It surprised me to learn that they sold collections of “Pilote” magazine.
I mean, wasn’t it enough that the magazine served as the launching pad for the albums? The Asterix albums, for example, got off to a bit of a slow start, but by the fifth or sixth album, it was a massive best seller.
In 1966, “Asterix and the Normans” sold a million copies.
It wasn’t the only series getting regular collections, either. “Lucky Luke”, for example, was well into its collected history. 30 albums saw print before “Lucky Luke” shifted publishing houses from “Spirou” magazine to “Pilote.”
But those albums make sense to us, as North American readers. They collect parts of a story into a bigger, complete whole. That’s the entire set-up for the North American industry today: take a six issue story in one format and and collect it under one cover in another.
That collected edition takes all the story pages, slams them together, and maybe puts the cover images as a gallery in the back, or perhaps as title pages just before each issue.
That’s not what happened with “Pilote.”
Wait ’til you get a load of this one.
France vs. Belgium
Something that confused me initially about this that I should point out up front: Different collected editions of Spirou were published in France and Belgium.
The books I’m reviewing here are the French collections. They collect 10 issues at a time, while the Belgian editions collect 13.
This is what the Belgian editions look like, taken from a completed Catawiki auction listing:
Honestly, I like the cover and book design of the Belgian editions, from what I’ve seen of them. I hope to eventually pick up a Belgian edition for comparison’s sake.
Printing One, Getting Both
But first, another parallel.
It’s a common enough thing with Kickstarters, for example, where the publisher/creator will offer either softcover or hardcover editions with their books. They do that by publishing the interior for all of them, and then gluing/sewing/stitching that set of interior pages into either the paperback covers or the hard covers.
That keeps the costs lower by making one larger print run for the interior, and then adding the covers after the fact.
That’s not exactly what Pilote did, but it’s kind of close.
How Pilote Collections Worked
Pilote is collected by gluing 10 issues of the magazine into a new hardcover.
It’s almost a slipcase situation, except the magazines are glued into the slip case, and you can open that up like a book.
It’s a weird thing when you get to the glossy heavier weight paper for the cover stock at the beginning of a new issue. It’s like each magazine is a signature, and each signature is wrapped in a cover.
I bet the issues weren’t even reprinted. I’m guessing they overprinted each issue and set enough copies aside to fulfill the need for these hardcover collections. They just glued a bunch of issues into a hardcover.
Ten issues might have made for a good price point, or maybe it was all they wanted to keep in the warehouse at a time.
The Years Aren’t Always So Kind
50 years later, that glue holding these books together isn’t perfect.
I’ve picked up three of these collections through eBay so far. One of them is falling apart. The issues are coming unglued and are falling out of the hardcover. It’s truly a slipcase for the issues, as this point.
It doesn’t bother me at all, though. I just wanted the original magazines. Having them in these hardcovers is a nice way to help shelve them, but I’m OK with keeping them together inside the original hardcover and taking each issue out for a look through when I want to. I don’t need the collectability or purity of the original presentation.
The other two collections I’ve picked up are straining a bit. When you lay the book flat and flip through pages at either end, you can often feel the stress put upon the glue. I can’t believe that this wasn’t a problem 50 years ago or more, either.
These are big magazines that add up to a lot of weight for glue and a binding to hold together. Anytime you flip a page, you risk upsetting the balance of the book and having things pull apart.
My copy of volume 53 also has the plastic laminate peeling off the cover. On the bright side, all of the dirt on the cover is on that plastic. As it peels off the cover, the book actually looks cleaner.
Pictured above is the back cover. That whiter area along the lower right edge is where the plastic has already peeled. The cover is already beaten up along the edges, too. I don’t care. The magazines on the inside are in pristine shape.
It’s a Standard Format
“Pilote” was not alone in this, by the way. “Spirou” did the same thing. Those are harder to find on eBay. When you do, they usually cost twice as much. You can pick up “Pilote” for $25, give or take. Finding a Spirou book, especially an older one from the 60s or earlier, is going to run you at least $40, but most likely $50 to $60.
You can find more in Europe, but that often comes with a heavy shipping price ($15, more often than not) and an exchange rate that means you’ll be paying about 1.2x the Euros price in dollars.
This all explains why I don’t have a Spirou hardcover to demonstrate with for this article.
The Back Covers
The back covers all pointed you towards the other collections from Pilote which were available. There were a bunch of them: Asterix, Achille Talon, Iznogoud, Lucky Luke, Michel Tanguy, Fort Navajo, Barb Rouge, and Bob Morane.
These “earlier” volumes listed out all the individual titles, too.
By the time of volume 62 in the 1970s, they gave up listing them all. The series names were mentioned alongside their creators. Imagine that — in 1972, creators names were listed as selling points of the series. Marvel and DC wouldn’t even put their creators’ names on the cover for another 25 years or so, and legally worked hard to pretend their creators didn’t create anything. Ah, Work for Hire…
Specific Valerian and Asterix Notes
This is from volume 53. That’s the back cover to issue #569 on the left, teasing the start of a new Valerian storyline for the next issue, “La Pays Sans Etoile.” That’s “The Land Without Stars.”
That story got the cover of issue #570, seen glued right next to it on the right there. Here are the opening pages:
A quick Asterix touchstone for the three books I have here:
“Asterix in Switzerland” was the story running alongside that Valerian tale.
Volume 62 included magazines with segments from “Asterix and the Soothsayer” segments That’s a big part of the reason I picked that volume up. I love that story.
Volume 43 had the start of “Asterix and the Cauldron.”
But, Wait! There’s More!
Next time I’ll take a look at the other kind of collection they did with “Pilote” in the 1960s. It only lasted 9 books, but it lead to some new material and some very interesting ways of representing material.
If you thought gluing 10 issues together into a hardcover was weird, wait till you see what they had to do to make a smaller collection! (Preview: A little of everything.)