by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
The Wild Piano (Le Piano Sauvage) is Book 2 in the Philémon series by Fred (Frédéric Othon Théodore Aristidès, 1931-2013), serialized in the classic French comics magazine Pilote. The weekly strip was collected into 15 books between 1972 and 1987. Fred retired leaving Philémon’s adventures uncompleted, until he wrote/drew a 16th volume to finish the series just before his death.
Book 1, Cast Away on the Letter A, was reviewed here in January. I won’t repeat the gushing praise that I lavished upon it, but briefly: Philémon was/is a surrealistic cartoon strip in the tradition of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland and George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. Philémon is a teenage farmboy in the French countryside of the 1960s-‘70s who falls down a well and has psychedelic adventures on the literal letters ATLANTIC of the Atlantic Ocean of a parallel world. Philémon, and Fred’s other works, were instant hits in France, reprinted so often that Fred was able to retire and live off his royalties. It is a sad commentary on the lack of interest in non-American cartoon art in America that the Philémon books are only now being published here after 40+ years. A Philémon live-action movie full of VFX, French-produced but in English, was announced as in pre-production in 2013.