The sweltering heat in Chennai is touching its height with mercury hovering around 40°Celsius, and to add more spice to it the calendar alarmingly has just zoomed past April, meaning the more hotter May has just started. With the financial slowdown, roasted poor souls are taking it slow on their summer vacations too, meaning It’s sweaty days ahead for all, including Comicologists.
While from Comicology, even though I can’t take you for a chill ride, I could instead offer a Chill pill, by introducing a comic character well known for its humour in any temperature, the cunning Iznogoud, to close down the month of April. It closely follows our Disney India News updated in our last post, marking two consecutive posts about humorous comic characters from two different genres. Isn’t Comics a whole new world on its own? Let’s move on to post :-).
It is in the month of April 2000, almost a decade back, Prakash Publishers, the South India based Tamil Comics publisher, decided to feature Iznogoud in a solo title of its own, in their flagship comics magazine Lion Comics.
Lion Comics had earlier published Iznogoud in three supplement stories, a year before in 1999:
If you thought the Tamil titles to Iznogoud were top-class, Lion Comics Editor S.Vijayan, went one-up by aptly renaming Iznogoud, as Madhiyilla Mandhiri (மதியில்லா மந்திரி) meaning ‘Mindless Minister’.
A true depiction of the characteristics attributed to the humorous comics icon.
The short stories (The first title was serialized as MM-1) probably indicated that Mr.Vijayan, was more interested to utilize Iznogoud as a page-filler for his other famous comic characters titles. But the positive fan reaction he received for these stories boosted him to try launching an exclusive title for Iznogoud.
Thus was born Lion Comics #160, carrying Iznogoud in its cover, ultimately giving the due credit to the comic character, which has captivated comic fans around the world with his trademark comical acts.
Iznogoud is a story about a evil antagonist and second-in-line minister, to the Caliph/Sultan of Baghdad, Haroun El Plassid. Iznogoud aspires to replace Plassid in his position.
In order to achieve this goal, he devises numerous plots to eliminate the Sultan. But true to his name (Iznogoud is actually a French accent for the English words “is no good”) he always ends up as the one at the wrong end, either spoilt by his partners in crime (?!), mostly by his dumb-wit but faithful assistant Wa'at Alahf (Dilat Larath, in the French original), or at sometimes by the main man himself.
So there are enough in the storyline to tickle that fun bone in all comics readers. Iznogoud is another comic character from the famed Franco-Belgian Genre, created by writer René Goscinny, and artist Jean Tabary. Before we get down with these Lion Comics instalments, let’s look into these legendary creators and their creation in detail.
René Goscinny, needs no introduction to Comicologists, as he is famously known as the creator of Asterix, and as the artist who made famous the Lucky Luke series. (His work on Lucky Luke is well documented during our Lucky Luke debut post at Comicology, here).
Goscinny was born in Paris, France in Aug 14, 1926. A naturally shy persona, he is mostly known for making his friends laugh during his school days with his witty stories and actions. But misfortune of losing his father to a brain disease in 1943, meant that Goscinny moved to his first job as an accountant at the tender age of 17. But, he was laid off the following year.
That actually proved lucky, as it paved way for him land a job as a junior illustrator in an Ad Agency, thus continuing his childhood passion towards drawing. Even when he served in the French army, in 1946, his artistic talents meant that he was quickly appointed as a illustrator for the regiment to draw posters for the army.
Goscinny’s subsequent return to New York, saw him seeing the ups and downs of his career, which was as low as being jobless at one point, to seeing himself author a handful of children books. But this New York life, was significant in his career as he met his eventual long time friends, Joseph Gillain (Jijé), and Mauris de Bevere, known famously as the creator of Lucky Luke under his pen-name Morris, in the process forming a lengthy partnership with him on Lucky Luke titles.
In 1955, Goscinny returned to Paris upon a friend’s suggestion, and eventually met his yet another future collaborator, Albert Uderzo, along with whom he created two of his best known comic characters Astérix and Oumpah-pah.
After working for a majority of comics publishers like Tintin, Spirou, Vailant, Goscinny eventually started his own comics magazine Pilote in 1959, along with his friends Charlier (Blueberry fame), Uderzo and Hébrar, which paved the ways for many artists and writers to showcase their talent.
Jean Tabary, Iznogoud’s co-creator, on the other hand was born in Stockholm, Sweden on Mar 05, 1930. Like Goscinny, Tabary also had a likening to tell stories during his childhood. Another talent of his was to imagine characters on the go. Thus comic as a mode of his expression, was written long before, he set foot on that lines.
His earliest comic work was with The Adventures of Richard and Charlie, a French comic series in 1956 on Vailant magazine, for which Tabary directed for a total of 10 episodes.
