Written and illustrated by Peyo (aka Pierre Culliford)
Backgrounds by Will (aka Willy Maltaite)
Translation by Joe Johnson
Design and production by Adam Grano
Lettering by Janice Chiang
Associate Editing by Michael Petranek
Editing in chieferizing by Jim Salicrup
Published by Papercutz
the three cents.
Originally published in the early 1960s, Benny Breakiron presents the story of a young French boy who is well-mannered and studious, yet has problems with making friends, especially those his own age, because he hides a stunning secret…he is incredibly strong! This is actually a very inventive premise, with the boy’s awkwardness placing him in situations where his great strength proves more of a hindrance than a blessing. Despite his abilities to outleap anybody and to outrun anybody and lungs that would make any and every chain-smoker envious, things tend to break when he gets close, from toys to cleaning implements to vehicles to entire street corners. He means well though, always, which is where the real charm of the story comes to light.
I freely and miserably confess to not really being familiar with Peyo’s work. I never read any of his comic strips before, to be frank, although as was befitting my age group if something was animated at any point in the 1980s I saw all of it. So I’m no stranger to the Smurfs. This is a very different premise however, quick and constant in pace with a plot that leads Benny through a grand series of connected adventures. In this graphic novella-sized volume, his old cabbie friend is being pushed out of business by a new agency of taxi-cabs, with big thuggish drivers and a boss who, despite establishing a friendship with the local police chief does not seem like much of a nice guy by any definition. Benny’s friend learns a little too much about his new competitors, thereby prompting pages and pages of almost Hergé-levels of excitement that even take Benny and his pal rather far outside of their French town. All the while, Benny, who in spite of his powers is not exactly the cape-wearing sort, maintains his child-like grasp of right and wrong, proving as endearing and timely as it does just a fun and fun storytelling device.
The artwork is very stylized, with brushy sharpness and jagged dimensions, and loaded with copious detail. It is very easy on the eyes, with imaginative forms and figures that retain consistency throughout.There is a pretty broad range of settings in the story, and all are presented with much colour and zest. I never encountered Peyo’s work before, but that wasn’t necessarily by choice. I see now just how robbed I was by fate. Chiang’s lettering is complete aces here, giving what looks to be a hand-lettered approach that may well be her staying stylistically comparable to the untranslated original fonts. It is gorgeous work, very nonabrasive and to the point as gently as possible.
The second volume is already on the way, and I look forward to it. This is a really great package, of a super-strong boy in a light-hearted adventure engaging a world that seems oblivious to all of the above. As with the finest cartoonists, there are a few subtle jabs by way of loosely buried social commentary, but this would really be a good read for just about any age-group. Considering the source material is roughly 50 years old now, that’s really saying something, saying something as loudly as the most accomplished drawings possibly can.