Aug 20, 2007

Euro Books - Biggles | 14 Albums | 2007

Most of the European Comic Book Heroes known to South Indians, are basically the ones introduced by Lion/Muthu Comics from Prakash Publishers.  I am no exception to the list.  What we have in-store for this article is one of those unsung heroes of the Golden Age of European Comics.

There used to be times, when the Comic Hunger was burning hot inside, and the occasional releases of Muthu/Lion and Rani Comics were turning to be pretty less then what was required.  I used to visit all the pavement book shops and second hand book stalls almost every day, trying my luck to find out the old editions with few rupees in my hand.  But even then, I was little selective about choosing only Lion, Muthu, Thigil, Rani, and occasionally Poonthalir and Ratnabala.  So, the world outside was almost unknown.

Biggles 3-in-1 Vol.1: Sky Wars
| The Wotan Sword | The Last Zeppelin |
| The 13th Tooth of the Devil |
ISBN: 978-81-286-1479-8 |
Biggles 3in1 Vol1
Biggles 3-in-1 Vol.2: Super Squadron
| Squadron Biggles | The Lost Oasis – 1 |
| The Lost Oasis – 2 |
ISBN: 978-81-286-1477-4 |
Biggles 3in1 Vol2

When Gotham Comics was launched, it gave me a chance to explore something out of this box.  But, again it was limited only to American based comic heroes, and the European Golden Period still remained a treasure unrevealed to one and all.

Recently, I chanced upon a new initiative by a global company called EuroKids International, who has forayed in the Graphic Novels in India, by introducing few books under the Euro Books brand-name.  They have two limited series editions, the first being Agastha Christies Novels in Comic form, which is not of international standards, and looks to have been aimed for the kids.  But, the other one was real surprise, a 14 title series of Biggles, starring one of the famous European Comic heroes, Bigglesworth.

Biggles 3-in-1 Vol.3: Air Adventures
| The Flight of the Wallenstein | The Yellow Swan |
| The Pirates of the South Pole |
ISBN: 978-81-286-1478-1 |
Biggles 3in1 Vol3
Biggles 3-in-1 Vol.4: Captain Courageous 
| Fire in Province - 1 | Fire in Province – 2 |
| Deadly Snow |
ISBN: 978-81-286-1476-7 |
Biggles 3in1 Vol4

W.E. JOHNS, the creator of this impressive air-pilot hero himself had served in British Air Force.  His experience in many a battles, let him drive the scenario and chracterization for the Biggles character, which were originally released as Novels.

Francis Bergese (b. 1941), a French comic creator who has unique skills of bringing the air combat of planes in comic form with all realistic details, later took up the charge to give a comic form for the Johns’ british fictional hero.

bergese Francis Bergese

It is said that Bergese, was so much interested in flying and exploring, that he once had his license suspended at the age of 17.  No wonder he eventually turned up to re-live his first-love in form of the Comics.  His first chance to draw for a comics was when Jean-Michel Charlier (famous for the Blueberry series) asked him to take the reins for Buck Danny, a series Charlier had co-founded along with Victor Hubinen.  Buck Danny being an Aviation Hero himself, gave a chance for Bergese to try his hands artistic visualisation in paper-form, which went a long way in establishing his great work later for Biggles.

Biggles Single Vol. Edition 13
Chappal Wadi |
ISBN: 978-81-286-1316-6 |
Biggles 13
Biggles Single Vol. Edition 14
Spitfire Parade |
ISBN: 978-81-286-1475-0 |

Biggles 14

The storylines are full of history, with plots developed pre and post World War scenarios, with some dealing with the treasures which went missing during the wars, which adds all the more delight to the comic fans.

Pierre Clostermann, a french flying ace himself, says this in one of his prefaces of Biggles titles:

"In England, for more than half a century, Biggles has delighted the young and old alike.  Having become the national symbol for courage, initiative, selfishness and gallantry, he travels through history and time true to himself.  Noble in his acts and motivations, Biggles can be twenty years old in 1916 in the Royal Flying Corps and twenty five years old in 1940 in the Royal Air Force.  There's nothing unusual about this - creative license is allowed in comic strips.  Francis Bergese's Scenarios, Illustration and Colours means we get to see the all the forms of flying objects you could only read on books."

Bergese artwork inside Biggles Graphic Novel - 1 
Biggles (2)
Bergese artwork inside Biggles Graphic Novel - 2
Biggles (4)

Pierre also adds this this about Francis Bergese:

"The episodes experienced by Biggles and the members of the squadron are perfectly creditable.  This authenticity is reinforced by the exceptional quality of the drawings, the precision of the planes, the combat maneuvers and the perfect reconstitution of the scenes.  With Francis Bergese's Buck Danny, we were used to drawings of airplanes, which "fly" - and the artists capable of doing this are few and far between in the world.  With the Spitfire Parade, I am more than ever a diehard fan of Francis Bergese."

