Monday, January 12, 2015

Le Grand Cabuche

Dedication Week.

In honor of the cartoonists that died last week, I am going to show some of Cabu's earlier work this week. Like many of his young rebel friends in the fifties, he tried to make a career for himself in the mainstream comics. France in the sixties was different from the US (and California specifically). There the new rebel cartoonists of the baby boomer persuasion went 'underground'. In France, many magazines opened their doors for their new and daring styles... and eventually their beliefs.

Most important of all magazines at that time was Pilote, started in 1959 by René Goscinny, Jean-Michel Charlier and Albert Uderzo as a new French comic weekly for kids. It was where they launched their new projects, such as the airplane strip Tanguy et Laverdure by Charlier and Uderzo, Barbe-Rouge by Charlier and Hubinon and a little strip called Asterix by Uderzo and Goscinny. Soon other strips followed, like Valentin, Norbert and Kari and (although started elsewhere) Iznogoudh. All of these strips had a sharp, almost satirical tone that made them different from the more safe and catholic Dupuis strips from the French-Belgian Spirou. You can say that Goscinny (as the most important editor of Pilote) paved the way for a new generation, the same way Harvey Kurtzman had done for the underground artists. The fact that these two giants had met and worked together in 1949-1951 is a coincidence. But both are linchpins of their field. If these two men had not existed, the whole face of comicdom (and possibly society) would have been different.

But the difference between America and France was, that the extremes were not that far apart. If the American underground had to find their own way (and make their inclusion in society as a whole much more difficult), the French 'new' artists were absorbed into mainstream culture... and for a while even took over.

Cabu was just one of these artists who tried to do a mainstream strip for Pilote. And he succeeded in a big way. For many French people he is better known as the artist/writer of Deduche than the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist. His main character Duduche was a tall thin schoolboy, with a distinct streak of resistance. A voice of a generation. Cabu did a gag a week and managed to create a whole set of albums that way. In the end Cabu let go of him, when he found a new career as a cartoonist.

In the meantime, a lot had changed. But I will tell that story later this week. First I will show a couple of pages from Duduche from my meager collection (which mainly consists of issues from 1967, the year before everything changed at Pilote.

The portrait at the top comes from a later issue of Pilote, when artists were depicted that way above every story.

We start with four delightfully unsentimental Christmas cards from 1967.

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