Journal Spirou title header

Ninety-Nine Cent Spirou

Izneo.com offers the Spirou magazine (“Journal Spirou”) digitally. It is one of the best values in modern BD, which is why I want to recommend it to you today.

But, first:

A Little Bit of Spirou History

Journal Spirou is the weekly anthology magazine that’s been running since 1938.  That year is not a typo.

As you might imagine, the story behind the magazine is a pretty good soap opera.  There’s generational turnover, unhappiness over promotions, defections to competing magazines, an actual Golden Age, a tug of war over the age range the comic should be for, a strike by the colorists, the purchase of the magazine by the parent company of one of its competitors, etc. etc.

Yet, the thing keeps going. Even the internet hasn’t disrupted it to the point of cancellation.  “Spirou” is still being published every week, just as it has for almost 80 years. (Don’t try to collect them all.)

It is the birthplace of the Marcinelle School of art.  In the early days, it published the works of Andre Franquin, Will, and Morris.  They would be followed in the 50s by the next generation, featuring the likes of Peyo and Jean Roba.  As you can imagine, it was a Golden Age under editor Yvan Delporte (who gets credit to this day in the Smurfs books, as seen in America through NBM), when “Spirou” published strips like “Lucky Luke”, “Gaston LaGaffe,” “The Smurfs”, “Boule et Bill”, and more.

Today, it publishes a great cross-section of comics, from the humorous to the adventurous.  You get new “Lucky Luke” stories in here, but also new “The Bellybuttons” (Papercutz has them in America), plus (of course) Spirou tales, “Dad,” (Europe Comics), “Lady S” (Cinebook), “Melusine” (Cinebook), “Alone” (Cinebook and a recent French movie), “The Bluecoats” (Cinebook), and lots more.

These are all fairly commercial properties, but that’s OK.  That’s the kind of stuff I like.  Pleasant cartooning, entertaining stories, a variety of genres and atmospheres/environments. Who could ask for much more?

What You Get Today

A row of recent Spirou issues

Each issue features a variety of comics, usually with a longer lead story and then a selection of short stories and single page gags. There are short interviews and articles, as well, but the features are the comics, and lots of them.

The regular price was $1.99 per issue up until last summer . Then, they had a special summer promotion of 99 cents an issue.  That must have worked out well, because the price has stayed at 99 cents ever since.  It’s one of the best values in comics.  It’s a weekly dose of 52 pages of new material for a dollar.

Everything, yes, is in French.  So, unless you’re fluent, you’re not going to do much reading here. This is mostly a cheap exercise in seeing different styles of art and what is out there.  Lots of the works in this magazine will eventually be collected into albums and, eventually one hopes, translated into English.  It’ll give you something to look forward to.

This happened last year with Paul Bonhomme’s “The Man Who Shot Lucky Luke,” for one example. I read the first chapter and a half or so by translating the French word balloons. Turns out, it’s easier to just read the English translation a few months later.

It teaches you less French, but it’s far easier…

 

“Mega Spirou”

Mega Spirou volume 1 cover detail with Spirou

Every quarter or so, they release a new issue of “Mega Spirou”.  This is a newer format.  It’s a 192 page anthology that features one or two complete albums’ worth of material in addition to the usual single page and shorter gag stories.  This one is up at $4.99 a book, but is definitely worth it, especially for the value of those albums.

Right now, I don’t see it anywhere on Izneo.com.  The issues I purchased are still in my library, but it doesn’t come up in a search.  I wonder if it’s been discontinued.  That’d be a shame.

Looks like they published a new issue in March 2017, so it’s possible the series is carrying on though without digital availability.  It was never a magazine you could subscribe to, even in France.  It was newsstand only.

 

One Crazy Marvel/DC Comparison in L’Histoire du Spirou

For the first few years, the magazine reset its issue number at the beginning of the year.

It was only in 1946 that it decided to go with a continuous numbering scheme. In fact, they started it retroactively. So that issue was #404, and they incremented from there all the way up to this day.

This, of course, is the inverse of the current North American publishing model, with the upcoming exception of “Make Mine Marvel.”

 

Give It A Shot

Whether you have or haven’t exhausted all those issues of Bamboo I previously pointed you to, this is the perfect next step. It’s a fairly cheap way to dip your toes into the waters of Franco-Belgian (“BD”) comics and see what they have to offer.  Obviously, they have a lot more than just this, but if you like this school of cartooning, it’ll give you lots of options.

Use it as a sampler before picking up a collected edition album of one of the stories.  Use it as a cheap lesson in French.  Use it for the eye candy or for inspiration for your own cartooning. (I’ve done exercises in drawing hands based just on art from “Journal Spirou.”)

“Journal Spirou” is a great anthology that serves an amazing roll in Franco-Belgian BD publishing.  And it’s cheap and available to you instantly today.  Just get your Izneo account and go!

1 Comment

  • JC Lebourdais May 22, 2017 at 10:29 am

    For decades, French weekly periodicals hardly bothered putting the issue number on the cover, or if they did, it was in tiny font, for legal reasons (National Library registration I think). In any case, it was never a big deal. The overall numbering was in the indicia and the year was the main key, so the annual reset was really an afterthought. Spirou is arguably the oldest periodical still being published today (it passed the Beano down the line I think). But when you think about it, its longevity is neither a burden nor an asset, since it has been in a perpetual state of renewal, through many different eras, each one having its own highlights. Every issue of Spirou is very much a product of its time, never shying away from breaking new ground, albeit in a soft and smooth way.
    And for those like myself who don’t like to wait for the weekly serialization, it was always possible to collect it as thick phonebook-type compendiums regrouping 20-30 issues each. Some of these are highly sought after, because they sport original covers by the all-time Masters of European BD like Franquin, Roba, Peyo and countless others.
    To be honest I never quite understood why the dying American comics format never attempted shifting to something similar, what Shonen Jump is to Manga.

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