For their very first collaboration, screenwriter Nicolas Juncker and illustrator Simon Spruyt deliver the first part of a historical farce in the shadow of the French Revolution, with the comic strip Memoirs of the Dragon Dragon.
In 1792, three years after the storming of the Bastille, the political situation in France remained volatile. While the royal family languishes in prison, the Prussians, Austrians, English and Russians band together to bring down the new Republic, and their respective armies rush to the country’s borders.
It is to the dragoons, soldiers moving on horseback, but fighting on foot, that falls the task of repelling the repeated assaults of the invaders, and the war would certainly be lost in advance if all the French combatants were also cowards, liars, thieves and lustful as Pierre-Marie Dragon, a man who, instead of confronting the enemy, does not hesitate to shoot down his own general under the pretext of saving the three thousand lives that the latter was leading to a losing battle.
Focusing on how the great battles of history are the work of little people who sacrifice their lives under the orders of nobles and generals who too often remain safe from danger, the comic strip Memoirs of the Dragon Dragon is anti-militarist, and delightfully iconoclastic. It’s not easy to make a cowardly, liar and egocentric character endearing, but that’s exactly what scriptwriter Nicolas Juncker manages to do with his Pierre-Marie Dragon. The only adventures that interest this antihero are of a sexual nature, and he cannot resist the temptation to sodomize his brothers in arms or his superiors, whether they consent or not. In his defense, he declares: “Who do you take me for? Dragon Dragon doesn’t violate anyone, it grabs everyone with grace and enthusiasm! »
One could not imagine a better context for a man challenging social order and authority in all its forms than the chaos of the French Revolution. Referring both to his name and his function, the use of the double surname (the dragon Dragon) constitutes a constant gag throughout the album which we never tire of. Whether he toasts “to kings, queens, horses, and those who ride them” or sings a bawdy song, the sulphurous replies of this joyful troublemaker with Gallic mustaches are pure pleasure. Although the scenario takes certain liberties in its interpretation of historical facts, we find several figures who really existed throughout the story, including George Danton, the Duke of Brunswick or Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, who will later become the very last King of France.
Simon Spruyt is a very versatile illustrator, and his visual style in Memoirs of the Dragon Dragon is so different from the album The Drum of the Moskva, which he recently realized, that one could easily think that it is not about the same artist. With their elongated noses and round eyes, the characters he draws here are quite caricatural, which does not prevent him from capturing the emotion of faces with formidable efficiency. Its sets, such as army tents in the field, or combat scenes, including one showing the silhouettes of horses and soldiers flying through the air after a salvo of cannonballs, are realistic and textured with dozens and dozens of fine lines. It parodies old engravings in certain illustrations spanning a full page or two, and the album ends with a notebook in which Pierre-Marie Dragon himself denies having distorted historical facts.
No need to know the history of the French Revolution and its main actors to appreciate Memoirs of the Dragon Dragona resolutely adult and irreverent comic that features a deeply human hero, to whom we can only become attached despite his many faults.
Memoirs of the Dragon Dragon – Volume 1: Valmy, it’s over, by Nicolas Juncker and Simon Spruyt. Published by Le Lombard editions, 64 pages.