Tentacle Tuesday: dans la galère tentaculaire…

… in which we continue our exploration of tentacles slithering their way into Franco-Belgian comics!

In an orderly fashion, please.

The other day, a friend heartily recommended a certain movie to me, pointing out that it was ‘ancient’ and therefore probably available online for free. When I checked the year, it turned out to have been from 1995 which, excuse me, hardly qualifies as prehistoric. What can be considered ‘old’, then, people in their early thirties will ask? Why, this magazine cover, for instance.

Le Petit journal illustré (May 21st, 1922). The bottom says “a drama at the bottom of the sea”, with details of how a diver was attacked by an octopus and cannot get out his knife to fight against his repellent aggressor.

Skipping some thirty years ahead, I believe we’re still in “old” territory.

A page from « Zette reporter : Aventure en Pacifique », published in Lisette n° 38 (September 16th, 1956). Script by François Drall, illustration by Yvan Marié. The girls, after witnessing a fight between a giant shark and octopus, now seek to escape the clutches of the victor’s eight appendages.

Lisette was a comics magazine specifically aimed at female readership (to be more precise, it was marketed to girls between 7 and 15 years old). The interesting part is that it often featured articles about traditionally men-dominated careers, some of which had only been very recently accessible to women… for instance, an interview with Anne Chopinet (one of first women accepted in l’École polytechnique) and a reportage on women air pilots back when this was an almost exclusively man-only club.

Moving on to further, more energetic octopus-evading tactics… we have Bob Morane, originally a hero harking from adventure books written by prodigiously prolific Belgian novelist Henri Vernes, and published by Belgian éditeur Marabout. The number of adventures Morane has lived through is rather staggering: around 200 novels + about 80 comics albums. Now there’s a challenge for the serious collector!

Original art from Bob Morane et l’oiseau du feu (1960). Illustrated by Dino Attanasio.

Co-admin RG has already spoken about Toute la gomme, but he kindly held back this terrific tentacular page for my TT feature!

Scripted by Antoine Raymond (a.k.a. Vicq), illustrated by Will, 1962.

Co-admin RG called André Franquin‘s œuvre “an embarrassment of riches” in his Faites gaffe, monsieur Franquin! post. I thoroughly agree, and am very pleased to report (though this is in no way surprising) that tentacles are part of his vast répertoire.

Pages from what’s collectively known as Idées noires (Franquin’s Last Laugh in English). These dark strips and cartoons were Franquin’s « l’humour du désespoir », the humour of despair, and appeared in Le trombone illustré (Spirou’s magazine supplement) in 1977 and, with the discontinuation of the latter, moved to Fluide Glacial until 1983.

I’d better stop here. After all, I wouldn’t want to go as far as ‘modern’ times… say, from the 90s and onward, although it’s scary to think that was still 30 years ago!

~ ds

Lovely colours (by co-admin RG), aren’t they?

Hallowe’en Countdown IV, Day 18

« Feminism encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. » — Pat Robertson

Truly one of the crown jewels of Franco-Belgian comics, Isabelle (1969-1995) has quite a pedigree: it was conceived by scripters Yvan Delporte, Raymond Macherot and illustrator Willy Maltaite, alias Will. When Macherot took ill, the legendary André Franquin stepped in, and the series took on a slightly more sombre shade, and its characterisations gained further depth. The best of all possible worlds, truly.

Brimming with magic, poetic grace, wit and atmosphere, Isabelle gave us, for a change, a level-headed and resourceful little girl in a world of infinite possibilities. I can’t stress this point enough: unlike every other little girl character in supernatural fantasy tales I’ve ever encountered, Isabelle doesn’t trip over roots, gasp loudly or drop a glass at the wrong time; she doesn’t disobey solemn, life-or-death instructions against all common sense. And yet she’s just an ordinary little girl, not a secret ninja or a princess in hiding. Truly refreshing. After reading Isabelle, most of what passes for fantasy is shown for the formulaic, stock dreck that it is. This is the genuine article.

In the mid-90s, publisher Les Éditions Dupuis brought the series to an unceremonious end, judging its sales numbers insufficient. Ah, but Isabelle has its fans, and a tenacious lot they are. Dupuis’ rival, Les éditions du Lombard (home of Tintin, and now merged with Dargaud, home of Astérix et Obélix) collected the entire series in 2007, in three stunning volumes rife with priceless documentary extras. Absolute bande dessinée nirvana. Good luck getting copies these days, sadly.

The cover of weekly Spirou no. 1929 (Apr. 3, 1975, Dupuis), beginning the serialization of the seventh Isabelle story (and her third album), Les maléfices de l’oncle Hermès (collected in book form in 1978). This is where two of the series’ pivotal characters, the titular Oncle Hermès and his eventual paramour, sexy witch Calendula, were introduced, not to mention her evil ancestress (the original) Calendula, the series’ archfiend.

The album in question, in its original edition (1978).
Page 2 of Les maléfices de l’oncle Hermès. During a long career shackled to characters he didn’t own (i.e. Tif et Tondu), Will was thrilled to work on a series of his own, one closer to his own interests and preoccupations. Dig that mood!
Page 10 of Les maléfices de l’oncle Hermès. Cloven-hoofed Oncle Hermès, the victim of a centuries-old curse, is trapped in a flame, and his great-great-great-great (etc.) niece Isabelle is endeavouring to set him free.
The journey is, of course, quite perilous… and the visuals gorgeous.
This is the original spell-caster, malevolent Calendula.
And this is her descendant of the same name, on the side of good, though she does have a temper.
Isabelle and Calendula (and friends) feature as part of Brussel’s delirious Parcours BD. Does your hometown appreciate its comics this effusively and concretely?


