comics

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Franquin - signature

Franquin - signature

Idées Noires (Zwartkijken)

Idées Noires (Zwartkijken)

My first Gaston Lagaffe album

My first Gaston Lagaffe album

In Memoriam

Today 15 years ago, one of the godfathers of Belgian comics passed away. André Franquin must have inspired the large majority of comic book artists in Belgium and France ever since his first drawings appeared in Spirou magazine in the late 1940s. I've been a very big fan of his work from the moment I laid my hands on an album of Gaston Lagaffe, the lazy, accident-prone, inventive anti-hero that supposedly worked for Spirou magazine.

André Franquin

I believe this was the very first Gaston Lagaffe (or Guust Flater) album in my collection. I currently have them all, most of them even two times in different versions.

Franquin also had a dark side. Towards the end of his life, he suffered more and more from depressions, which prevented him from doing any more work. But he also managed to turn this dark ideas into something creative, in the form of the 'Idées Noires' (Dutch: 'Zwartkijken') albums.

In short: if you don't know Franquin yet and you understand half a word of French or Dutch, drop everything and run to your comics dealer and ask - nay demand - every single album you can get your hands on.

 

Favourite Comics On The Internet (Part I)

I'm a comics fan, and a big one at that. There was a time when a subtantial part of my monthly income went to comics. But then I got married and bought a house and got some children, so now I barely get to see any monthly income. So what do you do when you want things for free? You turn the internet upside down, of course.

There are some jewels out there, and I'll show you my favourites. Today we start with a comic so good, so bright, so refreshing and so funny, it must be the best American comic I've seen since Calvin and Hobbes retired. Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour to present:

Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows

The castThe cast

Liberty Meadows is an animal sanctuary for animals with various social, medical, psychological and otherwise weird problems. The main plot line is the smouldering romance between Frank, the resident vet, and the beautiful but unreachable Brandy. If you're reaching for a brown paper bag under your seat, hold on! Because former circus bear Ralph, hypochondriac bullfrog Leslie, male alcoholic chauvinist pig Dean, cute little duckling Oscar and pesky little glutton Wiener dog Truman are there to save the day!

 First comic (2006)First comic (2006)

Liberty Meadows is so good, I like to save it up until Monday, so I can read a whole week worth of comics.

Frank and BrandyFrank and Brandy

Frank loves Brandy, but is afraid to tell. Brandy knows Frank loves her, and secretly loves him right back, but she is also afraid to tell. So much time is spent longing for each other and trying to find the courage to show their true emotions. Which is something I can really relate to, because frankly I'm as hopeless in my choice of unreachable women and in my attempts to win them over as Frank is. (I can say this now, because I'm married and don't need to go through all this misery any more.)

Dean the pig and Ralph the (ex) circus bearDean the pig and Ralph the (ex) circus bear

Leslie and RalphLeslie and Ralph

Dean, Ralph and Leslie are my favourite characters. Dean is hooked on alcohol and cigarettes, and is supposedly on detox. Ralph invents things which almost kill himself and the others.

Jen, Brandy's friend and 'femme fatale'Jen, Brandy's friend and 'femme fatale'

Jen is Brandy's friend and a bit of a flirt, to put it mildly. Frank Cho knows how to draw women, check out his other art work. Of course, this is not the most important reason why I cling to my screen every Monday.

Truman and OscarTruman and Oscar

Truman is a little duck that is so honeydew sweet you'd almost consider not throwing him into an oven. Oscar on the other hand is a symbol of little dogs that look so sweet but really are devils with floppy ears.

'Monkey boy' Cho'Monkey boy' Cho

Frank Cho regularly appears in his own comic, in the form of a chimpanzee. He warns for explicit scenes - which means you have to pay attention - but also protests against censoring.

Cho regularly breaks all and every convention there is about comics. He talks with his readers, has guest appearances from other comics, does all kind of crazy stuff. Lovely.

I could post every LM comic here, but why don't you go over there and have an afternoon of fun. Oh, and this comic is not safe for work. Not because of the nice ladies, but because everyone will hear you snigger.

Great Great-Uncle

My great-uncle Frans died this weekend. It’s been a while since I last saw him; he hasn’t been much about lately since his health was a bit fragile. That’s an understatement. He looked like a bag of bones made of parchment.

He was a nice man, especially so because he used to provide me with tonnes of comic books when I was a child. He worked in a printing firm where they printed a comic book series called ‘Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber’ (lit: Pete Smart and Bert Tremble). It’s a very typical Flemish comic with a lot of action, inventors, archaeological discoveries, vintage Ford cars, mean bad guys and the lot. But what makes it so typical is the magnificent humour of its otherwise very shy author Pom. Let me declare here frankly and without any quiver of doubt in my voice that I am an enormous fan of this series. And let me add to this bold statement that my great-uncle Frans is solely responsible for this.

He was also my grandfather’s best friend. They met when they were transported to Nazi Germany during the Second World Evilness Olympics, where they were forced to work in the German industry will being bombed by the allies. These things tend to create a bond. Frans had a girlfriend then, Tinne, and he invited his best friend over to meet her and her family. That’s where my grandfather saw Tinne’s sister for the first time. They fell in love, and thus Tinne’s sister Rosa became my grandmother (after producing my mother and waiting for a bit obviously). Incidentally, after my mother was born, the young couple moved to the street where I recently acquired a new home. I love history. Unfortunately, his funeral will probably on Saturday, when we move to the new house. I feel bad about not being able to go.

Anyway, I will miss the old man, and not just for the comic books. That source dried up many years ago when he became a pensioner. But not before I got him to bring me the numbers that were missing in my collection. However, I will not miss the way he used to crunch my hand, with his bloody firm scouts' grip.

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