Issue #4016 of the Journal de Spirou, published today, includes a rather exceptional Spirou story. Recently discovered by a collector at the bottom of an old trunk, this story appears to have been drawn by Rob-Vel in 1940, while he was serving in the French army, and has remained completely unknown and unpublished until now!
At the time of its creation, communication between Rob-Vel and Dupuis’s headquarter in Belgium was difficult, and the magazine instead relied on fill-in artists (Davine and Jijé) to deliver the weekly Spirou installments. However, it now turns out that Rob-Vel kept working on the series in between his military duties, producing a unique adventure marked by his experience of war and strongly influenced by Todd Browning’s classic film Freaks. When he finally managed to get in touch with the publisher, however, they would not accept the subject matter, and he ended up giving the pages away to an army buddy, Maurice Martineau, who stashed them away with a bunch of old posters and magazines. After Martineau’s death, his family sold off the whole lot, leading to their discovery. Here’s a sample from this extraordinary Spirou adventure:
A longer extract is available from izneo.com (the source of these pictures). This issue contains the first five pages, with more to follow in future weeks.
… OK, so skeptical readers may be looking at a calendar right about now, and sure enough, the story isn’t quite true. Rather than a rediscovered lost Rob-Vel tale, this is a newly created one, put together by combining and editing existing Spirou drawings by Rob-Vel and Davine (in both the Lafnet and Blanche Dumoulin incarnations). As the next issue reveals (along with the conclusion of the story), the person responsible is Fred Neidhardt, creator of the parody Spouri et Fantasiz and colorist on Tarrin & Yann’s Le Tombeau des Champignac (“Tomb of the Champignacs”). A fun and successful April Fools, I would say! (Even if, between the Internet and subscribers getting the issue a week early, there was no way to avoid people figuring it out way ahead of time.)