Monday, December 4, 2017

Achille Talon, By Way Of Achille Talon!

You may recognize the name “Achille Talon” as that of one of our friends, and regular commenters. 

But, do you also recognize “Achille Talon” as that of a wonderful French/Belgian comic series, from which our friend “Achille Talon” has taken his screen name? 

Neither did I, until he brought it to my attention by providing an Amazon link to a rare English language volume translation of one of the stories – pictured above! 

...Now, it's time to bring it to YOUR attention! 

Click to Enlarge, to Read Descriptive Text. 
“Achille Talon”, or “Walter Melon” as he is known in English, is the product of creator Michael Greg who, in this volume gives us a fantastic 44-page comedy adventure (in four-tiered panel layout, as was done in Dell and Gold Key Comics – no less), in which Achille/Walter journeys to the jungles of “Messaplato” in search of his lady-love, the fair (and somewhat indifferent) “Magnesia Pamperbilt” and the diamond mine she just learned she has inherited. 

 “Magnesia’s Treasure” (1977, with an English translation created in 1981), opens with Achille/Walter purchasing a small vase for Magnesia from an outdoor flea-market, as a token of his undying affection. Click to Enlarge any and all panels! 

We readers are quickly thrust into the magnificent absurdity that I’ll presume permeates the entirety of the  “Achille Talon” series, as Magnesia enthusiastically accepts the gift – but decides that she must change the décor of her entire living room to fit the vase!  

To do so, she orders her servant/faithful companion “Hexcedrin” to switch her present living room furniture with that of a departed aunt and uncle, which is stored in Magnesia’s vast attic.  

Achille/Walter, ever the fawning gentleman assists, and finds an old book – containing a letter that reveals Magnesia to be the heir to a lost diamond mine in the aforementioned Central American land of “Messaplato”. 

Impulsive Magnesia and Hexcedrin are off in search of the titular “Magnesia’s Treasure” , with Achille/Walter just late enough to miss the departing plane, and imagine the many terrors the two ladies will be facing without his protection! 

Achille/Walter gears-up for a dangerous jungle adventure, takes the next plane, and finds the greatest dangers to be customs, local law enforcement, and wild vehicular traffic!  Please forgive an occasional "crooked panel", as this book cannot lie flat on my scanner!  

Teaming up with a perpetually inebriated old war buddy of his father’s, “Arthur, the 14th Duke of Booswallow” (a pun to make me envious), Achille/Walter eventually plunges into the jungle to find Magnesia.

Along the way he picks-up a delightfully funny array of pursuers, hangers-on, and just plain old self-interested exploiters that include…  

…An officer of the Messaplato Secret Police...

…The enterprisingly mercenary natives of the “Kiukiubamba Tribe”...

…A band of revolutionaries... 

…A rather inept man-eating leopard...

…The mysterious adventurer with a bad case of amnesia, “Colorado Jones”…

…Dangerous fauna, and deadly man-made traps…

…And the Messaplato Military!

This wondrous mix (and mix-UP) of humorous and satirical characters makes for one heck of a conclusion!  ...But, no more spoilers! 

Instead, we’ll move on to why the readers of this Blog should enjoy “Achille Talon”, AKA “Walter Melon”.

The character of Achille/Walter is a delightful mix of Carl Barks’ Donald Duck, and E.C. Segar’s J. Wellington Wimpy – yet, with a quality all his own. 
The basic story structure is that of a Carl Barks Donald Duck adventure, beginning innocently in Achille/Walter’s hometown, and leading to intrigues in an exotic locale – with lots of twists, turns, and eccentric characters to encounter along the way. 

Michael Greg was Don Rosa, “before there WAS Don Rosa”!  Like Rosa, Greg adheres to - and builds upon -  the classic Barks story structure, yet creates panel after panel of insanely cramped detail… and does so in a very funny style of cartooning! 

The English translation, by Pablo Vela, is worthy of the best in the English-dialoguing business, such as Geoffrey Blum, Gary Leach, and the “Creative Core Four” of the present IDW Disney comics! (…You know who we are!)

I heartily recommend “Achille Talon”, AKA “Walter Melon” to the readers of this Blog – and thank “The Other Achille Talon” for recommending it to me! 

…Finally, I don’t know if any additional American English translations of “Achille Talon” were created after 1981, but *I’d* sure like to give it a go sometime! 

UPDATE: December 08, 2017:

Compare the detail in these panels from the American printing with that of the French original.  This is discussed in the Comments Section:  Thanks to Achille Talon (The PERSON) for citing the differences!


