(* Richard Sheaf makes a welcome return to Bear Alley with a look at how some British strips were exported over the Channel to France...)
Ever come across 'Supercrack', 'Hurricane Boy', 'Puma Noir', 'Le Cyclope' or 'Martin et sa Gudule' on your trips to comics fairs? The answer is probably not, unless you've been going to fairs in France where these characters can be found in numerous picture libraries that the French comics market has produced over the years.
In fact, their output seems to have been so prolific that they were unable to cope with the demand for stories produced domestically and, instead, turned to overseas markets to provide them with a steady stream of reprinted material. D. C. Thomson and Fleetway (along, it must be assumed, with other publishers) were able to draw on their vast archives to help provide this material.
French picture libraries are much the same size as their British counterparts. Where they differ is in the amount of story you get in an issue: most of the titles illustrated here are approximately 130 pages long and typically contain 3 different strips. The titles themselves did not necessarily appear monthly; some were but others were bi-monthly or even tri-monthly. Individual issues were also bundled together with two consecutive issues to then be issued as an 'album', a sort of a comics multipack if you will.
British strips appeared in a variety of titles (Atemi, Janus Stark, Sunny Sun, Safari, Les Rois de Exploit to name just a few) and a quick search on eBay turns up a number of them quite regularly. The titles are available cheaply in France so it should be possible to build up a collection quite easily. However, the key (British reprint) character is not always on the front cover and is unlikely to have appeared in all issues of a title's run so it's hard to know which titles will have what characters in.
So far I have found the following characters in various libraries:
Hotshot Hamish - Hamish la Fourde
Mighty Mouse - Mousie L'eclair
Spinball - Jeu de Massacre
Adam Eterno - Adam Eterno
Cursitor Doom - Doulah, le maitre du mystére
Dan Dare - Supercrack
Johnny Red - Hurricane Boy
Johnny Cougar - Puma Noir
One-eyed Jack - Le Cylope
Martin's Marvelous Mini - Martin et sa Gudule
Wilson - William Wilson
Topps on Two Wheels - Sur 2 roues
The Sarge - Sergent Jim
Death Wish - Le masque de cuir
MACH 1 - Force X
The few libraries that I have also contain a number of Thomson-originated football strips that I simply don't know enough about to guess the title of. Suffice to say that the above list is far from definitive and is intended to give just a flavour of the range of characters that French children of the 1980s grew up on.
The MACH 1 cover is from prog 14 of 2000AD and the Dan Dare cover is from prog 121. The MACH 1 cover is the most interesting as it is a blatant steal from the relevant 2000AD prog (the 2000AD thrill logo is still visible on the cover!), the rest of the libraries have had key scenes redrawn by a different artist, often Francesco Gamba or Guido Zamperoni.
(* The characters shown, top to bottom, are Johnny Red (© Egmont), One-Eyed Jack, Johnny Cougar (both © IPC Media), M.A.C.H. 1 (© Rebellion) and Dan Dare (© Dan Dare Corporation.)