome 4 – Duel de belles (Dupuis), just so you know!

Les Nombrils = The Bellybuttons

I immediately snapped it up. Initially, it was hard reading, because it was in French, but there was a lot that I did understand, because I can read French much more easily than I can speak it.  I found it an immensely enjoyable read. The things that I liked about it, and the reason that I believe it was nominated – was that not only could I understand it, but the premise was very straight-forward and accessible.

The main characters are – Karine, she’s the tall one – called the Asparagus, or the Wet Noodle by her two ‘friends’ – I use the term loosely – whose names are Jenny and Vickie – I call them “the Nasties”. Even though they’re friends, they keep Karine around to make themselves look better, and they don’t treat her well at all!

I adore these characters, but there were so many times that upon reading what Jenny and Vickie were doing to Karine, and I felt like yelling “those bitches!”. I really fell for Karine – she’s so heartfelt, and so pure and sweet. Even though these nasty girls did all those things to her, she still remain their steadfast friend.

Admittedly, this is a very “girly” comic – it’s full of romance, CEGEP drama (Collège d’enseignement général et professionnel, which is literally translated as “College of General and Vocational Education” but commonly called “General and Vocational College”), boys and fashion. As a girl, this appealed to me.

But there is so much more to it than that. It reminded me of “Mad” magazines with its hidden visual gags. The Noodle’s ex-boyfriend gives her a statue he found in Africa that looks like her. The arms are posed in a certain way. Karine gets upset, of course, because her ex is now with somebody else. She accidentally breaks the statue. The next time you see the statue, it is posed appropriately! All these little gags that Maryse Dubuc put in, makes the story that much more appealing. It is possible to appreciate the books in the format of one-page gag panels. But, if you read all four books, all together, there is an immense payoff at the end of this fourth book, which is the one that Maryse Dubuc is winning the award for!

I cried at the end of Book Four. I read that book five times! The ending  just really did it for me. After all the nasty things that happen to her, Karine has stayed true to her friends and her character. But by the end of book four, Karine has a boyfriend, and she’s changed her whole style and her character has transitioned right before our eyes. As a woman, it was really, really exciting to see that.

So, let’s recap!

It’s clever, it’s funny, the characters evolve, and they are far from two-dimensional. They’re the sort of people that are easy to relate to. Maryse has an excellent knack for teen dialogue, as well in finding the humour in the simplest situations. I always found something new, every time I re-read it. Again, this is a very involving story. Lastly, the fantastic art by Marc Delafontaine didn’t hurt either!

Delaf and Dubuc surrounded by Les Nombrils

So, in my mind, Les Nombrils also deserves more than just Outstanding Comic Book Writing – it will always be the comic that made me fall in love with Montreal.

Congratulations Maryse… and thanks!

Maryse Dubuc (1977-)

Avec une enfance et une adolescence bien occupées, à partager son temps entre lecture et concours d’orthographe, entre natation, patinage artistique et volley-ball, qu’elle pratique au niveau Excellence, Maryse Dubuc est une superactive. Côté études, elle obtient un DEC en Lettres françaises au Cégep de Sherbrooke, puis s’installe quelques temps à Montréal, où elle étudie la communication à l’UQAM. En 2002, elle publie chez Modulo Editeur quatorze livrets de lecture mettant en scène un petit extra-terrestre appelé Lexibul. C’est alors qu’elle se lance dans le livre jeunesse en publiant notamment ‘La Fille parfaite’ en 2003. D’autres ouvrages suivront, parmi lesquels ‘Le Gâteau gobe-chagrin’ et ‘Ma Voisine est une vedette’ en 2004. Elle est également scénariste de Bande dessinée aux côtés de son compagnon Marc Delafontaine, dit Delaf, avec lequel elle réalise la série ‘Les Nombrils’, qui paraît dans le magazine canadien ‘Safarir’ et dont le premier tome est sorti en album sous le titre ‘Pour qui tu te prends ?’ en 2006. Maryse Dubuc est membre de l’Association des écrivains québécois pour la jeunesse et de l’Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois.

As a child and adolescent she divided her time between reading and spelling competitions and swimming, figure skating and volleyball, which she still practices at – Maryse Dubuc is superactive. She obtained a diploma in French literature at the Cégep de Sherbrooke, then settled for a while in Montreal – studying communications at UQAM. In 2002, she had fourteen books published by Modulo that starred a little alien called Lexibul. Then she moved to writing children’s books with the title ‘La Fille parfaite’ (‘The Perfect Girl’) in 2003. Other books followed, including ‘Le Gâteau gobe-chagrin’ and ‘Ma Voisine est une vedette’ in 2004. Along with her companion, cartoonist Marc Delafontaine aka  Delaf, she created the series ‘Les Nombrils’, which originally appeared in the Canadian comics magazine ‘Safarir’ (Safari). The first hardcover Les Nombrils volume was released in 2006. Maryse Dubuc is a member of the Quebec Writers’ Association for Youth and the Union of Writers and Writers of Quebec.