‘Corentin’: restored, recolored and reprinted
‘Corentin’: restored, recolored and reprinted
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I wrote in another post how it becomes increasingly difficult to find, buy or read older European comics from mid 20th century. Most of it does not have any commercial value anymore to the rightful owners. In the end, lots of very interesting and good material is impossibe to find. In the Netherlands (a very small and uninteresting market for European publishers) this old material hasn’t been republished for decades and it probably never will be.
Luckily Germany and France have bigger markets, therefore more stuff gets reprinted. There’s a trend in reprinting older material in so called ‘intégrales’: big, heavy hardcover books collecting complete bibliographies of Franquin, Will, Morris, Jijé, Wasterlain, etc. It’s perfect for those who want to rebuy their collections or simply make it complete. It’s the only way nowadays to get your hands on it: in the Netherlands older comics have simply disappeared from shops and moved into a collector’s market, making them practically unaccessible for the ‘non-collector’ and ‘non-connaisseur’ (not to mention the pricing policies).
Most of these intégrales offer great restored and/or recolored material. Publishers seems aware of the fact that the old stuff is still good for some revenue. They put quit some effort in presenting it nicely with extra editorial content.
Last year Belgian publisher Éditions Lombard reprinted the classic comic ‘The Adventures of Corentin’ by Paul Cuvelier for the French market (covers above). The stories were published in the European Tintin magazine between 1950 and 1974 (the books can be bought online at Amazon France).
Unfortunately there is some debate over the quality of the printed material in these new books. ‘The Adventures of Corentin’ were in an awful state in the 70′s. Most comics did not look very good in those days due to older and ‘analogue’ printing and reproduction methods. Things got better as we shifted into the digital area of the 90′s with more control on the printing process and improved printing techniques. Lombard did some restoration on Corentin in the 90′s and even recolored it. It was a great improvement on what was available before but still far from perfect.
The new books, published in 2010, reprints the same restored material from the 90′s with some minor tweaks and corrections, mostly in the coloring. It is hardly noticeable, which is a disappointment. We can assume Éditions Lombard is presenting these ‘Intégrales’ as some sort of ‘Definitive Collection’, which implies there will be no other restoration. Even worse, there seem to be no plans for reprinting or restoring some of the other comics by Cuvelier, like ‘Wapi’, ‘Flamme d’Argent’ and ‘Line’.
The main problem with these publications are the original drawings of the earlier Corentin-adventures. These are not line-drawings but Cuvelier ‘painted’ them with washed inks (see below for examples how they were published originally in Tintin magazine: click for larger versions).
A major fault in the restoration process in the 70′s was the conversion of these ‘painted’ drawings to line-art, resulting in horrible distortion and applying extra black inking over the original drawing (in the Dutch version clearly noticeable, but also in some other European publications). It’s hard to believe publishers and editors were so disrespectful…
Yes, there are improvements noticeable, but nowadays it’s possible to restore this material in a much better way. Clearly Éditions Lombard can or will not make the effort.
- The coloring is an improvement as well, but I still think the color palette is very ‘flat’, grayish and ‘washed out’, using to many solid gradients without any variation.
- Subtle shading and clouds have disappeared.
- Some unnecessary re-framing was done, cutting off parts of the original image (see an example below at the bottom of the page). Why you wonder?
In 2008 I took some photo’s from Cuvelier’s original comic pages during an exhibition in the Fondation Raymond Leblanc in Brussels. It’s interesting to make comparisons based on the originals. On the left the original drawing (with some reflections from the framed glass). On the right the newly published version with the sky colored in one gradient, losing much of the details in the original. No comment on the ‘repainted’ version in the middle from the 70′s!
The page below is quite acceptable, although the coloring is boring and uninspired.
Click on the image for a (very) large version. The loss of detail in the line-art in the colored version from the 70′s is very noticable.
Let’s save the worst thing for last. A decapitation of one of the bad guys was no problem in the original magazine, but has been censored in all later versions published. Restoring the original drawing would have been easy, but they just left it in. Lazy and cheap!
I can not recommend these new books, but it’s unlikely we’ll get better versions in the near future…