Agent 327

I don’t think there’s much doubt that the Agent327 comics by Martin Lodewijk are among the best, or even the best Dutch comics; and they shine even among Belgian or French comics. There are currently 18 volumes, with two more expected, and I count myself very fortunate to possess all 18. True, in various states of dilapidation, because these are comics to read, re-read and re-read again.

There are three series — the short stories rendered with wavy lines, first drawn for the Dutch comic weekly Pep, longer stories rendered with clear lines and gorgeous backgrounds for Pep’s successor weekly Eppo, and the new series drawn with fairly fat black lines and not as much precision (but a lot of graphical inventiveness, e.g. in De wet van alles) for the Rotterdam newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. Martin Lodewijk is being remarkably productive nowdays; this last series counts 8 albums published in four years.

There’s also one so-called mini-album, the smallest comic in the world —  Dossier Minimum Bug, in which Olga Lawina (a reference to Dutch yodel singer Olga Lowina), manages to enlarge her already impressive breasts even more; a change that doesn’t particularly appeal to me.

And recently it happened that I found myself re-reading all of them, and I was struck with how accurately and surprisingly these comics document the world as it was when they were drawn. Agent 327 is quintessentially Dutch, even though it started as a spoof of James Bond; and much of the scenery, many details and even plot points center around what’s considered typically Dutch, even though the stories branch out around the world.

If you re-read the first few albums, filled mostly with short stories, some things immediately are apparent: how empty Holland was, how ubiquitous smoking was (although Hendrik IJzerbroot, Agent 327 has never smoked). The stories are filled with little details that deserve, analogous with the Annotated Pratchett File, an Annotated Agent 327 File. For instance, while I do get the references to Victor Baarn (the alias HRH Prince Bernhard, the husband of Queen Juliana, used to cash his cheques from Lockheed), I am very hazy on modern popular culture, so I must be missing a lot in the second series of albums. For instance, who’s that particular young man Olga Lawina guards so closely? He must be a “Bekende Nederlander”…

Early next year a book titled “The Making of Agent 327” will apparently be published; perhaps it will fill this lacuna.

Elke Raaf Pikt (Le Vol du Corbeau)

By Gibrat

I first came across Gibrat’s wonderful painting when I visited Dupuis’ website looking for newly appeared albums. There was also a new section with wallpapers, and the cover of Elke Raaf Pikt was amongst them.

  • Author: Gibrat
  • Title: Elke Raaf Pikt (Le Vol du Corbeau)
  • Pages: 56
  • Published: 2002
  • Publisher: Dupuis (http:/
  • ISBN: 90-314-2404-8

So I went to my local comics shop, and ordered the hardback album. Elke Raaf Pikt is publised in the ‘Vrije Vlucht’ series (Aire Libre), which is where Dupuis places its arty bandes dessinées.

Quite often, those bandes dessinées seem to consist of equal proportions of nasty violence and worse sex. This one is different. It is a beautifully rendered, slowly moving story about two people, one a cracksman, the other a girl in the resistance, who meet in gaol in Paris, in 1943. They escape and spend the rest of the album together.

Rare for a bande dessinée, most of the story development is character interaction and character development. And that development has been very well executed. The repulsion and attraction between Jeanne and Francois is very believable, and very human.

As for the graphic part of this novel — I would like to call it a novel because of the character development — parts of it are excellent. Gibrat excells in colour, and in close-ups. When he has to execute a human figure on a small scale, he often fails. Likewise, the human perspective is plain wrong, sometimes. And sometimes, the mouth of his men and children doesn’t work at all.

But those are niggles (another niggle: a girl who spends a night on the rooftops of Paris won’t have spic-and-span make-up including rouge, lipstick and eyeliner, and her gloves won’t be white) in a stunning album. Part two will arrive in 2004, I’m told. I’m waiting with bated breath.

Lady “O”

By Jean-Pol

Right, so I’ve decided to add comics to Fading Memories, too. Or rather, bandes dessinées, to distinguish between the kind I like to read and superhero stuff, which I’m not interested in. I will write a notice only for albums I’ve just bought, since adding reviews on rereading bandes dessinées would really cut into my reading time. If I’ve got five minutes, perhaps ten, I tend to grab a Sammy, a Melisande or a Cupido. I’ll start with the latest i>Sammy. And no, I haven’t got an advanced taste in bandes dessinées, either. Lotusbloem (or Poupee d’ivoire by Franz is about as sophisticated I can handle. I don’t like the kind of bandes dessinées where the author uses the story as an excuse for graphically shoving unsuitable implements in cunts. And those are more common than someone who doesn’t frequent comics shops would imagine.

  • Author: Jean-Pol
  • Title: Lady “O”
  • Pages: 46
  • Published: 2003
  • Publisher: Dupuis
  • ISBN: 90-314-2466-8

When Berck retired, Jean-Pol was begged by Dupuis to continue Berck’s succesful series, Sammy, in cooperation with the scenarist Cauvin. The first few volumes appeared in the regular series, but this has now been renamed to ‘De Nieuwe Avonturen van Sammy’, and Lady “O” has been launched as volume 6, complete with a flash trailer… (The Dupuis website is so confusing that it took me three tries to find the damn thing again.)

Berck’s style of drawing had changed a lot over the decades he’s spent producing Sammy, and one might mistake the new style Jean-pol brings in for just another development, especially since it suffers a bit from a certain looseness in definition; a development most artists suffer from near the end of their careers. Vide Uderzo.

Lady “O” suffers more from this problem than earlier Jean-Pol albums, like Lijfwachten op de Dansvloer. Another problem is the quality of the colouring and printing. The paper is slippery and the colours lack somewhat in depth. I prefer matte paper. And where ‘Lijfwachten op de Dansvloer’ revelled in decors, Lady “O” is a bit bare.

So, no great things on the visual front; how about the scenario? Here, nothing special. Cauvin writes scenarios for every artist in the Dupuis stable, and while they sometimes are fun and interesting, most often his work is hack-work. And if he cannot think of anything else, he’ll just put a woman on top of some men, and see what happens.

What happens in this album is that a kind of Pippi Longstocking precursor inveigles herself in Al Capone’s trust and then starts taking over. The only reason it’s supposed to be funny, is because she’s a woman; otherwise there would, apparently, be no joke left.

Oh, well — perhaps the next one will be better.

Nooit meer alleen

By Malik

One of my favourite Dupuis series is Cupido. And not only mine; also of my daughters. Malik is a consummate artist who sketches his scenes with a lovely delicacy. As with Sammy, Cauvin is responsible for the scenarios, but Cupido albums contains several shorter stories and gags, and there’s a fair chance of hitting upon one or two wonderful ones.

  • Author: Malik
  • Title: Nooit meer alleen
  • Pages: 46
  • Published: 2003
  • Publisher: Dupuis
  • ISBN: 90-314-2470-6

The premise of Cupido is quite simple: the little angel, sidekick of Saint Peter, flits about, hitting people, animals and the occasional robot with his darts, causing them to fall in love with the first person in sight. In this album, a goldfish develops a pash for a woman, in another album a married man falls in love with a shrimp.

In some respects, the theology behind Cupido is quite good, really. I mean, most of the gags are faintly contemporaneous (except that there’s rather more jugendstil in the decor), but others take place in the past, the future, or even on another planet. Dante’s arguments about the being outside time of God nicely illustrated.

On the other hand, the albums are just plain fun.