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.