French comics artist Georges Pichard (1920-2003) specialized in erotic comics, and his work ranged from “just controversial” to “outright banned”. I have a soft spot for his excellently-endowed women with almond-shaped eyes – what they lack in sensuality (to my opinion, at least), they compensate with cantankerous personalities and odd liaisons with deities. Pichard also displays a preoccupation with labour and industrial themes, kind of a communist thing to my mind – his women are called upon (mostly unwillingly) to work with heavy hardware, build railroads, excavate mines, and undertake other menial tasks involving much metal and machinery. This, of course, is accomplished while naked, or nearly naked (shackles are frequently involved.) It doesn’t come off as sadistic or even sexist, however – it’s more like a grotesque comedy or satire. Anyway, I’ll get to all that in just a second.
First I’d like to show a few examples of his earlier work, which wasn’t “pushing moral boundaries” (as an anonymous admirer once put it). His two early series – Ténébrax and Submerman – were collaborations with comics artist Jacques Lob. Although Pichard’s eye for pretty women was already in evidence, his style was much cartoonier, which is lovely.
Ténébrax is an homage of sorts to the roman policier (the French genre of detective stories): a villain uses the Paris subway for his base while he whips his rat army into tip-top shape for world domination, but his heinous plans are foiled by a whodunit writer and his assistant, who manage to throw a spanner into his nefarious schemes.
Submerman, on the other hand, is a superhero parody:
Now, I promised you some of Pichard’s women. An obvious place to start is the series Paulette, scripted by Georges Wolinksi (who, by the way, was killed in the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015) and illustrated by Pichard.
Paulette began in 1970 and chronicled the wild (and ever so slightly improbable) adventures of (who else?) Paulette. She gets kidnapped (more than once, by different parties), wooed, attacked, betrayed, saved, pregnant, communist-icated, converted to capitalism, harem-ed, and so on, not necessarily in that order. The only thing she doesn’t get is left alone. Poor girl. I wouldn’t say the series is entirely light-hearted, however – the authors used their pretty héroïne to ventilate all sorts of issues.
« Here she is, ready to climb aboard airplanes that are inevitably hijacked, to wind up in jungles, in wasp nests, in ambushes, to crash through panels, through traps, into the arms of men unworthy of her, and to come through all this with a smile, without blaming anyone, not even Pichard and Wolinski, whose main preoccupation it is to never leave her alone.» (Introduction to Paulette 4, 1975)
An illustration to the political-gone-absurd content of Paulette:
Speaking of bearded beaus: one of my favourite Paulette plots – although I haven’t read the whole series – involves Joseph, the old perv we just saw in bed, whose job is to protect Paulette from… err, himself, I guess? When Paulette rescues a magical mole, it offers her one wish, and because she is terminally naïve (bordering on the cretinous, if with a heart of gold), she wishes for Joseph to become young again. The mole, however, is myopic like all others of its kin, and mistakes Joseph for a woman, so he gets transformed into a sultry brunette.
Moving on to other oeuvres…
And I saved the funniest as a digestif: in the last panel, the man is saying « But what am I supposed to do now? », to which she responds with « Replace your windshield, of course! I’ll give you an address, they’ll give you a ten percent discount if you mention that you were sent by Fairy Motricine – I’m the sister-in-law of Fairy Electricity. » (Note: Motricine was a brand of gas.)