The Adventures of Jerome Katzmeier, Vol. 1: The Walls Have Teeth

January 18th, 2017 § 0 comments


My second outing with François Boucq, after Superdupont, was the first volume of his hit five-book series The Adventures of Jérôme Moucherot, solo ventures all and, together, a landmark of imaginative work. Since hitting his stride in the ‘80s, Boucq has been a major figure on the French scene, working with noted writers from Jerome Charyn to Alejandro Jodorowsky. Taking top prize at the Angoulême Festival was just the beginning of the awards he’s collected for his career and body of work. I was eager not to misrepresent a contemporary giant, but I do have a bone to pick about the name this series eventually settled on.

Jérôme Moucherot, the “alpha male of customer service,” is an amiable and unassuming family man, enthusiastic about his job and devoted to his wife and children. It’s a jungle out there—quite literally, as fellow insurance salesmen are depicted as various African animals, and delinquent youths anthropomorphized apes—and he braves it every day to bring home the bacon. There was something Walter Mitty-esque about this merry, bespectacled protagonist whose wife affectionately called him the “Bengal Tiger” (he has a striped suit to match) and whose upstairs neighbor was Leonardo da Vinci (science sidekick on his various adventures). Moucherot was a hero of the imagination who kept his feet steadfastly on the ground, indefatigable in practice if ferocious only in his own mind. His name, with its echoes of mouche (fly) and moucheron (midge) had deliberately outsized overtones for a shlubby little man, and I wanted something comical to match it in Boucq’s world of feral Smurfs and baby-abducting fourth-dimensional sharks. I came up with Gnatsby, Midgens, and Mitey, but Boucq wanted to “keep the paradox whereby the man believing himself to be a tiger has a belittling and bizarre name linked to a midge.” Or so I heard from the publisher; I never got to make my case to him directly, or tell him that I in fact agreed with the sentiment—it was exactly what I’d been trying to get across. It turned out what Boucq really wanted was some smuggled-in reference to a big cat; the publisher suggested Tigerton and McKitty. I didn’t mind the latter, and said so. In the end, as authorial fiat would have it, the name from the German translation, which had plainly so satisfied Boucq, won out and was carried over into English—much to my dismay, as while “Katzmeier” has overtones of “big cat” to German readers, I don’t think it reminds Americans of anything except maybe a New York deli owner.

Whenever Jerome Katzmeier ventures into the jungle of society, it’s always with the greatest enthusiasm. Everyone has to eat, but when his little daughter Loulou, his youngest child, is swallowed by a shark, our madcap warrior will not stand idle. The time of making peace with predators is over!

My disappointment aside, this is a work of spellbinding fancy. You never know where it’ll go next, and it keeps topping itself with visual and narrative invention. Give it a look! It’s now available as a digital exclusive from EuropeComics on a number of platforms (Izneo, Kindle, Kobo, Google Play, and Comixology).

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