We are back with yet another CineBook review, which closely follows our last post on CineBook’s 2009 Set. But, the title on review in this post at Comicology belongs to the original set released in 2008 by CineBook in India. So without further due, lets get on with it straightaway.
The Fascinating Madame Tussaud | INR 350 | Color | B5 | Single Expresso (2 Volume in 1) | Laminated/Paperback
Who hasn’t heard about Madame Tussauds, a landmark Wax Museum in London, which immortalizes celebrities around the world in a breathtakingly similar waxed replica in life size. People around the world consider it as a honour to be part of these waxed line-up, which was a concept originally pioneered by sculptor Marie Tussaud, who established the setup in 1853, after a series of exhibitions in and around Europe as a Nomad. The life story of Tussaud is well-documented, who rose to fame from being the daughter of a housemaid, to a world renown celebrity.
No wonders Tussaud’s story has been told and re-told in many media over the years, and that is a topic which was taken in graphic novel/comics form by the publishers Dargaud-Lombard in 2002. It’s a fictional account of Tussaud’s life, which follows her adventures right from her early life, to her exhibitions around the world, and eventual setup of the museum. It’s a product of writer André Paul Duchâteau and artist René Follet, who joined hands in creating this French Classic.
|The Fascinating Madame Tussaud |
|Tussaud: BackCover |
Pages: 104 | Published: Dec 2007
The story opens up in Paris, 1793, in the midst of the French Revolution. Marie Crossholz, a lesser known sculptor manages a wax museum set up originally by her uncle. It was a time when revolters against the aristocratic government were mercilessly executed under the Guillotine Blade publicly. Marie manages to bribe some executioners, who in-turn allowed her to mould the faces of those esteemed aristocrats who had their heads cut off.
One such executioner was Desmarets (a man portrayed always with a flower in his mouth), who tries to take advantage of Marie, who refutes to satisfy any of his indecent intentions. But, this adventure of hers draws the bitter enmity of Martial Jabot, who accuses her of exhibiting the Traitors, and threatens to arrest her and shut the Museum down. In order to avoid any more problems for herself, Marie decides to hide the controversial sculpts. Later on she helps her old friend Jean, who is now a fugitive, by hiding him inside her museum to avoid a search party. This gets her into trouble, as she is framed for assisting the traitors, and also being part of the stealth of the crown jewels. She is eventually sent to prison indefinitely. She manages to escape from there with the help of fellow inmate Josephine, and Jane, as the first volume concludes.
The second volume, takes us to 1805, by which the bloody French Revolution has come to an end, and we witness Marie now being known as Madame Tussaud, is travelling in Europe, as part of the nomad exhibition tours of Waxed sculptures. We come to know that Josephine, was actually the love interest of Napoleon Bonaparte, who now rules France. The high profile connections thus helped Tussaud to set her museum back, and also provided a chance to move to England, to realize her dreams of exhibiting her works in and around UK.
Before her departure to England, Josephine warns that though most of the stolen jewels were recaptured, one important piece known as Blue Diamond is still missing, and there may be some interested people who may follow her to capture it, as she was originally framed as the thief of crown jewels.
Despite these distractions, Tussaud travels down with his son, on her expedition through Europe in setting up exhibitions. The man from her past, follower her closely, as the showdown begins.
Does she escape from them? Who are these Diamond Hunters? What role does Jane, Desmarets, Jabot play in this whole scenario? Is she really the one who stole the Blue Diamond? What effects will this had over her dream on setting up a Wax Museum in England, which she eventually managed in 1835 in London? The answers to these questions forms the corner plot as the Climax of this two volume edition unravels at the end pages. Overall, it’s a classical fictional piece, woven around real life legends and celebrities, which makes it stand among one of the best told fictional graphic novels of our time.
Let’s now look more in details about the creators of this classic, which will help us better understand their work in these two volume edition.
André Paul Duchâteau (b.1925 in Belgium) is often regarded as one of the best comic scenario writers in Franco-Belgian Genre. He initially started his professional career by writing novels, but soon in 1948 moved to pen comic scenarios for some of the well-know magazines, including Spirou. But it was not until he met artist Gilbert Gascard (pen-name Tibet), along with whom he forged a great partnership, in the process giving us a couple of wonderful Franco-Belgian Oldies.
South Indian Comic fans would easily associate themselves to this dynamic duo as they are the creators of Ric Hochet (christened as Reporter Johny – ரிப்போர்ட்டர் ஜானி in Tamil) and Chick Bill (சிக் பில்), who were introduced to us by M/s.Prakash Publishers in their line-up of classic Tamil Comics (Lion / Muthu / Thigil). It should be noted that both of these legendary comic series were created as early in 1955. The fact that they are still continuing to be published, says a great deal about the work of Duchâteau & Tibet.
