Yakari and the Lake Monster


By Derib & Job, coloured by Dominique and translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-423-6 (Album PB)

Children’s magazine Le Crapaud à lunettes was founded in 1964 by Swiss journalist André Jobin who then wrote for it under the pseudonym Job. Three years later he hired fellow French-Swiss artist Claude de Ribaupierre AKA “Derib”. The illustrator had launched his own career as an assistant at Studio Peyo (home of Les Schtroumpfs), working on Smurfs strips for venerable weekly Le Journal de Spirou. Together they created the splendid Adventures of the Owl Pythagorebefore striking pure comics gold a few years later with their next collaboration.

Derib – equally au fait with enticing, comically dynamic “Marcinelle” cartoon style yarns and devastatingly compelling meta-realistic action illustrated action epics – went on to become one of the Continent’s most prolific and revered creators. It’s a crime that groundbreaking strips such as Celui-qui-est-né-deux-fois, Jo (the first comic ever published dealing with AIDS), Pour toi, Sandra and La Grande Saga Indienne) haven’t been translated into English yet, but we still patiently wait in hope and anticipation…

Many of Derib’s stunning works over the decades feature his cherished Western themes; magnificent geographical backdrops and epic landscapes. Yakari is considered by fans and critics to be the strip which first led him to deserved mega-stardom.

Debuting in 1969, Yakari follows the life of a young Oglala Lakota boy on the Great Plains; set sometime after the introduction of horses by the Conquistadores but before the coming of the modern White Man.

The series – which has generated two separate TV cartoon series and a movie release – recently celebrated its 40th album Le jour de silence: a testament to the strip’s evergreen vitality and the brilliance of its creators, even though originator Job has moved on and Frenchman Joris Chamblain has assumed the writers’ role from 2016.

Overflowing with gentle whimsy and heady compassion, young Yakari enjoys a largely bucolic existence: at one with nature and generally free from privation or strife. For the sake of our delectation, however, the ever-changing seasons are punctuated with the odd crisis, generally resolved without fuss, fame or fanfare by a little lad who is smart, brave… and can – thanks to the boon of his totem guide the Great Eagle – converse with all animals …

Originally released in 1991, Le monstre du lac was the 17th European album, but – as always with the best books – the content and set-up are both stunningly simple and effectively timeless, affording new readers total enjoyment with a minimum of familiarity or foreknowledge required…

It all begins on a blustery Autumn day after heavy rains as Yakari rides his young colt Little Thunder. Reaching the swollen river, they see his old friends the Beavers busily toiling to get their home ready for winter. At least, most of them are, under the ferocious supervision of strident martinet Thousand Mouths

As diligent elder Rough Bark soon discloses – but without ceasing his efforts – his rambunctious son Linden Tree is out of sorts and not contributing to the group effort. And he’s not the only one: a large number of the usual workers are mysteriously missing…

After talking to Linden Tree’s mother Wild Rose, the little warrior enters the vast dam structure to see for himself that the hyperactive little beaver has become a listless and despondent malingerer: depressed and with no zest for life.

After consulting with wise elder Wooden Dam, Yakari thinks he has a solution to the youngster’s debilitating melancholy and calls upon a shared mutual acquaintance…

Before long – but only after much pleading and cajoling – Linden Tree is enduring and soon after actually enjoying his second ever flight in the bill of a giant bird. The plan succeeds and the little nipper is again filled with joie de vivre, but that’s almost immediately replaced by terror as his aerial jaunt leads to his spotting a colossal monster sleeping in the middle of the river…

When the rest of the clan are informed, Thousand Mouths is convinced that’s where his missing workers have ended up but Yakari refuses to be frightened or despondent and leads them all in a mission to find and save the workers and solve the mystery of the great beast…

The answer is truly shocking…

Exotically enticing, deviously educational (thanks to an in-story history lesson from the all-knowing Great Eagle) and compellingly entertaining, this cheery romp allows Derib & Job full rein to display their astounding and compelling narrative virtuosity: a glorious graphic tour de force which captures the appealing courage of our diminutive hero, and a visually stunning, seductively smart and happily heart-warming saga to delight young and old alike.

Yakari is one of the most unfailingly absorbing all-ages strips every conceived and should be in every home, right beside Tintin, Uncle Scrooge, Asterix and The Moomins.
Original edition © Derib + Job – Editions du Lombard (Dargaud- Lombard s. a.) 2000. English translation 2018 © Cinebook Ltd.