Author Topic: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio... and other Franco-Belgian comics  (Read 6564 times)

Eric

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Spirou is the one of the big four Franco-Belgian BDs (I might be wrong, but based on my readings, I'd consider the major ones Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke & Spirou) that I've not gotten into, mostly because it hasn't been translated as much as the others. Where should one start with the Spirou series? What makes it your favorite?

(Moderator note: Split off from this topic in order to keep that thread adventure game-related.)
« Last Edit: 29 May 2013, 20:46 by Snarky »

Snarky

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #1 on: 24 May 2013, 13:31 »
Yeah, that's a reasonable list, Eric. I'd also add Gaston Lagaffe. (There are of course a lot of others, from Blake & Mortimer or Valerian & Laureline to stuff like Thorgal or Blueberry.)

I wouldn't really want to argue that Spirou & Fantasio is better than Tintin or Asterix; they're all, at their best, terrific. But there hasn't been a proper new Tintin album in almost 40 years, and Asterix was never the same after Goscinny died (though now that there's a new team on the series, I'm interested to see if it can recover somewhat). Spirou is still running, and the series has had several different high points over the decades. Although André Franquin is clearly the master, Tome & Janry's more recent period is also very popular, and highly regarded artists like Jijé, Fournier and Chaland have also contributed at various times.

Ideally you'd start with Il y a un sorcier à Champignac ("There's a sorcerer in Champignac"; 1951) followed by Spirou et les héritiers ("Spirou and the heirs"; 1952). In these two consecutive stories (the album order is shuffled a bit), Franquin establishes the world of the series and the main supporting characters: The Count of Champignac and the citizens of Champignac village, Fantasio's "evil cousin" Zantafio, and the marvelous Marsupilami. Although the series had already been around for 15 years beforehand, this is where it really begins. After that you could jump around without too much trouble, though the comic does have some degree of continuity.



The problem, of course, is that they're not available in English. If that's your only language, you don't really have a lot of options, unless you want to try and track down some albums that were published in India; which I wouldn't recommend since the translation is lousy.

There was an English edition of Z is for Zorglub in the early 90s. That's a classic, and wouldn't be a bad place to start either. I bought two copies second-hand for like $10 each a few years ago, but now it's selling for over $200 on Amazon. That's insane! Only go with this if you can get it at a reasonable price.



So for now that really only leaves you with the 4 albums by Tome & Janry from Cinebook. I'm not a huge fan of their first, Adventure Down Under, but the others are good and can be read without any prior knowledge of the series. So try Spirou in New York, Running Scared and Valley of the Exiles (the last two are one two-part story, and often considered Tome & Janry's best).


Eric

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #2 on: 24 May 2013, 14:04 »
Thank you, Snarky! That's quite the education you've provided. I either forgot or didn't know that Cinebook was putting out Spirou books -- I've been buying Blake & Mortimer and Lucky Luke from them (and I'll probably eventually get XIII and a few others). I hold Thorgal and Blueberry in very high regard, but I think I have the idea in my head that Tintin, Asterix, Luke and Spirou are sort of like European equivalents of Mickey Mouse, the household names that everyone knows and has read. I don't even know Gaston Lagaffe! And I think maybe Donald Duck has a popularity in Europe that he doesn't over here (aside from Carl Barks fans like me).

I am desperate for more BD to be published in English. I've gotten a copy of Rosetta Stone for French specifically so I can read more Euro-comics, but I'm afraid after several false starts that I might be too old to learn another language. When I go to Montreal, I always pick up something from PlaneteBD (my most recent purchase was a volume of Esteban by Matthieu Bonhomme), but all I can do is look at the pictures. Thank gosh for Cinebook, Fantagraphics (who are printing Tardi), First Second (who are doing the works of Christophe Blaine, one of my new favorites), and...I hate to say it...scanlators who are filling the gaps for me in the meantime.

In the meantime may turn to that illicit method to find Il y a un sorcier à Champignac. And maybe soon, Cinebook will find a way to go back to the old catalog and I won't have to be such a pirate. Thanks again, Snarky!

Snarky

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #3 on: 24 May 2013, 14:18 »
Oh yeah, you're in luck! Cinebook is going to release one of the old Franquin albums, The Marsupilami Thieves, later this year:


Eric

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #4 on: 24 May 2013, 15:04 »
Hold on a sec. That guy I already know...!

Esseb

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #5 on: 29 May 2013, 00:20 »
Valley of the Exiles gave me nightmares as a kid, but I kept rereading it. Definitely my favourite Spirou, but probably not a very representative place to start. For that you should go with one of the Franquin albums recommended by Snarky.

Spirou albums aren't all available in English? That seems so strange.

If you want more recommendations, check out The Bluecoats, although its availability in English is probably even worse than Spirou. I would rank it just after Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, and Spirou. I would describe it as Asterix set in the US civil war, to give you an idea of what it's like.
« Last Edit: 29 May 2013, 00:27 by Esseb »

Eric

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Ghost

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #7 on: 29 May 2013, 02:36 »
Considering Valerian & Laureline, I can only recommend that series. It has been republished recently as a set of hard-cover collections, but even if you can't get those the albums are mostly self-contained. It's a very charming take on the classic "adventurous duo has adventures in space (and time)" setup, with impressive character and creature design and some of the wittiest writing I've found in that genre*. The art is very good, too.
I have no idea how good translations are, though. I own the German version which is pretty well done, but I hear the series is best in its original language.

