Spirou: Sous le manteau (“Spirou Under the Counter”) by Alec Séverin (aka “Al”) is scheduled for release on 6. September. InediSpirou has been providing an early look at this peculiar album, with information from the publisher.
As the story goes:
Banned from publication by the Germans in 1943, the Journal de Spirou continued anyway, produced and distributed clandestinely in the streets of Brussels. Reduced to a folded one-sheet featuring Spirou, Fantasio and Spip, the “magazine” was signed by the cartoonist Al, a disciple of Gus Bofa and Jigé (sic). Obtaining the Journal de Spirou, sold secretly “under the counter,” was turned into a real treasure hunt: each cartoon included, in coded form, the place and time where the next issue would be available.
In each of the 41 issues of the underground Journal de Spirou, Spirou, Fantasio and Spip take part in the daily life of wartime Brussels. Rationing, the black market, bombings, German oppression… all those serious issues which defined the lives of adults and children during the occupation are present in these drawings. Often biting, sometimes rebellious, they are real gems for the modern reader. Lost for decades, the leaflets were presented to Dupuis Publishing by a descendant of the artist, and have been collected in this book as a moving testimony of life during the occupation, but also an inspiring demonstration of the incredible power of humor.
This origin story is of course fictitious (it’s true that the Journal de Spirou was shut down by the Germans, but there was never an underground version of the magazine), but it provides an imaginary context, and subject material, for Al’s cartoons:
The text of the intro goes something like:
By way of introduction
A little smile amongst the upheaval…
When, for no humanly excusable reason, the grown-up world believes that its problems must be solved by a war… It selfishly drags the world of the small children into the fear, the sadness and the unhappiness.
This has been going on for thousands of years…
And it’s not over yet.
During the horrible second worldwide conflict of the twentieth century, in Belgium as in almost every other country even children’s magazines were used by some adults to speak ill of those they didn’t want to be liked, stupidly trying to make the young think the same way…
In contrast to these others, Spirou Under the Counter, illustrated and printed on a single page as a small folded one-sheet, and offered to everyone in secret, was born on 9. September 1943 in Brussels!
InediSpirou also reports that in addition to the regular album, there will be a limited edition art portfolio with 40 illustrations in large format, individually signed by the artist/author. This will only be sold through the Dupuis web site.
Finally, these are far from the first Spirou cartoons by Séverin. This blog shows a huge collection of his illustrations.