Debbie Anne said...

According to that semi-trustworthy repository of knowledge, Wikipedia, ( there was only one of the Achille Talon/Walter Mellon stories translated into English. There was an animated Walter Mellon in 1996. The animated series is very different from the original comic. In the animated cartoon, Talon is a very awkward superhero who offers his heroic services for hire, replacing such characters as Luke Skywalker, Zorro and Tarzan when they become indisposed. Talon manages to make justice triumph by pure luck. There are doubtlessly many undiscovered gems of Franco-Belgian comics out there that we haven't discovered in English because publishers here just aren't interested, or initial volumes just don't sell in our superhero/manga obsessed US market. Another such gem (in my opinion) was Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus, an animal series that is at times reminiscent of Pogo, especially since the titular mouse Sibyl-Anne is often overshadowed by her supporting players and the scheming Ratticus. There was only one volume printed in the US by Fantagraphics (which
I lucked into a nice copy of it at a used bookstore).

Joe Torcivia said...


You write: “There are doubtlessly many undiscovered gems of Franco-Belgian comics out there that we haven't discovered in English because publishers here just aren't interested, or initial volumes just don't sell in our superhero/manga obsessed US market.”

That MUST, unfortunately, be the case, if a little gem like this could have flown so completely beneath my radar since 1977-1981. Now, it’s true that I was completely “out of comics” from 1972 to 1980-81, when girls, school, cars, and jobs dominated my existence. And, during 1980-81 as well as the period that immediately followed, I was strictly interested in amassing all of the Carl Barks Donald and Scrooge stories I’d never read during my original, earlier period of reading. So, the “Walter Melon” book, if I’d seen it at all, would certainly not have attracted my attention at that time.

However, in the years following, when my wants and tastes expanded, if there HAD been a series of “Walter Melon” books on thru the ‘80s and even into the ‘90s, I might have at the very least picked it up and given it a look.

…But, that’s where your alas-accurate observation on the US comics market comes in to preclude that ever happening.

Glad I eventually got to experience this volume… and really… Hey, Guys! If you ever want to bring “Achille Talon” back to the states… there’s an eager American, with lots of experience in humorous adventure-type comics, waiting to translate and dialogue it for you!

HERE is Deb’s link on “Achille Talon”!

And HERE is Deb’s link on “Sibyl-Anne vs. Ratticus”!

Achille Talon said...

I am glad that you enjoyed Magnesia's Treasure (In this fully redrawn version! The French printing had a few differences here and there, such as the maid's outfit being different. So in a way, the scans here were new to me!), and honored to be mentioned in a title of a post on this wondrous blogthing of yours.

Something I may not have made clear to you is that the bulk of the Achille Talon books are anthologies of hilarious short, tight-packed two-page subjects, rather than long adventure tales. Greg did… I'd say around fifteen to twenty of these, and they're excellent, but they're still the minority. Such hardcover anthologies of one- or two-pagers are hardly common in the U.S., even though they're just as common in Europe as softcover comics ala Disney or long, hardcover stories like Astérix, Tintin or Lucky Luke. That might have been part of the reasons behind the great injustice that was done unto the world when the American Walter Melon series was discontinued…

All this being said, let's end on a bit of positivy. Greg himself, that self-styled "born-spoiled genius", passed away fifteen years ago, but after a few short-lived attempts, the series has recently been taken over by a team of modern writer and new books are being published in France at a steady pace. They're not exactly as good as the originals (the art… I'd say it's like Branca compared to Barks: still very solid, but visibly just the shadow of something greater), but they're still pretty good and selling well enough, so if we're being very optimistic, this could factor into an American publisher deciding to start over!

Joe Torcivia said...


Thank you for the recommendation of “Achille Talon”, and for enjoying this “wondrous blogthing”!

Why do you suppose Hexcedrin’s outfit would have been changed for American publication? Were such art alterations a common practice when “Achille Talon” appeared in other countries, or was this more of an isolated incident? Curious… I’ll assume it was Michael Greg doing the redrawing, and not someone working as part of some editorial function. …In any event, *I’m* pleased that *you* got to see “something new” out of this too!

When you say that “…the bulk of the Achille Talon books are anthologies of hilarious short, tight-packed two-page subjects, rather than long adventure tales”, that actually brings the character even CLOSER to Carl Barks’ Donald Duck, in that there were too-few long Donald adventure stories by Barks, before he moved-on to the new UNCLE SCROOGE title in 1952.