But only in 1959, he made his first big hit comic character, ToToCHE, for the same magazine, which spawned a couple of off-shoot characters, all of which Tabary continued to write and draw until 1976.
Tabary’s work with Vailant magazine made him interact with Goscinny in 1961 for some of the creative works. This partnership grew with time, and in the very next year, they both joined joined hands to create their most famous creation, Iznogoud, with Goscinny taking up the writing duties, and Tabary donning the Artist role.
But Iznogoud wasn’t the titular character for the series, as the first series of the venture which made its debut in the Record comics magazine on Jan 15, 1962, was about the comical account of Sultan, titled Les aventures du Calife Haroun el Poussah (The Adventures of Caliph Haroun El Plassid, in English).
But, it was the secondary character of the power-hungry chief vizier ‘Iznogoud’ which stole the limelight among comic fans, prompting Goscinny and Tabary to change their plot-work to make Iznogoud as the main character for the series.
Even though much of the Iznogoud stories followed the same plot; of him trying to oust the caliph to take his place, Goscinny’s taste of satirical writing, evident in his earliest creation Asterix, always kept the plot fresh and new.
Coupled with Tabary’s nervous but effective and distinctive drawing style, the Iznogoud series touched stardom, eventually progressing to be featured in Goscinny’s own Pilote magazine.
Goscinny’s and Tabary’s successful partnership came to an abrupt end on Nov 05, 1977, when at the age of 51, Goscinny died of a heart attack. Tabary then decided to continue Iznogoud series on his own, much like how Albert Uderzo did with Goscinny’s other famous creation, Asterix. Tabary decided to dedicate each album to a single story, unlike during Goscinny period, which consisted of several short stories in one album.
There are different takes on this period change in the direction of Iznogoud, as many still argue that the short and witty Iznogoud stories were much more attractive then the full-length ones of Tabary’s.
But the fact remains the Iznogoud, is one of the unique ones, who even though being of a bad character, has lived long enough to be called as the most famous anti-heroes of French comics or perhaps in the entire comics world.
Tabary and Goscinny always treated Iznogoud as one of their cherished and beloved projects, which meant that they themselves made several appearances as guests in their stories, often shown as discussing, or debating about the plot of the story, and appearing among crowd. In one story they even debate on the topic of Iznogoud ascendancy to Sultan, among the gathered crowd. Ultimate shower of love towards your work on display in here. (In the self-portrait of Tabary above, he says – “All including story is ready, but for the pictures” – Translation courtesy: ShankarV)
Iznogoud’s Publications: Even though it was started originally as a series for comics magazines; Starting from 1966 French publisher Dargaud started to release individual albums of Iznogoud. Dargaud published a total of 12 albums until 1976. After Goscinny’s passing away in 1977, Tabary decided to feature new Iznogoud titles in other publications, the majority of which have been released under Editions Tabary, a publication owned by Tabary and his family.
The latest album was number 28: Les mille et une nuits du Calife (The Thousand and One Nights of the Caliph), published on Nov 2008. This album was entirely created by Tabary’s children's: Nicolas, Stephane, and Muriel; under the watchful eyes of Tabary.
For now, Tabary has decided to take a well-earned rest after a lengthy career which has spawned half a century. Let’s hope that his children's will be able to carry on the baton. The official website of Tabary features a picture of these 3 wonder kids, so please do check them out.
Starting from 1977, Egmont started translating Iznogoud in English, which was then later picked up by several publishers worldwide. Only notable changes by other publishers were that they changed Caliph to Sultan, to avoid offending Muslims who consider it as a sacred title.
Until the end of 2008, there are a total of 8 Iznogoud titles which have been translated into English from the French originals. Apart from English, Iznogoud has been translated to further 14 languages, including German, Portuguese, Chinese, and recently in Tamil (by Lion Comics).
CineBook’s Venture: Recently CineBook, a famous UK based English Comics publisher of Franco-Belgian Goldie's, and one of the favourite publishers at Comicology, have taken the mantle of publishing Iznogoud in English, which are distributed in UK and US.
In 2008 they published two Iznogoud English albums, with the 3rd one getting published as recently as March 2009. None of these titles were available with the CineBook’s 2009 Back-Issue released in India, which were listed at Comicology, over here.
For reasons, refers to the end of this post for news about Euro Books.
To know more about the publications of Iznogoud titles around the world refer to this wonderfully maintained fan site for Iznogoud – Iznogoud World. Credits to the original covers in this post goes to that painstakingly built site. While you are there, don’t forget to check out the Zines section, which has some info on Iznogoud’s India venture, contributed by Muthufan.
