Move aside, Hergé – your comic biography‘s not the only one on the shelf anymore. From November 7th onwards, La Marque Jacobs, une vie en bande dessinée (The Jacobs Mark, a Life in Comics) will be available in Belgium (and from November 14th anywhere else). This album, by French artist Louis Alloing and comic writer Rodolphe, chronicles the life of Edgar Pierre Jacobs, who was a member of the Studios Hergé that created The Seven Crystal Balls and The Temple of The Sun (amongst others). Jacobs’ most important claim to fame, however, was his own series, Blake Et Mortimer, with its rather typical combination of traditional (British) men-of-adventure, crime thrillers and a strand of science fiction that even in its own time was at once conversely topical and yet fairly archaic.
Jacobs was born in 1904 and was trained as a baritone opera singer. He was also an avid illustrator and artist, and published his first comic during the Second World War. La Rayon U was intended to replace the very succesful Flash Gordon adventures that ran in Belgian youth magazines, as new pages of American comics were impossible to come by under German occupation. Even though after the War, Jacobs would be an esteemed collaborator on the adventures of Tintin, from 1947 until his death 40 years later, he would devote all of the rest of his time to his Blake Et Mortimer stories.
Contrary to Hergé, Jacobs never ordered his series to be discontinued after his death, and so new books were published by a variety of creative teams, invariably with an immense marketing effort, and also with variable critical success. Collectible models, animation series, assorted ties and other men’s wear, posters and other merchandise are released with frightening regularity, hell-bent on keeping the property alive. Jacobs’ books, it would seem, have been slowly but surely pushed back to the background (as is the case, let’s face it, with Tintin).
It has become quite normal, when important new BD are announced, to release a few pages as an extract to a variety of websites. With La Marque Jacobs, however, this is not the case, and so I can’t comment on the narrative style of the book, or the graphics and on whether they resemble Jacobs’ work or not. The only thing we have so far, is the cover, and even that is not without controversy. After its release, Média Participations, the mother holding of Blake Et Mortimer publishers Dargaud, went to court to ban the book, which is published by competitor Delcourt, on the basis of plagiarism. As the Belgian news site RTBF illustrates, the cover images contains quite a few iconic elements from the Blake and Mortimer books, on which Dargaud has trade mark rights. The Paris court dismissed the claim, however, and the book will be released as scheduled.
Until the 9th of December, original artwork from La Marque Jacobs is on display at the Brussels International Comic Strip Centre. The Blake And Mortimer albums are published in English by Cinebook.; our own Richard has reviewed them (along with many other BD albums from Cinebook) regularly here on the blog and you can order them from our site here.