Were Greg’s long adventures concentrated into one particular period of “Achille Talon”, as Barks’ were in the 1940s-early 1950s issues of DONALD DUCK, or were they more spread-out over the entirety of Greg’s active creativity?

Are the new books long adventures, funny shorts, or (hopefully) a good mixture of both?

If this publisher should ever consider expanding to the USA, let them know there’s an experienced, witty, reliable, deadline-conscious dialogue specialist waiting to assist them! :-)

Debbie Anne said...

You could find out who publishes them and inquire about it yourself, or see if Fantagraphics or IDW would be interested (yes, I realise it doesn't work that way, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained!)

Comicbookrehab said...

At a glance, it looks like Plastic Man's sidekick, Woozy Winks, got his own comic book. The change in wardrobe would be indicative of his upgrade to leading man status.

And Michael Greg looks like a doppelganger for Stan Lee in that picture...everyone gets one?

Joe Torcivia said...

Seize the Day, and all that sort of stuff, right Deb?

Why not? What do I – and the comics readers of the USA – have to lose?

Since David is my first contact at both publishers, I’ll mention it to him next time we meet. …Of course, he COULD be reading this right now… Perhaps?

Joe Torcivia said...


“ Woozy Winks?!”

YES! YES! YES! That is exactly the image I had in my mind! But, since I couldn’t come up with it, I opted for the comics version of Wimpy – which, in certain personality traits, very much suits the character. As opposed to Woozy, whose character traits do not… unless you compare Achille/Walter’s devotion to Magnesia to Woozy’s devotion to Plastic Man! …But, for all your sakes, I won’t go there!

And just as many “YES!”s for Michael Greg looking like Stan Lee! In the ‘70s, perhaps you had to look like that to be cool in comics – and that’s why Carmine Infantino’s incarnation of DC Comics lagged behind Marvel, despite doing lots of great stuff that still impresses me today!

Maybe “Image” really is everything! Oh, wait… That wouldn’t happen until the early ‘90s – but, I digress!

Achille Talon said...

Why do you suppose Hexcedrin’s outfit would have been changed for American publication? Were such art alterations a common practice when “Achille Talon” appeared in other countries, or was this more of an isolated incident? Curious… I’ll assume it was Michael Greg doing the redrawing, and not someone working as part of some editorial function.

I don't think they were redrawn for other countries, no, but Hexcedrin's outfit change is probably because in the French version, Magnesia is clearly supposed to be an aristocrat, and Hexcedrin therefore had a more old-fashioned outfit, an element that was toned down in localization as far as I can see. Hexcedrin's outfit is by no means the only change, although it is the most surprising to me; for instance, Achille's shirt doesn't have a plaid motif in the original, and the flea market more recognizably took place in Paris.

And yes, it was definitely Greg who redid his own art, albeit perhaps with some help on occasions — he was prone to asking collaborators for help on the backgrounds when he worried about missing a deadline.

Were Greg’s long adventures concentrated into one particular period of “Achille Talon”, as Barks’ were in the 1940s-early 1950s issues of DONALD DUCK?

Yes, actually, albeit the later period rather than early as with Barks. He started in one-pager format, expanded to two-pagers, and then even while two-pagers were still printed in the original magazine Pilote (also host to Astérix, for the record), he got a deal with the Tintin magazine to serialize long adventures there. And ended up becoming the editor-in-chief for the Tintin magazine in question after a while, funnily enough.

Funny thing about the long adventures, they introduced Achille's pet, a duck by the name of Pétard ("Firecracker") in French, whom he never introduced in the two-pagers, not even as a cameo.

Are the new books long adventures, funny shorts, or (hopefully) a good mixture of both?

There haven't been any long adventures since Greg's passing, unfortunately. However, there is a holy grail of Achille Talon fans — the first twenty pages of a long story he was working on when died. Due to legal hullabaloo only four pages of it could ever be released, the first four pages that he had already delivered to his editor; the rest were apparently sold by uncaring relatives at a flea market, and scans of these pages occasionally (very occasionally) pop up on the Internet.

Comicbookrehab said...

And afford upkeep on a hairpiece.😆

Stan Lee is actually a big fan of "Mr. Wimpy", as he referred to him. The Bob Kane episode of the early-90s made-for-video interview series "Stan Lee Presents: The Comic Book Greats" had showed Stan draw some very good sketch/head shots of Popeye and Wimpy, even down to the whiskers along Wimpy's nose. It's on YouTube, along with the other episodes of the series.

Joe Torcivia said...


You make me wish that Marvel had published POPEYE in the early/mid 1970s instead of Charlton!