Now that we have looked into the creator details and publication history of Iznogoud, let’s look into its debut release in Tamil Comics, by our beloved Lion Comics.
In this debut story, Mr.Vijayan renamed the title characters of the series for local flavour, showcasing his command over the Tamil language, for which he is renowned for.
1. Iznogoud as Naa Modi Masthaan (நா ‘மோடி’ மஸ்தான்); a title which is used to comically depict the ‘black magicians’ at this part of the world.
2. Haroun El Plassid as Sultan Haroun Al Good Boy (சுல்தான் ஹாரூன் அல் குட் பாய்); referring to the good and simple nature of the character, and most importantly referring to him as Sultan (a politically correct name).
The story takes us to the annual event conducted in Baghdad, which is used to determine the righteous of a Sultan to rule the kingdom. As per the ritual Sultan must show his crown jewel, a Spectre, to the public, which will be kept locked inside a secret room in the palace, and will be opened only once in the year during this occasion.
The custom states that if Sultan fails to turn up with his Sceptre, then he will be executed then and there, with the second-in-command taking his place. This prompts Iznogoud to devise plan to steal the Sceptre before the ceremony. So he hires a magician who is said to be good lock-picker. As usual everyone would know that his plans would fail once again.
But, the hilarious moments leading up to the climax, are one which is sure to bring out the kid in you break out with laughter. The top of the pick, is the scenes where the lock-picker opens every door inside the secret room, by doing different absurd methods.
It was a good story choice to introduce Iznogoud to Indian comic fans, and the comedic nature of the story along with Vijayan’s wonderful translation with typical Tamil scenario (look at the song the Sultan sings), turned out as a masterful combination.
Since, this was a supplementary story, the Iznogoud wasn’t featured in the cover, but the Original for this story was the one titled ‘The Caliph’s Sceptre’, from the UK’s Egmont English Iznogoud series. More on that later on the post.
The fan reaction Iznogoud received in his Tamil comics debut, prompted the editor to release another short story in the same year, as a supplement to Lion #152.
The story this time revolved around the Summer vacation which all citizens of Baghdad, undertake every year, travelling to the sea shores. (look at the Special Air Service version as it was available then, Tabary & Goscinny at their humorous best).
This story follows another plot of Iznogoud, in which he tries to fool the Sultan in following him on a summer trip to a far off land, with the mindset of killing him on the trip. What follows is Iznogoud’s own fate of seeing his plans unfold abruptly in the end.
We will look more in detail about this story as it deserves a special mention, which we could do along with our Lion #152 review at Comicology in the coming months. The titular character in that issue was Buck Ryan aka Detective Julian, who was the star of the recent Muthu Comics edition, reviewed at Comicology, here.
For starters, this story is the title story of “Caliphs Vacation” album listed in the above section about Iznogoud publication. Supplement story meant that we again missed out from witnessing the reproduction of this wonderful cover by our local artists at Muthu/Lion Comics office.
The idea of discussing the first supplement story in full, and the second supplement story over here in the post, which was about to discuss Lion #160 which carried Iznogoud in his solo title, was to map the introduction of Iznogoud in Tamil Comics, before we get down the Lion #160 review.
Since, the post has been growing too big, let’s skip past the 3rd supplement Iznogoud story, which featured in Lion #155. That will be reviewed in detail when we review that eventual title which featured one of Tex Willer’s classic cowboy story, titled Eratha Nagaram (இரத்த நகரம்), soon at Comicology.
Finally we come back to the title, which is the topic of discussion for this post. The first time Iznogoud received his due credit, by appearing on the Cover and as the main story of a Lion Comics title.
Unlike any of the previous two titles, Editor decided to name this title very differently (literal meaning -‘A Day of Chaos’). Look at the explanation which Editor provided in his Hotline, for the same.
Iznogoud’s unique plot is there witness in this story too, as it opens up on yet another unique annual celebration in Baghdad, where for one day, the Slaves become Masters, and the Masters become Slaves, for the 24 hours time until dawn.
So there was no surprises, when Iznogoud wakes up as a Sultan, but decides to create a coup and dethrone the Sultan forever, by utilising his time at the helm.
But, what he fails to understand that the situation also belongs to everyone who he commands now. His assistants now demands service from him, his generals are now serving the colonels, as he finds no one to help him on his plot.
So he then decides to utilize the services of the neighbouring country’s king, whose kingdom does not follow this celebration. What then follows is a hilarious account of Iznogoud, as he races against time, to meet his objective.