Hallowe’en Countdown II, Day 7

« Why do four skeletons and a coffin cross a small fishing village? The question has been asked! »

How’s this for setting the mood? Here’s a quintet of panels from Belgians Maurice Tillieux (script) and Willy Maltaite (aka Will, pencils and inks) gently ripped from the exploits of Tif et Tondu, a series that ran in the weekly bandes dessinées magazine Spirou from 1938 to 1997.

This standalone illustration originally saw print on the cover of Spirou no. 1789, in 1972. Incidentally, the guy on the left is just a passing acquaintance, a soap salesman who also found himself stranded in Brittany, some foggy night.

« In Egypt, at least it’s dry! »

« There’s still a cottage beyond the old castle. Let’s give it our last shot. »  « Talk about a nest for ghosts. He’s straight out of a Perrault fairy tale, that one. »

These three come from the Les Ressuscités (‘The Resurrected”), Tif et Tondu’s 54th adventure overall, but no.20 in the album series), as only the post-1954 stories (when the series’ tone gained some gravitas, as well as its first significant scripter in Rosy) are considered, shall we say… canonical.

Panels from Le retour de la bête (“Return of the Beast”), serialized in issues 1988 to 1999 of Spirou magazine in 1976,  sort-of sequel to 1971’s Sorti des abîmes (“Out of the Abyss”).


This is drawn from the 59th Tif et Tondu story (but no.25 in the collection). We’ve already been introduced to the Beast in question, as well as to Tif et Tondu, one misty Tentacle Tuesday last October.

Regrettably, nothing supernatural occurs, but talk about atmosphere! The series does veer into some pretty dark science-fiction at times, especially under Tillieux’s watch (1968-1978, his death).

The mysterious events are set in the fictive village of Grimwood, near the actual town of Grimsby, which is dear, perhaps sarcastically, to Sir Elton John.


Tentacle Tuesday, Franco-Belgian Edition

Today’s Tentacle Tuesday comes to us courtesy of France and its long-suffering neighbour, Belgium. There’s an easy joke one could make about the reputation Frenchmen possess of having hands like grabby tentacles, but instead I’ll concentrate on their wonderful comic writers and artists and the classic bande dessinée. Let’s gracefully step over all the obscene connotations of a “French edition” and delve into exhibit A:

“So that’s it, your real face?” asks the old man. “What were you expecting?” asks the emerald-eyed cephalopod.  This is a page from Les chercheurs de trésor, volume 2: La ville froide, David B. (2004, Dargaud).

David B. is the nom de plume of Pierre-François David Beauchard. Non-Francophone audiences might know him from Epileptic, an autobiographical graphic novel that won accolades and awards from an international audience. And yet it’s not his most interesting œuvre, as far as I’m concerned. Although Epileptic is full of imagery and allegories, it’s when David B. lets his imagination soar without the constraints of real life that he creates his most dazzling worlds and astonishing stories. He’s one of those rare comic artists whose art is as accomplished as their storytelling.

Here’s a bonus “tentacle” from Monsieur B.:

La lecture des ruines was published by Dupuis in 2001. (It loosely translates to “reading the ruins”, “study of the wreckage”.) It’s the story of a mad scholar who tries to find a mathematical equation for violence in the decayed rubble that war has left behind. Excerpted material from an imaginary periodical is appended, Les incidents de la nuit (Incidents of the Night). This tentacled worm – Le Grand Ver, the Great Worm – is one of the creatures that lurk within…

Give a hand of applause, ladies and gentlemen, to David B., and let’s move to our next topic.

“Sorti des abîmes” translates to something like “Risen from the abyss” – and what sort of thing rises from an abyss? Why, tentacles, of course!

Tif et Tondu: Sorti des abîmes (1972)

Tif and Tondu, an intrepid team of private investigators, were originally created by Fernand Dineur, but their most popular incarnation is by writer Maurice Tillieux and artist Willy Maltaite (who mostly went by the nickname Will), which is what you’re currently admiring. The strip saw birth in 1938 in journal Spirou and lasted a whopping number of years, ending in 1997, one year short of its 60th birthday.

Things are a bit tricky with the numbering, because Tif et Tondu are popular enough to have been anthologized several times. Sorti des abîmes appeared as the series’ 19th entry (1972), after being serialized in Spirou no. 1746 (September, 1971) to no. 1764 (February, 1972).

A closer look at the creature from the abyss: not exactly an octopus, but in distinct possession of tentacles. “Armed and dangerous”, as they say! The poor thing is dissolved at the end of the story by some infrared rays.

Incidentally, “Tif” is slang for hair in French, and “Tondu” means “shaven, sheared”. Naturally, Tif is the bald guy, and Tondu is the hairy one.

Now that we’ve had our fill of scary, destructive tentacles, I’ll move on to something friendlier.

Pif Poche no.72 (Aug. 1971) The last panel says “Paws off… Don’t touch! You’ve got cold hands!”

Pif Poche no.72 (Aug. 1971) “This creature is starting to annoy me with its tickling!”

Pif the dog was the mascot of the kid’s magazine Pif Gadget (« gadget » referred to the fact that each issue of the magazine was accompanied by some thingamabob to amuse the youngsters). Pif Poche were pocket-sized collections of short Pif strips, as well as jokes, games and such. The character was created by José Cabrero Arnal in 1948, who gradually abandoned the strip by the 1960s while other artists took over.

 Pif Poche no.72 (Aug. 1971) “Even in a can… I adore seafood! Ripoff… it’s octopus!” Story and art by Arnal’s immediate and worthiest successor, the prolific Roger Mas (1924-2010)

~ ds