Duchâteau went on to pen and script many series throughout his career, in the process forging tie-ups with some of the greatest players in the comic field like Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosinski, both of whom needs no introductions to Comicologists, as we have covered their work earlier (For those who missed, follow the links to the respective creators information pages laced in at various posts in Comicology). Duchateau’s last notable effort was in 1990s, when he worked on making comic adaptations on novels by Milk Fondal and John Flanders.
On the other hand, René Follet (b.1931 in Belgium) started his illustration career as early at the age of 14, doing some promotional work. That experience helped him to land a job at Spirou magazine in 1949, where he drew under the pen-name, Ref, which was followed by his first comic series in form of Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul, which detailed the stories of fictional character Uncle Paul in over 1000 episodes on Spirou magazine (the series was originally created by Jean-Michel Charlier, of Blueberry fame).
Follet later moved to Tintin magazine in 1953, and started illustrating work for the western comic series Rocky Bill. Not only that, he also worked for a variety of publishers, which includes Dupius, Lombard, Casterman, and also for Dutch publications, like Pep and Eppo.
Follet’s artwork stands out from the rest of the artists, as he had an unique knack of using brush strokes rather than the traditional pencil layers, which made his comic arts look like a classic painting in each frame, which spans over 104 pages in this two volume edition. He is largely helped by Duchâteau’s scenarios, who is shown to have utilized his unique panache of bringing in detective-laced intriguing plot, an area for which Duchâteau is famous for, due to his long found association in police stories and detective novels, which he worked on to bring into comic format.
The character portrayals, could be best example with the character of Desmarets, who is always shown with a flower in his mouth, and forms a central figure by making his presence in different setups, in different roles, in the process setting us to diffuse the central plot which unravels and keeps us enthused right till the end.
It is also said that Follet was once approached by Edgar P Jacobs, to assist him in illustrating the Blake and Mortimer series. But he refused it since Jacobs denied his request of including his name in the credits page. What an Irony, that Jacobs originally made a similar request to his long time friend Herge (Read more about this in our exclusive Blake & Mortimer post at Comicology) in his Tintin series, who in-turn denied it. This eventually made him foray full time to B&M series, in the process propelling him to a cult status.
But unlike Jacobs, Follet didn’t get the same lady-luck smiling on him with a similar decision, as throughout his career, he is never known for a lengthy or legendary comic series. It also owes lot to his work style, where he often freelanced and worked for different publishers throughout his career, which made his contributions into short pieces of works. Also, he had an opinion that the Comics restricted his freestyle drawing and found his likes more in drawing for novels.
But that doesn’t hide the fact that he is a master in this type of art-form. For samples, you can brief through the wonderful art panels embedded throughout this post. No wonder Follet is often regarded as the “great master of 9th Art, the world has NEVER known”.
Recently, he made a portrait for Blake & Mortimer lead characters, at the start of 2009, with his own style. I wonder had he got an opportune to work on B&M, what would have happened to the otherwise flat artwork witnessed in them (by saying that I don’t demean Jacob’s incredible work, anyway). Those are only my wild guesses, so let’s not get much into it :).
There may be section of comicologists who would despise this series, as to have shown some legends in the bad-light or with a commercially motivated wrong portrayal. Duchâteau had this to say in his foreword, about the topic:
“With a lot of truth, I have mixed in a touch of fiction, permitted by the apocryphal autobiography of Marie Tussaud. I wanted to show, besides the essential events, the tragic and absurd little moments seen through the eyes of a fascinating young woman who had the unusual job of sculpting wax masks. Ingenious and brave, yet terrified at the same time, she was also clever, as were so many women living with this horror on a daily basis.
In short, I have tried to make an alternative history, a mixture of truth and imaginary. Hard to believe, but true.”
On my part, I must conclude that he stayed true to his words, which makes it a definite piece to own in our collection.
As said earlier, the series was originally released in French by Dargaud-Lombard in a two volume editions, titled:
- Terreur 1 in 2002, and
- Terreur 2 in 2004
Thanks to CineBook’s strategy of Expresso series, we are able to witness these two editions in a single volume as The Fascinating Madame Tussaud, trade paperback (TPB), translated into English language by Luke Spear.
I must say the translation has been done with utmost care, and Spear has done a commendable effort in retaining the essence of the storyline from its original. Very few manage to do it, and Spear seems to be having an unique knack in doing so. No wonder CineBook seems to be relying on his work for much of their titles (his contributions to CineBook so far range in a series line-up consisting Lucky Luke, Biggles Recounts, Clifton, Queen Margot, Thorgal, Yoko Tsuno, Ducoboo and Rugger Boys; all of which have been reviewed at Comicology earlier. Follow the links to know more).
And that brings us to the end of another CineBook review here at Comicology. Hopefully, you would have found this post useful and fun reading, just like I felt while working on it. Wish you all a Happy Week ahead. Have Fun & nJoY, while I will be back with another post shortly. Adios Amigos !