“Some of the guys have started to call me Coach Duper. I laugh it off, but it’s killing me to wear my little suit while they’re putting on their gear. I’m 35. I know I don’t have much time left. But I’m getting out of that press box prison. I don’t care if it takes six months, or a year, or two years. I will get healthy. I will play in the National Hockey League again.” -In My Blood, Pascal Dupuis
I’ve mentioned once or twice in these pages that DC: The New Frontier is my favorite superhero comic of the last decade and change. If there’s a BD equivalent to what Darwyn Cooke did with all those Silver Age characters — namely, stick them in a recognizable approximation of the era when they were created, take the political and social tensions of that time and place seriously, and reinterpret ideas that have had decades of accrued reinvention and updating and extremifying piled onto them with a classically-influenced but vividly personal art style — then Émile Bravo’s Spirou: Le journal d’un ingénu might be it.
Spirou is a very old Franco-Belgian comics character (almost as old as Tintin), who has been through numerous iterations himself — the classic period is usually considered Franquin’s run of the 50s and 60s, but new adventures were appearing into the 2000s — mostly set at the familiar slapstick pace appropriate to bigfoot cartooning, even when the stories got weird and included sci-fi, fantasy, and social satire. By contrast, Bravo’s trim proportions, deliberate pacing, muted color scheme, and patient working through of the sort of political and social nuance that would have been unimaginable in the children’s papers where the character was introduced gives this work an air of deeper realism than the character has ever taken on before, even when things got grim ’n’ gritty in the 90s.
But it’s still Spirou: his pet squirrel Spip causes havoc, his journalist friend Fantasio dresses up in outlandish disguises, there’s a dastardly plot that our hero is perfectly, if unlikelily, positioned to avert. But because it’s set in the summer of 1939, the plot is the Nazis preparing to invade Poland, and Spirou fails. Where Cooke drew from contemporary pulp fiction and noir film with his he-man heroes and dishy dames, Bravo draws on the subdued, ironic, equivocal tone of French literature and film of the 30s, giving us a boy hero whose desire to help others and see justice done far outmatches his ability to make it happen. It’s an inspired and deeply beautiful work, but because sixty years of publishing history lies behind it (he even indulges in a bit of continuity patching), much of its emotional and cultural impact would be lost on most of the English-speaking world. Which doesn’t mean that every time I look at a page I don’t start trying to work out translations that will fit into the closely-cropped balloons. If I had thousands of dollars to throw away on ill-fated publishing ventures, a shot at this would be one of my first efforts.
me, when all this is over and I’m done playing hockey, he’s probably the guy
who believed in me the most. When the best player in the game does that for
you, it means a lot.” -Pascal Dupuis on Sidney Crosby
My ultimate goal has never changed. It’s the thing that I was thinking about when I went into the tube for the CT scan last year. The thing I was thinking about when I was counting out spinach leaves this spring. It was going through my mind as I pushed a 400-pound sled up and down the turf this summer. And it was the only thing that got me through the uncertainty and the injections and all of the medical jargon. That thing is the Stanley Cup. Not just lifting it, but the thought of bringing it home to my family and looking at my kids and my wife and saying, “See? We did it.”
In 2007 I spent brief time revisiting beloved characters, that were - along with Asterix, Lucky Luke and Tintin - a staple part of library literature in childhood: Spirou and Fantasio. I’ve long wanted to do more with them still, but somehow just haven’t gotten around to it… yet.
Above: “Home Again”. Always thought Spirou’s wardrobe should suit an active man. I liked the approach Janry had with him for more active wear, but most of that neglected the original look in all but coloring, and I liked to expand upon this with ‘sporty wear’ that would still reflect the look of the classic bellboy outfit by using familiar elements like the black stripes. Thus probably more time went into planning the gear in this piece (and otherwise), than drawing the actual image: this study for different styles of shoes for example - sneakers that would give the appearance of the character’s original ‘spats look’ (which I always found a rather too formal wear for the kind of adventuring that went on in the comics). Fantasio’s pink slippers are totally ‘canon’ though, and that doorway / livingroom configuration comes from Franquin’s run on the comics.
Above: an idea after the cover of “Rayon Noir” by Janry. And a silly compilation I remember I gathered by flipping through all the Spirou albums, scanning and editing the separate images and putting them together… just to make a desktop I used maybe couple of weeks. Got a giggle out of it though. Below: subtle differences or just ridiculous standards? Red headed reporters / adventures, and shoe designs.
WATCH OUT!! THIS WOMAN IS OBSESSED WITH SPIROU!! Yes,
I’m being overly obsessed again over that hero of my childhood… At the
point to model a little ball version of him on Maya and animate him.
Just as a little test to animate with a low framerate. For now this
little fella isn’t even fully rigged; I manually animated each part like
a SSCHHFRFGHZUHUG. Ahem. That’s why there’s no overlap on the hair. But
they will come in the next anims I’ll make out of this little model.
I’m planning to make a Fantasio ball too. Honhonhonhon~ :333
yeah… Expect more Spirou to come, I think. Because my hype has grown
even bigger since I know the next issue to come on March will feature
the Marsupilami, Franquin’s lovely creature, who hasn’t been seen in the
series for 40 years!