Then again, making me “root against Charlton” is not exactly a herculean feat that would require the greatness of Stan Lee!

Joe Torcivia said...


As I see it, at least from this singular sampling, Hexcedrin’s character, her apparent utter devotion to Magnesia aside – or perhaps BECAUSE of it, is a take-charge individual who suffers no fools (especially Achille/Walter)! This puts Magnesia squarely in the “traditional” Daisy Duck (Donald and Gladstone) and Olive Oyl (Popeye and Bluto) position of affection/devotion from two polar opposite characters (Achille/Walter and Hexcedrin)! I just keep finding parallels to Donald Duck and Popeye, don’t I? …And, I’ve no doubt Magnesia LIKES it that way – despite whatever one might choose to infer (or not infer) on Hexcedrin’s side of the equation!

Funny thing is, given that Hexedrin IS such a “is a take-charge individual who suffers no fools” (witness her browbeating the of the Messaplato Military into unquestioning servitude), her outfit would be ALL THE MORE incongruously funny if it WERE left as the old-fashioned maid’s outfit you describe… but, that’s just me!

And then there’s Achille’s shirt not having a plaid motif in the original? What would be the rationale for that, beyond someone in the editorial process having a different sense of design? It would be like Carl Barks’ Donald Duck having a BLUE jacket in some countries, rather than its traditional black. Or when, in the 1968 Gold Key Comics, Scrooge’s collar and cuffs suddenly turned to BLACK (from the entire coat being completely RED for years), for no apparent reason. About that same time, Fred Flintstone’s TIE turned from its traditional blue to BLACK in the Gold Key Comics, likely for the same unfathomable reason? Black ink was cheaper than red or blue, maybe?

I *can* understand the change of the flea market not being set in “recognizable Paris” being done for American readers. Indeed –and alas – the only surefire way to communicate that it was IN Paris to American readers (without stating it in the dialogue or a narrative caption) would be to employ the “visual shorthand” of having the Eiffel Tower in the background… regardless of where in Paris the characters happened to be! Don’t agree with that, but just stating truth.

Oddly, given Achille’s “packing and trip-preparation scene” with his father and Bitterbug (not reproduced in this post), the reference to Father’s war buddy “Arthur the 14th Duke of Booswallow” - and the decidedly British characterization OF Arthur, it was easy and quite natural for American readers to assume that Achille lived in ENGLAND, and not France.

Interesting that, unlike Barks’ Donald Duck, the long adventures came LATER for Achille Talon! But, there’s even a Carl Barks parallel there too… in that, in HIS later years, Barks also concentrated on longer adventures (though more laced with the prevalent “sixties camp” that I love, than in his ‘40s/’50s adventures) – but for UNCLE SCROOGE, and not Donald. The Donald ten-pagers that supposedly made WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES of the early 1950s, the bestselling American comics magazine of all time, were handled by others (with varying results) by the middle/later 1960s – until Barks reprints began running in 1969, and pretty much for the rest of the title’s run at Western Publishing, ending in 1984.

Awww… I would have liked to have seen “Firecracker the Duck”! Did he TALK, or just steal scenes around the panel edges – like Eega Beeva’s Pflip, or Gyro Gearloose’s Helper?

Too bad Greg didn’t have someone to be a “Don Rosa or Daan Jippes, to his Barks” (How’s that for an analogy?) to complete any unfinished work, or otherwise generally enhance things retroactively! Alas, SOME relatives, just never “get it”!

WOW! I’ve sure gotten into in this, haven’t I? Thanks for all the great background information!

Achille Talon said...

Oh yes, Hexcedrin Whisper's whole point is to be a very bossy, very strong person in utter contrast to Magneisa. Her French name is Hécatombe Susurre, or literally Massacre Whisper. Note also that a later long-shot had her bully a New-York gangster into marrying her in over-the-top slapstick way. To have a look at the original Hexcedrin, perhaps you'd like to have a look at this (sadly low-quality) scan of a page of the original, unaltered version of "Magnesia's Treasure":

I presume the plaid motif was an attempt to de-French-ify the character and make him look more British…

The Duke of Booswallow is presumably supposed to have met Walter's father in World War I or II (yeah, the timeline of the Melon stories is about as wonky as that of Scrooge's life; in the 60's he was unspokenly old enough to have lived as an adult through World War II, but obviously this changed when in the 1980's he was still written as fourty-something, and his father's age compared to that is anyone's guess).

