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In 1914 the newspaper L'Epatant announced that its three subversive lads called "Pieds-Nickelés" were enlisting under the flag to play malicious dirty tricks on the Germans. On the eve of centenary of the Great War, the Vuibert Bookstore offers us a colorized reissue of the adventures of the three loustics, a reissue prefaced by the historian Jean Tulard which places this comic in the general context of the mobilization of fictional characters within the framework of a culture of war. A great way to immerse yourself in the history of the Great War through this comic which has a double interest: a comedy that has not aged a bit and a certain documentary role in the context of cultural history.
Who are the Pieds-Nickelés?
For the youngest, it is opportune to present these old figures of French comedy. Les Pieds-Nickelés are comic strip heroes who appeared on June 4, 1908 in the children's newspaper L'Epatant, a comic trio made up of Ribouldingue the big bearded, Filochard the nervous one-eyed and Croquignol the tall skinny with a long nose. Three little crooks, tricksters and hackers who, during their many adventures, try to pack up the "gogo" (one would say today the bourgeois Bohemian) and never stop rubbing shoulders with the representatives of the authority in place ... This irreverent side is accompanied by a rather crude drawing and a slang tone.
But with the First World War the tone changes, the French are mobilized and comic book characters are also called upon. If the conventional Bécassine is involved in the conflict, it was not obvious that our three lads were also part! Because their father the cartoonist Forton was rather anti-militarist ... But he is under pressure from his publishers, the Offenstadt brothers, Jews of German origin accused by some of spying and demoralizing public opinion ... It is urgent to publishers to give pledges, and that is why the so subversive Pieds-Nickelés will support the war effort. On December 10, 1914, L'Epatant announced:
« Our three sympathetic Pieds-Nickelés, Ribouldingue, Filochard and Croquignol, knowing only their duty as French, joined the army of combatants without waiting for their order to mobilize and the Boches learn at their expense what a Parisian loustic is worth. Patience, reading friends, soon you will be laughing and applauding when you read their exploits ».
It was done in January 1915, the Pieds-Nickelés found themselves in the Boche a new enemy, stupid and unbalanced, which allows them to set up smoldering blows more and more improbable and spectacular! The goal is above all to make the hairy and the rear laugh on the back of the enemy. The three thugs become symbols of French malice, but also of its generosity (for example, they pay widows what they have stolen from the Boches). Hidden in haystacks, camouflaged in trees in hollow trunks, capturing the Germans like thrushes with grid traps, seizing an enemy officer by folding him into his tent ... The kings of resourcefulness, ingenuity and System D wage a mercilessly funny war on the sauerkraut eaters!
1914 – 2014
In 1914, we were told the Pieds-Nickelés were going to war, a hundred years later Jean Tulard took part in their return to the forefront. We know Tulard well for his passion for cinema, as well as of course for his expertise in the history of the First Empire, but he hits where we do not necessarily expect him by opening the doors of 21st century bookstores in Ribouldingue, Filochard and Croquignol! On the occasion of the centenary of the Great War, the Vuibert Bookstore republishes the adventures of the Pieds-Nickelés under the flags in a full 85 pages colorized for the occasion by Benjamin Strickler who for once gives them a big blow young.
The objective of course is twofold. Firstly, the adventures of the three loustics have not lost any of their comedy and young and old alike are invited to (re) discover this mischievous and frank humor of the last century! Secondly, “Les Pieds-Nickelés are going to war” is also a testimony to the Great War and to the mobilization of publishers and the world of children's literature in the context of a war that is truly total. As such, the Pieds-Nickelés are part of what is commonly called the culture of war. As such, the preface by Jean Tulard is precious and gives all its dimension to comics. The historian judiciously places this comic in its context, that of a mobilization of fictional characters in the context of the war, alongside Bécassine, Arsène Lupine who unmasks a German spy ... Or even at the Charlot cinema who also takes the uniform ...
At the dawn of the centenary, Jean Tulard's initiative is therefore judicious. The resumption of the work of Louis Forton is an original way, and very interesting at a time of cultural history, to approach the war of 14-18. As the end of year celebrations approach, it is likely that the three lads manage to make their way through the chimneys to under the pines ...