The Rugger Boys volume 2: A Snootful of Style and a Ton of Class!


By Béka & Poupard with colour work by Magali Poli Rivière, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-44-1

Human beings – and apparently a huge variety of our pets and animal housemates – seem obsessed with and revel in chasing balls about. So much so that we/they even apply a range of complex 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 proffers more stunning strips starring a dedicated amateur team of French gladiators all painfully enamoured of the manly (and British-originated, let’s not forget) oddball-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 extra-time 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 va gagner avec le lard et la manière was the fifth Continental encounter but the second (and, thus far, last) translated by Cinebook – probably because it features brief sporting excursions to Scotland and New Zealand – and perfectly recapitulates the passion, toil and sheer testosterone-fuelled idiocy which can warp normally rational folk.

The titular stars are some few dedicated souls faithfully enjoying the trials of club rugby (Union rules, right?) as played by the stalwarts of fictional south-western French side Paillar Athletic Club, affectionately known to their frankly obsessive fans as The PAC

As seen on the introductory page, our bloody but unbowed stars manifest as intellectually compromised Hooker Lightbulb, Herculean Prop Fatneck, precocious ¾ Centre Hugo “The Engineer” Cap, 2nd Row star Freddy “The Anaesthetist” Bones, dashing sex-crazed Back Romeo and Scrumhalf/Captain The Grumpster, all regularly adored and vilified by Bernard FarmerThe Coach – who never lets his barrrrbarous accent get in the way of a good insult or pithy instruction 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 trampling each other into the mud every weekend…

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…

This time however equality reigns and there’s a succinct glimpse of the Paillar Athletic Ladies Team too, and you can share the lads’ first turbulent TV appearance too.

Mostly, however, on display is a profusion of smartly-planned running gags and compact 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 Tries, the woebegone touchline medic’s miserable life and Coach’s eternal battle to whip his band of idiots into a team he can be proud of…

This particular collection kicks off with an extended origin story revealing how the playful imps they once were turned a boring school lesson into a life-changing indoor match and formed sporting bonds that lasted a lifetime…

As previously mentioned, this fixture also includes a brief tour of Scotland, offering a broad belt of new experiences from braw brews to fine foods and bonnie lassies to life-changing injuries, and concludes with a bombastic whistle-stop tour of the Antipodes as The Pac are generously invited to visit the mighty New Zealand All-Blacks at home after the Rugby World Cup concludes…

Mostly though it’s always about mud, mauling, getting stuffed and getting smashed – in every sense of the term…

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, 2007 by Béka & Poupard. All rights reserved. English translation © 2007 Cinebook Ltd.