The scenes where he tries his best to prove to the people that he is one among them, by disowning his wealth, title, etc. is the top pick. The climax has an interesting twist, with Goscinny & Tabary get involved to add to Iznogoud’s misery. :-) We are not going to discuss it further, to maintain the storyline for new time readers, as they should experience it first-hand rather than we discussing and revealing all the intrigued details of the story plot.
Overall, it was another Iznogoud classic, and Mr.Vijayan deserves a special accolade to deliver yet another of his wonderfully translated marvels. Goscinny had introduced so many witty dialogues which have their roots from the French culture. So, a literal translation of them would not gain any credits, and may even hamper the overall plot-work of the story.
A scenario evident in the fact that, when Iznogoud stories were translated to English it was performed by the same team which translated the Asterix series, with some amount of success in retaining the original plot, yet taking it to the culture of the translated language. More about the people behind this translation, when we review the Euro Book titles, about which you could read at the end of the post.
No wonder, Mr.Vijayan’s earlier works on Lucky Luke, Chick Bill story translations helped him to a great extent, by devising a new translation strategy for the Iznogoud series. The typical short stories of Iznogoud is also an ideal fit, for quick translation and publishing, something which will be a disguise for often delayed Lion Comics.
The only complaints of these Lion Comics Iznogoud instalments, were the black & white format, which at times destroys the intrigued details laced in the artwork. Another one is the B6 size, which has now become a standard of Lion/Muthu publications, which prompted Editor to use varied ways of publishing Iznogoud titles, sometimes in Landscape format, while other times in Portrait.
Not much you could demand in there, as every publisher has to base his product, to the target market. And no one better than Mr.Vijayan would know that for sure.
This particular story was originally featured in Iznogoud’s 5th English Album, titled ‘Iznogoud and The Day of Misrule’ released by Egmont in 1979. The Lion Comics #160’s Cover is also inspired by the cover of the same album.
Story-2: Maayamai Pona Manaalan (மாயமாய் போன மணாளன்) starring Rip Kirby
When we are reviewing the Lion #160, it’s justified we also mention about the second story which featured Rip Kirby’s adventure. Rip Kirby is often used by Editor Vijayan, as a page-filler, so he was again to the rescue for filling up the book pages, with the short Iznogoud story as its lead.
With all due credits to the creators of Rip Kirby, the fact remains that not all Rip Kirby stories has the “oomph” factor to lead a issue on its own. Even in this case, it is about Rip Kirby helping an about to be wed couple, to find each other, from the clutches of money launderers.
A typical, Simple and no-nonsense story for which Rip Kirby is known for. Serves as a good page filler.
From Editors update in the Hotline of Lion #160, it was clear that the title was unplanned. But it was no doubt, that it was well received among Tamil Comic fans, who have always been receptive about the character and series choices the Editor makes, for his brand of Comics.
The demand was instrumental in Lion Comics continuing to feature Iznogoud in further issues on #168, #175, and #186 (Mega Dream Special) as supplement stories, and then in an exclusive title on Issue #189. Here is the complete list of all those stories published in Lion Comics so far, and their source, from the UK’s Egmont/Methuen.
|#||Issue No.||Published||Iznogoud Story Title||Original Album (UK Egmont/Methuen) |
Album Title (Published Year) – Story Title
|1.||Lion #147||Feb-99||Comedy Galatta |
|The Magic Computer (1978) - The Caliph’s Sceptre|
|2.||Lion #152||Aug-99||Vendhanukku Vidumurai |
|The Caliph’s Vacation (1977) – Summer Vacation|
|3.||Lion #155||Nov-99||Karaippar Karaithaal |
|The Infamous (1977) – The Sinister Liquidator|
|4.||Lion #160||Apr-00||Thalaikeelai Oru Thinam |
(தலைகீழாய் ஒரு தினம்)
|The Day of Misrule (1979) – The Day of Misrule|
|5.||Lion #168||Jun-01||Vairam Venuma…? Vairam…! |
(வைரம் வேணுமா வைரம்)
|The Infamous (1977) – Unlucky Diamond|
|6.||Lion #175||Nov-02||Vinnil Oru Mandhiri |
(விண்ணில் ஒரு மந்திரி)
|A Carrot for Iznogoud (1979) – Magic Fiction|
|7.||Lion #186||May-04||Baagdhathil Therthal |
|The Day of Misrule (1979) – Elections in the Caliphate|
|8.||Lion #189||Dec-04||Sulthaanuku Oru Savaal |
|The Day of Misrule (1979) – The Challenge|
|9.||“||“||Kanna Moochi Re… Re… |
(கண்ணாமூச்சி ரே ரே)
|The Day of Misrule (1979) – The Labyrinth|
The list highlights that Mr.Vijayan chose to feature only those Iznogoud stories, which were earlier translated into English, further emphasizing his preference while selecting the stories, which was strengthened during during our Muthu Comics’s Martin Mystery review post at, at Comicology.
