Spirou le journal d’un ingénue, scénario et dessin by Émile Bravo, Dupuis 2008.
This fourth album in Dupuis’ alternate series of Spirou tales is a very impressive work of Hergéan inspired comic art. It preceded Yann and Schwartz bande dessinée Spirou Le Groom Vert-De-Gris by one year. Schwartz and Yann reworked the children’s comic as a violent fast moving adult-oriented adventure, while children’s book illustrator Bravo’s version is a quiet slow moving evocation of childhood, first love and friendship in the tumultuous year 1939. In May of that year the journal Le Vingtième Siècle stopped publication of the Tintin episode then in progress; Tintin in the Land of Black Gold.
Spirou works as a bellhop at the Moustic Hotel but lives quite some distance away in a seedy part of town in a top floor room with plank floors and peeling walls. He sleeps on a lumpy mattress on an iron cot with a chamber pot and a bowl for morning ablutions. He readies himself for work in front of a cracked mirror and has a picture of a Madonna and child on the wall. His shelf contains copies of the Bible, Davy Crockett and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. Bravo draws with a brush in a naïve style very similar (probably unintended) to that of John Stanley’s 60’s comic Thirteen Going on Eighteen.
The story does involve Nazis but that peg of the plot is peripheral to Bravo’s main concern, the blushing romance between Spirou and a young Jewish girl who also works at the Moustic Hotel in domestic service. There are dazzlingly atmospheric pages involving Spirou’s first meeting with the journalist Fantasio; a cold morning game of football with a neighborhood kid gang; a revival of Spip, the squirrel, from an accidental electrocution; a boat-ride on the lake with his girl; an open air sale of used goods; and Nazi intrigue at the majestic Moustic Hotel. Unusual for these days my fingers keep itching to pull this unforgettable album off the shelf to revisit haunting images that stick to the brain like glue.
A blog devoted to the art of Émile Bravo can be found HERE.