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Who's Who in 'The Last Queen'?

14 May 2024

Ahead of Jean-Marc Rochette's next appearance at VanCAF, come meet some of the real-life figures who helped inspire (and even feature in) The Last Queen!

(Originally published in French by Casterman, translated by Edward Gauvin.)

In The Last Queen we meet... 

Jane Poupelet (1874-1932)
Jane Poupelet in the Studio for Portrait Mask, 1918. Rue89Bordeaux

This former student at Bordeaux’s Academy of Fine Arts kept company with Auguste Rodin and Antoine Bourdelle in Paris and made her name as a sculptress of animals. She and American sculptress Anna Ladd would go on to create new faces for the gueules cassées, soldiers who had been disfigured during World War I. These two facets of her life can be found in the character of Jeanne, who becomes the lover of the book’s protagonist, Édouard Roux.

Aristide Bruant (1851-1925)
Aristide Bruant by Nadar, ca. 1898.

This famous singer-songwriter delivers his hit "Dans la rue" in The Last Queen. A king of slang, Bruant purchased the famous Montmartre cabaret Au Lapin agile in 1913, and it features as a setting in this book, providing an occasion for a winking cameo of animal sculptor François Pompon, creator of a famous statue of a polar bear.

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)
Jean Cocteau, 1923.

This highly gifted poet makes a notable appearance in The Last Queen. At the opening for a gallery show, he lauds with his flamboyant words the sculpture of a bear made by Jeanne, the “fairy.” Rochette had fun cobbling this speech together from various well-known quotes by the writer. Rochette depicts Pablo Picasso by Cocteau’s side: it is said these two artists were the only two to be found in the funeral procession of Chaïm Soutine, whom Rochette admires greatly.

JEAN-MARC ROCHETTE was meant for a life as a mountain guide but left the climbing world in 1976 after a serious accident sustained from falling rock. He then began a career as a comics creator, working with the Grenoble-based anti-nuclear newspaper Le Casse-noix (The Nutcracker), and publishing in such magazines as Actuel, L’Écho des savanes, (A Suivre), L’Équipe, and Okapi.
Among his most famous works were the series Edmond le cochon (Edmond the Pig) and Snowpiercer, adapted for the screen in 2013 by Korean director Bong Joon-ho. After seven years in Berlin (2009 - 2016), where he devoted himself almost exclusively to painting, and several shows in France and Germany, Jean-Marc Rochette returned to France. Meanwhile, Terminus was released in 2015, bringing an end to the Snowpiercer saga before it was given new life in Extinctions, a prequel series in collaboration with Eisner-nominated writer Matz (The Killer). Two volumes have appeared so far.
However, the Rochette renaissance then found the artist devoting himself to projects of a more personal nature. The release of Altitude in 2018 was a genuine event for press and public alike. One year later, Le Loup became a bestselling graphic novel translated into over 10 languages, confirming the anointment of Jean-Marc Rochette as one of the most important contemporary comics creators.
The Last Queen is very likely his most personal project to date. It celebrates a landscape dear to him and probes subjects he is passionate about: the mountains, the balance between humans and nature... However, with The Last Queen, Rochette also surprises us, for it is first and foremost a beautiful love story.
For a few years now, Jean-Marc Rochette has made his home in the Vallée du Vénéon, deep in the Écrins national park.

The Last Queen is out now in the UK, and available for pre-order in North America (release date May 28th)!