Here is the complete list of Biggles titles released by EuroBooks in India (All in 2007).  All these titles were originally released in French on a year-on-year basis, which were later translated and released in UK by Red Fox as English editions.  So no wonder Euro Books has made sure that they chose from the second lot, to save them of translation duties.

# Title Story Artist Original Title (French)
1. Yellow Swan Francis Bergèse Francis Bergèse Le cygne jaune (1990)
2. The Pirates of the South Pole Francis Bergèse Francis Bergèse Les pirates du pole sud (1991)
3. Spitfire Parade Francis Bergèse Francis Bergèse Le bal des Spitfire (1992)
4. The Flight of the Wallenstein Michel Oleffe Eric Loutte Le vol du Wallenstein (1994)
5. Squadron Biggles Francis Bergèse Francis Bergèse Squadron Biggles (1994)
6. The Last Zeppelin Francis Bergèse Francis Bergèse Le dernier Zeppelin (1995)
7. The 13th Tooth Of The Devil Michel Oleffe Eric Loutte La 13ème dent du diable (1997)
8. The Wotan Sword Michel Oleffe Eric Loutte L'épée de Wotan (1998)
9. Deadly Snow Michel Oleffe Eric Loutte Neiges mortelles (1999)
10. The Lost Oasis - 1 Michel Oleffe Frank Leclercq L'oasis perdue – 1 (2000)
11. The Lost Oasis – 2 Michel Oleffe Frank Leclercq L'oasis perdue – 2 (2001)
12. Fire in Provence - 1 Michel Oleffe Eric Loutte Feu sur la Provence – 1 (2003)
13. Fire in Provence - 2 Michel Oleffe Eric Loutte Feu sur la Provence – 2 (2004)
14. Chappal Wadi Michel Oleffe Eric Loutte Chappal Wadi (2006)

While Bergese has worked on the majority of the titles, drawn and scripted by himself, there were also sizeable titles scripted by Michel Oleffe, with Eric Loutte and Frank Leclercq donning the artist duties on and off.  But, it should be noted that they chose to base the characters layout in line with how Bergese had envisioned them previously, may be as an homage to the legendary creator. 

Eventhough, the great Comic Hunters ERB and Viswa of Chennai, say that they do posses some Biggles comics of Old ages obtained from Second Hand book shops, I wasn't fortunate enough to behold them so far.   Thus far these instalments from Euro Books are the only ones which are in my collection.  I hope some other publishing company in India, dig-in and bring the other titles available of this unsung hero from Franco Belgian Era.  Overall, Biggles series seems to be one for the collectors and comics fans, and thanks to EuroKids for bringing this hero to limelight in India. 

Unfortunately, the Euro Book site doesn't have any information about these books, so the best way to get them would be to reach the chain bookstore like Landmark, Odyssey, or Higginbothams.  Each of the 14 Titles run a lengthy 48 pages, and the are priced at INR 199.  They also have 4 Hard-Bound Compilations containing 3 stories each priced at INR 450/-. The remaining two editions has to be picked from the singles lot. A Little heavily priced, but compared to their original European price, and the quality of the papers and binding, its a good buy, and a good addition to your classic collection.  If you are interested in exploring further, The complete list of Biggles, could be found here.

As always, please leave your comments about this article down below, which will keep me going.

UPDATE (02/09): A new post which reviews the latest Biggles titles released by UK based CineBook, and available in India, is published at Comicology.  Read that over here.

22 ComiComments:

Viswa Nathan.D
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

Dear Rafiq,

Day By Day, your blog is getting more informative & better, to say the least. In fact, i have some biggles & am yet to read (Just Like ERB, Buying & keeping safe and not having enough time to read).

By the Way, i've bought the War Comics Collection (14 Stories of Classics) from higginbothams last week. Very nice. However, it will be tough for us to read the book & maintain. The Binding makes it tough to read the book.

Thanks Viswa for the comments. It does add the fuel to keep writing more on our favorite hobby.

Let me know once you read through Biggles stories at your possesion, I believe they would be from the vintage classics of Biggles, and should be more entertaining, as I see all the ones published by EuroBooks seems the most latest from the creators, looking at the colors and art.

Talking of ERB, he's kind of a person who gets satisfied by just having the comics in his possession...:) for me, If I grab some, I try to finish it before the next set arrives atleast, the old comic freak, is still alive :)

I did see that heavy bound war comics collection, more than the price, it wasn't suitable for reading, neverthless maintaining for collection, for which I didn't buy that. Hopefully later digests would be packaged more collector friendly :).

