French comic: Une Aventure de Chlorophylle – Book Review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Belgian, to be accurate. Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Une Aventure de Chlorophylle. T.1, Embrouilles a Coquefredouille, by Godi & Zidrou.
Brussels, Belgium, Le Lombard, September 2014, hardcover €10,60 (48 pages).
So they’ve started another Chlorophylle series. Whoop-de-do. Raymond Macherot (1924-2008) began Chloro the dormouse’s adventures in the weekly Tintin comic-book magazine (1946-1993) in 1954, continued it through 11 or 12 adventures (depending on how you count), and wrote/drew his last Chloro story in 1966. Since then, his Chloro stories have been reprinted umpteen times, alone and in collections. Lombard has tried to continue the Chloro series, in Tintin serializations and in albums after the magazine’s demise, with new stories by a variety of cartoonists: Hubuc & Guilmard, Greg & Dupa, Dupa & Bob De Groot, Bom & Walli. Nothing really caught on. Now here is another attempt, by Belgian comics artist Godi (Bernard Godisiabois) and writer Zidrou (Benoît Drousie). Is this one any different?
The other post-Macherot stories continued Chlorophylle’s adventures in the Belgian Tranquil Vale woodland. The supporting characters were Minimum the mouse, Mironton the dormouse and his wife Mirontaine, Torpedo the otter, Serpolet the rabbit, Clacky the crow, and the usual gang of Chloro’s friends and neighbors. The stories varied in quality, but they were all more of the same.
Complications in Coquefredouille, the first album in the new series, returns to the funny-animal island-kingdom where Chloro had his (arguably) most popular adventures. It’s the 33rd annual International Coquefredouille Film Festival; it’s opening with a new movie about when the kingdom was almost taken over by Anthracite the black rat and his two cannibalistic ferrets, and was saved by Chloro and Minimum (Les Croquillards); and King Mitron XIII of Coquefredouille sends invitations to Chloro and Minimum in the Tranquil Vale to attend. It’s a glitzy film festival; Chloro and Minimum get to meet the movie stars; the real Anthracite died in prison years ago so they don’t have anything more to worry about; so why not? But they arrive to find that there is a new terrorist movement that King Mitron’s government is trying to downplay. The FLF is trying to split Coquefredouille into two nations, the Kingdom of Coque in the west with its traditional capital at Le Fourbi, and the new (kingdom? republic?) of Fredouille in the east with its capital at La Turbine, the island’s second largest city and industrial center. The supposed revolutionists claim they want to stop the royalist government’s exploitation of the east, but nobody in the east seems to feel exploited or want to secede. King Mitron and his advisors suspect that the real reason for the FLF is that all of Couqefredouille’s mineral wealth is located in the east, and that independence for Fredouille would allow the “revolutionists” to set up a corrupt government to milk the eastern resources for themselves. Chloro tries to uncover the truth behind the terrorists, while at the same time dealing with the social complications at the film festival centering around the actors playing himself (Luigi Starletti, a mega-handsome small gray rat) and Anthracite (Antonio Caméo, a tall squirrel who specializes in playing villains).
This would be enough for a regular adventure, but WOW! what Zidrou & Godi have added to it! And here I have to list a lot of spoilers.
In the first place, Zidrou & Godi have studied all of Macherot’s stories closely. There are more references to Chloro’s previous adventures than usual, and they are more consistent than usual.
Secondly, Complications in Coquefredouille is in “real time”. Chloro doesn’t just have a new adventure; the film festival’s movie is about an adventure he had fifty years ago (when Macherot wrote it). One of the festival’s teenaged staff tells Chloro that her grandmother remembers living in her teens through the menace that he rescued them from. A newscaster asks him how he’s kept “looking so young”. Chloro is not too happy at being reminded that he’s a senior citizen now.
Thirdly, a major new supporting character is Phéline, King Mitron XIII’s teenaged daughter. Why hasn’t she appeared in any previous stories? Well, er, King Mitron has just learned of her existence. None of the previous stories mentioned Mitron having any wife or children; but a king is supposed to be concerned with his succession. The authors postulate that Mitron had a wild and spoiled youth; that he’s recently become worried about not being married or having a heir after becoming too old to have any more children; that he’s started a secret search to find if he had any illegitimate children long ago; and he found Phéline – and her ten half-sisters. No previous Chloro story ever got that “adult”, but today’s European kids are presumably used to newspaper and TV revelations about discoveries of one royal’s or another’s illegitimate children.
Fourthly, the two actors turn out to be more than just good friends in private life. “Is the world ready for a romance between a squirrel and a rat?” Especially when they’re both famous movie-world adult males?
Fifthly, Complications in Coquefredouille shows the other animals of the Tranquil Vale trudging through the snow during a frozen Belgian winter, while Chloro is sound asleep – for weeks. He’s hibernating! It’s what dormice do during a cold winter. Previous Chloro stories set during winter have shown Chloro with a thick scarf around his neck, but fully active. Godi & Zidrou give a wink to reality. (Actually, more woodland animals than just dormice hibernate during the winter, but this is basically a funny-animal fantasy, not a true-life nature lesson.)
There are other “realities”, including the ancient Salic law that affected several European monarchies, including Belgium’s, which must have made Complications in Coquefredouille especially in-group to Belgian readers. (Belgium didn’t repeal the Salic law until 1991. Current King Philippe I will be the first Belgian king to be succeeded by his oldest daughter.) But I don’t want to give away all the spoilers.
The bottom line is that Complications in Coquefredouille is the first Chlorophylle story, and one of the first funny-animal comic books outside the underground comix, for adults and today’s unprotected children. It comes to a definite conclusion, but a loose thread as thick as a rope promises a sequel: Le Réseau Campanule (The Bluebell Network).