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Bilal

Bilal by himself.

Enki Bilal is a graphic artist of the French-Belgian comic books school. Born in Yugoslavia in 1951 from a Bosnian father and a Slovakian mother, he moved to France in 1960. In 1971, he started out in the world of comics by drawing political cartoons for the illustrated weekly Pilote (whose editor-in-chief was Rene Goscinny). After a stint at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, in 1972 Pilote published his first story, "L'Appel des Etoiles" a.k.a. "Le Bol Maudit".

He met Pierre Christin (scenarist of Valerian) at Pilote, and from then on the two men would collaborate on several stories: "The Cruise of Lost Souls", "Ship of Stone", "The Town that didn't exist", "The Black Order Brigade", and most famously "The Hunting Party". This seminal album, written in 1980, analyzed the systemic sclerosis of the Soviet Bloc and prophesized its imminent collapse.

It was also in 1980 that Bilal wrote and illustrated "The Carnival of Immortals", initially intended as a stand-alone album, but whose success would result in two sequels, "The Woman Trap" in 1986 and "Equator Cold" in 1993.

While continuing to work primarily as a graphic artist and illustrator, Bilal has directed three movies, "Bunker Palace Hotel" in 1989 (a parable on the collapse of dictatorships), "Tykho Moon" in 1997, and Immortal (based on the aforementioned "The Carnival of Immortals" and "The Woman Trap") in 2004.

As a bit of trivia, it's been theorised that Viral from Gurren Lagann was named after him - "Bilal" and "Viral" would be pronounced the same in Japanese, Viral pilots a mecha called the Enki, and his Leitmotif is called "Nikopol," while Bilal wrote the Nikopol Trilogy.


Bilal's works contain examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Displacement: "The Carnival of Immortals" is set in a dystopian future Paris, but Immortal is set in a slightly less dystopian New York.
  • Badass Grandpa: The heroes and the villains of "The Black Order Brigade".
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Blood Sport: A homicidal version of ice hockey in "The Carnival of Immortals".
  • Defictionalization: In "Equator Cold", Bilal invented a sport called Chess Boxing. It now exists in Real Life.
  • Human Popsicle: Alcide Nikopol, the main character of "The Carnival of Immortals" and "Equator Cold", was an astronaut who spent 30 years in cryogenic sleep and comes back to Earth as a Fish Out of Temporal Water.
  • Physical God: "The Carnival of Immortals" depicts the gods of the Egyptian pantheon, and Horus in particular, as physical beings.
  • True Art Is Offensive: In the Monster tetralogy ("December 32nd" in particular), no one seems to care that Holeraw's art is made by killing people.
    • Crosses the Line Twice when he creates a noxious cloud that spreads death and destruction wherever it goes; the surviving critics give it glowing reviews.
  • Used Future: Bilal's more futuristic stories take place in a dilapidated setting.
  • Warsaw Pact: "The Hunting Party" is about an informal get-together of high-ranking officials from various Soviet satellites, and their bitter realization that the political system they have worked for all their lives is rotten to the core.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The characters of "The Black Order Brigade".
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Political?: Most of his stories have an implicit or explicit political dimension.
  • World Half Empty
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