The Book: An English language edition of Wilfrid Lupano and Jérémie Moreau‘s Le Singe de Hartlepool, telling the story of the legendary Hartlepool monkey, allegedly hung by townsfolk fearing it was a French spy during the Napoleonic wars.
Published in French by Delcort, Le Singe de Hartlepool is the first collaboration Lupano and Moreau and had a high profile during this year’s Angouleme Festival.
According to local Hartlepool folklore, during the Napoleonic wars a French ship was wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool. The only survivor was a monkey, allegedly wearing a French uniform to provide amusement for the crew. On finding it, some locals decided to hold an impromptu trial in the town square; since the monkey was unable to answer their questions, and many locals were unaware of what a Frenchman may look like, they concluded that the monkey was in fact a French sailor.
Just to make sure, the animal was thus sentenced to death and hanged in the town square on the Headland.
The Review: As we reported earlier this year, Wilfrid Lupano overheard the story of the Hartlepool Monkey in a Manchester pub and has turned the anecdote into a simply stunning graphic novel comic, with the monkey’s story becoming a universal tale denouncing the narrow-mindedness and stupidity.
While the story of the monkey hung by the citizens of Hartlepool as a French spy in the Napoleonic Wars is well known, Lupano retells it with aplomb, delivering a powerful, beautifully drawn story, well deserving of the accolades it has received for its original French edition.
Mixing farce with drama, you’re quickly pulled into the story, which exposes the very worst of human stupidity and prejudice, weaving a macabre but skillfully crafted tale. Art and script prove a perfect blend of the very best in graphic storytelling, swiftly characterizing the principal characters and scenes with a near casual ease that belies the work that has gone into delivering such gorgeous artwork.
Plus, for anyone from Hartlepool, the faithful reproduction of the locality – the Headland, the Fish Sands, the Town Wall and St Hilda’s Church – are beautifully drawn.
While the French monkey is the victim of the tale, so too, in different ways, are those that encounter it, including those who call for its execution. I thoroughly recommend it.
• View a preview (in French): www.bdgest.com/preview-1121-BD-singe-de-hartlepool-le-recit-complet.html
• Here’s a video (in French) of Le Singe de Hartlepool‘s promotion at Angouleme