For French-readers: Comics going back to 1901?
Well, not exactly. You are probably vaguely aware that there have been a lot of French-language funny-animal bandes dessinées going back decades. Chlorophylle the dormouse. Attila the dog. Billy the Cat. Gai-Luron the hound. Poussy. Inspector Canardo. Chaminou the cat. Jungle Fever. The Centaurs. (Are centaurs funny animals?) Yakari is a little North American Indian boy who meets lots of talking/magic animals. Pif the dog and Hercule the cat. The Schtroumpfs/Smurfs aren’t exactly funny animals, but they aren’t exactly humans, either. Not to mention many famous supporting characters: Tintin’s dog Snowy, Spirou’s squirrel Spip. The long-tailed marsupilami started out as a supporting character in the adventures of Spirou and Fantasio, eventually getting his own series.
What you may not be aware of is that these characters did not appear in their own magazines. They were serialized, usually two pages at a time, in long-running weekly magazines, more like newspaper Sunday supplements in America; and then reprinted in their own albums. Spirou. Tintin. Pilote. Vaillant. Le Journal de Mickey.
In recent years, these magazines have been having their own histories written. If you were curious about Tintin magazine over the years, about all the popular comics that appeared in it, not just the funny animal titles, you could now find it out.
Now the story of some that have been the oldest and most controversial of all has been published: Commie comics! -- whose biggest star was one of France’s greatest funny animal stars: Pif the dog. Did you know that Pif was the creation of the Communist Party of France? Not to promote the party line, but there were so many stridently anti-Communist youth magazines at the time that the Communists decided to start one of their own that at least would not have any Commie villains in it.
Anyhow. The book is Mon Camarade, Vaillant, Pif Gadget: L’histoire Complète, 1901-1994, by Richard Médioni; Vaillant Collecteur, November 2012. This is a 560-page hardcover that … well, let me translate the French “product description”.
A monumental book. 560 pages. 1150 illustrations in black-&-white. 72 chapters. Format: 19 x 26 cm. Richard Médioni, the former editor of Pif Gadget, finally tells the continuous and complete fabulous adventure of all the comic strip magazines published by the communist movement. The author has uncovered for us the first children’s magazine issued by the revolutionary left, Jean-Pierre, published in December 1901. There were already comic strips in it! Its successor was Les Petits Bonshommes, created in 1911, that lasted to 1926. Then came the very militant and anticlerical Jeune Camarade, which was published between 1921 and 1929 before giving way to Mon Camarade.
For the first time the detailed story is presented of the magazine that published strips of a remarkable quality from 1933 to 1939. In 1945, Vaillant appeared. The story of this great post-war comic strip weekly has never been told in such lively and complete detail. And last, the section dedicated to the complete story of Pif Gadget from its birth in 1969 to its moving disappearance in 1994, with the complete documentation of what really happened at that time! A captivating story full of never-before published documentation.
All these magazines are notable for their humanist slant and numerous references to the events of their time. Richard Médioni places these publications and their comic strips in the political and social context of their times.
Okay, so the book is only marginally about funny animals. But Pif the dog was one of the most popular comics of the last half of the 20th century. Amazon.fr has it for €39.00, if you are interested. [Or Fnac.com for €37.05. Those in France can also order direct via check and ask for the book to be signed by the author.]