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Showing posts with label Blake and Mortimer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blake and Mortimer. Show all posts

Nov 28, 2008

CineBook - Blake & Mortimer #1-3 | 2008

West Land | Price: INR 250 | Color | Size: A4 | Laminated/HardCover

Finally, we have the much awaited review on the CineBook's Blake & Mortimer series here at Comicology, which was part of the batch of issues distributed in India by West Land, on July 2008.  It's another classic series from the Franco-Belgian comics era, a product of one of the famous European Comics visionary Edgar P. Jacobs.  It first appeared serialized in the Belgian comics magazine Tintin from 1946 (from the very first issue), and was subsequently published in book form by Lombard, due to its growing popularity.

It's story about two British men, Philip Mortimer, a Top Scientist; and Francis Blake, an Army officer, and follows their adventures through their science-fiction mixed detective investigations, even to an extent some historian legends, like the lost continent of Atlantis.  I wonder why the series wasn't named as Mortimer & Blake, as he is the main character in much of the adventures. Let's look at the background and earlier work of Edgar Jacobs, which formed a base for his famous Blake & Mortimer series, before we review the instalments from CineBook.

B&M 1: The Yellow "M"
ISBN: 978-1-905460-21-2

Black-Mortimer 01 Cover1
B&M 1: BackCover
Pages: 72 | Published: Jan 2007
Black-Mortimer 01 Cover2

Edgar P. Jacobs, was born in Brussels on March 30, 1904.  As per Jacobs he is known to have drawn from his early days of his childhood.  But, he actually made his entry in the arts through the Stage Dramas and Soap Opera's.  Despite spending much of his career on his first-choice, he never rose to a prominent role from filling up the extras.  So in 1940, he turned to his first-love full-time, by joining a magazine, and drawing for novels and tales.

The World War II gave Jacobs his first chance to draw for a famous comics script, in form of Flash Gordon, when the original American piece were banned by German forces in Belgium.  Eventhough, it lasted only for a couple of weeks, that gave him a base from which he could bring his inner urge to a proper shape, and he started working on his own take of Sci-Fi comic strip, Le Rayon U, heavily borrowing from the Flash Gordon script.

Edgar P. Jacobs

During the same time he was also working as a stage painter for Georges Prosper Remi's (known more famously for his creation TinTin under his ghost-name Hergé) TinTin adaptation into a play.  That paved the way for Remi to know about Jacob's works, and the two became good friends, which was instrumental in bringing Jacob's talents to a broader circle, when Remi hired him for recasting/restyling his earlier TinTin albums, like TinTin in the Cango, TinTin in America, etc.

Edgar Jacobs in TinTinEdgar P. Jacobs as Jacobini in
TinTin's Cigars of Pharaoh

The friendship between Remi and Jacobs grew so much, that Remi took the liberty to cast him under the fictional name of Jacobini in some of his TinTin albums, the famous being as a Mummified Egyptologist in Cigars of Pharaoh.

Due to his friendship with Remi, he was part of a team of writer and artists gathered together for a new TinTin magazine in 1946.

On his part, Jacobs wrote and drew his series Le secret de l’Espadon (The Secret of the Swordfish) for the first Tintin magazine, published on September 26, which was eventually the first series of Blake and Mortimer (B&M).

Because of its painstaking realism and plot-work, B&M was a worthy equivalent to the already established, Tintin series (which was created in 1926), from its start. But surprisingly, B&M proved more popular than the Tintin story that it accompanied and soon they were published as hardcover and softcover editions by publisher Lombard.

The success of the series, made Jacobs rethink his apprenticeship work with Hergé on his TinTin rework.  So, when Hergé declined his request to share the credit of TinTin publicly, Jacobs decided to concentrate full-time on B&M in 1947, and went on to produce eight big adventures until 1972, which all have become a classic collectors items. 

But the friendship between Hergé and Jacobs was not disturbed by this professional break-up, as they both shared respect to each others work and achievements.

Jacobs’ style and consistency, his plotting talent and his care in character-building vary greatly from one album to another.

Classic TinTin Magazine Cover with B&M
Ligne Claire as exhibited in
Ligne Claire
"Blake & Mortimer"
B&M 03

There are however many common threads between Hergé and Jacobs, such as the consistent use of Ligne claire (meaning Straight Line) drawing style, which was originally pioneered by Hergé.  Have a look at the example I picked up from TinTin and B&M, which clearly depicts the Ligne Claire at work.

It's a usage of straight line in the artwork with the same thickness, without any emphasize or shadowing on any work parts in a panel.  Style also uses strong colors, and a combination of cartoonish characters with realistic background details.

