Bitter Horizons: Since when did Australia become an island?


Screenwriter Laurent-Frédéric Bollée and designer Laura Guglielmo released the comic strip “Les Horizons Amers” on May 10, 2023. The latter testifies to the race to map Australia as we know it today. They answer our questions.

In 1803 Matthew Flinders made the first circumnavigation, a boat navigation around the continent, tracing the outline of present-day Australia. Prior to that date, Western and Eastern Australia were certainly known, but everyone believed that an expanse of sea separated them. We posed our questions to the screenwriter and designer who wrote the race between Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Bodin, at the helm of the British and French teams in the competition.

why did you choose this topic? Why the discovery and above all the mapping of Australia in particular?

L.F. Bollee: I have been working on Australia and its early years as a “modern country” for more than fifteen years, that is, since 1788. I had already written two graphic novels on the subject: Terra Australis (Glénat, 2013) and Terra Doloris (Glénat, 2018). We learned there why the English decided to go to the other side of the world with the First Fleet to establish a colony there and how the first years happened there (in pain for sure)… But deep down, this first period was go until we understood we were firmly anchored in one country! We already knew the western part of Australia, the eastern part (which Cook had already discovered in 1770), but some thought that there was no land between the two, but a piece of ocean, because the distances seemed so great from one point to another … and we had to We wait for 1803 to be sure, thanks to Matthew Flinders, who was thus the first to circumnavigate this continent! It really gratifies me to think that only 220 years ago no one knew Australia was an island! It deserved a new graphic novel, because, moreover, Flinders’ life, between this voyage, his meeting with the French sailor Nicolas Baudin (who was trying to do the same thing as him at the same time…) and especially his eventful journey from return and his arrest in Mauritius ( I won’t say more than that, but you will see that he paid dearly for his trip), to say the least! In the end, he is still the first to map Australia in a “modern” way, and if that wasn’t enough, he campaigned to give it its current name…

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How did your research and information gathering go for this comedian’s story?

L.F. Bollee: As always, a lot to read! There is, of course, such a wide range of Australian books devoted to the country’s early years, I must have about fifty at home! My notebooks are numerous and comprehensive and needless to say I have set aside this Flinders story to get there chronologically in my bibliography… My contribution, if I may say so, is to put myself in the place of the director who absorbs all these sources and brings Flinders to life Through interesting dialogues and situations. Subsequently, I should like to think I also give a French version of this Anglo-Australian story, and so I am now at over a thousand pages in all on the first twenty years of Sydney…

I have published a biography of James Cook. What are the similarities and differences between James Cook and Matthew Flinders?

LR PolyThey both have a passion for their work and certainly combine the spirit of nautical adventure and the allure of “modernity” through their cartographic relationship. We’ve all been collectors of something in our lives, and we all know the feeling of discovering a piece, or something that fits into that collection that we never had, or didn’t even suspect existed… There is a mixture of satisfaction that rewards a goal, even a quest, right? For Cook and Flinders, I feel that mapping these new territories, giving them shape and thus life, was a manifestation of this “mania” to define and almost discover the world. The goal, the quest you said, drawing a new map was really a way for them to exist and move forward. There was also no question of pride, of necessity, with the “authority” of being the first to mark and name lands… Hence, no doubt, and despite writings of “ethnological” profession, the tendency on their part to “dominate” this The new world from the outside, in such a cool and decidedly “Western” way that the view of the container is more important than its content. I take up this question at the end of Bitter Horizons, when I encounter Flinders with Baudin telling him not-so-good-to-hear facts about his background and his view of the indigenous peoples…

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Comic strip Bitter Horizons

The designer being Italian, her answers to our questions were translated from English.

Where did you get the inspiration for the visuals?

William L: My main inspiration was, as always, animation, my first artistic love. I like the idea of ​​bringing back the sense of action in my comics, the feeling that my characters are caught right in the middle of the action. For the backgrounds, I tried to apply what I call “pseudo-realism”: I always try to give a sense of right to the atmosphere without giving in to photorealism and painting every detail. I always want my paintings to look like a stylized drawing, not a portrait, but I also want the reader to feel integrated into the scene!

I think the overall style achieves this goal, and I hope those who read the book feel transported to another time and place.

How did you go about recreating the costumes and scenery for this period?

Guglielmo: I tried to do as much research as possible with what little time I had. I’m heavily involved in historical reconstruction (I’m part of a group that rebuilds Belle Époque), so I’m familiar with archives, costume paintings, and primary sources. The hardest thing for me was the uniform, I don’t know anything about military history, but I was able to find forums online for Napoleon era enthusiasts that helped me tremendously! The landscapes were both the easiest and the hardest part: the natural environments were very easy to recreate, since everything takes place in real places that you can find pictures of; Cities and especially interiors were more difficult, as it is difficult to find reliable references such as engravings or paintings depicting real places. I tried to make as few assumptions as possible and to base my assumptions on the sources available to me. I hope I’m very wrong!

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