Ils sont fous, les Anglais

I feel like I’m reposting stuff these days that may be strange or new to me, but is probably common knowledge in other parts of the world. Take this little titbit here, that I came across during (another) Facebook thrawl. Apparently the publishers of the British Valiant comic thought that their readers wouldn’t get Astérix when they started running him in 1964. So they renamed him Little Fred; Obélix became Big Ed and their village was transported to somewhere in England’s green and pleasant land. As the Britons would say in a later issue of the comic…

Later they saw the error of their ways, but it took a while – Paul Gravett wrote a whole piece about it.

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Call it satire, but don’t call it good

In 2001 Danish artist Ole Ahlberg joined the ranks of those who thought they could do what they wanted with Tintin and the rest of Hergé’s creations: he got sued by Moulinsart. But contrary to what would be expected, he won because the Belgian court decided that satire was indeed an exception to copyright law and that Ahlberg’s paintings were, a-hem, satire.

I’ve been pondering these things for a while, and I’ve tried to read intricate explanations and analyses of his work, but in the end I only see badly drawn Tintin rip-offs (and the odd Batman) with scantily clad airbrushed ladies that were hip in the 90s. And some keen entrepreneurs that charge 850 Euros for a glorified ink jet print. Oh well, it can’t always be good. As the philosopher said, “One work is satire, making it your style is just a cash-in”.

(Thanks, Mark and Steve; artwork © Ole Ahlberg; Tintin Copyright © Hergé / Moulinsart 2021)

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A winter like no other

It takes a special kind of cartoonist to combine record levels of snow with a general advice to keep wearing masks to battle the spread of Covid-19 and the hint of hope that vaccination may provide, presented with a bright, contrasting color.

And it takes a special kind of paper to give this powerful image a full page, promoting it to a poster you can hang in your window. If this time needs a “Keep calm and carry on“, this is a good candidate.

(And finally, it takes a special kind of friend so photograph this and send it along — as ever, thanks, Mike!)

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Sticky Maltese

While doing a late-night thrawl through Facebook (a very unhealthy habit, I know) I came across this little curiosity. Before Corto Maltese became one of the ultimate cult heroes of serious comics aficionadoes the world over, in the late 70s Corto Maltese by Italian fumettista Hugo Pratt, was enough of a success in his native Italy to merit his own Panini album of collectible stickers.

An honor normally reserved for national and international football competitions (that’s soccer for you, my dear American readers) and the odd movie or television property, the album seems to be a retelling of the story The Celts, with recut artwork and new dialogue.

Individual stickers, which were originally sold in blind packages of four each for 50 lire (or the equivalent of 5 cents at that time), are now offered on Ebay for 4-7 dollars, while complete albums will set you back 350 dollars. Sometimes it’s worth hanging on to your old stuff.

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This is tough, indeed

In the most recent installment of the Drawn to MoMA series, Ben Passmore tells a tale of disconnect, and of life imitating art imitating life talking about it. This is tough, indeed.

While you’re there, also check out previous contributions by the likes of Gabrielle Bell, Mohammed Fayaz and Joanna Avillez. And meanwhile, Passmore himself has another, equally poignant strip up at the Nib.

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Benoit in the New Yorker

I’m not much of a patriot, I’m afraid. My guess is that I’ll give a half-baked whoop when one of my fellow countrymen and -women excels like somebody from Chicago would when somebody else from the windy city makes it big. 

There is two exceptions to that rule: musicians and illustrators. If a Belgian band makes it big abroad, I’ll gladly pin them on my sleeve as “one of us”, and if a Belgian illustrators lands an acclaimed gig, I’ll blog about it.

Case in point: Benoît Van Innis, probably one of the most idiosyncratic cartoonists Belgium ever sent forth, makes his comeback to the New Yorker on the cover of the February 22 issue, and it is an amazing one. It immediately fits in with the absurdists cartoons he has been making since the mid-80s, featuring awkward bourgeois men of a certain age doing strange but unremarkable things. It’s Addams meets Baxter with some Magritte for good measure.

Read more about this cover in Françoise Mouly’s article on the New Yorker‘s website.

Also, I cannot let this go by without thanking my mother, who introduced me to Benoît when I was too preoccupied with mainstream comics to have noticed.

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Who Read Comics (New Formula!)

We are back in August 1967, the Summer of Love, and Rolling Stone Mick Jagger and then girlfriend Marianne Faithfull are boarding a plane at Heathrow. Keen eyes will have noticed that Faithfull is not clutching some beauty mag that a stereotypical view on what an It Girl should be reading may prescribe, but rather a couple of comics.

A quick web search revealed that she went for DC’s Mystery in Space #108 (June 1966), featuring Ultra the Multi-Alien, along with Unknown Worlds #49 from August 1966 (from ACG). 

(Photos by George Stroud, via Getty and Alamy)

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Diseases are sexy (but so are the cures)

In order to raise awareness about diseases with young people and pop culture fans, in 2019 the Taiwan Centre for Disease Control asked a number of local comic artists and illustrators to contribute to a calendar that featured personifications of the most important and dangerous diseases and infections the CDC wants to warn about.

The result is a rather odd combination of a sexy fashion shoot and a PSA, with some quite hilarious elements. Syphilis looks like a sexy shepherdess and hepatitis is a K-pop boy band. Ebola and the plague keep it more traditional, going for a demonic creature and grim reaper vibe respectively. And thank god for the angelic personifications of the CDC themselves, going for vaccination with a ray gun and quarantine with a (rather small) 747.

If anybody can translate the rest of the copy for me, that would be swell!

(Thanks to Lotta for the tip, and Gene for the link!)

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Tomine on Rememberance Day

February 19 is the day that the Japanese community in the United States remembers the forced removal and incarceration of over 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States during World War. On that occasion, Adrian Tomine and the organisation Tsuru for Solidarity have published a limited edition print, called San Francisco, 1942

The image is based on a photograph by Dorothea Lange that shows Tomine’s grandmother right before she and his grandfather were sent to  segregation camps for four years. 

The print is available until February 21.

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Comics for confidence

Ever wonder why you fridge makes that noise? Do you need to quickly find out where the rattle or the bleep is coming from? Apparently Electrolux has had that problem in the past, and decided to do something about it.

In the user manual of their 300 series built-in fridges (link in French) they provided this Ikea instructions type comic (complete with speech bubbles), listing all the strange sounds that you may hear and comparing them to sounds that you are familiar with. So at least you know what element purs like a cat, and why the fan sounds like a fly. But I’m not really sure if the “Crack” your total fridge makes (and that is supposed to sound like a cracker) is a good thing…

(Shout out to the lovely people on the Oubapo and Constrained Comics Facebook group, and especially Yoann Constantin, who brought this gem to our attention) 

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