Jo, Zette and Jocko

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Jo, Zette and Jocko
Publication information
Genre
Publication date 1935–1958
Main character(s) Jo, Zette, Jocko
Creative team
Creator(s) Hergé

The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko is a Franco-Belgian comics series created by Hergé, the writer-artist best known for The Adventures of Tintin. The heroes of the series are two young children, brother and sister Jo and Zette Legrand and their pet monkey Jocko.

Jo, Zette and Jocko appear on the rear covers of some The Adventures of Tintin comic books, but never appear in the stories. A few Jo, Zette and Jocko comics allude to characters or events in The Adventures of Tintin.

Synopsis[edit]

The Secret Ray[edit]

1. The 'Manitoba' No Reply
(Le Manitoba ne répond plus)
(Volume 1 of The Secret Ray)
The transatlantic liner Manitoba breaks down on its way to England and then the passengers and crew fall strangely asleep. When they wake up it is to find that they have all been robbed of their valuables. Later, while on holiday at the seaside, Jo, Zette and Jocko, playing in a rowing boat, get lost at sea when a thick fog comes down. Rescued by a submarine, they are taken to a secret undersea base where a mad scientist has plans for the two young children.

2. The Eruption of Karamako
(L’Eruption du Karamako)
(Volume 2 of The Secret Ray)
Jo, Zette and Jocko escape the undersea base in an amphibious tank, and end up on an island. But their problems are far from over. They have to deal with cannibals, modern-day pirates, an erupting volcano, gangsters, the media and there is still the mad scientist who wants them for his evil plans.
(In one scene Zette is harassed by a representative of Cosmos Pictures which was run by Tintin's enemy Rastapopoulos.)

The Stratoship H-22[edit]

3. Mr. Pump’s Legacy
(Le Testament de Monsieur Pump)
(Volume 1 of The Stratoship H.22)
Killed while exercising his love for speed in a racing car, millionaire John Archibald Pump leaves behind ten million dollars (a staggeringly large sum for those days). It will go to the builders of the first aeroplane to fly from Paris to New York at 1000 kilometres per hour. Jo and Zette's father sets about designing such a plane, but the project comes under threat from a gang of saboteurs led by William and Fred Stockrise, Pump's passed-over nephews, who go to all lengths, from theft to bombing, to prevent it.
(A framed photo of Captain Haddock can be seen hanging on the wall of the Legrand living-room just before Mr Legrand switches on the light to confront intruders.)

4. Destination New York
(Destination New York)
(Volume 2 of The Stratoship H.22)
When the Stratoship H.22, designed by their father, is the subject of an attempted bombing from the air, Jo and Zette fly it out of its hangar but are unable to get back. Crash-landing near the North Pole they face a race against time to get the plane back home and win the trans-Atlantic challenge. But the Stockrise brothers and their gang are still determined to thwart the operation even if it is successful.

The Valley of the Cobras[edit]

5. The Valley of the Cobras
(La Vallée des cobras)
The Maharajah of Gopal is a bad-tempered sort of person, whose behaviour ranges from the childish to the eccentric, and his long-suffering secretary Badalah is usually on the receiving end. Nevertheless, Jo and Zette's father agrees to build him a bridge in his kingdom. The problem is there is a group of scoundrels led by Prime Minister Ramahjuni and the evil fakir Rabindah who aren't too keen on the idea.

History[edit]

Background[edit]

Beginning a series of newspaper supplements in late 1928, Wallez founded a supplement for children, Le Petit Vingtième (The Little Twentieth), which subsequently appeared in Le XXe Siècle every Thursday.[1] Carrying strong Catholic and fascist messages, many of its passages were explicitly anti-semitic.[2] For this new venture, Hergé illustrated L'Extraordinaire Aventures de Flup, Nénesse, Puosette et Cochonet (The Extraordinary Adventures of Flup, Nénesse, Puosette and Cochonet), a comic strip authored by one of the paper's sport columnists, which told the story of two boys, one of their little sisters, and her inflatable rubber pig.[3] Hergé was unsatisfied, and eager to write and draw a comic strip of his own. He was fascinated by new techniques in the medium – such as the systematic use of speech bubbles – found in such American comics as George McManus' Bringing up Father, George Herriman's Krazy Kat and Rudolph Dirks's Katzenjammer Kids, copies of which had been sent to him from Mexico by the paper's reporter Léon Degrelle, stationed there to report on the Cristero War.[4]

Publication[edit]

Jo, Zette and Jocko in Cœurs Vaillants.

