L’ostie d’chat, tome 1

Summary: Jean-Sébastien and Jasmin share the custody of Legolas, the ever-underfoot cat. One is a recently unemployed pickup artist, the other a wannabe rocker who has just been fired from his band. Buddies since childhood, they have a habit of stealing each other’s girlfriends. And then Julie shows up…

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L’ostie d’chat, tome 1, by Iris and Zviane 7.5

‘L’ostie d’chat’ is a québécois webcomic by Montréal co-authors and artists Iris and Zviane that has taken the francophone world by storm in recent years. I only just discovered it because a friend of mine gave me the first two of three printed collections for my birthday.

It’s considered a landmark in the publishing world, being the first of its kind in French Canada, getting 800-1000 views every time a new strip was published (that would translate to roughly 32000-40000 in the U.S.). It’s even been translated in Korean. It’s a tremendous success story.

But I’d never heard of it.

It follows Jasmin and Jean-Sebastien’s friendship and love lives, frequently touching base by passing Legolas, the cat of a deceased friend, back and forth between themselves. Neither really likes it (“That goddamned cat!”, as in the strip’s title), but it has advantages (i.e. girls like him).

The two guys are really quite hilariously pathetic and self-absorbed, recurrently stealing each other’s girlfriends and then burying the hatchet. Or wasting their days at odd jobs, if any at all, as they aspire to bigger things but don’t have the gumption to chase after and realize their dreams.

We also explore their past to some degree, both as first-year high school friends and with their families, highlighting to some degree the reasons for their broken selves in the present. They’re basically insecure, adult teenagers who often do idiotic things for lack of any grown-up wisdom.

What makes this strip interesting is its portrayal of a particular brand of Montrealer, from a specific area of Montréal. So the language is a common version of Québécois French called joual and the locations will be familiar to people who know the Mont-Royal area to some degree.

It gives the strip a very distinctive flavour.

The artwork contributes to this impression: it’s simplistic and cartoony but perfectly suitable for the work. Interestingly, Iris and Zviane take turns rendering the strip and, while their styles are slightly different, they aren’t so divergent that you can’t ignore the discrepancies.

Ultimately, it makes of ‘L’ostie d’chat’ a light and enjoyable read, punched up by the ridiculous, but realistic, missteps of its two immature leads. I very much look forward to reading the rest of their self-induced misadventures. And I’m curious to see how the titular cat will play a part.

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