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André Franquin, the creator of arguably the greatest Franco-Belgian gag
strip of all time (Gaston Lagaffe) and the custodian, for close to a quarter
century, of the second greatest Franco-Belgian comedy-adventure strip
(Spirou, behind the untouchable Tintin), was also a moody guy who suffered
from crushing bouts of depression.
With his late-career "Idées Noires" series of gags from the late 1970s
and early 1980s, created mostly for the independent/underground comics
magazine Fluide Glacial, Franquin harnessed his still-virtuoso graphic style
to his increasingly morbid worldview, and the result was a series of joyfully
morbid "blackout" pages that postulated the world as a bleak, miserable, and
hopeless hell — executed in a phenomenally controlled, exquisitely dark black-and-blacker symphony of pen lines.
(Franquin had intended to work with stylized silhouettes, but his obsessive doodler's nature overpowered him and
resulted in an utterly unique look that he himself once complained looked like his regular style "covered in soot.")
Franquin may have been hanging on by his fingernails, but his graphic mastery was undimmed, and the bracing
despair, hopelessness and misanthropy he laid down onto the paper evidently helped him survive many a bleak day and
Most of these strips have never been read in English. Fantagraphics is proud to present the complete "Idées Noires"
collection (under the title Franquin’s Last Laugh), with a new translation and introduction by editor Kim Thompson.
"Franquin is a great artist. Next to him, I'm just a mediocre cartoonist." — Hergé