Le Voyage du Voyeur (The Voyage of the Voyeur)– Illustrated Book Project

Le Voyage du Voyeur Minimalist Cover

Title Page

Quotes and Page 1

Pages 2 and 3

Pages 4 and 5

Pages 6 and 7

Pages 8 and 9

Pages 10 and 11

Pages 12 and 13

Last Page

Presented above is a large project I was assigned to do in Prof. Guy Billout’s Thursday Graphic Narrative class, which I greatly enjoyed and found creatively fulfilling. I was tasked to create an illustrated book on the topic of “Hell”, and purposefully decided to make my own conception of Hell as philosophically terrifying and as grotesque as possible. I was initially inspired to create this comic from a quote famously attributed to Jean Paul Sartre’s 1944 play No Exit, which states that “Hell is other people”. This notion of hell is derived from Sartre’s philosophical concept of “the look”, which postulates the idea that when other people are looking at us, and we are otherwise being watched, we become self-conscious and aware of ourselves as beings. A consciousness is forced to recognize that it exists not only in relation to itself as a person looking outwards towards the world, but also exists merely as an object in relation to someone else’s consciousness and in the world of others– it realizes that it is not alone, that it is not the center of the world.

This comic takes the theme of “the look” and “sight” to its most terrifying logical extreme. It stars a perverted photographer in Paris (Sartre was a French philosopher) who is a voyeur and takes pictures of beautiful women, often without their consent, or without them knowing. The photographer is named Jacques Arnault, and is somewhat based off of the actual real life French-Swedish photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who was accused and convicted of sexual assault of several women, leading to the loss of prestige for the Nobel Committee, the resignation of several of its members, and the postponement for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature.

In the beginning of the comic, Arnault spies yet again another beautiful woman on the top of the Eiffel Tower, but when he tries to take a picture of her from far away, the flash of his camera causes a nearby raven or crow to attack him alongside a flock of other ravens, obsessed with the camera. It becomes gradually apparent that the ravens or crows in question are not actually birds, but more sinister, darker spirits, with eye-shaped heads, who have been watching Arnault watch and take pictures of other women to fulfill his voyeuristic fantasies. Nevertheless, the crows or ravens are symbols of fate or ill omen, who end up carrying the man and dropping him to his death. Arnault falls from his apartment, and hits his head against the glass windshield of a car right below him, causing the shards to pierce him, killing him instantly. The photographer then descends down this void of eyes and mouths, and is devoured by a formless beast with a massive mouth that is also an eye (the teeth are eyelashes), as well as a vagina (because the mouth is vertical, also symbolizing the man’s lust).

When Arnault wakes up, he finds himself in this fleshy cave with eyes staring at him and mouths gnashing their teeth. He meets and is ambushed by this giant raven-beast whose head is the exposed skull that forms part of its skeleton, who tells him that he is trapped in a hell made just for him for all eternity, as punishment for his sins, and that he is going to personally watch Arnault suffer over and over. It is here the viewer should realize that this hell is fleshy and is full of eyes and mouths and cartilage and bone and blood and muscle because it reflects Arnault’s lust for the flesh of women (which is also mentioned in the Bible quotes at the beginning of the story), thereby making Arnault’s personal hell Dante-esque (Divine Comedy-like) in its punishment. Just as Arnault stared and took pictures of women all his life, so too will he now be condemned to be stared at constantly, making him feel painfully aware of his own existence in perdition, and of his own sins. He is not suffering any physical pain per se, more so emotional and psychological torture.

When Arnault leaves the cave, he sees a horrendous vista of a fleshy, purely organic Paris made of skin, body parts, bone, teeth, etc. Above him, the “sky” is pinkish-red and is the inner lining of what is presumed to be the stomach or the esophagus of the beast that swallowed him, full of giant eyes all looking at him, and mouths waiting to rip him apart. Far in the background at the edges of the city are horrific giant monsters full of eyes, tentacles, mouths, etc, looking at him and patrolling the area. Arnault is horrified and believes that he is experiencing a nightmare, not yet realizing that he is dead forever. Behind him, however, what the comic dramatically reveals are the demonic spirit versions of every single girl or woman the photographer has lusted after frighten him by calling him a stalker. The page of the reveal shows dozens of photographs taken by Arnault, some of them more risque then others, highlighting the protagonist’s sins.