Your blogs are great to read. They are more informative. I am in bangalore I did not know the latest gotham is release. You are in chennai and you have the information.

Coooool Keep it up. As you have suggested I have to go for subscription to keep it up.

What is that about ghost rider ??

Thanks suresh for your presence in the blog.

There was a Ghost Rider DVD in the contest on this month issues of Gotham, but I hope it would have run out as it was only available in the number of 50, first come-first serve basis.

Let's see, would I get hold of the enhanced cut of the DVD :).

Great Blog,Rafiq! Nice place to catch up on Indian comics news -I thought Gotham had stopped publishing!

Keep up the good work!

Words from the "Keeper of Black Tower". I am honoured to see your presence here, Terry.

I have been checking up your comicbits regularly, and amazed to see the amount of articles you add every day.

I wonder what would comic habit be without your yahoo blogs and your expert insight.

Would be happy to see your comments regularly over here.

Hi Rafiq,
It's nice to read your blog. I was looking for information about Biggles and got an idea about it... I have seen a collection of war stories named "True Brit" and "Dirty Dozen" at "Landmark" and "Odyssey" in Chennai. Any idea about those war comics?

Mahesh kumar

Mahesh: Thanks for your visit. I do remember seeing the True Brit and Dirty Dozen at Landmark last month. They were heavily priced going along with the heavy binding. More than price the format in which it was hard bound and collecting so many stories... I thought they weren't worth for the collection sake.

Viswa from Chennai, also pointed out that its hard to read those books. Moreover, when War Comics are generally available in second hand book shops for bargain, paying such a huge price for the one which isn't collector friendly was way too much for me :)

Hi Rafiq,

Thanks for your suggestions, regarding those war stories.. Yeah, you are right. When I saw those books (war stories), I was willing to buy.. Since those books are heavily priced, i wished to get a second opinion.

With warm regards,
Mahesh kumar

I have now updated the post, with the corresponding Originals of the Euro Books editions. Happy Reading.

I had come across Biggles at the Battle of Britain and Biggles Spitfire Parade long ago published by Red Fox. Fhen I came across the Egmont books mentioned by you above. Needless to say these books were a pleasure to read. I have now got to add Chappal Wadi and Yellow Swan to this collection.

Thanks for the discussion about me in this forum. It is indeed true that i collect all the comics which are possible to collect when I can and when it is available. These treasures can be read even when we become old, but could not be collected at any time. This is my philosophy. But i do not have time to read any of the comics which i collect, but i keep on collecting and safeguard them. Also very happy to meet Mr Terry after more than 5 years.

