Review – Les Normaux by JJ and Al

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Paris is the city of love, but in JJ and Al’s webcomic Les Normauxit’s a city of monsters, too. A boy named Sebastien moves to Paris to learn magic from his aunt, and ends up meeting Elia, a vampire; the comic follows their relationship, as well as their ever-expanding circle of friends.

Hosted on Tapastic, Les Normaux has been running since November 2014. Unlike most comics, it runs in ‘seasons’ of 18-22 strips, and has just started Season 3.

LES NORMAUX – REVIEW

It’s a chronic problem in media these days that LGBT+ romances tend to be sad, gloomy or focused simply on the ‘coming out story’. Les Normaux is a beautiful response to this trend, telling straightforward romance stories with only a few hints of darkness. It’s remarkably easy to just accept the characters as they are – queer, diverse and quite happily blushing at each other or making silly jokes – without the overarching anxiety most queer media brings with it.

The most outstanding feature of Les Normaux’s art are the character designs. It’s impossible to mix up Sebastien and Elia (below), and even minor characters are immediately distinguishable even from a silhouette.

les normaux, sebastian, elia, knight jj

The comic’s characters are also wonderfully and naturally diverse. Among the main characters alone, there is aromantic, asexual, bisexual, gay and lesbian representation; not only that, but characters with Filipino, Indian, Native American, and Moroccan roots. It’s a tribute to the true diversity of Europe, and the discussions of heritage and identity that do come up expertly avoid preaching at the reader. These characters aren’t here to teach a life lesson; they’re simply living and existing as they are.

My only complaint with Les Normaux is a stylistic one; it releases in ‘episodic’ strips to tell its story, but sometimes leaves the smaller gaps unfilled. As a reader, it’s frustrating not to see the details of Sebastien and Elia’s early relationship, but at the same time, the comic invites us to fill in the gaps ourselves.

LES NORMAUX – JJ AND AL

Les Normaux began with a Halloween livestream of monster couples in 2014, and began the collaboration between JJ (KnightJJ) and Al (alababwa).

[O]riginally I did most of the writing and Al did the editing because English isn’t my first language. However ever since the beginning Al has been very involved in creating ideas and even naming the characters.” -KnightJJ

Now, the two of them brainstorm the comic together, talking through plot points and making a general outline of the season.

[F]or each episode we write the script in an interactive file at the same time. Or sometimes I do it before hand and Al goes back in and edits. I create the storyboard and then draw the panels. Al now puts in all the text and speechbubbles. -Knight JJ

The comic is a success on Tapastic (almost 35,000 subscribers) and already picking up a small following on its Patreon.

JJ and Al are also collaborating on Atlas, and JJ is also working on Samuel and Djeya.

Elliott Dunstan
Elliott Dunstan is a semi-professional Canadian nerd with a special talent for reading way too fast, spouting weird trivia, and latching emotionally onto that minor character with a one-liner in the second episode. Elliott was born in 1995 and is mildly annoyed by this.