Friday, 16 November 2012

On Raymond Macherot (1924-2008)

Sometimes I discover things in a very convoluted way. This is a story of one such discovery, so bear with me if you can.

I grew up in a house full of comic books. They were my father’s, who started collecting Disney comics sometime in the 1950s or 1960s and has an enviable collection. He also has a decent sized collection of French-Belgium Bande Dessinées (BD). They were ideally stored in my room, so I grew up reading and re-reading them. Fast-forward to last year, when Fantagraphics released two volumes of Belgian BDs: “Gil Jourdan” and “Sibylline” (as “Gil Jordan” and “Sibyl-Anne”). I had been vaguely aware of both and half-tempted to get “Gil Jourdan” in French. But most of all, I was puzzled with the fact that a major US publisher in the area was investing in these two series, of which I knew next to nothing.

So, tempted, I bought “Gil Jourdan” and loved it (in the French editions, as I prefer to read in the original, but believe me, I still support Fantagraphics in other ways). These had always been available, however “Sibylline” and the other works by Raymond Macherot (the creator) were extremely hard to find. But my timing could have not been better if I had planned it.

Within in a year or so, collections of some of his famous characters became available, with another soon to be published; an exhibition opened in Brussels and I manage to get the cult classic “Chaminou et le Khrompire” (1964) for a very reasonable price on ebay.

And I fell in love. Well not with all of it, but enough. His worlds are (usually) full of deceptively cute anthropomorphic animals, and in his best work, under that kids-friendly surface of pretty little animals there is real threat – if you take the Sibylline stories Fantagraphics has available (the stories were produced in the second half of the 1960s), it is hard not to see in Anathème (Ratticus in the English translation) a Hitler parody, with occasional serious undertones. These same undertones were actually more pronounced in an earlier series, “Chlorophylle”, with a more vicious rat (Anthracite) as the antagonist. If you can read French, the collected "Sibylline" is available in five volumes as is the first volume an integral “Chlorophylle”(with the second coming out next month – and I can’t wait). If not, you might want to grab this the English one, with a second volume expected to be available next May.


mattduncan said...

I'd love to get hold of Chaminou et le Khrompire, but it's 80 odd Euros on ebay! I also don't quite get it. There seems to be two editions of this comic - one from the 60s and one from the 90s, with a differing page count!

Miguel said...


There are two editions of the original book; the 1965 one and a 1979 in the "Péchés de Jeunesse". Both have similar covers, but the 1979 has the number six in it. You can see them in the link below:

In the 1990s, there was a reboot, for lack of a better word. One of the new volumes is the edition you mentioned, partly redrawn cases by Olivier Saive, and I think the intro is gone. There is also a sequel by Saive with Macherot, called "L'opuscule sans scrupule". I never saw either of these, so I can't comment. But I got the impression it was toned down a bit. The other two volumes, are, I think by Saive alone; and there is another by someone else entirely.

If you get the chance, grab the 1965/1979 edition. It's great. If not, I can recommend the new "Integrale Chlorophylle" where the tone of the latter tomes is similar to Chaminou (the Coquefredouille stories).

Hope this helps. Happy to try to help more if you have any more questions.

mattduncan said...

Okay - it seems that there are three editions of the original book! I have got a copy in the 'J'ai Lu' imprint, which is a pocket-sized edition of the original album, recoloured by Vittorio Leonardo. The trouble is, because it is reduced in size, they have cut the pages up to make one page into two pages. It must have been a hell of a lot of tedious work for the designer! Anyway, what I didn't get was that there seemed to be small panels occasionally in which nothing was happening, which was breaking up the storytelling. Sometimes it is just the corner of a house, or a close up of a character. It was pretty odd. Then I realised what they had done. In order to make one page fit onto two, they had had to insert extra panels. They did this by chopping off the right part of a larger panel, and then drawing a frame around it to insert in these gaps. Bizarre!

Miguel said...

That's annoying and stupid thing to do.

There are some potential good news. Dupuis has bought Marsu Prod who was the rights owner for Chaminou. Since both the Sibylline and Chlorophylle integrales were, according to French forums, an unexpected success for the editors, there's hope a new affordable edition will come out soon, ideally with all the unpublished material. Last year I saw in Brussels a page from the early part of the story which is completely different from what made into the book.

If you haven't got it yet, definitelly recommend the third volume of the Chlorophylle integrale. Great stuff with loads of Anthracite.