Captainz v1 cover detail by Yoann

“Captainz”: When the French Do Superheroes, Things Get Weird

Famously, Franco-Belgian creators don’t do superhero comics. They do, literally, everything else. Whenever I see a picture of a French comic shop and there’s a Marvel hardcover in the midst of all the albums, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

There are a couple of counter-examples to this, of course, because nothing in life is 100%. But I’d argue there’s no straight-ahead serious superhero comic produced from offices in Paris or Brussels.

That includes “Captainz,” which is as much a loving homage of superhero comics as it is a silly humorous near-parody of them.

It’s crazy, it’s imaginative, it’s aware of its own goofiness. I enjoyed it a lot.

Capes and Credits

Captainz v1 cover by Yoann
Writer: Olivier Texier and Yoann Artist: Yoann Colorist: Marie Huet, Laurence Croix Lettering: Cromatik Ltd. Translator: Edward Gauvin Published by: Lombard Number of Pages: 56 Original Publication: 2017

What’s Going On?

It was an awkward first meeting for Captain Mysterioso and Captain Woof

Captainz is the name of a team of superpowered people who are coming together to find other superpowered people, because one of them is, basically, the Destroyer of Worlds.

It’s led by Captain Woof, who is a dog from another dimension where dogs evolved to be the dominant species. He’s trapped in our dimension now and looking for a way home.

Captain Monstrosity is a sleek black suited fellow who never takes off his suit and can generate massive firepower from his extremities at will.

Together, they go on to recruit Captain Bummer, who has the ability to affect your mood so radically that you want to kill yourself. Then they get Captain Smooch, who basically turns into Red Hulk when someone kisses him.

Finally, Megahertz (not a Captain by name) walks into their lives, with the ability to surf electro-magnetic waves, giving him the ability to ride television signals into any TV at will, for example.

Dramatic shot of the Captainz team, now that they'e all together  after some difficult introductions.

All together, they form “The Captainz,” a team dedicated to the public good, stopping monsters as they pop up for a small price.

This is starting to sound like a Keith Giffen pitch gone terribly awry. In fact, there’s a lot of bantering and bickering amongst the team that reminds me of the kind of scripts Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis did so well in their Justice League days. The characters in this book often pick at each other. They exploit each others’ sensitive natures for comedic effect, which is a lot of fun.

Texier and Yoann have a lot of fun with this book, and it shows on every page. The characters are fairly broad, with crazy superpowers that would be a lot of fun to investigate and exploit. The puzzle pieces are in place now. The first half of this book is a lot of the classic “Putting the Team Together” type of thing alongside the “Fit Everyone’s Origin Story In” framework.

The story never gets deep. There’s plenty of room for character development, as things stay fairly broad and surface level in this first book. Part of that was a necessity to fit in all the origin stories and the little bit of plot the book needs to keep things moving and exciting.

But Texier and Yoann create such great situations and great characters to put in them that I want to see more. It’s a bit too far out there to become a “Franchise”, perhaps, but there’s still lots of room to work with these characters in. There are plenty of other superhero cliche plots they could play with for future stories.

The Art of Yoann

Yoann's art in Captainz reminds me of Doug TenNapel's style

Immediately, in the book’s open, the art reminded me of Doug TenNapel. Those bold thick brush strokes and goofy looking characters all fit his style.

But it’s not. This is drawn by Yoann, in a style that feels Spirou-friendly, with the big noses and the cartoon proportions to human bodies to keep it interesting for him. Yoann’s most famous work would be his run on “Spirou et Fantasio” a decade ago, following Morvan and Munuera.

I guess technically he’s still the main artist on “Spirou et Fantasio”? With writer Fabien (“Alone“) Vehlmann, they did six books from 2010 to 2016. The slowdown in Spirou publications has meant no “mainline” Spirou books have seen print since.

Smooch Smash in Captainz v1, art by Yoann

In any case, Yoann’s art works so well here that I can’t wait for the day when Cinebook gets to reprinting his Spirou stories. It feels like this book is a bit crazier than what he could get away with when it comes to Spirou and Fantasio.

It’s definitely sexier. Captain Bummer throws herself at Captain Smooch repeatedly, as he’s a dashing playboy type when not hulked out. And the opening battle scene features a building under attack and a stream of topless women running away from it.

(You can insert the usual qualifications about sex versus violence, America versus Europe, etc here. Stipulated, it’s a thing. I’m just pointing out that it happens here, not passing judgments.)

Yoann’s art is crazily cartooned, but he can still draw all of that effectively, and his skills as a “superhero” artist are equally strong. He can organize a group shot with skill, and keep characters in action in inspiring ways. It’s fun to watch someone work with such a chunky ink line when so many are playing with finer lines and little nit-picky details. It’s nice to see a brush inker at work.

Just the Start?

Captain Mysterio isn't the best hero

There is no “Volume 1” label on this book. And the sudden change in colorists makes me wonder if this book had a long publishing history — like it’s one of those projects that started at one point, but then got put aside for years until it was put out of its misery, er, completed later for the sake of getting it into print to recoup the publisher’s investment.

I’m looking DEEP into a yawning abyss here with no information. This is all idle speculation.

But the story ends with a clear vision for where it could go in the future. One character leaves, one joins up, and it’s a whole new team because of it. I’d welcome a volume 2. There’s a lot of gold to be mined from the characters they have here.


Captainz v1 cover by Yoann

Yes, it’s a fun read that deserves more. I’m not sure anymore is coming, but the potential is there. If this book is all there ever will be, then we can look back at it as an interesting window into another world that closed relatively quickly.

— 2019.049 —

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  1. It’s a really fun book.
    I actually just re-read it so I could check your review.
    I met Yoann at Festival BD de Montréal in May, and from talking to him, I’d say you’re pretty spot on about the Captainz publishing history, it was a thing they started over a decade ago that didn’t really work out, and they managed to get it done in album form in 2017, but it flopped so don’t expect more unfortunately.
    There is however a fancy B&W edition… Check out the whole website your head will explode haha

    1. It’s too bad the book flopped, but thanks for confirming that for me. And curse you for showing me that URL, because I did spend far too much time at the site, and hating myself for not being independently wealthy enough to buy one of everything. I did notice, however, that the Captainz book was lot cheaper than all the others. Man, people must really hate this book. Pity.

        1. I’d consider that book to be a good start. There’s so much beautiful stuff on there. Part of me is angry that they don’t mass produce them to bring the cost to something more reasonable. I’m guessing that even with the lower price point, they still wouldn’t sell enough. Curse you, Real World! I like my imaginary world so much better!