In late 1935 Hergé was visited by Abbot Courtois and Abbot Pihan, the editors of Cœurs Vaillants ("Valiant Hearts"), a French Catholic newspaper that was publishing The Adventures of Tintin. Courtois was often unhappy with elements of Hergé's work, and had recently complained about a scene in his latest story, The Broken Ear, in which the two antagonists drown and are dragged to Hell by demons. On this occasion, he asked Hergé to create new characters who would be more relateable for their young readership. Whereas Tintin had no parents and did not go to school, they wanted a series in which the protagonists had a family and acted more "normal"; they also requested that these characters have their adventures in France.[5]

Hergé did not want to displease the editors, recognising that Cœurs Vaillants was his only foothold in the French market at the time.[6] He later related that "I happened to have some toys at home just then, for an advertising project I was working on, and among them was a monkey named Jocko. And so I based a new little family around Jocko, really just to please the gentlemen from Cœurs Vaillants, telling myself they might have the right idea."[6] Taking on Jo, Zette, & Jocko alongside The Adventures of Tintin and Quick & Flupke, Hergé soon found himself overworked, and put the latter series on the back burner.[6]

The first Jo, Zette & Jocko adventure was titled The Secret Ray, and began serialisation in Cœurs Vaillants on 19 January 1936. It would continue to appear in the newspaper in installments until June 1937, throughout being printed in red and black.[6] Several months later it also began to appear in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième.[6] For New Year 1938, Hergé designed a special cover for Le Petit Vingtième in which the characters of Jo, Zette and Jocko were featured alongside those from The Adventures of Tintin and Quick & Flupke.[7]

Hergé was unhappy with the series, commenting that its characters "bored me terribly, these parents who wept all the time as they searched for their children who had gone off in all directions. The characters didn't have the total freedom enjoyed by Tintin... Think of Jules Renard's phrase "Not everyone can be an orphan!" How lucky for Tintin; he is an orphan, and so he is free."[8]

Le Thermozéro[edit]

Le Thermozéro is the sixth, incomplete, Jo, Zette and Jocko adventure. It began in 1958 as a Tintin adventure of the same name. Hergé had asked the French comic book creator Greg (Michel Regnier) to provide a scenario for a new Tintin story. Greg came up with two potential plots: Les Pilules (The Pills) and Le Thermozéro. Hergé made sketches of the first eight pages of Le Thermozéro [9] before the project was abandoned in 1960 – Hergé deciding that he wished to retain sole creative control of his work.

Sometime after this, Hergé sought to resurrect Le Thermozéro as a Jo, Zette and Jocko adventure and instructed his long-time collaborator Bob de Moor to work on an outline. Bernard Tordeur of the Hergé Foundation has suggested, at the World of Tintin Conference held at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich on May 15, 2004, that a complete draft outline (similar to what survives of Tintin and Alph-Art) was completed before the project was terminated [10] This draft version of the book apparently survives in the Tintin Archives.[11]

Critical analysis[edit]

Commenting on The Secret Ray, Hergé biographer Benoît Peeters noted that it "used rather conventional elements to vivid effect", utilising many clichés from popular novels such a robot, a mad scientist, and gullible cannibals.[6] He criticised the characters as being "so colorless that we can hardly bring ourselves to care what befalls them."[6] When discussing its sequel, The Stratoship H-22, he thought that it had been "conceived in almost a single burst" from a "general framework", in this way operating in a more linear fashion than he did with his Adventures of Tintin.[6] He felt that the series' "failure" was not inevitable, as evidence noting that comics series involving families, such as George McManus' Bringing up Father, could be popular.[8]

English translations[edit]

The Valley of the Cobras was the first Jo, Zette and Jocko adventure to be translated and published in English in 1986. Mr Pump’s Legacy and Destination New York followed in 1987.

The ‘Manitoba’ No Reply and The Eruption of Karamako remained unpublished (possibly due to Hergé’s unsympathetic depiction of the primitive natives of the island of Karamako, similar to Tintin in the Congo) until 1994 when they were published together in a single limited-edition double volume titled The Secret Ray.

See also[edit]

  • Gopal, a fictional country in the Himalayas where Jo and Zette's father builds a bridge for the king and keeps the peace

References[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

Bibliography[edit]