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Achille Talon is a Franco-Belgian comics series featuring an eponymous main character, created by Greg (the pseudonym of Michel Regnier). Starting publication in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote in 1963, the series presents the comic misadventures of an anti-hero.
The name derives from "talon d'Achille", the French term for an "Achilles' heel", which suits the character although the Achilles' heel of Achille Talon is not his heel but his large nose.
The first Achille Talon gag was published in Pilote on November 7, 1963. After several years of gags and increasing popularity, Achille Talon became a dedicated magazine of its own, starting publication on October 1, 1975. Not achieving the intended success, the magazine ceased publication after one year, producing only six issues. The album series has produced 46 volumes. Achille Talon is presented in two quite different formats: there are album length stories such as Achille Talon et la main du serpent (Achille Talon and the Serpent's Hand), a 44-page story, as well as albums with only gags that run one or two pages each. Regardless of format, Achille Talon would typically first appear a couple pages at a time in the weekly magazine Pilote, then be collected later for hardcover or softcover books.
Achille Talon is a bourgeois who likes to think he's an eloquent (others say voluble) intellectual. He is vain to the extent that he builds a giant statue of himself in his front garden and desperately tries to get on the good side of the local gentry. That being said, Achille Talon is a gentleman, intrepid traveler and an animal lover. He values etiquette and sometimes resolves to activism (e.g., pro peace or against pollution) or inventions. He is often at odds with his neighbour Hilarion Lefuneste, who loves to argue too. (In French, "le funeste" means "the grievous/fateful one" suggesting any dealings with him will have negative consequences.)
A man in his forties, Achille is single and lives at home with his parents. His father, Alambic Dieudonné Corydon Talon, is a beer-fanatic, while his mother, unnamed but always "maman", is a strong, earthy, loving bourgeois housewife. He never tires of the attentions of Virgule de Guillemets, who brings sophistication to his life.
Achille Talon can be courageous and magnanimous, a protector of animals and ever vigilant guardian of proper etiquette, so much so that he fights with an author of an etiquette book — over which of them has the honour of giving the right of way. A patron of the arts (as long as he is the one portrayed) and even a wise, but apparently tyrannical, head of state, even if it's only for a short while.
On a page verbal and visual humor are usually mixed, although sometimes the humour is strictly visual, sometimes mostly verbal. The visual humor is often from exaggeration (phones often do not simply ring, but explode), however occasionally it is subtle and understated (a factory spewing out toxic fumes, bearing a sign "Gourmet Foods", or a funnel in the soil of an overflowing pot, where watering with any tool could hardly miss).
The verbal humour usually consists of long rants, in which internal inconsistencies, puns and sheer nonsense are cleverly interspersed. Of course, Achille Talon is almost invariably proven wrong and ends up being the butt of the joke.
- "Bof" or "Hop" are his favorite interjections, especially if things do not turn out as expected. "Bof!" is the verbal equivalent of the Gaulish shrug, rather like "Whatever!"
- "After careful consideration of the facts, I've decided to faint. It may not be very heroic, but it is relaxing. Therefore, zzzzz."
Translation into English
In 1981, Dargaud Canada translated Le Trésor de Virgule into English as Magnesia's Treasure. Achille Talon was translated into Walter Melon, presumably a pun on "watermelon". The paperback volume included two features not included in the French original: a page introducing the characters (similar to the opening of Asterix books), and a humorous three page illustrated essay on Greg and the publishing industry in general. The back cover is the familiar picture of Talon leaning out of a newsstand snagging Lefuneste, with a small inset with a photograph of Greg titled "AUTHOR AND GENIUS", followed by a quote "SUCCESS DID NOT SPOIL ME. I WAS BORN SPOILED."
A television series of fifty-two twenty-six-minute episodes was made for Canal+ in 1996 by Saban International. Each episode is broken up into two short stories. It was broadcast in France for the first time on September 3, 1997 in the television show C + Cléo on Canal+.
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. The series was renamed Walter Melon for English-speaking television. The English version was broadcast on the Fox Family Channel.
- Achille Talon a la main verte (1998) (Widenlocher and Godard)
- Tout va bien! (2000) (Widenlocher and Brett)
- Le Monde merveilleux du journal Polite (2004) (Widenlocher and Herlé)
Translations into English
Le Trésor de Virgule (1977) was published in English as Magnesia's Treasure in 1981.