Arnault denies that he is a pervert and thinks to himself that he has to get out of this horrible place he’s trapped in (still believing it’s all a dream, while denying the reality), running right into the unholy city itself. As he leaves, the demon-women tell him that no matter where he goes or where he hides, the city’s eyes will always be watching him, as well as the large Eyeful Tower (a homophonic pun on the Eiffel Tower), which has a massive eye on top. The comic then time skips to many years later (2,555 days = approx. 7 years) to an Arnault who has chronicled his hellish experiences on skin parchment, using blood as ink. Arnault has gone completely insane by this point in time, revealing to the reader just how horrible his punishment is, and to what extent it has affected him. He writes that the women and the eyes of his personal hell have never stopped staring him at him, constantly stalking him and making him feel painfully aware of his own sins. He also writes that he tried multiple times to escape the hellish city, only to be stopped by the giant monsters from earlier at the outskirts, then tried to find some relief or respite by going to sleep, only to be assaulted by eyes and monsters in his dreams and mind (they see him and torture him even there).

Arnault concludes his last diary entry by saying that he believes the only way he can escape his torture (he still believes he’s somehow in a nightmare) is by committing suicide by jumping off of the top of the Eyeful Tower (echoing the “suicide” at the beginning of the story that got him to hell in the first place), so that he can wake up and live the rest of his life. Upon reaching the summit of the tower, however, Arnault discovers a gigantic tentacled demonic version of the beautiful woman he saw on the Eiffel Tower just before his death, and is horrified. Not wanting to experience any more pain, Arnault jumps to his presumed death and lands with a splat on the fleshy ground below the tower (a beating heart hanging in the bottom of the organic structure), only to realize he isn’t dead despite the fall. Just as the horrible truth of his torment begins to dawn on him, the demonic version of the last girl he saw descends down, raven-winged and full of eyes and mouths, and greets him, coiling her tentacles around him in a gesture of possessiveness.

The last page shows the ironic conclusion of the comic as the demon woman asks Arnault what is wrong, addressing him affectionately. Isn’t this what you wanted, she asks, you and me together in love, forever (rough French translation)? In a twist of fate, Arnault sobs in pain and sorrow, forced to confront his own lustful desire to possess women that will love him, The irony is that now can finally be with the women he lusted after, forever and ever, but at the cost of their humanity and their beauty– they are hideous monsters, and rather than him pursuing them, he is now the object being pursued. In some sense, Arnault’s hell gave him exactly what he wanted, but to the extreme. He wanted bodies and the flesh in real life, and so now he is completely surrounded by flesh and bodies for all eternity. Our protagonist can never escape his fate– there is no hope for him– not one bit (and for that, the reader might almost pity the man, despite his sins).

As can plainly be seen, the themes of omens, retribution, the flesh, and the psychological torture of one man run deep throughout this comic. The color scheme I chose for the artwork– starting off with a placid blue, then abruptly going into deep reds, gangrenous yellows, pearly whites, and impure, contrast the peaceful beginning of the comic, with Arnault’s violent demise. The colors red-pink, yellow, white, and black, also reference the color of the four bodily fluids representing the four humors in ancient Greek personality theory — blood, yellow bile, phlegm, and black bile, giving the comic a very carnal feel to it. Its art style is also remarkably kitschy and almost underground, cementing its lowly nature (for Arnault descends to hell for his lowly sins). The cover of the comic was done in Illustrator and showcases how I experimented with typography to make the letters look like monsters and eyes, and how the front and back mirror one another (in that Arnault falls down in the front, and falls up (but actually down) from the Eyeful tower, or falls up into hell). The red and black color scheme is also inverted to maximize contrast and to provide a sinister, unsettling atmosphere.

All and all, I am very proud of myself for working so hard to create the comic that I did, not just in terms of style and art, but also in terms of story and philosophy.

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