Monday, September 26, 2011

World's Greatest Comics : Iznogoud

This post has a sad genesis because Jean Tabary, the mastermind behind IZNOGOUD died last month. My story with the series begins long before it got it's own album series, back around 1974, when it was one of the many comics to grace the pages of MV COMIX, which started as a Disney only comic ( MickyVision ) but which later included all kind of other comics.

It's where I read my first ARCHIE comics

and my first SUPERMAN stories, back then of course drawn by the uncomparable Curt Swan back in the days when we hadn't to rack our brains with all this pre - crisis, post - crisis, pre - reboot, post - reboot nonsense and Jimmy Olsen had the necessary scientific know - how to build his own Man of Steel house robot.

I guess back when Jimmy Olsen traveled through time by sitting on a time bomb and desecrated Viking remains for fun this wasn't too much of a stretch. There were also other comics from DC that appeared in MV COMIX like BATMAN, LEGION OF SUPER - HEROES or this strange one with that Christopher Chance fella.

Hmm, I wonder where I have heard that name before.....Christopher Chance.....hmm, I don't know.

Back to Iznogoud, I already wrote a bit about the comic series in this post but for all new readers who have no idea who he is, IZNOGOUD ( wikipedia entry ) was written by Rene Goscinny and drawn by Jean Tabary who carried on alone after the death of Goscinny. While the Goscinny period was characterized by "albums" comprising several short-length tales each, Tabary turned the series in a new direction, by dedicating every new album entirely to a single story, larger and much more detailed, usually revolving around a new unique concept.

The stories revolve around Iznogoud ( pronounced "is no good" with a French accent ) who is the Grand Vizier to the Caliph Haroun El Poussah. But that´s not enough for Iznogoud who always tries to become " Caliph instead of the Caliph ".

To achieve this goal he uses every possibility which in the comic are always entertaining things like a calendar that allows it´s bearer to travel through time by ripping off the sheets or putting them back with glue, a puzzle that turns the person you think of when completing it into this puzzle, or other magics that allow him to switch bodies with the Caliph.

Of course the Caliph is totally unaware of this and believes Iznogoud to be his best friend who in turn never succeeds.

In fact in most of the cases he has to suffer the fate he intended for the Caliph and even if he manages to become Caliph instead of the Caliph it ends in total disaster for him.

A typical example is when the Grand Vizier discovers the " Road to Nowhere ", a road that only leads back to itself, and devises a plot to lure the Caliph there so he will become eternally trapped. In his excitement over the prospect to accomplish his life's mission, Iznogoud forgets that he needs an exit for himself. Another plan involves freezing the Caliph, which has to be shelved because there always seems to be some source of heat nearby. Iznogoud also attempts to enlist the services of a primitive computer (described as a very clever djinni) in order to find out the answer to his perennial ambition. The temperamental computer ends up sulking when Wa'at Alahf answers a complex mathematical equation before it can. In the end, the only answer Iznogoud gets is the solution to the equation. As in every Iznogoud story, Iznogoud is ultimately unsuccessful, and the Caliph continues his reign.

The stories have been translated into several languages, including English, and the title has been adapted to animated and one live - action film that is not spectacular but quite entertaining and the resemblance between the main actor and the cartoon character is really uncanny.

The publisher Cinebook Ltd is currently publishing English language translations of the books in the Iznogoud series.

After MV COMIX Iznogoud was published by Ehapa and later by Delta in the french album format which I couldn't afford with my small comic budget. And most of that was spent on superhero comics anyway. But thanks to a library ( and later on the library bus ) in my region that was well stocked with french BDs I could read most of them.

Thankfully french comics like ASTERIX, LUCKY LUKE, YOKO TSUNO and other are still considered to part of culture in Germany, at least the part you can find in libraries.

Doing the research for this post I found out that there are different covers for the various translated editions. In some cases it's just a redrawing of the original cover.

On this cover a running Iznogoud is replaced by a pretty exhausted one who apparently has been running for some time.

Here the changes in the redrawn cover are more elaborate. While in the first version Iznogoud is jumping on his faithful servant, in the new version he's just throwing a tantrum jumping in the air in a hissy fit. Maybe it's not as acceptable now to use his slaves to vent frustrations.

In the next case political correctness also may be a factor in the changes. Not only was the cover redrawn but the title of the album was also changed. In La tête de Turc d'Iznogoud Iznogoud aquires a magic puzzle that shows the head of a turk and when you finish it the person you think of is transformed into this puzzle and his face appears as the new picture.

In the first german version the title was translated quite literally as Isnogod und der Türkenkopf because not only did it show the head of a turk but because a puzzle is a brain exercise and Türkenkopf is the german word for the earliest chess automats and later on chess computers.

In 1769 austrian inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen constructed a chess automat, a box with a magnificently garbed ottoman puppet, therefore called " der Türke ". To prove that the inside only had mechanics, Baron von Kempelen willingly opened the three doors of his automat.

Friedrich the Great lost against this turk and even Napoleon had to admit defeat to the chess turk in 1804. The secret of the machine was lifted 80 years later : a midget was concealed in the automat. He knew which moves his opponent made from hidden magnets in the pawns and could move his pawns by a sophisticated lever mechanism. In case the doors were opened he just slided away from priying eyes on a comfortable stool.

Sadly this automat, that was exhibited around the world, was destroyed by fire in the museum of Philadelphia.

At the time of the second edition the word Türkenkopf was not political correct anymore so instead the title was translated correspondingly. In french the term tête de turc stands for a scapegoat, a double meaning that is lost in the german version so they chose the more literal Sündenbock.

So I hope I could get you interested in this really brilliant book and if you want to read more about the english version just head over to ComicBits Online ( which you can find on the blogroll ) by fellow blogger Terry Hooper.

Before we come to the end of the post about one of the best comics ever made, Today we also have three celebrity birthdays I want to mention : hot singer and actress Christina Milian who turns 30

german sexbomb Coleen Fernandes who also turns 30 ( coincidence ? )

and Lysette Anthony ( 48 ) who is the only reason Mel Brook's DRACULA - DEAD AND LOVING IT will be remembered in the next few decades !

A spoof of Coppola´s DRACULA movie it didn´t do much finacially and the only reason why it´s still on tv in reruns are the hot vampire babes in the movie. I mean female vampires have always been sexy but Lysette really takes it to a new level the way she squeezes her big talents together.

Holy motorboat, Batman ! I´d let her suck me any time she wants - as long as she doesn´t drink my blood, if you know what I mean. Although, for a chance to do her I would even give a pint of blood. Damned, indeed.

I bet Steven Weber had to relieve himself between takes and you know he deliberately botched his text so they had to do a lot of takes of the scene.

I know, some readers don't approve when I'm amping the babe factor on the blog too much but I want to remind people that there are still happy reasons to celebrate. Happy birthday, ladies and many happy returns !

Today's clip is from the english version of the IZNOGOUD cartoon show.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

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