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"2 h 1/2"

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Bonelli in France: 2-1/2 hour reading
by Marco Gremignai
translation by Alessandra Murray

Bonelli comics have always been fairly successful in France. For example, for many years Zagor was published by an editor in Lyons, although the format was different from that of the Italian series. The French public is accustomed to large-scale comics issued rather randomly, with 48-60 page adventures in color.

The publication of the collection 2 heures 1/2 ("2 hours and a half", which is the estimated time necessary to read each issue) was, therefore, extremely interesting. Twenty issues appeared every trimester from 1993 to 1995 thanks to the collaboration between Sergio Bonelli Editore and GlÚnat Editions. Bonelli's "new heroes", Martin Mystery, Dylan Dog, Nick Raider and Nathan Never were published in this collection. Each issue, which was sold for 59 francs (the equivalent of about 17.000 to 18.000 Italian lire at the going exchange rate - we must remember that the cost of French comics is much higher than that of Italian comics), covered two or three adventures for a total of 304 pages.

It was a rather innovative experiment for the French market. I recall my surprise when I had an opportunity to leaf through some of these issues on a trip to Paris in 1994. The translations were punctual but not exceptional and the issues looked like those of Oscar Mondadori (in which five episodes of the adventures of the "new heroes" were gathered into one issue that was about 500 pages long).

The experiment came to a halt after two years. It would be interesting to know what went on behind the scenes at the editorial offices: what were the agreements between Bonelli and GlÚnat, how many issues they had planned to publish, the success rate of Dylan and the other heroes... Nevertheless, we can take a closer look at some of the characteristics of the collection.

The characters. From the complete list of the issues that were published, it is evident that Dylan and Martin were predominant. Each had six issues. Nathan was a close second with five issues. However, only three issues were dedicated to Nick. Was this due to an unenthusiastic public or was it an editorial choice determined at the beginning of publication?

The titles of the issues. Each issue presents a title on the cover taken from one of the stories published in that issue. This title is not necessary taken from the first story or even the story most representative of the collection. One only has to think of the first Nathan, entitled The Invisible Force instead of Special Agent Alfa which would have been more appropriate.

The choice of the episodes. The first four issues, published simultaneously in May of 1993, present an overview of each character as given in the original series. The stories, therefore, of each first issue of the original series' are a given (with the exception of Nick Raider).

The authors. After this initial publication, certain "important" episodes are priviledged for publication. However, due consideration is given to maintaining a uniform style (with the partial exception of Nathan Never) throughout the issue. Stories are chosen which were written mostly by well-established authors (Sclavi, Castelli and Nizzi) and illustrated by one designer. We note the personal "success" of Casertano and Roi, which are present with both Dylan and Martin.

The covers. The author of nearly all of the covers was Claudio Villa, with the exception of three Nathan Never stories, which were entrusted to Castellini. For the occasion, Villa "re-interpreted" the original covers (with the usual excellent results) as he will do later for the Super Book of Dylan Dog.

The translations. The titles were translated literally with the one exception of Ten Years After which becomes The Mystery of the Sagrada Family. The texts, instead, were translated fairly, neither exceptionally well nor poorly. It must be remembered that translating can be rather difficult: for example, Groucho's jokes and puns...

An interesting note. For a French reader, number 17 of the collection, which was dedicated to Martin Mystery, was a must. In this story, The sickle of the Druid, Asterix, the "national hero" of French comics, appears in a fun role under the name of Celerix.

Conclusions. PWhy were only twenty issues published? Was it merely an interesting experiment that was only partially successful? Discrete but insufficient sales? As I said at the beginning, it would be interesting to know something more, even from French readers... Let us know!

To be continued... complete list of the issues

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