Gil Jourdan to be translated

Published On October 13, 2010 | By Joe Gordon | Comics, Continental Correspondent, Translation please

According to a report by Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool (which I haven’t been able to corroborate at the Fantagraphics website yet), Fantagraphics is planning to publish an English translation of the classic BD series Gil Jourdan by Maurice Tillieux.   Some online sllers are indeed listing Murder by High Tide in the series Gil Jordan, Private Eye as announced for June, 2011.  Which is amazing news.

Gil Jourdan is one of the most essential BD series ever produced.  It was created in 1956 by Belgian writer and artist Maurice Tillieux for the notable comic magazine Spirou and ran until its creator’s death in 1978.    The series dealt with the continuing adventures of a private detective (a “candidate at law”), his silly and ex-con sidekick and most intelligent and sarcastic secretary, along with their reluctant ally – pretty straightforward stories with a good dose of suspense and humour, and still as entertaining after several decades as a good Maigret novel.

Tillieux’s genius, however, was that he took the medium of comics a little further, and merged two genres that were completely distinct up to that point.  From his stablemates at Dupuis, people like André Franquin, Jijé and Morris, he took the dynamism and sheer velocity that they infused in their art.  That he combined with the realistic and well-wrought plots that had been the strict domain of the so-called realistic comic.  No robots on the prowl or mad scientists for Jourdan, but rather ordinary people committing ordinary crimes.  He also brought some realistic grittiness to his art, without abandoning its funny confines.  Whereas Tintin lived in a nondescript apartment building in a rather featureless city, Gil Jourdan typically strolls around the back alleys of a 1950’s Paris, with derelict buildings, in which crooked people live crooked lives.   Tillieux managed to inject a sense of realism in his comics that was quite rare in BD at that time.  After him, people like Gos, Walthéry or Wasterlain would benefit from his example.

The book that’s being listed for release in June is not the first in the series, but rather the third long story, La voiture immergée from 1958.  It was Jourdan’s first adventure that took him beyond the boundaries of the 1950’s city.  By this time, however, Tillieux has established the world he’s writing and drawing, and its constellation of characters, and his narratives had become flawless.  In this respect, it is the perfect book to get acquainted with this graphic genius, whose stories, in terms of timing and speed, every aspiring comics writer should read and study.

Since the listing describes the book as having 96 pages, I think Fantagraphics will also include a few of the short stories that Tillieux created to fill the gap in Spirou when he didn’t have a feature story ready.  I guess going straight for a translation of the excellent intégrales was a bit too much of a gamble.  Still, I hope they’ll find enough of an audience to continue with gems like L’enfer de Xique-Xique, Carats en Vrac (with one of the best car chases in comics) or Les cargos du Crépuscule.

In addition to Gil Jourdan, Fantagraphics also seems to have set its eyes on Raymond Macherot‘s animal adventure series Sibylline (translated as Sybil-Anne) which was the (rather less exhuberant) continuation of Macherot’s excellent Chlorophile when he left Tintin to join Spirou.  I can only hope that they also pick up the Chaminou et le Khrompire, a “funny” animal vampire story that, in my humble opinion, is simply one of the most perfect comics ever produced.  Bar none.

Well, at least, this time it’s “Translation, thanks”, rather than “Translation, please“…

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

4 Responses to Gil Jourdan to be translated

  1. Mike Baehr says:

    Wim, we can confirm the veracity of Johnston’s reporting. The book will include the title story as well as a story with the translated title “Leap of Faith.”

  2. Wim says:

    Great ! Now, if only the Chaminou book got through as well 😉

  3. Kim Thompson says:

    The GIL JOURDAN book will comprise the third and fourth (LES CARGOS DU CREPUSCULE) Belgian albums. I decided to skip the first two and go straight to the (in my opinion) best stuff — so if the series doesn’t sell well enough to warrant a follow-up, we’ll at least have the best stuff out there. And if it does, we can loop back and do those when the time comes.

    CHAMINOU ET LE KROMPIRE was actually tops on my list of Macherot work to reprint but is currently embroiled in an ugly rights tangle between Macherot’s heirs and the last publisher (which is one reason that it’s been out of print for so long). Should SIBYLLINE (or SIBYL-ANNE as I redubbed it for vague reasons of euphony, and because I like the slight rural quality of it) succeed and should the KHROMPIRE rights clear up I’ll be there!

    One reason to go with SIBYLLINE is also that a French publisher is preparing an INTEGRALE for 2011 and generating digital files for the entire series.

    • Wim says:

      Hi Kim –

      Thanks for the extra information.

      I totally agree that the first two Jourdan books are mainly interesting to see how Tillieux sketched out his characters and their relationships vis-a-vis one another, how he tried to find the correct tone of voice for his comic, and also really solidify his graphical language. From the third book onwards, he’s cruising on, it would seem. Do check out the short stories, though, as there are quite nice gems there as well, and if you don’t do the whole series, please do Carats en Vrac, which is one of my faves of all time.

      I do hope these ventures will be succesful, and wish you all the best.