1970s “Flying Furies”, The Aeronauts, recalled

The Aeronauts - 1973 Annual

Picking up on our recent story about Tales from Europe, The Singing, Ringing Tree and The White Horses, who remembers The Aeronauts… or as older readers might remember them, from Lion comic – “The Flying Furies“?

Not to be confused with the upcoming feature film starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, directed by Tom Harper, this dramatic action adventure series was originally broadcast in France as Les chevaliers du ciel (“The Knights of the Sky”), in 1967.

Running for three seasons and 39 episodes, Les chevaliers du ciel was based on the comic series Tanguy et Laverdure by the prolific author Jean-Michel Charlier and originally drawn by Albert Uderzo, the latter the co-creator of Asterix and who had previously tried to seek publication for test pilot-inspired strip, “Marc Laurent“.

Much as Frank Hampson and Marcus Morris created a "prototype" Dan Dare in Padre Lex Christian, in the mid-1950s Albert Uderzo had tried to interest publishers in a character “Marc Laurent - Pilote d’Essai” (test pilot), who was dusted off and reworked as Michel Tanguy, fighter pilot, for “Pilote” in 1959

Much as Frank Hampson and Marcus Morris created a “prototype” Dan Dare in Padre Lex Christian, in the mid-1950s Albert Uderzo had tried to interest publishers in a character “Marc Laurent – Pilote d’Essai” (test pilot), who was dusted off and reworked as Michel Tanguy, fighter pilot, for “Pilote” in 1959

Initially titled Michel Tanguy, Tanguy et Laverdure debuted in the first issue of the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote in October 1959, providing the anthology with a competitor to the similar series,”Buck Danny”, serialised in Spirou, and “Dan Cooper”, which appeared in Tintin magazine.

Many episodes of the Les chevaliers du ciel TV series were written by the multi-talented hand highly respected Charlier himself, who as well as being a comics writer and artist, was also a pilot.

Belgian artist Jijé (Joseph Gillain), the seminal artist on the “Spirou et Fantasio” strip and creator of one of the first major European western strips, Jerry Spring, took over the strip from Uderzo – and, over time, made the characters look more like the actors from the TV show.

Like Uderzo, Jijé, who died in 1980, was one of a few European artists to have worked on both realistic and humorous strips. After starting in a Hergé-like ligne claire style, he went on to create his own distinctive art, in the so-called Atom style.

A page from the French graphic album, Tanguy and Laverdure Volume 14 - Baroud sur le désert, published by Dargaud in 1970, starring Tanguy, Laverdure and Lieutenant Double-Bang. This art by Jijé was sold at auction earlier this year by Heritage Auctions for $3500.

A page from the French graphic album, Tanguy and Laverdure Volume 14 – Baroud sur le désert, published by Dargaud in 1970, starring Tanguy, Laverdure and Lieutenant Double-Bang. This art by Jijé was sold at auction earlier this year by Heritage Auctions for $3500.

The Aeronauts show, starring Jacques Santi and Christian Marin as pilots as Michel Tanguy and Ernest Laverdu was re-titled The Aeronauts and shown by the BBC in the UK in the 1970s, and aired on CBC in Canada, too.

An anglicised version of the theme tune, originally performed by Johnny Hallyday, sung by Rick Jones, was released in 1972 – and it’s a darn sight more entertaining than the French original.

The first Tanguy and Laverdure story “L’Ecole des Aigles” was published in English in Lion, between April and September 1966, as “The Flying Furies“. Tanguy was re-named Jim ‘Jet’ Power and Laverdure Terry Madden.

A page from "The Fighting Furies" from an issue of Lion cover dated 11th June 1966, re-publishing the first Tanguy and Laverdure story "L'Ecole des Aigles" in English. Storu by Jean-Michel Charlier, art by Albert Uderzo

A page from “The Fighting Furies” from an issue of Lion cover dated 11th June 1966, re-publishing the first Tanguy and Laverdure story “L’Ecole des Aigles” in English. Storu by Jean-Michel Charlier, art by Albert Uderzo

The original section from Tanguy and Laverdure story "L'Ecole des Aigles" used in Lion. It's interesting to note the revisions to the artwork, presumably to make it fit the space better (and the fact that a speech bubble was removed, where Tanguy/ Jim Power would have tried to calm down the departing officer might indicate that they weren’t following the story slavishly

The original section from Tanguy and Laverdure story “L’Ecole des Aigles” used in Lion. It’s interesting to note the revisions to the artwork, presumably to make it fit the space better (and the fact that a speech bubble was removed, where Tanguy/ Jim Power would have tried to calm down the departing officer might indicate that they weren’t following the story slavishly

Tanguy et Laverdure - 1996 CollectionThe Aeronauts 1973 annual, a direct tie-in with the TV series, re-published a slightly edited compilation of two original albums, “Destination Pacifique” and “Menace sur Mururoa“, and used the characters’ French names.

The cover was by the well-known poster artist Yves Thos, originally used as the cover of the album “Destination Pacifique”, which has been-re-used several times, including as the cover of an Italian edition, published by Alessandro Editore; re-purposed as a collection cover, released by Dargaud in 1996; and as the cover of a soundtrack album to the original French TV show.

The original TV series was such a huge success that even Charlier, who died in 1989, recalled that his father Albert, a simple office worker who had never admitted that his son had embarked on a career in comics instead of continuing his career to become a lawyer, was finally impressed by something his sone had done!

Les Chevaliers du ciel continued with a different cast over two further seasons, released in 1988 and 1991. A feature film, also called Les Chevaliers du ciel, was released in 2005, directed by Gérard Pirès about two air force pilots preventing a terrorist attack on the Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.

The Tanguy et Laverdure continues to be published today by Dargaud, albeit written by different authors and artists.

WEB LINKS

Les Chevaliers du ciel Picture Disc

Les Chevaliers du ciel Picture Disc

Jean Michel-Charlier: Official Web Site (in French) – Les Chevalier du Ciel section here

Jijé: Official Site (via Wayback) | Lambiek

Dargaud: Tanguy et Laverdure Official Page

• Wikipedia: The Aeronauts | Tanguy et Laverdure

Yves Thos: Official Web Site

Bear Alley: The Flying Furies
Jeremy Briggs’ 2007 feature on the Lion reprint

Bear Alley: Tanguy et Laverdure
Jeremy Briggs’ 2007 feature

With thanks to Simon Doyle and David Roach

 



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2 replies

  1. Given the amount of British material syndicated in Europe as far back as the early 20’s it’s no surprise that there was quite a bit of flow coming the other way. Starting after the war there were Dutch, French and Spanish and probably Italian artists (though I haven’t nailed one down in those early days yet) strips appearing in the blooming small press scene.

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