Let’s take a look at some recent publications. Dupuis published two Spirou-related books last month, both in their Patrimonie (“Heritage”) line.
The first is Franquin et les fanzines (“Franquin and the Fanzines”), which collects interviews and illustrations Franquin did for fanzines from the 1970s to the 1990s, some of which were originally published in Dutch. The book is small but thick (480 pp.). While it is mostly text, there are plenty of illustrations, particularly samples of Franquin’s monster doodles, and even one or two short fan comics. There are also profiles of the different fanzines and interviews with the people who ran them. From skimming the interviews, it’s clear that there’s a fair bit of repetition (with many interviewers asking where the idea for the Marsupilami came from, for example), but there are also a few that seem to go a bit more in depth. All in all, this should prove an interesting compendium to the French-reading Franquin fan who doesn’t already sit on a full collection of old fanzines, even if it certainly does not replace Numa Sadoul’s Et Franquin créa la gaffe as the must-have reference.
The other is La peur au bout du fil (“Fear at the End of the Line”; apparently a pun on a telephone call and a bomb detonator wire), a Spirou story from 1959 by Franquin, Jidéhem and Greg. This is the third book in a series that offers remastered, annotated editions of some of the shorter Franquin adventures, after Bravo les Brothers (“The Bravo Bros.”) and Le foire aux gangsters (“The Gangster Fair”). The contents is first the comic itself, recolored and restored to the magazine layout (so that the page breaks appear where they originally did, unlike in the album version; the drawback of this is that every other page has 3 rows and the other 4). This is followed by reproductions of the original inked pages, so readers can study how the art was produced, interspersed with articles and interviews by the editors, José-Louis Bocquet and Serge Honorez.
This is a handsome edition of a fun little story from the classic era, but there are some concerns. Compared to the previous books in the series, “Fear at the End of the Line” is a shorter story, so this volume offers less content at the same price. More seriously, about half of the original art is missing, so the book fills in the missing strips from the proof sheets (the “cleaned up” black-and-white line art masters used to print the comic) instead; these are much less interesting to those who want to study the art closely. Similarly, Franquin’s color guides don’t survive, so Jannin’s recoloring – while tastefully done – may diverge from the artist’s intentions. Personally, I also find it rather too murky in the night scenes. I haven’t read all of the editorial material (which ranges from a discussion about this restoration to background on the references used for the landscapes and buildings, to general articles on some of the characters and themes in the story) , but I thought an interview with Jidéhem was quite interesting.
Neither publication is strictly essential, but for Franquin fans who already have all the comics and want to delve a little deeper, both would be worthy additions to the library.