Show, Don’t Tell. But Definitely Don’t Show AND Tell : E. P. Jacobs – “Blake and Mortimer”

ABOVE: Fighting the war to preserve Trench-coat supremacy

One of Colonel Clifton’s adventures features a cameo by the recognizable duo of Blake and Mortimer, the confirmed bachelors who starred in their now classic* E. P. Jacobs series of Belgian adventures. Like “Clifton,” “Blake and Mortimer” also had their origins in “Tintin” magazine; this adventuring duo owes a more direct debt to Herge’s ligne claire, although they’re grown up (boring!) and lacking in the visual wit that makes Herge resistant to the passage of time.

*I said “Blake and Mortimer” is a classic, and it is… in its influence, in its style, in its old-school politics. This is the sort of classic that has only a musty museum allure for me. Its particular problem is typical of “serious” cartoons of its time: a pathological penchant for textual/visual redundancy, which results in a lot of boring, unnecessary text. Why draw a shiny moon and then ruin our aesthetic enjoyment of the image with a big obvious sign that says: “That night, the moon was shining in the sky.” Yeah, we got it. We saw the drawing. Don’t you believe in your ability to draw a self-explanatory moon that looks like a moon and not, say, a block of cheese dropped on a starry tablecloth?

The endless expository blocks of text, perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen, continuously threaten to crush the boring talking heads beneath them. I suspect part of it is that Jacobs is combating some perception as comics as childish, so he practically challenges the critic: “Hey, there’s a novel’s worth of words in here!” Sure, but it’s not a very good novel. “Blake and Mortimer” may be a beloved Belgian classic, but try as I might I don’t enjoy it. I don’t know how many people can survive a panel as terrifying as the one below:


ABOVE: SERIOUSLY. WTF. If I wanted to read, I would be reading a REAL book, E. P. Jacobs! Let me fix that panel. Blake: “Old chap, I feel we should nuke the slimy non-Europeans before they whoop our asses, but H.R.H. the Queen, God Save Her, is being a total pussy about it.” There, the end.

RATING: SHRUG from me, reputedly a MASTERPIECE!!! among ligne claire enthusiasts.


2 thoughts on “Show, Don’t Tell. But Definitely Don’t Show AND Tell : E. P. Jacobs – “Blake and Mortimer”

  1. Pingback: Yoko O Yes : Roger Leloup – “Yoko Tsuno” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

  2. Pingback: Like “Amarcord” and “The 400 Blows” Rolled Into One : Tome and Janry – “Little Spirou” | THE PAGEAHOLIC

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