Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Achille Talon / Walter Melon in English

In my Mathematical Equivalence of Comics, I introduced a a two-page example for the typical European page, using Achille Talon as a base. I've now updated the previously untouched pages with a rough translation so we can see what he and the brush salesman were talking about.

For the uninitiated, Achille Talon is a fat man in a buttoncoat who's a pretentious blowhard who thinks he's more sophisticated than he really is. There's no subject too outrageous or mundane that he won't hesitate to ramble on at length at, regardless of whoever is unfortunate enough to listen. Usually, his dastardly neighbor Lefuneste (Bitterbug in English) is often the intended victim of his rants, of which he delights paying back whenever he gets the chance, which is often. He also has a tendency to spout nonsensical words, such as his trademark "Hop" and "Bof", which I've taken the liberty of converting to "Yup" and "Bah". These kind of sounds are prevalent in multiple BDs, and usually require some imaginative writing to find an English equivalent. They're similar to Anime characters using "no da" from Fushigi Yuugi, and "nyo" from the Digi Charat mascots.

The TVtropes page has the following description of the character from the author which goes as follows: "he knows everything and improvises the rest of it. Apart of this, he's generous, petty, pacifist, aggressive, progressist, bourgeois, selfless, jealous, intrepid and a bit of a coward. In sum, honest and brave just like you and me..." His style of speech was a big influence on my way of talking, even though I couldn't understand a word he was saying. I could get the underlying tones of what he was talking about and implement my own interpretations of what he might've been saying.

However, despite its cartoonyness, it's held back by the multiple wordplay and French puns that litter throughout a typical work. The names themselves are more complicated than a typical Asterix comic, where the main character's name mostly remains the same. Achille Talon is a pun on Achille's heel. Hilarion Lefuneste is hilariously fatal/disastrous, and also describes his glasses as well. Virgule de Guillemets (Magnesia) translates to Virgule of the commas. It suffers a bit from being too French, and while its strongest point are the one-two page gags, there are also album-length stories that are weaker in execution. It requires complete mastery of French to properly give an accurate version, and can't simply be done with a simple google-translate check. In fact, there was a comic where an accountant complained to Achille Talon that the translation fees for his comics were twice compared to the usual rate. (Thanks goes to LeChatVert to helping out with the translation.)

Commercial distribution of this comic has been less than stellar, given its uphill struggle to present an unknown property to the wider world. Only one book, Magnesia's Treasure was released in English. This sample from the anniversary shows a rare example of the typical wordplay that's so prevalent in the comic. Can you spot the differences?

There was an animated adaption of the character, but he bore so little resemblance to the actual comic that they might as well have been two totally different properties. It had as much in common as the movie Constantine did with the comic Hellblazer. If their likeness hadn't been used without permission, it could've been sued for copyright infringement. If I'm going to do any future English versions of this comic, they're likelier to be the shorter, more slapstick ones than the overly verbose ones that Achille is best known for.

You're on your own here. I'm not helping you with this one, save that the last word is "ME!"


  1. wow,
    I am from India- and I was searching for Achille Talon comics available in English (I have with me Magnesia's treasure) and I came across your wonderful post. really liked the same. would love to read the entire translation - if published in English.
    If possible please do drop a line in reply to advnarayan at gmail dot com
    narayan radhakrishnan

  2. Hi,
    I am a lecturer in an American university. I am teaching Parisian culture, and I believe that "anti-heroes" like Achille Talon or Gaston Lagaffe are a big part of Parisian pop culture. I have been looking for English versions of these comics, and I am very glad I could find your blog. Would you allow me to use it in class?

    All best,

    Raphaël Bloch-Lainé

    1. Sure! Feel free to make use of my scanlations. I should probably get around to doing more of them. Though Gaston's been licensed by Cinebooks as Gomer Goof, so you could use those as well. Like all translations, preferences are bound to be subjective, and not to everyone's tastes.

  3. Thank you very much! I have come across Gomer Goof, I will use him as well.