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Idées noires, translated as Franquin’s Last Laugh in English, is a collection of Black Comedy comic strips drawn by André Franquin, written by Franquin and Yann Delporte in 1977. After its cancellation in the Spirou Magazine supplement Le Trombone Illustré, the series has been continued in Fluide Glacial until 1983.
Franquin created Idées noires while he was suffering himself from depression. The drawing style is far more simple and pure than Franquin’s usual work, using black and white colors and characters drawn as shadowed figures. It’s an absolute contrast with the other stories Franquin made like Gaston Lagaffe and Le Marsupilami. The comics are short stories usually running for one page, and 3 or 4 for the longest. We can also notice a little difference between the first 1977 batch and the new one published in Fluide Glacial because the narration changed a little. According to Gotlib, “After having read a page of Idées Noires, we close our eyes, and the darkness following is still Franquin’s”.
The stories are using the “desperate humour” and Franquin used them to scratch the various things he don’t like : game hunting, military and war, sports, religion, also attacking the death penalty, the nuclear energy, and more generally “any institution having constraining rules”. The stories are also attacking stupidity, violence, selfishness, greed, the various cruelty and sado masochist aspect of human’s psychology. Idées noires has been a huge success featuring various album editions.
In the first narration version, each story was introduced by a catch phrase saying “Il ne faut pas confondre XXX avec YYY”, or “*Do not confuse XXX with YYY” where XXX and YYY are two similar expressions. For example :
Il ne faut pas confondre oiseaux rapides et goélands
In French, goélands is said in the same way as “lent”, “slow”, in contrast of “oiseaux rapides”, “fast birds”. I hope you understand, it’s not very easy to translate and explain a word play !
The last batch is a little more different, with longer stories still revolving around the same themes. I’m reading my album regularly and sometimes it amuses me to see how some stories are still terribly contemporary. For example, because of various social strikes we had regularly fuel shortage in France and one story is about a guy who is so desperate that he burns himself with a barrel of fuel… But the people witnessing the tragedy insulted him because of the price of fuel and telling it’s “a waste”. There is also a story about a worldwide pandemic with medias repeating in loop “the government took and recommend measures”, with trucks transporting various hearse cars.
If you’re into black comedy, this album is a must read.
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