Tentacle Tuesday: le mardi des tentacules, parbleu!

In my ceaseless quest for tentacles, once in a while, I return to a previous theme – in this case, the Franco-Belgian tradition of comics. To start at the beginning, visit Tentacle Tuesday, Franco-Belgian edition parts 1 and 2, and Tentacle Tuesday: Tentacules à la mode.

We start some 70-some years ago, with an issue of Bob et Bobette, a Belgian feature created by Willy Vandersteen in 1945. Well, to be more precise, the latter created Suske en Wiske — when the strip became popular in its native De Standaard (a Flemish daily newspaper), it was picked up by Tintin magazine, after Vandersteen agreed to modify it somewhat according to Hergé (who was the magazine’s artistic director) and his Ligne claire guidelines. The main characters were renamed – far from the last time that happened: in Britain, they were known as Spike and Suzy, and as Willy and Wanda in the United States.

Bob et Bobette no. 55: La cité des pieuvres (1947). Scripted by Jean-André Richard and illustrated by Robert Dansler, who was often known as Bob Dan. That lovely sepia paper… I can just smell it.

I’ve never read a whole album of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, though I like its premise (an intrepid, independent héroïne? yes, please) and Jacques Tardi‘s art (depending; sometimes I love it, sometimes I’m indifferent, but it’s certainly good enough for purposes of following a story). Chalk it down to something I never got around to, I guess. Irritatingly, in 2010 we have been *ahem* ‘blessed’ with a movie based on this comic, directed by the ever sharp-witted Luc Besson (who royally fucked up a movie adaptation of Valérian et Laureline in 2017, so he seems to be making this into a specialty).

Le Noyé à deux têtes is the sixth volume of Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec, a series by Jacques Tardi. In 1984, it was serialised in À suivre, a Franco-Belgian magazine, and collected as an album a year later (both by Casterman).
A peek at the tentacles within.

I mentioned the comics magazine Le journal Tintin earlier – here’s a cover from its competitor, Spirou (Le journal de Spirou), published by Éditions Dupuis since 1938. The respective publishers (Raymond Leblanc for Tintin, and Charles Dupuis for Spirou) of these magazines had a gentleman’s agreement: an artist’s work could only be published in one or the other, never both. Incidentally, there was an interesting exception in the case of André Franquin, who moved his wares from Spirou to Tintin after a quarrel with its editor – and, contractually obligated to work for Tintin for five years, simultaneously continued to provide Spirou with stories.

Spirou no. 1771 (march 23rd, 1972), art by Puig. Brice Bolt, a feature launched in 1970, was soon abandoned after but two episodes (although to be fair, they were lengthy – the strip lasted until 1972)… from the sound of it, for being a little too modern for its time. After the publication of the first chapters, letters came in complaining that the story was too scary, the animals too monstrous, the illustration style too realistic. The “monstrous animals” included an army of giant crabs, a behemoth squid (just up our street!), colossal vampire bats, and ginormous Komodo dragons.

Valentin le vagabond was created by René Goscinny et Jean Tabary in 1962 for publication in Pilote. After 1963, Tabary carried on alone, scripting and illustrating all by his lonesome, Goscinny having his hands full with other projects. Valentin le vagabond et les hippies is the final story of this series, originally serialised in issues 709 to 719 in 1973.

Valentin le vagabond: Valentin et les hippies (Dargaud, 1974). Story and art by Jean Tabary.
An excerpt from Pilote no. 719 (1973). The tree is a hippie tree, as it was treated with LSD… now it’s got tentacles. Naturally.

The French are surely not immune from scatological humour. The Kaca fairy (I’ll give you three guesses for what “kaca” means in French) is a rather inept witch. She accidentally conjures up an octopus who’s a little too intent on being liked, and the rest of the comic deals with the attempts to whisk him away again.

« Hurry up and make this monstrosity disappear! » « Yes, yes, I’m looking, but nothing works! » Panels from La fée Kaca (Humanoïdes Associés, 2007) by Florence Cestac.
The octopus tries to convince everybody that they should allow him to stick (ha, ha) around – « for instance, I stick myself to the wall and leave you with all the room you need! ».

~ ds

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