I gotta confession to make to you, my dear reader(s). I steal and rob from much better cartoonists daily. Is this wrong? Possibly! But most of my thievery isn’t from my neighbors, it’s from those on foreign soil. That’s right, I am talking about comics from Belgium!
Growing up in the ATL, I didn’t see a lotta these Franco Belgian comics or, as they call them, “albums”. I seem to recall the first time I saw my main man Asterix was in a comic book shop in Nashville, and I was oddly intrigued by his bulbous nose, big feet and “smurf” like proportions. However, I had a boner for super heroes at the time. So I didn’t buy the seemingly expensive album; I prolly bought some horseshit put out by Marvel that, more likely than not, I threw away into the landfill to deservingly rot away.
Fast forward to my early 20’s. I “dated” a French girl (and by “dated”, I mean slept with), and she showed me the popular “Gaston” comic by Franquin. My head fell off and rolled around the room during a rare time when we weren’t having sex. Where has this gorgeous cartooning been all my life? How do I find more? How do I keep banging this exchange student? Well, after the smoke had settled, I had to make due on just finding more French language comics.
Sigh. Oh right, the reviews, let’s get started with the reviews.
Asterix & Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book
Holy crap! It’s Asterix’s 50th birthday? GET OUT! Sure, that’s 32 years past original writer Rene Goscinny’s death, but hey, we’re lucky Underzo is not only still alive, but still putting out work of any sort of quality. Hmm, the drawings are so good, in fact, one might wonder if it’s really the work of an 80-some odd year old man and not the work of anonymous assistants.
This album isn’t so much a story. It’s a series of meta- vignettes, all celebrating the golden anniversary of Asterix in a rather cheeky way: using panels from its halcyon days, parodies of famous works of art and thinly guises modern references to Asterix popular culture status.
Probably the most noteworthy part of the book, I mean “album”, has the cast of Asterix aged 50 years after their first appearance. It kinda reminded me of the Warner Bros. short “The Old Grey Hare” with an aged Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Yeah, I always feel sad and depressed when I see cartoon characters looking their age. It makes me confront the mortality of the artist that worked on it, as well as my own. Thanks for bumming my mellow, Asterix!
Yeah, so Asterix & Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book is far from essential reading, and is merely a self-congratulatory pat-on-the-back; but after 50 years on the same character, I think Underzo earned it.
Spirou And Fantasio – Adventure Down Under
by Tome and Jaundry
First things first. I was a little alarmed to get the “double bird salute” by an Aboriginal native right there on the cover, but then I realized this album was originally printed in 1984, and that was before “shooting birds” was invented.
Despite the monumental popularity of these characters, not that many of these albums have been imported, much less translated. In fact, the only other time I’ve seen Spirou in English was the aforementioned Franquin’s masterpiece, Z Is For Zorglub, by Fantasy Flight back in 1995. Based on the 1961 album Z Comme Zorglub, “Le Journal Du Spirou” just so happens to also be the magazine that Spirou and Fantasio writes for as a job. Yeah,that’s kinda nutty: to work for a magazine that’s named after you and shares your adventures in comic form. Then again, so is the fact that Spirou is a journalist, yet he dresses as a bellhop. Basically, this fun bouncy story begins with Spirou & Fantasio at the airport coming back from an off-screen adventure in Bankok before Cellophane (another reporter from the esteemed Spirou Magazine) tells them the Count of Champignac (resident inventor) is down under and they need to come pronto and help him mine for some sort of treasure or another. After arriving in Australia, our heroes learned from some unscrupulous miners that The Count had died in a mining accident. Spirou, rejects this though, as he basically comes out and says that the Count is too much of a pussy to have been mining, and he wouldn’t know a hard-day of work in his ivory tower life. Spirou was really on to something and even convinced his chum Fantasio to help him dig up the grave to prove that the Count is alive and kicking (spoiler alert) he wasn’t dead.
This is exactly what I am looking for in comics. The plots adhere to a strange internal logic; the art is detailed and cartoony and filled with visual jokes. It takes a while to read. The threats and danger felt real, not patronizing. I can honestly say I don’t know how this book could have been better. Man, us Americans need to work harder!
I really hope this translation proves to be successful, and cinebook cranks them out at a more timely pace (the next one is slated for Oct.) I would love to see some Franquin translated too, one can only hope right? I dunno if Americans can buy into this “bigfoot” style of cartooning, especially with the trend of making funnybooks look “realistic” being all the rage. Surely there are more people like me waiting for more cartoony comics.