Aug 252015
 
'Virus!' p.3a, annotated (ill. Tome & Janry, annotated by Thierry Capezzone; (c) Dupuis and the artists; image from facebook.com)

The “Henning Kure, HK Glacier” out of Copenhagen, from ‘Virus’ by Tome & Janry. (Thierry Capezzone, Forlaget Zoom)

Comic artist Thierry Capezzone writes a column on Facebook for the Danish publisher Zoom, “CKC: Capezzone Kommenterer Comics” (“Capezzone Comments [on] Comics”), where he often relates stories from the Franco-Belgian comics industry. In the latest installment, he describes the transition of Spirou & Fantasio from Fournier to Nic & Cauvin and then to Tome & Janry, with a novel twist…

Much of this story is familiar territory, already described in detail in the introductions of several volumes of the intégrale collected edition: How Dupuis forced out Fournier, partly for political reasons, how the company cast about looking for his replacement, the reign of the hated “concept director” José Dutillieu, the struggle between Dutillieu and Journal editor Alain de Kuyssche, and how this ended up creating a situation where Nic & Cauvin (favored by Dutillieu), Tome & Janry (favored by de Kuyssche) and Yves Chaland (underappreciated at the time) were all working on rival Spirou versions, and how big boss Charles Dupuis hesitated over who should take the series going forward.

But then Capezzone reports an interesting anecdote I had never heard before:

The solution came from Denmark. Yes, that’s right, it was a Dane who cut the Gordian knot: Henning Kure! Known in Denmark as the co-writer of Valhalla, young people these days may not know that he was also editor for the publisher Interpresse from 1974 to 1988.

Interpresse published Spirou & Fantasio [in Denmark and also in Norway] at this time, and the sales figures were high. Henning knew about the civil war within Dupuis, and he was on the Tome & Janry side. So he wrote a long letter (this was before email), and said that if Tome & Janry didn’t get to take over Spirou, he would stop publishing the series in Denmark.

The letter hit Belgium like a bomb! Everyone in the Dupuis offices read it (Gaston too, I’m sure), and Charles Dupuis made his decision: If foreign markets are going to drop the series unless it’s with Tome & Janry, they will be the team going forward… And the rest is history: Tome & Janry delivered some of the best Spirou & Fantasio adventures, sales were high, and Belgium was once again at peace!

To thank Henning Kure, Janry named a ship after him in the first full-length adventure he drew (Virus): Henning Kure, HK Glacier, Copenhague. What a fantastic tribute!

I recently spoke with Janry about this story, and he could clearly remember how Henning’s letter helped launch his career. Denmark may be a small country, but it can have a great impact on the comics industry. Thanks so much, Henning!

It’s probably going too far to say that this letter determined the outcome of the rivalry: for one thing, Nic & Cauvin made two more Spirou & Fantasio albums after Tome & Janry’s Virus before being finally booted off the series, while Tome & Janry were the clear favorites not just in Denmark, but also among readers of the magazine (as expressed in letters and reader polls); in fact, there are those who say that Nic & Cauvin were set up to fail from the start, to take some of the heat from replacing Fournier off the next team – though this seems unlikely. In any case, it does seem like an important show of support for Tome & Janry, and an interesting example of international influence on the Belgian bellhop.

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