We will look at each of the Iznogoud stories featured in Tamil Comics, when we go down reviewing these Lion titles, in months to come. That will give more breathing space for the Comicologists :-), and will be in line with our one old issue per review policy.
Lion #189’s Iznogoud story remains the last story of Iznogoud published in India so far. There was another story which was advertised for long, as the next probably addition to the list in Lion Comics, but never seen daylight, and remained only in Ads.
The story was supposed to be from the original UK Album titled ‘A Carrot For Iznogoud’.
Gowarsons Comics: And just in case if you have thought Lion Comics were the fore-runners in publishing Iznogoud in India, as much as we love to claim it, it only applies to Tamil language. The credit has to go to the North India based comics weekly magazine publisher, Madhu Muskan, who had ventured in publishing Goscinny work in India in early 80’s, after entering into a licensing deal with French publisher Darguad. Their publications where all in Hindi, thus bringing Goscinny’s 6 Asterix titles, and a few Iznogoud and Lucky Luke titles. Here are the covers from that bunch.
Gowarsons didn’t enjoy a great run, as it ran for a couple of years (1982-1984), ultimately closing shops during the TV boom in India. But, Madhu Muskan, the parent comics magazine which was started as early in 1972, is said to be still in publication. But I haven’t seen them at nearby stores so far, meaning they should have been now distributed locally.
Here is the last recognized address from which they were publishing: Madhu Muskan Publication Pvt Ltd, 341 Udyog Vihar Phase-IV, Gurgaon, Haryana, India. Isn’t it a co-incident that Lion Comics and Gowarsons have published the same Iznogoud title in their first exclusive Iznogoud issue. Thanks to fellow comicologist Prabhat, for providing a tip-off about Gowarsons. Read more about Gowarsons at his blog post here, and here.
Euro Books Upcoming Iznogoud Series: For the other language comics fans, just in case if you think that you have missed out from reading Iznogoud in India, there is a good news. Euro Books India, who last time around had introduced Biggles to Indian comic fans (Read the exclusive post of Euro Book’s Biggles here), have now ventured on to to release 12 titles of Iznogoud, which is just around the corner.
If it gets released it would mean that 4 new Iznogoud titles will be translated into English for the very first time world over. Refer to their Coming Soon section, here. I hope their translation would be up-to-the-standard, if not in the same levels of Iznogoud’s Tamil version. No one can match it for sure.
What’s more Euro Books have also planned to release 24 titles of Lucky Luke too. Stay tuned, as it would be covered right-up when it hits the stands right here at Comicology. Good days are ahead for Comicologists.
Tail-Piece - Iznogoud in other Media: Before we close down this Iznogoud debut post at Comicology, it will be good to also mention the other media appearances of Goscinny & Tabary’s creation, Iznogoud, to mark its evolution.
Moving over from Comic books and series, In 1995, Iznogoud was featured in a 52 episode animation TV cartoon series. Much of those animated stories were picked up straight from the short stories featured in the 28 albums of Iznogoud.
The year 1998 also saw Iznogoud making it into a Playstation Game, which was not that successful, like the TV series.
The film was named Iznogoud: Calife A La Place Du Calife. Majority of the Comic heroes based movies always turned out a dud in box-office, and it was no different for this movie, which had bad script-writers contributing to the downfall.
Even the presence of Villeret, who is recognized as one of the best actors to come out of French movie industry, and also the favourite of fellow comicologist Lover of Dreams, couldn’t turn the tide with his performance in the movie, even though the Caliph’s role was tailor made for him. If only he had a better Director… Gosh.
If you don’t believe me, then hear it from a person who grew reading Iznogoud stories, and watched his childhood comic hero, in the movie format.
“Patrick Braoudé completely butchered Iznogoud. He's got a lot of nerve to dedicate his piece of junk to Goscinny and Tabary!” - dbdumonteil on IMDb Movie page.
As for me, the only saving grace of the entire affair was the appearance of the beautiful Franco-Moroccan singer, Sofia Essaïdi :-)
So, that brings us to the close of another lengthy post here at Comicology. Let’s close with one of the famous catch-phrases introduced by Iznogoud, and which is now used colloquially in French to refer to the over-ambitious persons. The recent recipient of that title, is none other than the present French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Such is an impact of Iznogoud, even among non-comic fans.
Not to forget, India had its own off-shoot version of Iznogoud, Tinkle’s Tantri the Mantri. We will see more about that in our next Tinkle post at Comicology.