The Rugger Boys volume 1: Why Are We Here Again?


By Béka & Poupard with colour work by Sylvain Frecon & Murielle Rousseau, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-33-5

Human beings – and apparently a huge variety of our pets and animal housemates – seem obsessed with and are delighted by chasing balls about. So much so that we/they even apply a range of convoluted sets of rules to the sheer exhilaration of the process, just to make things more difficult and artificially extend proceedings.

We call it sport and when it’s not hugely thrilling and deadly serious it can be hilariously funny…

Comics over the decades and throughout the world have often mined our obsession with assorted games for secondary entertainment value and this Cinebook compilation gathers a fine bunch of strips starring a dedicated amateur team of French gladiators all painfully enamoured of the manly (and British-originated) ball-based pastime called Rugby…

Les Rugbymen: was created in 2005 by writing partnership Bertrand Escaich & Caroline Roque under their collaborative nom de plume Béka (Studio Danse, Les Fonctionnaires) in conjunction with self-taught illustrator Alexandre Mermin, who generally labours under the pseudonym Poupard (Chez Gaspard, Les Brumes du Miroboland).

The resulting flurry of short sharp gags and yarns have filled an even dozen albums thus far. There’s even a junior league spin-off which began in 2010 entitled Les Petits Rugbymen

On n’est pas venus pour être là! was the third Euro-volume but the first to be translated by Cinebook – probably because it features a brief sporting tour of England – and perfectly encapsulates the passion, toil and sheer testosterone-idiocy which can warp normally rational folk.

Our stars are a few dedicated souls faithfully enjoying the trials of club rugby (and that’s Rugby Union, right?) as played by the stalwarts of fictional south-western French town side Paillar Athletic Club, affectionately known to their frankly obsessive fans as The PAC…

As seen on the introductory page, the usual suspects generally manifest as intellectually compromised Hooker Lightbulb, Herculean Prop Fatneck, 2nd Row star The Anaesthetist, dashing sex-crazed Back Romeo and Scrumhalf/Captain The Grumpster, all regularly adored and vilified by The Coach who never lets his speech defect get in the way of a good insult to the dozy slackerrrs…

All you need to know is that these guys are bold, sturdy and love to eat and drink as much as they do smashing each other into the mud…

The exploits are generally delivered as single page sequences, lavishly, lovingly and outrageously illustrated and jam-packed with snippets of off-kilter slapstick to supplement the main gag and the material. Content is almost everything you’d expect from such a fixture: big beefy blokes in very small towels, lots of booze-fuelled gaffes, eating eccentricities, knob jokes and the mutual sportsmanlike skulduggery which permeates all games Real Men compete in…

However also on display are a profusion of smartly-planned running gags and little comedic gems such as the well-meaning meatheads’ ongoing efforts to help Lightbulb find “love”, Romeo’s constant comeuppances from husbands, boyfriends and employers unhappy with his off-pitch conquests and The Coach’s eternal battle to whip his band of idiots into a team he can be proud of…

As previously mentioned, this collection also contains a wry, preconception/prejudice-confirming international excursion when The PAC accept an offer to play a friendly match against British college side Camford. As well as a chance to pummel the despised English, there’s the promise of seeing a Six Nations match to offset the unbearable pain of living on the foreigners’ appalling food and pathetic beer…

Fast, furiously funny and splendidly boisterous, these are the kind of cartoon antics that might even inspire dedicated couch-potatoes to get out of the house – unless they order books and dinner online…
© BAMBOO EDITION, 2006 by Béka & Poupard. All rights reserved. English translation © 2007 Cinebook Ltd.