Games Without Frontiers 1 : Girls On Wheels

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“The future of man is woman”– Louis Aragon, 1963.

Tracey Tracey: Nanouche hears that Cinedilux Movie Studios is looking for a fearless motorcycle stuntman for its latest action spectacle. Nanouche herself is a stunt woman, and a stunner, so when she marches into the casting session she is met with skepticism by Dilux, a dismissive movie producer that exemplifies the douchey and macho male of the 1980’s. Dilux is not about to let pretty little girls endanger themselves on his set! Nanouche, not one to be dismissed or patronized, proceeds to defiantly crash her bike into the producer’s offices. What issues is a complicated friendship that lasted for four volumes of “bande dessinees” by Pierre Renoy.

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Sponsored by Dilux and accompanied by her hamster, Kino, Nanouche travels the world, breaking speed records, bones, hearts- and stereotypes about the stunts women can and cannot pull. Loved her! So much so that I was tempted to also look up the adventures of “Julie Wood” by Jean Graton, a similarly-themed “BD” from the late 70s… which was a let down.

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Cousin Franz Cousin Franz: “Nanouche” is a charmer, Renoy’s fluid designs endearing even in their carelessness. The comic’s puns are a pain to translate, though. “Julie Wood” is less successful, a typical animal of its time, and follows the adventures of a Daytona-500-bound motorcycling teen from “Holly Wood” (get it?) Creator Graton tries to fight sexist stereotypes, but is still too intent on putting Julie in “Perils of Pauline” dangers at the hands of menacing pervs.

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He is more successful at capturing a Far West where the old rodeo is transmogrified into a new violent battle- against time! The Winchester gives way to the Yamaha; and there are no horses, but horse-power is king; and there’s still a marshal: the course marshal. Call it “How the Speed Test Was Won.”

Beatricia Beatricia: The cartoonish-ness of “Nanouche” gives it a timeless quality, and it has some educational value too. If only more comic books showed young girls fixing camshafts and crankshafts, quoting Honore de Balzac and Louis Aragon, and  traveling through Martinique and Kashmir!

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“Julie Wood” is more realistic in its approach. This “dates” it, but that might be a plus for people looking for a time-traveling glimpse at the racing circuit in the mid-1970s. There’s an unusual level of accuracy here, from the accurate L. A. street signs, to the fast-food joints Julie races past, to the strategically-placed ads from brands like Mattel, Marlboro, and Valvoline.

Father Hank Hank: I’m not happy about any teenager- male, female or undecided- riding around all fast and furious. Guess who gets the bill for the broken skull? It’s dear old Papa, who should have known better than to co-sign on that Suzuki!

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As for “Julie Wood,” after seven solo albums, she migrated to Graton’s far more successful “Michel Vaillant” racing comics- because men should take the steering wheel and women should stick to the sidecar, right, Tracey? ( Kidding, kiddo, but stick to something lady-like, like “Mario Kart 8.”) “Michel Vaillant” got turned into a movie; there the character of Julie Wood was played by Diane Kruger, if my memory of big-budgeted foreign flops serves me right. Diane is truly a “National Treasure”- to the Germans anyway.

Título: Michel Vaillant.

Trent Trent: Hahaha! Wood!

Grandpa Felicius Grandpa Felicius: When Dr. Fredric Wertham had his conniption about comics, he didn’t exactly have wholesome foreign fare like “Julie Wood” and “Nanouche” and the such in mind, but these are perfect examples of “kid-friendly,” coded smut. Somehow it was fine for the youthful readers of “Tintin” magazine to follow the filthy exploits of these Harley-riding harlots, and no Frenchie blinked twice, but whenever I mention how enticing I find their pert bosom apples, everyone looks at me like I’m a lecherous old reprobate!

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Trent Trent: You and me both, Grandpa Felicius! You and me both!

Blurbarella Blurbarella: “Fearless– Motorcycle– Stereotypes.”

3 out of 6 Cherries

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