Farewell Uderzo, illustrator of Asterix


Albert Uderzo in 2012 (via Wikipedia)

Albert Uderzo, illustrator of the popular Asterix adventures saga, passed away on March 24th at the age of 92, a few months after the comic strip, co-created with René Goscinny, turned 60 years old. This anniversary was much celebrated last year in France. Furthermore, 2020 is the bande dessineé (BD) year at the BnF (this will be covered later in another post).

The Asterix adventures have entertained, amused and captivated generations of young and less young readers. The two protagonists of the series, Asterix and Obelix, and their village of indomitable Gauls who always repel the Roman troops, have become universally known, and their series is one of the most popular created in the history of comics. Its remarkable success has not faded with time, it is the best selling European bande dessinée saga (370 million copies) and the most translated comic (111 languages). Continue reading

88th anniversary of Tintin’s first adventure

Tintin had such a great success that he is even better known than his creator, Hergé. Born Georges Remi (1907-1983), Hergé was his pen name, based on his reversed initials, as pronounced in French. The only rival to Tintin’s fame in Franco-Belgian comics is Asterix, created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo in 1959. Tintin and Snowy (Milou, in French), his faithfull dog, share adventures with distinctive characters well known by every generation, such as: captain Haddock, detectives Thomson and Thompson (Dupond and Dupont) and Professor Calculus (Tournesol).


Tintin au pays des Soviets, 2017 (new colour edition).

January 2017 marked the 88th anniversary of Tintin’s first story: Tintin au pays des Soviets (C200.a.4909). It was published in the children’s supplement of the Belgian conservative newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle, called Le Petit Vingtième. This anti-Bolshevik sketch was later considered by Hergé a “sin of his youth”. His knowledge of Russia was limited, and unlike his following stories, this book is almost plotless. The original was published in black and white and has been recently released for the first time in colour. In his second adventure, Tintin visits the Belgian Congo. On the one hand Tintin au Congo has been considered racist by some, because of its naïve portrait of native Congolese peoples; on the other hand, others think is shows a benevolently paternalist vision of colonialism. Despite the books’s old-fashioned vision –a result of the time it was written and Hergé’s ignorance about the Congo, which he recognised– the book was a great success. Interestingly P. Delisle wonders if Tintin au Congo is, in fact, antislavery literature. Continue reading

Graphic novels in the UL – Les cinq de Cambridge

We have previously written about our struggle with selecting which bandes dessinées we should buy for the UL’s collections. As well as our burgeoning interest in collecting BD, we also have a selection of scholarly works of criticism of BD. Three new books help to demonstrate the breadth of material available:

The UL doesn't feature in the story, but Trinity College does.

The UL doesn’t feature in the story, but Trinity College does.

A new set of graphic novels aptly demonstrates the challenge that we have in determining whether to buy graphic novels: Les cinq de Cambridge by Olivier Neuray & Valérie Lemaire will be a series of graphic novels about the Cambridge Spies. While comic books about spying are not the usual domain of the University Library, the subject matter of these made them difficult to ignore. We have received the first in the series (TrinityC201.b.7951) and I had a quick look through to see if the UL makes an appearance (sadly, it doesn’t). The next volume, 54 Broadway, moves beyond Cambridge, so our hopes for immortality in the world of the graphic novel are dashed for the moment. Continue reading

French graphic novels in the UL

Recent graphic novel acquisitions.

Recent graphic novel acquisitions.

Graphic novels are a well-established aspect of French literature. 32 million were sold in 2012. A glance around any large French bookshop will find not just the famous French comic books – Largo Winch and Adèle Blanc-sec, Astérix and Tintin —but also works on political scandals, international politics and adaptations of novels. The University Library, however, does not have a consistent policy regarding acquisition of such material.

The Culturethèque (“the digital platform of the Institut français du Royaume-Uni”) offers a variety of ‘comic books’ available to read online to users in the UK. This type of material is not generally acquired by the UL. As with popular fiction, the UL has been unsure of which bandes dessinées to buy, and how to complement the University’s teaching and research needs.

The UL has recently purchased a number of graphic novels in French, among them : Continue reading