By Derib & Job, coloured by Dominque and translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
Children’s magazine Le Crapaud à lunettes was founded in 1964 by Swiss journalist André Jobin who began writing stories for it under the pseudonym Job. Three years later he hired fellow French-Swiss artist Claude de Ribaupierre who had begun his own career as an assistant at Studio Peyo (home of Les Schtroumpfs), working on Smurfs strips for venerable weekly Spirou. Together they created the well-received Adventures of the Owl Pythagore and two years later struck pure gold with their next collaboration.
Launching in 1969, Yakari detailed the life of a young Sioux boy on the Great Plains; sometime after the introduction of horses by the Conquistadores and before the coming of the modern White Man.
Overflowing with gentle whimsy, the beguiling strip celebrates a bucolic existence in tune with nature and free of strife, punctuated with the odd crisis generally resolved without fame or fanfare by a little lad who is smart, compassionate, brave… and can converse with all animals…
As “Derib”, de Ribaupierre – equally excellent in both the enticing, comically dynamic “Marcinelle” cartoon style and a devastatingly compelling meta-realistic action illustration form – went on to become one of the Continent’s most prolific, celebrated and beloved creators through such groundbreaking strips as Celui-qui-est-né-deux-fois, Jo (the first comic on AIDS ever published), Pour toi, Sandra and La Grande Saga Indienne).
Many of his stunning works over the decades feature his beloved Western themes, magnificent geographical backdrops and epic landscapes and Yakari is considered by most fans and critics to be the feature which catapulted him to deserved mega-stardom.
First serialised in 1978, Yakari et Nanabozo was the forth European album – released as the strip transferred to prestigious Tintin magazine – but was only translated by Cinebook in 2013, making it officially the 11th UK album.
That’s not going to be a problem for chronology or continuity addicts as the tale is both stunningly simple and effectively timeless…
It all begins one bright sunny day as the little wonder wanders out to the Rock of the Bear to meet his friend Rainbow. When he arrives there’s no sign of her but he does meet a gigantic and extremely voluble desert hare claiming to be Trickster Spirit Nanabozho – a statement he proves by making some astounding adjustments to the little lad’s own height.
The Great Rabbit claims to be Rainbow’s totem animal, much like Great Eagle watches over and protects Yakari, and the loopy lepine wants the boy to accompany him on a quest. Ever since a travelling tale-teller arrived in camp, recounting shocking stories of the far north where it’s so cold the bears are snowy white, headstrong Rainbow has wanted to see the amazing creatures for herself and, eager to please his protégé, the Brobdingnagian bunny agreed to help her, even supplying magic walking moccasins to reduce the hardships of the journey.
Unfortunately the impatient tyke couldn’t wait for the Trickster and Yakari to join her and has put them on unsupervised. Unable to resist the enchanted slippers, Rainbow has started her trek not knowing where she’s going or how to stop…
Now with boy and bunny transforming into giants and tiny mites as circumstances demand, they set out to catch their impetuous friend, following the path of a magic talisman dubbed ‘the Straight Arrow’ and assisted by such beneficial creatures as a night moose.
And when they at last find Rainbow, the travellers decide that as they’ve come so far, they might as well complete the journey to the Land of the White Bears, aided by a fabulous flying canoe…
Always visually spectacular, seductively smart and happily heart-warming, Job’s sparse plot here affords Derib an unmissable opportunity to go wild with the illustrations; creating a lush, lavish and eye-popping fantasy wonderland which is breathtaking to behold.
Really Big Sky storytelling with a delicious twist in its colossal fluffy tail…
The exploits of the valiant little voyager who speaks to animals and enjoys a unique place in an exotic world is a decades-long celebration of joyously gentle, marvellously moving and enticingly entertaining adventure, honouring and eulogising an iconic culture with grace, wit, wonder and especially humour.
These gentle sagas are true landmarks of comics literature and Yakari is a strip no fan of graphic entertainment should ignore.
Original edition © 1978 Le Lombard/Dargaud by Derib & Job. English translation 2013 © Cinebook Ltd.