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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If I understand correctly, crossing state lines to avoid arrest would have worked if the South had won the Civil War; in the Confederate States, at least.
I have been bemused by the alternate-history authors like Harry Turtledove who have postulated that if the Confederate States of America had become a successful nation, it would have become a strong country like Nazi Germany or worse. The CSA was obsessed with States Rights; it – or they – wanted a return to the Articles of Confederation; which hadn’t worked, which is why they had been replaced by the Constitution and the Federal government in 1789. The CSA was supposed to be a Confederacy of independent states loosely gathered by the CSA Congress in Richmond; more like the United Nations is today. All during the Civil War, there were complaints from the Southern states that Jefferson Davis was acting like a strong president as bad as Abraham Lincoln was (Davis claimed that he had to be to coordinate the CSA’s war effort); and the national CSA government was notoriously hamstrung in getting the individual states to pay for the war. North Carolina openly announced that it would secede from the CSA and become an independent nation as soon as the South won the war.
North Carolina had its own money (with Governor Zebulon Vance’s portrait on it) and national flag. Louisiana had its own national flag, completely different from its state flag today (red, white, and blue stripes for Louisiana’s time under French rule, and a red-&-yellow canton for its time under Spain); although since the Union Army conquered New Orleans and Baton Rouge in 1862, it didn’t fly for long. If the CSA had won the Civil War, would it have stayed together for more than ten years? Harry’s and Lumpy’s fleeing to California to avoid arrest in New Jersey and New York would have been more plausible under those circumstances.
Readers should understand that Mr. Turtledove is a fiction writer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Turtledove
I know you understand that Fred, so I’m not criticizing you.
For a more accurate explanation of what might had happened if the CSA had won the Civil War, we would do well to consider what the American history writer, James McPherson wrote about the subject. A post to my Dreamwidth journal
http://shining-river.dreamwidth.org/41230.html contains more of the following quote from one of his books :
“If the Confederacy had prevailed in the 1860s, it is quite possible that the emergence of the United States as the world’s leading industrial as well as agricultural producer by the end of the nineteenth century and as the world’s most powerful nation in the twentieth century might never have happened. That it did happen is certainly one of the most important legacies of the Civil War–not only for America but also for the world. . .”
If the South had won the Civil War — militarily, or because McClellan won the 1864 U.S. election and negotiated a peace treaty, in which the C.S.A. would have insisted upon independence — then secession would have become established as legal. Would the remaining United States have stayed together? The Mormons in Utah/Deseret would certainly have seceded to create their own nation.
Whether the C.S.A. had stayed together or not, North America as a leader in industrial and agricultural production would probably not have developed. What would the effect upon slavery have been? Even if the C.S.A. had broken up, slavery would have remained legal in the separate Southern states (or nations). Slavery was vehemently opposed throughout most of Latin America, but it was still legal in the Empire of Brazil in the 1860s. Would a Southern victory in North America have slowed Brazil’s evolution toward abolishing slavery in the 1880s?
If there had not been a strong U.S.A. in the early 20th century, how would World War I have turned out? Without the U.S. joining the war in 1917, would the Central Powers/the German Empire have won? Would Finland and the Baltic area have become Teutonic kingdoms?
I don’t think any fiction writers have developed these ideas.
Harry Turtledove did write a novel in which the U.S.A. never developed the Constitution; “The Disunited States of America” (Tor Books, September 2006).
In it, a weak America limped along under the Articles of Confederation for a few more decades and finally broke up into separate nations. In the 20th century there is a war between Ohio and Virginia. California is a strong nation (but how would Alta California really have developed if there had never been a Mexican War in the 1840s?).
The 1861-62 Louisiana national flag isn’t forgotten yet.
Here is the limited-edition pencil-art album.
I think it’s interesting that a French author would write a story that contains so much allusion to historic details of American life. It may be likely that most of his readers don’t realize what these historic sources are, such as the “Hollywoodland” sign depicted on the cover art, which was actually the precursor to the current “Hollywood” sign.
The choice of “Clara Palmer” as the name of the sidekick / heroine is interesting too. Clara Bell, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Bell was an author and translator active around the turn of the century into the 1920’s. And there was an Ernest Palmer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Palmer_%28American_cinematographer%29 who had an active career in Hollywood around that time also. Put the two together, et voila, Clara Palmer !
I’m just guessing.