Well, when it rains - it pours, and that seems to be the order of the day in Comics or Graphic Novels Biz in India at present. Euro Books, the new-bies in the Biz, have come up with its next venture after Biggles, by introducing the not so famous Spirou and Fantasio characters to Indian Comics Fans. By the outset, it looked pretty impressive line-up containing 12 titles in the series, at a price of INR 199/- each.
Spirou and Fantasio characters may be new to Indian comic fans, but by far they aren't to the Franco-Belgian or European Comics Genre. In fact, the history of Spirou dates back to 1938, which is much before the more well-known characters to Indian Comic Fans like Lucky Luke (1946), and Asterix (1959), only overshadowed by the legacy of TinTin (which dates back to 1929).
The series was originally created by Robert Velter (1909-1991). Spirou, an investigative journalist, was the main character, and later was teamed with his co-adventurer and fellow reporter Fantasio. The series was later brought into mainstream by André Franquin (1924-1997), who took over the reins in 1946 and revolutionized the comic form for the characters, and went on to add another famous character "Marsupilami", to the Spirou series. In fact the Marsupilami character was so famous that it had its own spin-off series created, and by far was instrumental in many mimic characters created all over the world.
Indian comic fans cannot forget Kabish (a monkey with an ability to grow its tail) stories published in many children magazines across languages, which was a character influenced by Franquin's Marsupilami. Coming back to Spirou, it shares much of its characteristics with it cousins Asterix, Tin-Tin, etc. in terms of humorous storytelling and plot creation.
The unique attire of Spirou, red bellboy uniform, was initially conceived because he was introduced as a lift operator. But, he has retained the attire, even though the characterizations were re-written over the time, but has since become a trademark of Spirou series.
Franquin was known as a member of the elite club known as Gang of 4, along with Will, Jije, and Morris (Lucky Luke fame). Together they laid the foundation for what is came to be known as Marcilleni School, which often is considered in parallel with Ligne Claire (which has been discussed in detail on our Blake & Mortimer series review at Comicology) art-form spearheaded by the rival creator-artists from TinTin magazine.
Basically, they both are more common in nature, with the major difference being the representation. Marcilleni School tries to convey the impression of movement, while ligne claire tends to be more schematic, often relying on traditional way of picture arts with still images and scenes.
At one time Spirou series was so popular that Lucky Luke himself made his appearance as a Guest in 1946, in Spirou magazine. So, it could be safely said that it was the trend-setter for all the Franco-Belgian comics released later. It could be further said that Spirou and Fantasio are the only Comic series which is still in publication (with different writers, and artists), wherein Tin-Tin, Asterix, and Lucky Luke have been reduced to only reprints. A detailed bio of Spirou series could be read in the Wiki link.
While goggling for this blog facts, I came to know that Euro Books, is indeed a subsidiary of Egmont, who are known to Indian Comic Fans with their other publications, notably Phantom series. This explains how a relative newcomer could suddenly appear into the scene with big releases featuring famous comic characters.
So, it's good to see Egmont, under their new brand-name, Euro Books, bringing the Spirou and Fantasio to Indian comic fans. I have just started reading them and found them pretty interesting and humorous so far. Enjoy Reading !!!