A few weeks ago, the Journal de Spirou did a special concept issue (#4127) devoted almost entirely to Pascal Jousselin’s Spirou et l’affaire du pingouin, which might be called something like “Spirou and the Case of the Missing Penguin” in English. Let’s have a look!
(Actually, pingouin doesn’t mean “penguin” in French, but refers rather to the Arctic auk. However, the words are often confused, which is a plot point in the story).
Just after Spirou and Seccotine arrive on the island, Miss Oceane’s pet penguin is kidnapped, and all the other guests and staff members – six eccentric characters – are suspects. Soon, Spirou, Fantasio and Seccotine split up to follow individual investigations, in short “chapters” written by Jousselin and drawn by various artists. There are also “flashback” stories about the six different suspects, which show that they all had a motive for the crime.
What really takes the concept to another level, though, is that the mystery is woven into every other part of the magazine as well: all the other magazine comics set in the present day feature a guest appearance by one of the suspects, or some other clue. For example, in Les Psy (“The Shrinks”) by Bédu & Cauvin, we learn that “the Colonel” has a crippling fear of heights. Further clues – some important, others red herrings – are spread around the letter pages, the games page, gags in the margin, even the ad for magazine subscriptions. With all the clues, it is possible to deduce who the kidnapper must be by eliminating all other suspects. The solution is revealed in the next week’s issue, which concludes the mystery in 8 additional pages. Mysteries and “challenges to the reader” can be tricky to get right, but this strikes a nice balance, with a solution that makes sense, plays fair with the clues available to readers, and requires close attention and the ability to draw connections to solve.
It’s an ambitious concept, which came from the reader Nathalie Collet in response to round 10 in the 2014 Spirou Challenge, and it’s carried off with great success by Jousselin and the rest of the Journal crew.
To present it in full would require translating the whole magazine, so this sample will have to do.