And Firecracker the Duck, although beret-wearing, never talks, and is about Pluto-level anthropomorphic in behavior — the comparison of his panel-stealing role with Little Helper is an apt one, although he is far less competent. Firecracker was pretty much a caricature of the "wacky semianthropomorphic hero's pet" who was omnipresent in Franco-Belgian comics at the time (think Tintin's Snowy) and is perhaps best represented by Mickey's Pluto and Popeye's Jeep-Jeep. Here's a nice picture of the quacky fellow:

Before you mention it, yes, it's likely Donald still sneaked in through the backdoor on that one, inasmuch as a white-feathered duck is far from standard in French cartooning and was likely a holdover from Donald. As a matter of fact, there is a (wordless, for once) Talon gag that is directly copied from a Mickey sunday page. See the comparison here (note that Greg actually padded things a bit; the non-copied panels aren't picture):

Although to be honest, I find Greg's execution of the joke funnier. Walter's expressions are just so much more varied than Goofy's in this example.

Sérgio Gonçalves said...

As another Franco-Belgian comic book character (Papa Smurf) would say, "Amazing! Simply Amazing!" I had no idea Achille Talon existed (the comic book series; I did of course know of the existence of the commenter!). There's a lot of good stuff here; I laughed at quite a few of the panels.

Achille Talon sounds like a very cool character. I'm glad to hear he has a lot of the characteristics of Donald Duck and Wimpy, since those are two characters I like very much!

I'm glad to hear new Achille Talon stories are being made. Hopefully, they and the originals will find their way to the States at some point. I wish you the best of luck with your dream/ambition of translating and dialoging these stories!

It's interesting that so many Belgian comic book creators used pseudonyms. Michel Régnier was Greg, Pierre Culliford [creator of "The Smurfs"] was Peyo, and Georges Remi [creator of "Tintin"] was Hergé.

According to Wikipedia, Greg actually wrote two Tintin stories, but Hergé ultimately decided not to use them because he wanted to keep all creative control. It would be interesting to see these stories get published, even if unfinished, like "Tintin and Alph-Art," the last Tintin story, which Hergé did not finish and thus was published unfinished. On the other hand, would publishing them be disrespectful of Hergé's wishes? Personally, I wouldn't think so, given that both Hergé and Greg have long passed away and that -- per Hergé's wishes -- no new Tintin stories are being made. Publishing them now would be more of a special treat for fans than anything else, in my opinion. Perhaps Greg's Tintin stories could be published as "bonus features" alongside "Tintin in the Lake of Sharks," a comic book script of an animated Tintin movie of the same title, for which Greg wrote the script.

Interestingly, a few years ago, Hergé's foundation was toying with the idea of authorizing the production of new Tintin stories at some point in the distant future, in order to help Hergé's legacy alive. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand, this would be pretty cool. I would love to see Scooby-Doo team up with Tintin. Ultimately though, I can understand Hergé's wishes and feel they should be respected. Perhaps promoting the existing Tintin stories, and encouraging people to read them, is the best possible tribute to Hergé's legacy.

Joe Torcivia said...


Got even more really great comments – especially from “Achille Talon” the PERSON, not the COMIC – but can’t get to them due to a rush job for IDW, the usual daily obligations, and our first snow of the season.

We’ll have those comments, and my usually enthusiastic replies, soon. Keep watching this space!

Thanks for your patience.


Joe Torcivia said...


That is some amazing stuff you’ve provided!

Having seen it via your link, it seems all the more strange that Hexcedrin and Walter/Achillie’s clothing would need to be modified at all in order to tell this story!

The SHAPE of Hexcedrin’s face is also different. More “rounded” in the original, and more “pear shaped” in the American printing – noticeably so! I can’t imagine why that would be!

Little details like the “picture on the wall” in Panel One, and the “Liquor Bottle” in Panel Two are also different, for some unfathomable reason! I’ve added the American page to the bottom of this post, so you can see for yourself.

Oh, man… Gotta love Firecracker! There’s even some Scrooge in there with the sideburns!

And, that Goofy gag just happens to be one of my all-time favorite Gottfredson gags, ever since I saw it back in a Gladstone Series I issue of MICKEY MOUSE! Fascinating to see it executed side-by-side by Gottfredson / Goofy and Greg / Achille!

HERE is the Hexedrin link.

HERE is the Firecracker link.

AND HERE is the Gottfredson / Greg link.

Go see them all!

Joe Torcivia said...



Oh, yeah! I could SEE that!

But, I still hold out some (now very thin) hope that Scooby will team up with FREAKAZOID!