Les Ailes du Singe. T.2, Hollywoodland, by Étienne Willem – review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer
Les Ailes du Singe. T.2, Hollywoodland, by Étienne Willem.
Geneva, Switzerland, Éditions Paquet, June 2017, hardbound €14,00 (48 pages).
The Lex Nakashima-Fred Patten plot to make American furry fans read the best of new French-language animalière bandes dessinées strikes again. This is the second album of Étienne Willem’s over-the-top thriller Les Ailes du Singe (The Wings of the Monkey), set in a funny-animal America during 1933, the depths of the Depression. Things got so desperate at the time that there were serious worries about a Communist revolution. That’s one theme of this album.
The stars of Les Ailes du Singe are Harry Faulkner (macaque monkey), a top pilot in the Lafayette Escadrille during World War I, and the owner of his own barnstorming and movie stunt-flying Jenny biplane; his mechanic-friend Lumpy (pig), apparently Italian since he regularly swears in Italian; and his girlfriend Betty Laverne (deer), a newspaper reporter for the New York Herald-Tribune. In t.1, Wakanda, Harry gets involved in and prevents the skyjacking of the U.S. Army’s zeppelin Wakanda by unknown enemy agents led by a sultry night club singer, Lydia Lessing (jaguar). However, Harry could only prevent the enemy from unleashing poison gas over NYC by crashing the Wakanda into the Hudson River. He is blamed for wrecking the zeppelin and, to escape warrants for his arrest in New York and New Jersey, Harry and Lumpy flee to Hollywood where Harry becomes a stunt pilot for Paramount. (In real life I think he could be extradited – isn’t it illegal to cross state lines to avoid arrest?)
Hollywoodland contains so much hugger-mugger that, frankly, it destroys the suspension of disbelief for me. The Depression has gotten so bad that the South is threatening to re-secede, setting off a second Civil War – or, as Harry finds out, that’s what Communist agents are trying to make the public believe. There’s a plot to assassinate President Franklin D. Roosevelt that only Harry, Betty, and Lumpy can foil, in stolen Paramount stunt planes. There are lots of real famous people as funny animals: FDR is a goose (Willem seems to show him as unparalyzed, as he was popularly believed to be at the beginning of his administration; but take a close look at the bottom panel on page 46), Howard Hughes is a Doberman, Cecil B. De Mille is a Boston terrier, Douglas Fairbanks is a – cougar? (A Big Feline of some kind.) Marilyn Monroe wasn’t a star yet, so Hollywoodland substitutes a fictional Clara Palmer – that’s her on the cover. (There’s a nude shot of her in the story.) Willem takes advantage of the urban legend that Howard Hughes may have been a spy for someone, or at least working against America’s best interests, to put him into suspicious situations. There are car chases all over Los Angeles, gunfights, a major character is killed, and Harry’s & Friends’ pursuit in old World War I warplanes through the New Mexico desert of the presidential streamlined train to prevent the president’s murder
In the previous album, Wakanda, the zeppelin was also carrying Z-03, an experimental gas of unknown properties. Harry got a good lungful of it. In Hollywoodland, the Z-03’s effect on Harry is used as a deus ex machina to get him out of apparently-fatal situations.
The last panel implies that in t.3, the action will return to NYC.
Besides standard French, Hollywoodland is full of French moviemaking jargon. Et coupez!
As with Willem’s other cartoon-art albums, there is a limited edition of the black-&-white pencil art alone, for €18,00.
Étienne Willem’s Facebook page is here.
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