List of Biggles books

1. The Camels Are Coming (1932)
2. The Cruise of the Condor (1933)
3. Biggles of the Camel Squadron (1934)
4. Biggles Flies Again (1934)
5. Biggles Learns to Fly (1935)
6. The Black Peril (1935)
7. Biggles Flies East (1935)
8. Biggles in France (1935)
9. Biggles & Co (1936)
10. Biggles in Africa (1936)
11. Biggles - Air Commodore (1937)
12. Biggles Flies West (1937)
13. Biggles Flies South (1938)
14. Biggles Goes to War (1938)
15. The Rescue Flight (1939)
16. Biggles in Spain (1939)
17. Biggles Flies North (1939)
18. Biggles - Secret Agent (1940)
19. Biggles in the Baltic (1940)
20. Biggles in the South Seas (1940)
21. Biggles Defies the Swastika (1941)
22. Biggles Sees It Through (1941)
23. Spitfire Parade (1941)
24. Biggles Hits the Trail (1941)
25. Biggles in the Jungle (1942)
26. Biggles Sweeps the Desert (1942)
27. Biggles - Charter Pilot (1943)
28. Biggles in Borneo (1943)
29. Biggles Fails to Return (1943)
30. Biggles in the Orient (1945)
31. Biggles Delivers the Goods (1946)
32. Sergeant Bigglesworth CID (1947)
33. Biggles' Second Case (1948)
34. Biggles Hunts Big Game (1948)
35. Biggles Takes a Holiday (1948)
36. Biggles Breaks the Silence (1949)
37. Biggles Gets His Men (1950)
38. Another Job for Biggles (1951)
39. Biggles Goes to School (1951)
40. Biggles Works It Out (1952)
41. Biggles Takes the Case (1952)
42. Biggles Follows On (1952)
43. Biggles - Air Detective (1952)
44. Biggles and the Black Raider (1953)
45. Biggles in the Blue (1953)
46. Biggles in the Gobi (1953)
47. Biggles of the Special Air Police (1953)
48. Biggles Cuts It Fine (1954)
49. Biggles and the Pirate Treasure (1954)
50. Biggles Foreign Legionnaire (1954)
51. Biggles Pioneer Air Fighter (1954)
52. Biggles in Australia (1955)
53. Biggles' Chinese Puzzle (1955)
54. Biggles of 266 (1956)
55. No Rest for Biggles (1956)
56. Biggles Takes Charge (1956)
57. Biggles Makes Ends Meet (1957)
58. Biggles of the Interpol (1957)
59. Biggles on the Home Front (1957)
60. Biggles Presses On (1958)
61. Biggles on Mystery Island (1958)
62. Biggles Buries a Hatchet (1958)
63. Biggles in Mexico (1959)
64. Biggles' Combined Operation (1959)
65. Biggles at the World's End (1959)
66. Biggles and the Leopards of Zinn (1960)
67. Biggles Goes Home (1960)
68. Biggles and the Poor Rich Boy (1960)
69. Biggles Forms a Syndicate (1961)
70. Biggles and the Missing Millionaire (1961)
71. Biggles Goes Alone (1962)
72. Orchids for Biggles (1962)
73. Biggles Sets a Trap (1962)
74. Biggles Takes It Rough (1963)
75. Biggles Takes a Hand (1963)
76. Biggles' Special Case (1963)
77. Biggles and the Plane That Disappeared (1963)
78. Biggles Flies to Work (1963)
79. Biggles and the Lost Sovereigns (1964)
80. Biggles and the Black Mask (1964)
81. Biggles Investigates (1964)
82. Biggles Looks Back (1965)
83. Biggles and the Plot That Failed (1965)
84. Biggles and the Blue Moon (1965)
85. Biggles Scores a Bull (1965)
86. Biggles in the Terai (1966)
87. Biggles and the Gun Runners (1966)
88. Biggles Sorts It Out (1967)
89. Biggles and the Dark Intruder (1967)
90. Biggles and the Penitent Thief (1967)
91. Biggles and the Deep Blue Sea (1967)
92. The Boy Biggles (1968)
93. Biggles in the Underworld (1968)
94. Biggles and the Little Green God (1969)
95. Biggles and the Noble Lord (1969)
96. Biggles Sees Too Much (1970)
97. Biggles Does Some Homework (1997)
98. Biggles Air Ace: The Uncollected Stories (1999)

Also there is a movie on biggles in 1986 whose commentary is as follows:

One minute the New Yorker advertising expert Jim Ferguson is at a business party -- the next he finds himself way back in 1917 in a plane fight during World War I. Mr. Raymond (Peter Cushing) explains to him that he has a time-twin, to whom he's relocated in space and time whenever one of them is in trouble. So he has to help his twin, biplane pilot Biggles, in his attempt to destroy a German
super weapon, that could win their war. Of course
it's hard for Jim to explain his sudden disappearances to his fiance, Debbie.

@ ERB: Everyone around in Comics biz in India, knows how famous you are when it comes to Collecting Comics. So no wonder you find your mention here when the topic arouse.

Terry has been a longtime supporter of our blog, so finding his comments sometime over here is a pleasant one to say the least.

I don't know whether all the Biggles Books were translated into Comics form, but Euro Books have chose to feature the later editions which had superior artwork of Bergese and the likes.

Didn't watch the Biggles movie you mentioned, let me try grabbing that. But I presume, it wasn't a great attempt in making :-)

wow! I was not aware that there are so many of biggles comics .I knew only those I had been able to lay my hands on.WOnderful !I appreciate your collection
AKPandey Lucknow

@ Anand: Welcome to Comicology, Pandey. Biggles is indeed a huge series, which has a long roots in all of European nations.

Thanks to Euro Books, the series has been made popular in India too. I only wish that they would have continued to bring some more titles in the series, which they generally avoiding doing for any series they touch in their publication.

This is a very informative and amazing blog. Hats of for the wonderful work.

Raj - Bangalore/Chennai

@ Raj: Thanks much for your visit and comment. Please feel free to share your point of view about the other comic posts, whenever you find time.

Happy Reading !!

hey that fine great post you had shared i got your blog through google its very nice to look and read

hey that fine great post you had shared i got your blog through google its very nice to look and read

Viswa Nathan.D
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

Dear Rafiq,

Day By Day, your blog is getting more informative & better, to say the least. In fact, i have some biggles & am yet to read (Just Like ERB, Buying & keeping safe and not having enough time to read).

By the Way, i've bought the War Comics Collection (14 Stories of Classics) from higginbothams last week. Very nice. However, it will be tough for us to read the book & maintain. The Binding makes it tough to read the book.

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