__
*
Spoiler: ShowHide
In one story the team meets three galactic entities who are, essentially, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. God is a banker-type, Jesus a good-natured hippie tramp, and the Holy Spirit is a gambling machine. A pretty cool discussion about allowing Man to live out their lives ensues.
« Last Edit: 29 May 2013, 02:58 by Ghost »

Snarky

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #8 on: 29 May 2013, 09:07 »
Cinebook is your go-to company for Valerian & Laureline in English as well. (Is there anything they don't publish?) Only softcover albums, though. I think the hardcover collected edition volumes are only available in French, German and Danish.

Andail

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #9 on: 29 May 2013, 13:46 »
I like Spirou, but would definitely rank it below Tintin, Lucky Luke, Asterix and even Iznogoud and Johan and Peewit (funny English title). And that's not bad, because I completely love all the comics on that list.
Spirou was well made and had solid, exciting stories, but I guess I miss the quick, witty sense of humour found in Asterix and Iznogoud, and the escapism in Johan and Peewit. I don't think any comics can compete with Tintin (excluding the earliest few) and most of Goscinny's Lucky Luke - they just play in a league of their own.

My favourite Spirou would be when they re-tell the discovery of the Marsupilami. I'd also like to recommend the spin-off comics Gaston, which is basically one-strip slapstick.

I could go on forever about Beligan-French comics :)


Snarky

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #10 on: 29 May 2013, 15:10 »
Well, I would rank Spirou above Lucky Luke, Iznogoud (which I don't really care for) and Johan & Peewit (been a long time since I read it, though). It definitely leans more towards "adventure" than Asterix or Lucky Luke, where the stories are more just pretexts for gags, but even if the humor is usually a bit backgrounded it still has some amazing comic sequences, like the Marsupilami running around Champignac melting stuff in Le dictateur et le champignon, Fantasio's bike ride in La mauvaise tête, the toothpaste-and-soap based economy of Palombia in L'ombre du Z, or the world's most annoying radio in QRN sur Bretzelburg. But as you say, these are all really good comics overall, and individual preferences will vary. And yeah, Gaston is so brilliant! Such a shame that it's been left to more-or-less competent fans to try to translate it into English...



I don't remember any story where they "re-tell" the discovery of the Marsupilami: they discover and capture it in Spirou et les héritiers, and it's just with them after that (until Franquin left and it disappeared without explanation). Unless you're thinking of Le nid des Marsupilamis, where we see a documentary about another Marsupilami family in the wild.

As for where to start with Spirou (again, assuming you read a language that gives you more options than you have in English), I just saw that they were discussing that on a French forum recently. You can get a pretty good overview just from the pictures (just noting that the first entry is for where NOT to start): http://www.bdgest.com/forum/spirou-oui-je-sais-guide-de-lecture-t60819.html

Andail

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #11 on: 29 May 2013, 19:25 »
Hm, it was long since I read it, but I thought the episode was told via a lecture held by a female photographer or something.

Eric

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Re: The Adventures of Spirou & Fantasio
« Reply #12 on: 29 May 2013, 20:32 »
I could go on forever about Beligan-French comics :)

Please do! I'm happy to have such a thread with my name on it. Are there other comics you'd suggest that are more straightforward adventure? I'm also a big fan of Pierre Alary.

Snarky

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Can I jump in to respond to that?

... Whoo, there are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of different adventure/comedy series of this kind. And most of them feel like second-grade imitations...

If you're into detective stories, you might want to check out the classic Gil Jourdan (by Maurice Tillieux, one double album available in English from Fantagraphics), the bumbling but perceptive detective Jérôme K. Jérôme Bloche (by Alain Dodier etc.), and the story of a policeman who lives a double life as a "priest," Soda (by Tome and Warnant/Gazzotti).

It's also worth looking at some Dutch comics: Suske & Wiske (by Willy Vandersteen, available in English as Spike & Suzy and by other names) is maybe comparable to Hergé's non-Tintin series Jo, Zette & Jocko, Agent 327 (by Martin Lodewijk) is a kind of secret agent/detective spoof, and Franka (by Henk Kuijpers) is a straight up adventure series kind of like Modesty Blaise, but in a more cartoony style.

Venturing even further abroad, I'd recommend two comics from Denmark: Gnuff (by Freddy Milton, published in various American magazines at one point or another) is a remarkably successful attempt to make a creator-owned version of Barks' Duck universe, with a political edge. Meanwhile, Valhalla (by Peter Madsen) is an Asterix-like retelling of Norse mythology; it's not been published in English, but there's a high-quality "scanlation" of the whole series available if you know where to look.

Hm, it was long since I read it, but I thought the episode was told via a lecture held by a female photographer or something.

Yup, that's Le nid des Marsupilamis. It's actually not a retelling of how the Marsupilami was captured, but the story of another expedition that went back to study other Marsupilamis more closely in the wild. This other, wild Marsupilami family later became the subject of its own spin-off comic title, Marsupilami (eventually with its own spin-off, Marsu-Kids), several cartoons, and last year a live-action movie. Most of that stuff is mediocre/crap, but the original album is really charming.