BD80: Gotlib

Rhââ Lovely 1 by Gotlib (1976)

Gotlib was a prolific cartoonist, working from the mid-sixties until his recent death. He started out doing comics for the French Pilote magazine before co-founding two magazines, l’Echo des savanes and Fluide Glacial. Out of his dozens of albums, c. nothing has been translated to other languages.

Runepress made a go at it in the early 80s with these four albums, which collect work originally published at l’Echo (the first and third); the second was serialised in the music magazine Rock et Folk; and the fourth in Fluide. And it’s not difficult to see what attracted those weird Danes to this, er, corpus: It’s relentlessly scatological and weird.

But it’s not just poop and semen jokes for the fun of it. Gotlib, in these strips (originally published in 1973) makes fun of people trying to present a bourgeoisie front by showing that they, too, pick their noses and wipe their asses. (But do all French stand while wiping? Tardi draws it that way too…)

Oh, geez. Is this 9gag or something? This is a serious blog!

Or… perhaps not. Yes, I didn’t mention it in the introduction, but there’s a lot of phalluses, figurative or actual, in these comics.

Hm, the first few pages quotes here might leave the impression that it’s all pantomime, but it’s not. About half the pieces are these extremely wordy and very witty skits. At least the Danish versions are very funny, but I’m guessing the original Greek is also a bunch of laffs.

Hamster Jovial et ses louveteaux by Gotlib (1974)

OK, so we have poop jokes and silly word play: It sounds like wholesome fun that you’d see translated to all languages in the world and kept in print indefinitely, instead of Runepress making a go at it for two years and then Gotlib would never be seen again?

There’s a lot of sex jokes in these books, and I’m not going to excerpt the ruder ones. This is a family oriented blog! As Lambiek says, “Already risqué back in the 1970s many gags are nowadays perhaps even more disturbing to those who are easily offended.”

In this album, all the jokes are about a Scout leader and his flock, and if a Scouting/sex joke comic sounds like a major seller to you…

But, in general, it’s really, really silly and absurd.

Rhââ Lovely 2 by Gotlib (1977)

Things reach the apex of things-that-shouldn’t-be-posted-on-wordpress.com-ness in the third album. Here’s the least rude page:

And there’s a trip featuring Allah, Jehovah and the rest yukking it up and watching porn flicks.

The funniest strip is the Excorcist parody that features a possessed boy instead of a girl, but since the boy has a hard-on through the entire strip, I’ll just excerpt this gag instead. Yes, the possessed boy poured ink out the window onto the priest.  Did Mad Magazine do the same joke?

Pervers Pépère by Gotlib (1981)

After all this depravity, you might expect Gotlib to take it a notch up with something called “Pervers Pépère”, but it’s innocent in comparison.

There’s a lot of convoluted fart jokes. But by this time, it’s the 80s, and perhaps Gotlib felt the need to step back from the outrage.

Instead most of the jokes here are about the reader or the characters thinking that something involving genitalia is going to happen, but then it doesn’t. And that gives Pervers Pépère a laugh. So his perversity is that he doesn’t go for the sex…

But as with the un-hilarity of the implied rape threat above, most of these strips seem to be looking for a punchline without finding it. Instead we’re just presented with an absurd thing that Pervers Pépère does and then… nothing.

So, to recap: When Gotlib is virtually unpublishably obscene, he’s really funny, but when he’s not, he’s just not that funny. If this is the general gist of his career (and I’ve just read these four books, so this is a very uninformed assumption), then it’s not surprising that he remains unknown outside of France.

This post is part of the BD80 series.

2 thoughts on “BD80: Gotlib”

  1. I must protest on behalf of an outraged nation! Gotlib’s Rubrique à Brac is probably his best-known work, (mostly) family-friendly and very funny. Don’t know about any translations, though.

  2. Gotlib is vey funny, but his work must be separated in chapters. The date of publication is not the date of the drawings.
    Hamster Jovial has been created in 1971 in the magazine “Rock’n Folk”.
    Before that, the incredibly “Rubrique à Brac”, which has no story based on scatology or poro, is famous.
    But, “Rhaa Lovely” is not a porn approach of comics: if there is no barrier, the stories make place in an introspective works. Don’t forget Gotlib is the only hero of those cartoons, except in Pervers Pépère, Gai Luron and Hamster Jovial.
    “Rhaa Gnagna” is between Rubrique à Brac and Rhaa Lovely. There’s no porn situation (and “le bois huon” is a psychanalitic approach of the lose of youth in Rhaa Lovely) and the non-sense, or “absurde”, is a permanent link of his work.

    My opinion is there are some jewels in Rubrique à Brac (Tome 5 of the french edition is fantastic) and Rhaa Gnagna (tom 2) is an absolute exemple of the interest of Gotlib for cinema.

    THERE IS NO OTHER EXEMPLE OF ARTIST WITH VARIOUS WORKS IN A SAME TYPE OF STYLE (absurde and pantomime). Gotlib must be re-discovered and replaced in the social and politic context, even he had never made politics: he takes positions on social problems. The only draw about a politician in a political goal is “l’élixir du docteur Zischöne Mabüse”, a very funny parody of the german expressionnism and movie Dr Mabuse der Spieler: we can see the transformation of a seller of De Gaulle’s autobiography in Jacques Chirac. When JC left Mabuse to conquest the world, his little silhouette is drawned like a nazi.

    Marcel Gotlieb is one the funniest cartoonists of all times, because he has destroyed the barrier -and frontier- of comics for children into the adult age, and not because of porno images, but the subjects of his stories.
    Gotlib has a short carrier because he has created FLUIDE GLACIAL. As director of Fluide Glacial, he has passed his time to find some cartoonists who were the main cartoonists of France during the 70′ and 80′.
    As he says himself, he was not able to create himself without repeat what he had already done. That’s why he left drawings to write.
    His autobiography is a very good book, and one of the perfect analyses of him and what he was thinking in 1973 can be found in “Schtroumpf, les cahiers de la BD” 13.
    It’s the best explanation of his work in “L’écho des Savanes” (which can be found in Rhaa Lovely 1,2 & 3).
    We can talk about the Dingodossiers, ancester of Rubrique à brac: the scenarii of Goscinny are for children but Dingodossiers Tome 2 and “Trucs en Vrac” 1 & 2 are more the Gotlib Universe and can be entirely parts of Rubrique à Brac, which can be read by everybody.

    Dargaud Collection 16×22 is proposing some different montages of RàB, some texts are not in the original books, but very few. It’s an attempt of modernisation of RAB in the 80′, even, for me, RAB seems modern (Was not born in the 60′).

    To publish Gotlib anew, the publisher must put an effort about the context, as I have already said it, to see how much is powerful his work.

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