Thursday, May 6, 2010

Eisner/Iger au Francais

I hadn't intended to revisit the Eisner/Iger shop anytime soon. After several posts about their WAGS work I figured to move on to other subjects. But a very recent addition to my very eclectic collection cried out to be shared.

The publication is entitled BILBOQUET, a curious choice since it refers to an ancient game of catching a tethered ball on a peg. Reinforcing the relationship, the tabloid's logo helpfully depicts the game's required equipment. The 8-page tabloid itself reprints various American comic strips, not unlike the British/Australian WAGS that has been the subject of several posts in these parts.

(Sunday, August 14, 1938)

This issue is apparently #28 and is dated (in French, of course) August 14, 1938. According to the smaller wording beneath the logo, BILBOQUET was published weekly and promised, "aventures" and "gaiete", which I assume you can figure out for yourself.

While BILBOQUET prominently featured the popular American strip "Jean Reid, l'audacieux"--literally, "Jean Reid, the Daring"--on its opening page (what's that, you never heard of "Jean Reid"? How about "Tailspin Tommy"?) it's the appearance of two lesser known strips that prompted my purchase of this in the first place.

(by the way, "Our Boarding House" becomes "Cap'tain Bilboquet", "Freckles and His Friends" mysteriously translates into "Grindeson Et Cie", in English, "Grindeson and Company", and best of all, William Ferguson's "Our Curious World" is bestowed with the refreshingly honest title, "Je Ne Sais Pas Tout" or "I Do Not Know Everything".)

The presence of the cowlicked haired youngster with large button eyes in the logo is the tip-off. That's "Scrappy", the Charles Mintz cartoon character that was the star of his own Eisner/Iger strip in issues of WAGS.

In full disclosure, I first found out about the "Scrappy" strip's BILBOQUET publication from Harry McCracken, former editor-in-chief of PC WORLD magazine, noted blogger and most significantly, the world's foremost authority on "Scrappy". McCracken's own acquisition of an album of collected BILBOQUET issues prompted his email to me a few years back asking if I had any details about the Mintz character's ties to the Eisner/Iger shop. Unfortunately at the time I had nothing for him, for it was several years before I bought my first WAGS and saw "Scrappy" among the other Eisner/Iger content.

Scrappy va au Guatemala
[Scrappy Goes To Guatemala]

If you look to the small notice in the bottom left panel, it grants the strip's copyright to "ag. francaise de presse" and not to Eisner/Iger's Universal Phoenix Feature's Syndicate, nor Editor's Press Service who handled its distribution, nor Charles Mintz, whose name is emblazoned on the strip in its WAGS incarnation.

WAGS vol. 2, #36

The same goes for "Les Boucaniers", the French name for Eisner's "Hawks of the Seas".

Les Boucaniers
[The Buccaneers]

The appearance of Eisner/Iger shop material in foreign language magazines has been known for a while. Most famously, Al Williamson wrote about the Spanish version of "Hawks" he read as a child in Columbia circa 1939, in his introduction to the Kitchen Sink book reprinting of the strip.

What is intriguing is that this French version appeared in 1938, not long after its WAGS publication. Since BILBOQUET was a weekly, it likely started in early February 1938, months before JUMBO COMICS hit the newsstands. Ironically, this means Americans were among the last to see the Eisner/Iger shop's output.

According to various Internet sources (caveat lector!), BILBOQUET only lasted into January 1939, at which time it was absorbed into PIERROT.

As always, dear reader, I welcome any further information on this subject.

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