Fame and Misfortune
“I'm less and less myself, less and less human. Pretty soon there won't be anything left to say.”
In Skandalon, the second graphic novel from Julie Maroh (Blue is the Warmest Color), readers are thrown into the world of Tazane, rock god and master of shock and awe. Idolized by many and embodying the spirits of past icons such as Morrison and Cobain, Tazane mesmerizes the masses with his vulgarity and sex appeal. In Skandalon, from a Greek word describing a trap or obstacle that causes someone to stumble or fall, Maroh invokes a modern Greek tragedy as we watch our hero succumb to the high cost of fame.
As in Blue is the Warmest Color, Maroh uses her illustrations to tell most of the story. Her background composition is akin to French watercolor paintings with smudged, wispy outlines and deliberate color choices to set the emotional tone, while the foreground is more highlighted and precise. Using mostly reds and other murky shades, Maroh brings a bleak, edge-of-nothingness feeling to the page that leaves her audience with a sense of anxiety and dread. Her raw, unpolished illustrations and striking rust-based color scheme escorts her audience into the downward spiral that is Tazane's self-ruin.
We first meet our rock-star protagonist at the top of his game, ferociously loved by his fans and scandalized by the media. But the more his followers worship him, the more Tazane grows to hate them. Disgusted at their blind love for him, he sees his devotees as mindless sheep offering themselves up for him to slaughter. Through a series of toxic choices, Tazane tries to shock and repulse his fans into shunning him. Despite his bandmates' attempts to bring the "old Tazane" back, the rock idol is too disillusioned to care about the band as a whole (or anyone besides himself) and plunges down a path of dangerous addiction and self-inflicted pain. While I would have enjoyed seeing more of the dichotomy between pre-fame Tazane and “god-like” Tazane, his sense of apathy (and his band-mates constant discomfort) gives us the picture that things weren't always like this.
The champion of this story does eventually reach a state of redemption, though in a very abrupt, Requiem for a Dream sort of way that left me numb in the brain and full of disaffected emotions. With a mix of opiate-like artwork and her tale of fame and misery, Maroh's Tazane, careening poisonously through Skandalon, is the definition of a train wreck story—ugly and terrible, but impossible to look away from.