Here’s another quick hands-on look at recent Spirou publications in French.
Le prisonnier du Bouddha – Version Originale
Le prisonnier du Bouddha V.O. (Spirou #14, “The Prisoner of the Buddha: Original Version”) is the latest in Marsu Productions’ series reproducing Franquin’s original art, and possibly the last to be published under the Marsu brand. This adventure was Franquin’s first album-length collaboration with Jidéhem, and with the two of them working together, the art is absolutely first-class, arguably among the best in the whole series. (Some of the actual originals were part of the recent Spirou passed from hand to hand exhibition in Brussels.) And while several of the other “originals” albums have significant gaps, so that for example the special edition of La peur au bout du fil (“Fear at the End of the Line”) that came out earlier this year had to use the black-and-white line art from the proof sheets instead of the original drawings for about half the strips, Le prisonnier du Bouddha is close to complete. Only three and a half boards of original art are missing.
Spirou sous le manteau
We talked about this book here. Al’s style may not appeal to everyone, but this is a fine presentation of his cartoon illustrations, paying heavy tribute to his idol Jijé. Only a month after its release, Spirou sous le manteau (“Spirou Under the Counter”) is already sold out from the publisher.
Spirou & Fantasio: L’Intégrale 1984–1987
The fourteenth volume in the collected edition of Les aventures de Spirou & Fantasio, and the second volume from the Tome & Janry period. The book includes the three albums L’horloger de la comète (Spirou #36, “The Comet’s Watchmaker”), Le réveil du Z (Spirou #37, “The Awakening of the Z”) and Spirou à New York (Spirou #39, “Spirou in New York”), as well as one of the short stories from La jeunesse de Spirou (Spirou #38, “Spirou’s Youth”) and another little two-pager. The presentation quality is fine, but there’s nothing that isn’t already easily available. The most interesting part is therefore the editorial section, which runs 38 pages and features a number of photos, illustrations, sketches and other curiosities, above all a number of Gaston gags and parodies by Tome & Janry. The text (by Christelle and Bernard Pissavy–Yvernault) is also very interesting, delving into the behind-the-scenes politics and working processes that produced the adventures. Another fine entry in the Spirou intégrale series.
Spirou par Chaland
If the Tome & Janry book is a collection of comics supported by a solid editorial introduction, Spirou par Chaland (“Spirou by Chaland”) is an Yves Chaland biography with the comic as a bonus. While the text (by José-Louis Bocquet) focuses on the relationship between Chaland and everything Spirou-related – the comic, Franquin, the Journal de Spirou, Dupuis and its various employees – it covers his entire life and touches on most aspects of his career. This makes for an engaging and readable story (even for someone whose French is not great), and a good introduction to Chaland’s life and work. The illustrations include a number of previously unpublished drawings and sketches: the biggest regret is that not everything could be included, so we only get glimpses of some of the things mentioned in the text.
The Spirou adventure strip Chaland drew for 22 weeks (variously known as À la recherche de Bocongo, “In Search of Bocongo”, and Coeurs d’acier, “Hearts of Steel”) has been published several times before, but rarely in this format: the book uses the original side-by-side layout and black-and-white/grayscale presentation from the magazine, but printed at a much larger size and in better quality. It’s nice to have, but hardly essential (particularly to those who already own Champaka’s 2008 edition of the adventure in color). However, the exclusive extras and a full account of Chaland’s often-frustrated efforts to make a Spirou series are worth the price by themselves. For a company that didn’t always treat him very well in life, Dupuis has done an excellent job honoring Chaland with this book.