Controversial figure in the history of rock’n’roll, who was really the manager of the Sex Pistols? A genius or a crook? A visionary or a marketing whiz? A revolutionary or a vulgar seller of pants?
Malcolm McLaren, a major figure of the punk era, was a bit of all of these things at the same time, if we are to believe the amazing album dedicated to him by Marie Eynard and Manu Leduc (in the story) with Lionel Chouin in the drawing. Same sound”chosen brother“, the couturier Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who signs the preface to the book, and sees in him a “child of situationism” to “revolutionary breath“endowed with all the talents, do not forget to underline the paradoxes of the character.
This comic therefore tells the tribulations of the Briton McLaren from his birth in 1946 to 1979, shortly after the separation of the Sex Pistols. How he set up the flagship punk band from scratch as one would set up a boy band today, with the help of his partner, the stylist Vivienne Westwood, after discovering American punk in New York with the New York Dolls and Richard Hell.
We see how he did not give up any provocation to make the buzz. His propensity to manipulate the group, keeping it precarious in order to cultivate its revolt. How much he bet everything on the rage of singer John Lydon alias Johnny Rotten, going so far as to exceed him before going on stage to better make him spit his venom and create danger. Because his fear was that the Sex Pistols would be perceived as harmless and conventional.
Well seen, the story is also well informed. In particular, it offers interesting insights into McLaren’s youth and the crucial influence of his grandmother, who gave him unwavering support. This profoundly unconventional woman found “the terribly boring good” and “what is considered evil always more interesting.” A principle that has guided the life of McLaren.
Another sting of reminder, the fact that this upset artist was a follower of situationism, the principles of which he applied in his own way in all his works, with a consummate art of provocation and the reversal of codes.
A cheerful scene from the comic shows him walking the streets dressed as Santa Claus in the winter of 1968, shouting “Consume massively, you bunch of slaves! It’s the tyranny of Christmas! Christmas is just an invention of capital! Free yourself from advertising alienation!“. In another scene, he explains his project to his beloved grandmother: “You see these heaps of garbage, well the raw material of our work of art will be that… Everything that people don’t look at! Those aspects of themselves that they refuse to see. We will make this ugliness sublime.“
The line of the draftsman Lionel Chouin, lively, energetic and without fuss, perfectly sketches the profiles and the situations, and sticks rather well to the subject. Together with the narration, the graphics explode the classic format by stepping outside the boxes, like a nod to the punk fanzines and creative chaos of that time.
We do not know if the authors intend to make their comic strip a small rehabilitation enterprise, but it is clear that the character they describe with humor ends up becoming rather sympathetic as he appears sincere in his desire to shake the foundations of society by exposing his hypocrisies. Another good point: the reminder of his support for Sid Vicious in adversity, and this until the end, including after his arrest for the murder of his partner Nancy Spungen.
However, as his friend, the late Frenchman Marc Zermati, a great witness of the punk era to which this book is dedicated, told him bluntly in a passage from the comic strip: “You never understood anything about rock, you’re a fashion guy, that’s all!“A guy whose genius consisted in being one of the first to do business by claiming to denounce the consumer society.
“Malcolm McLaren, The Art of Disaster” by Manu Leduc, Marie Eynard and Lionel Chouin, with Philippe Ory in color (Futuropolis, 25 euros)