The “Fanart Friday” series of posts features unofficial Spirou art and homages, by amateurs and professionals alike. But there are also illustrations that aren’t by any of the “regular” Spirou artists, but have still been officially commissioned by Dupuis – or more often, by publishers in other countries. So under “It’s Official” we’ll look at some of these pieces: a few of them good, most of them bad. Let’s start off with one that’s somewhere in between:
When the Danish publisher Interpresse started publishing Spirou in the 70s, they decided to create new covers for many of the albums. The job fell to a promising young talent and Franquin fan, Peter Madsen, who was only seventeen in 1975, when ‘Arvestriden’ (Spirou #4, Spirou et les héritiers: “Spirou and the Heirs”) was published under his cover. The Danish edition of Le repaire de la murène from the same year actually used Franquin’s original cover, but the 1983 second edition replaced it with this Madsen piece (which may nevertheless have been created back in 1975–76).
As imitations go, I think it’s relatively decent, though no match for Franquin’s work (or Munuera’s take on the subject). A side-by-side comparison makes it obvious that most of the elements have been copied directly from the original, with Spirou and the distant submarine as the only parts (seemingly) drawn from scratch. It’s striking how much less readable and effective Madsen’s posing of Spirou is, compared to the other figures laid out by Franquin: Presumably he is meant to be looking at and pointing towards the submarine in the distance, but that’s not at all clear from a quick glance. On the other hand, the copy of the Marsupilami is particularly well done, more towards the rounder forms and shorter limbs of Franquin’s later style.
The big question: Why bother? The main change is to remove Spirou’s mini-sub – rather a selling point, I would have thought – along with much of the background, simplifying the image and opening up the composition, and making the characters somewhat bigger. Did Interpresse feel that this made it look more contemporary, or stand out better on the album shelves? Or perhaps a new cover was simply a way to catch the attention of people who had dismissed the first edition (or might be convinced to buy it again)? Who knows?
After this stint as Franquin stand-in, Peter Madsen went on to much greater success in his own right, drawing the long-running Valhalla comic and several graphic novels. Of his Spirou covers, he has said (if I remember an interview I once read correctly; perhaps one of the readers can track down the quote) that he was proud of them at the time, and even hoped Franquin might notice them, but that when he saw them again years later, after Franquin’s death, he was rather embarrassed and hoped intensely that the master had never seen them. Oh well, it could be much worse…