Review: 'Sale Bête', by Maïa Mazaurette and Jean-Paul Krassinsky
I thank Lex Nakashima again for ordering these books from Amazon.fr and loaning them to me.
Hmmm. Well, you certainly gain a vocabulary of current French slang from reading this series. Ordi = PC. Les etrons = turds. La clope = cigarette. L’enfoire = bastard. Catin = whore. Lolcat = Sorry; that one’s American.
Filthy Beast (or Dirty Beast) Volume 1, “Hamster Catastrophe”, introduces the Bastogne family; father (unnamed), mother Vivienne, older daughter Elizabelle, younger daughter Amandarine, and cat Clarky. Their world is like ours, except that there is a factory, La Fabrique, that makes living pets to order.
An animal isn’t improvised here. We guarantee domestic PERFECTION.
Customers can order a bunny, a cat, a puppy, a ferret, a squirrel, a tarantula – anything – made to their choice. Calm to playful. Dominant to submissive. Quiet to expressive. Solitary to social. Stupid to intelligent. Brave to cowardly. Energetic to lazy. There is a long list. Eleven-year-old Amandarine whines that one of her classmates got a blue pony with wings for HER birthday, that her parents had designed it to graze on only the weeds in the garden … Their housecat Clarky comes from La Fabrique. He’s pale pink dotted with darker pink hearts; he’s intelligent; he loves everybody; and so on.
So the Bastognes decide to get Amandarine a designer pet for her birthday.
“Sale Bête. T.1, Hamster Drame”, January 2012, hardbound €10.60 (54 pages).
“Sale Bête. T.2, On Ira Tous au Charadis”, April 2013, hardbound €10.60 (48 pages).
Marcinelle, Belgium, Editions Dupuis; both written by Maïa Mazaurette, illustrated by Jean-Paul Krassinsky.
As Amazon.fr says, “For the birthday of a totally fashion-conscious preadolescent, what could be better than a hamster signed ‘Mattonvu’? Nothing. Not even Britney Spears herself has such a hamster. Amandarine’s father has no other choice than to order such an animal from ‘La Fabrique’, a company specializing in the creation of pets to order. But, after a malfunction somewhere in the manufacturing process, the cute little beast is replaced by a sort of rat that is extremely ugly, frankly stinky, as sneaky as it is evil, and gross beyond limit.” (Not just one pet, but thousands.) Amandarine, expecting a cute designer hamster, hates him. But seventeen-year-old Elizabelle, who is a rebellious teen, loves him and names him The Little Thing (“Bestiole”), or more probably Li’l Thingy.
Papa considers himself an animal-lover, so the Bastognes decide to keep him despite his habits. “Papa,” Amandarine complains at the breakfast table, “he’s pissing in my cereal again. Like every morning.” “We don’t say ‘pissing’. We say ‘urinating,” is Papa’s answer.
Li’l Thingy is determined to cause trouble – he slips a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in between Confessions of a Shopping Addict and Ponies of the Whole World on the bookshelf; Amandarine shrills when she wakes up, “He’s massacred my lipsticks, torn up my Jonas Brothers posters, and smeared poop all over my walls!” – and finally even Papa has had enough. (I won’t say what he did.) Papa and a tearful Elizabelle take him to a “concentration shelter” where they expect he will be euthanized. (Elizabelle: “But you always talk about charity and patience.” Papa: “Charity and patience are the only things keeping me from finishing him off with a shovel”). The shelter staffer comments that Li’l Thingy is their thirty-fourth donation that morning; everyone is getting rid of their La Fabrique monsters. But Li’l Thingy organizes the monsters, and when Elizabelle returns to break him out, he insists that she take the others as well: the F.L.M.; the Front de Liberation des Mochetés (the Uglies’ Liberation Front). Li’l Thingy slips into the Palais de l’Elysée (the French White House) to demand that the President of France accept the F.L.M.’s manifesto, but the President says that it’s already part of his platform …
What follows is seven pages of satire on current French politics, which frankly I found the most heavy-handed and boring part of the book. Li’l Thingy finally returns, sadder but wiser, to the Bastognes. The last two pages are the best of the story:
At night, Li’l Thingy discovers Clarky the cat using the family PC to hack into La Fabrique’s website to change its settings. “Wow! You’re a bigger bastard than I am!” “Yep.” “But … you can talk?” “You,” Clarky says, lighting a cigarette, “have a few things to learn about being EVIL!” You have never seen such a sinister smile on the face of such a cute kitty.
Filthy Beast Volume 2, “We’re All Going to Pussy Paradise”, is the story about the cats’ Operation Big Bug to take over the world. It involves lots of ninja cats, and Clarky is in the conspiracy's inner circle. It’s not that Li’l Thingy wants to save humanity, but he can’t let anyone be more evil than he is. It ends with Operation Big Bug stymied and Li’l Thingy rescued by the Bastognes – at least temporarily.
Sale Bête by Krassinsky & Mazaurette, colored by Laetitia Schwendimann, is serialized two pages an issue in the weekly Journal de Spirou, Belgium’s oldest comics magazine (since 1938). When the serial episodes are completed, they are reprinted in these hardcover albums. We will have to wait until next year for volume 3. Or subscribe to Spirou.
I announced Sale Bête t.1 here last May; this is its review. The French is a bit more difficult than in the other French comics that I have reviewed, with more slang and little-used words such as those for ladies’ undergarments. Also made-up words, but those are all obvious, such as Charadis in vol. 2 which I’ve translated as “Pussy Paradise” since it is a clear condensation of chat + paradis. On the whole, Sale Bête should not give the non-French reader any more difficulty than those albums written in textbook French. Li’l Thingy and Clarky are only the first of many anthropomorphized animals, normal and monsterized, that you will meet here. Definitely recommended.
Read more: Summary and review on Planète BD