(This story was originally published on 30/12/2015. New information has now come to light, so it has been updated on 26/1/2016.)
In an announcement on Le Petit Écho de Champignac, and later in comments to the BD Gest forum, Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault (half of CBPY, the authors of Le Véritable histoire de Spirou), has talked cryptically about an upcoming Spirou publication.
For 2018 [later amended to 2017], a previously unpublished Spirou album, with an “apocryphal” manuscript. But even under torture, we won’t tell you anything else. […] No, absolutely not! You’re not going to learn any more! This project is “Top Secret.” Ha ha ha! The only thing we can say is that the idea is very amusing, and that it’s a Spirou like you’ve never seen. Neither an official Spirou, nor an “Un Spirou par…” [one-shot], and yet also both! One hint: It’s a Spirou that was lost… and then found. Unexpectedly! We love this project!
The interviewer speculates that it might be an album by Al Severin, perhaps with a script by Fred Neidhardt, which presupposes that the story of the lost and found album is another piece of make-believe. On BD Gest, speculation instead turned towards either the original, lost pages for La Corne de rhinocéros (Spirou & Fantasio #5, The Rhinoceros’ Horn), which in modern editions of the album are redrawn by Franquin and Vittorio Leonardo, or La Flûte de l’oubli (“The Flute of Forgetting”), the lost Spirou radio play by Yvan Delporte which CBPY have been trying to find for years.
In response to these guesses, Bertrand clarified that it’s not any kind of hoax, but a real lost Spirou story, and that it’s not La Flûte de l’oubli. The Rhinoceros’ Horn doesn’t seem like a good fit for the description, either (it is very much an official Spirou album, and although the original art has been lost, it can still be found in the first edition of the album). So this just leaves a bigger mystery. Could it be La Maison dans la mousse (“The House in the Foam”)? Fournier has previously stated that he has no interest in returning to the story. Or some hitherto unknown script? Very intriguing…
Edit (26/1/2016): In an interview with Philippe Tomblaine for BDZoom, Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault provides further explanation:
BDZoom: We know that in the course of developing certain adventures, there were lots of creative input swarming around the studio, ranging from criticisms to shared brainstorming. Aren’t there any unpublished stories or pages lying in some drawer somewhere?
Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault: There aren’t any completely unheard-of scripts, but there are some mysteries. Such as La Flûte de l’oubli (“The Flute of Forgetting”), a Spirou & Fantasio adventure – never published as an album – written by Delporte that served as a radio serial broadcast by RTB starting on 25. April 1961. Having looked everywhere, notably among Delporte’s papers, we currently only have one of the eight or ten episodes of this sequel to Spirou et les héritiers (Spirou & Fantasio #4, “Spirou and the Heirs”). RTB didn’t save the audio tapes for shows after they had been broadcast, particularly not for children’s programs. This adventure was advertised in the Journal with drawings by Franquin, but he didn’t have any recording of it either. Our only hope is therefore that some listener made their own recording of the missing episodes at the time. You never know!
We also know of a late script by Henri Gillain, written in the 1980s, along the same lines as Il y a un sorcier à Champignac (Spirou & Fantasio #2, “There’s a Sorcerer in Champignac”, from 1950–1951), as well as a project by Franquin in parallel with QRN sur Bretzelburg (Spirou & Fantasio #18, “QRN Over Bretzelburg”). But ideas from this latter project can be found in Panade à Champignac (Spirou & Fantasio #19, “Trouble in Champignac”) and Tora Torapa (Spirou & Fantasio #23, by Fournier). And finally, we have uncovered an ancient manuscript, completely unexpected, that showcases Spirou and Fantasio and is like a missing link in their history. It’s a bit early to say anything more, except that an artist is about to start illustrating it right about now, for an album release. It’s a project very close to our hearts.
BDZoom: Along the same lines, one might wonder where the “big notebook with a black cover” that belonged to Henri Gillain is, with the original script for Franquin’s Il y a un sorcier à Champignac (Spirou & Fantasio #2, “There’s a Sorcerer in Champignac”)…
Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault: Actually, no one knows what’s happened to this notebook, in which Gillain wrote lots of things. Franquin himself said that if you could get his hands on it again, he could have the source material for probably 4 or 5 album scripts. It’s a pure dream for Spirou fans, because we must strongly suspect that it’s Franquin himself who lost it. I even seem to remember that in an interview he admitted having looked everywhere for it, in vain.
This certainly rules out a lot of speculation (all the other documents he mentions have been suggested as this mysterious text!), and gives a clearer idea of what we’re talking about: An “ancient text” and a “missing link” in the history of the characters. One thought that came to mind was the scripts for the Spirou puppet theater plays from the war, but CBPY found those back in 2010… So what else could it be?