This style was heavily adopted by all the "Brussels school" artists, and that made them stand out from the other forms of artwork practiced by American and European genre.

It is a style, which is still being adopted by few artists across the globe, but not to an extent as it was utilized in 1950s, which adds a classic touch to the work of Jacobs and Hergé.

Let's come back to the Blake & Mortimer series released by CineBook with their distribution network in India in 2008.  There are 3 issues which are part of this pack, let's look at the synopsis of each of the titles, and their respective French Originals.  All these 3 issues were written and drawn by Edgar P. Jacobs himself.

1. The Yellow “M”:
(French Original: Album 6: La Marque Jaune, 1956)

A mysterious crime wave is sweeping London and nothing, from the Bank of England to the Crown Jewels, is safe. The identity of the criminal is unknown but Londoners are beginning to fear the symbol that is left at each crime scene, the Yellow “M”. Enters Philip Mortimer, and Blake to solve the mystery.

B&M 2: The Mystery of the Great Pyramid : Part 1
ISBN: 978-1-905460-37-3

Black-Mortimer 02 Cover1
B&M 2: BackCover
Pages: 56 | Published: Nov 2007

Black-Mortimer 02 Cover2

2. The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Vol.1:
(French Original: Album 4: Le Mystère de la Grande Pyramide, Tome 1, 1954)

Professor Mortimer, accompanied by the loyal Nasir, is in Cairo pursuing his study of Egyptology. With the assistance of his old friend, he deciphers some papyrus that was recently discovered.  His archaeological exploits soon turn out to be far more dangerous than he expected, as he calls on Captain Francis Blake for assistance but, as it turns out, Blake is the one truly in need of help.

3. The Mystery of the Great Pyramid Vol.2:
(French Original: Album 5: Le Mystère de la Grande Pyramide, Tome 2, 1955)

When news reaches him that Captain Blake has been assassinated by agents of Colonel Olrik at Athens Airport, Professor Mortimer vows to avenge his friend and sets out to discover the whereabouts of Olrik. Mortimer’s investigation leads him to the Great Pyramid where he begins to unravel the secrets of the Chamber of Horus, secrets that will lead him into the darkest depths of the Great Pyramid itself.

B&M 3: The Mystery of the Great Pyramid : Part 2 
ISBN: 978-1-905460-38-0

Black-Mortimer 03 Cover1
B&M 3: BackCover
Pages: 56 | Published: Jan 2008

Black-Mortimer 03 Cover2

However much I love the classic editions, Blake & Mortimer series were too slow for me, with far too much text interlaced between the artwork (one of the reasons why I took a long time to read and review this series from CineBook).

It seems to be the style of Jacobs to get his work in a style of novel, but that let's down the Comics medium which is known as a 'speaking art'.  Have a look at an example, which I picked up from the CineBook edition, The Mystery of the Great Pyramid.

The translators employed by CineBook for the English versions of B&M, should have had a real tough job to do, in working with all this text.

The famous Gilbert Gascard, (The creator of Ric Hochet, Reporter Johny for Tamil Comic Fans, and Chick Bill under the pseudonym Tibet), who served as an editor of TinTin magazine, shared the same feeling, which resulted in him taking years before reading E.P.Jacobs work in his own magazine.

But, with that said there is no denying the artwork and plots of Jacob is no lesser than any of the classics available at present.

B&M 02
An example of "Text" overshadowing the "Artwork" in B&M

CineBook have also released B&M 4: The Francis Blake Affair, in UK, which hasn't reached India yet. It's the 13th album in the series, and the first which was not written by Jacobs. I would be eager to read it when its available, to experience the new team which is handling the B&M series at present, which consists of one of my favorite writer Jean Van Hamme (XIII fame).

Edgar P. Jacobs passed away in 1987, and he was commemorated with a Sphinx on his cemetery tomb at Brussels, which is said to have a "collar beard", with a face looking lot similar to his famous character, Philip Mortimer, fittingly.

In 2004, the French and Belgian Post Offices worked together to dedicate stamps portraying Jacobs and his characters, which shows that along with him his characters were also immortalized.   For a complete list of work by Jacobs, visit this centenary memorial site, which is in French as with many other sites dedicated to Jacobs and his works, but we could still use the Google Translator, for exploring it.

Hope you enjoyed this post about the Blake and Mortimer, along with the author bio and background of the series.  If you want to experience the series, then grab the CineBook instalments, before they run out of stock.  It's worthy to be part of your classic collection, if you are a fan of them like me.

EdgarJacobs StampBlake-Mortimore Stamp   Jacobs & his characters: B & M
Immortalized on Stamps


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