Monday, 5 May 2014

The Silver Surfer: The Narrow Gate



Here's a little something I wonder if most people are aware even exists.
Way back when the original Lee / Buscema Silver Surfer run ended with a Kirby issue at no.#18, that was kind of it for Norrin Radd for a good few years, bar the occasional walk-on in The Defenders.

But not over in France. Over there, he'd been appearing in translated reprints in gallic mags Fantask and Strange ( interestingly, in magazines not comics, as the censors over there objected to the Marvel reprints, deeming them unsuitable for children, and only to be made available to adults )

Alongside labelmates Spidey & The FF, The Surfer's translated appearances went down a storm, and both fans and publishers were unhappy when the original material ended.
So writer / editor Marcel Navarro asked Marvel for permission to produce new Surfer stories solely for the French market.

' La Porte Etroite ' was written by Navarro ( under the pseudonym J.K. Melwyn-Nash, and in a heavily Stan Lee pastiche style ) and illustrated by J.Y.Mitton, and appeared in Nova #25 & #26 in February & March of 1980.
Unfortunately, costs were so prohibitive, it was the only strip Navarro was able to produce, but it's a fascinating experiment, at times feeling like watching a dubbed bootleg, with it's pseudo-Lee dialogue and it's numerous Buscema swipes.
It's also even more full of blatant religious allegory than the original series, as The Surfer fights Mephisto for the souls of all mankind, while the world ends around them.












































6 comments:

  1. that's some prime Dave Gibbons swiping on the second page, too.

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  2. More like the other way around. This comic was produced in 1979.

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  3. You are totally right, this is a rather unknown story. As far as I know, it has never been reprinted in any kind of Silver Surfer collection.
    Even in France, I assume readers and critics think the first French Silver Surfer comic book was the one Moebius did with Stan Lee in… huh… 1988 ? I think the trouble is that critics are, in France, only interested in what is published in bookstores. The publications printed for the newsstands market, they don't even look at.
    And the Navarro / Mitton story is now quite forgotten.
    Sad.

    To explain a bit more (even ten months late), Lug tried to produce other original stories with the Marvel characters. They did a bunch of Spidey and FF short stories, aimed for kids and published in Spidey (when this mag was"young readers oriented") or in oversized books titled "une aventure de l'Araignée" (an adventure of Spider-Man) and "une aventure des Fantastiques" (an adventure of the Fantastic Four). Mitton did drawn some of them, the other are drawn by Yves Chantereau, in a Kirby manner.
    The relationships between Lug and Marvel were pretty cool, and there were some French stuff that never were reprinted elsewhere. Lug editors used to commission original covers for their monthlies, such as Strange or Nova (from which the pages you juste showed ar from.

    l may have a question.
    Where does this english lettering comes from ? Is that from a UK version or whatever ? Or is it, as I suppose, a lettering you did for your blog ?
    Anyway, as far as I know, this is the only place in the net where I could find such tribute and information about this two-parter. From all the French fans, thank you.


    JM

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    1. Hello,

      there exists a German reprint of both French Silver Surfer stories (as one comic book), published in Germany in 1983 but with a different cover (for both French SS-stories) by German artist C. Scholz. Is there really no British or US-reprint regarding the here mentioned French SS-stories? Would like to know...Best!

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  4. >>But not over in France. Over there, he'd been appearing in translated reprints in gallic mags Fantask and Strange ( interestingly, in magazines not comics, as the censors over there objected to the Marvel reprints, deeming them unsuitable for children, and only to be made available to adults )<<

    The story of US comics translations in France is a long and convoluted mess, so I'm not going to start a long lecture on the subject, but this is not exactly what the French digest-sized "Nova" was. You're thinking of B&W pocket books published by yet another publishing house called Arédit, such as "Etranges Aventures" or "Spectral", which indeed bore the infamous "comics for adults" brand even though they contained mostly inoffensive Marvel & DC super-hero fare. Arédit was thus avoiding the trouble Lug had with French censorship re: monster-like heroes such as The Thing, a character that French authorities considered too gruesome to appear in youth publications.

    Another thing worth mentioning is that Jean-Yves Mitton and Marcel Navarro went on to create their own super-hero, called Mikros (a character derivative, in a way, of both Marvel's Ant-Man and French-British writer George Langelaan's The Fly), whose adventures were featured first in a former western comic anthology called "Mustang", then alongside Marvel series Star Wars and Dazzler in "Titans". "Mikros" is, arguably, Mitton at his best and most original, then though the Kirby and Buscema influence is still there, but with none of the cumbersome swipes seen in that Surfer two-parter. It would be nice to see some francophile translator tackle one or two episodes of Mikros on the web, since the probability of an English publishing house releasing these gems is quite low.

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  5. Thanks for the info, guys. As you say, there's next to no info on this gem on the net and, in fact, if memory serves I got my info from the Twomorrows website, where there was a brief piece about the strip, I think in Back Issue.
    So willing to be corrected, cheers!

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