If you are a fan of adventure stories, you might have heard of Bob Morane, the hero of more than 200 novels, comics, films, and TV shows. But who is Bob Morane, and how did he become such a popular character? In this blog post, we will explore the origins and evolution of Bob Morane, from his creation by the Belgian writer Henri Vernes in 1953, to his adaptations into bandes dessinées (French comics) and TV shows. We will also look at some of the themes and influences that shaped Bob Morane's adventures, and why he still fascinates readers and viewers today.
The Novels: The Birth of Bob Morane
The first appearance of Bob Morane was in a novel titled La Vallée infernale (The Infernal Valley), published in 1953 by the Marabout Junior collection. The novel was written by Henri Vernes, who used the pseudonym of Charles-Henri Dewisme. Vernes was a Belgian writer who had a passion for adventure and travel, and who had served in the British Army during World War II. He was inspired by authors such as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, as well as by his own experiences and observations of the world.
Vernes created Bob Morane as a Frenchman who was a volunteer RAF pilot during World War II, and later became an explorer, reporter, and agent of the Time Patrol. He gave him a loyal friend and sidekick, Bill Ballantine, a Scottish engineer who was also a former RAF pilot. He also gave him a nemesis, the Yellow Shadow, a mysterious and powerful villain who was the leader of a secret organization called the Ananké. The Yellow Shadow's real name was Ming, and he was a descendant of Genghis Khan. He had a distinctive feature: a yellow mask that covered his face and eyes, and that emitted a hypnotic light.
The novels, which spanned various genres such as adventure, espionage, crime, science fiction, and fantasy, followed the exploits of Bob Morane and Bill Ballantine as they traveled around the world, faced various dangers and enemies, and solved mysteries and puzzles. Some of the recurring themes and elements in the novels were: exotic and remote locations, ancient civilizations and cultures, lost worlds and hidden treasures, time travel and parallel universes, aliens and monsters, secret societies and conspiracies, and of course, the Yellow Shadow and his schemes.
The novels were very popular in France and Belgium, and were translated into several languages. They sold millions of copies, and attracted a loyal fan base. They also influenced other writers and artists, such as Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean Giraud, who created the comic series Blueberry, which featured a character named Mike Blueberry, who was modeled after Bob Morane.
The Comics: The Visual Adaptation of Bob Morane
Bob Morane was also adapted into a series of graphic novels, which began in 1959 and continued until 2017. The comics were drawn by various artists such as Dino Attanasio, Gérald Forton, William Vance, and Felicísimo Coria. The comics followed the same plot and characters as the novels, but sometimes added new elements or modified some details. For example, the comics introduced a new character, Sophia Paramount, who was a journalist and a love interest for Bob Morane. The comics also changed the appearance of some characters, such as the Yellow Shadow, who was depicted as having a green mask instead of a yellow one.
The comics were also published in several countries, and had a loyal fan base. They were praised for their realistic and detailed drawings, their faithful adaptation of the novels, and their original stories and scenarios. Some of the comics were also adapted into animated films, such as Bob Morane: Operation Chevalier Noir (Bob Morane: Operation Black Knight), which was released in 1967, and Bob Morane: Les Sphères de l'Apocalypse (Bob Morane: The Spheres of the Apocalypse), which was released in 1984.
The Films: The First Cinematic Appearance of Bob Morane
Bob Morane made his first appearance on the big screen in 1960, in a film titled Bob Morane contre l'ombre jaune (Bob Morane against the Yellow Shadow). The film was directed by Claude Boissol, and starred Lang Jeffries as Bob Morane and Estella Blain as Miss Ylang-Ylang. Miss Ylang-Ylang was a new character, who was a femme fatale and an ally of the Yellow Shadow. The film was based on the novel La Vallée infernale (The Infernal Valley), and was a low-budget production that received mixed reviews. The film is now considered lost, as no copies are known to exist.
The film was followed by a sequel, titled Bob Morane et l'oiseau de feu (Bob Morane and the Firebird), which was released in 1961. The sequel was directed by Bernard Borderie, and starred Lang Jeffries as Bob Morane and Geneviève Grad as Sophia Paramount. The sequel was based on the novel L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird), and was also a low-budget production that received mixed reviews. The sequel is also considered lost, as no copies are known to exist.
The films were the only live-action adaptations of Bob Morane until 1965, when a TV series was produced. The films were not very successful, and did not capture the essence and spirit of the novels and the comics. They were also criticized for their poor quality, their lack of coherence, and their deviation from the original source material.
The TV Shows: The Live-Action and Animated Versions of Bob Morane
Bob Morane also had two TV adaptations, one live-action and one animated. The live-action series was produced in 1965, and consisted of 13 episodes of 26 minutes each. The series was directed by Jean-Pierre Decourt, and starred Claude Titre as Bob Morane and Marc Eyraud as Bill Ballantine. The series was based on the novels, but changed some aspects of the characters and the settings. For example, the series made Bob Morane a French secret agent, and gave him a boss named Monsieur X. The series also changed the appearance of the Yellow Shadow, who was portrayed by a Caucasian actor wearing a yellow mask and a turban.
The series was broadcast in France, Belgium, and Canada, and was well received by the audience. The series was praised for its faithful adaptation of the novels, its action and suspense, and its exotic locations. The series also featured some original stories and scenarios, such as Bob Morane et le samouraï (Bob Morane and the Samurai), which was set in Japan, and Bob Morane et le dragon des Fenstone (Bob Morane and the Fenstone Dragon), which was set in Scotland. The series was also accompanied by a theme song, titled L'Aventurier (The Adventurer), which was sung by Jacques Brel.
The animated series was produced in 1998, and consisted of 26 episodes of 22 minutes each. The series was directed by Marc Boréal and Thibaut Chatel, and featured the voices of Guillaume Orsat as Bob Morane and Michel Vigné as Bill Ballantine. The series was based on the comics, but also introduced some original stories and characters. For example, the series introduced a new character, Tania Orloff, who was a Russian scientist and a love interest for Bob Morane. The series also changed the appearance of some characters, such as the Yellow Shadow, who was depicted as having a metal mask and a robotic eye.
The series was broadcast in France, Canada, and other countries, and was praised for its animation and faithful adaptation of the comics. The series also featured some of the most iconic and memorable stories and scenarios from the comics, such as Bob Morane et le temple des crocodiles (Bob Morane and the Temple of the Crocodiles), which was set in Africa, and Bob Morane et les guerriers de l'ombre (Bob Morane and the Shadow Warriors), which was set in Tibet. The series was also accompanied by a theme song, titled L'Aventurier
The Legacy: The Impact and Influence of Bob Morane
Bob Morane is one of the most iconic and influential characters in the history of French and Belgian literature and culture. He is a symbol of adventure, curiosity, courage, and friendship. He is also a reflection of the times and the contexts in which he was created and adapted. He represents the post-war optimism, the fascination with the unknown, the exploration of the world, and the confrontation with the challenges and threats of the modern era. He also reflects the diversity and richness of the genres and media that he has inhabited, from novels to comics, from films to TV shows, from songs to video games.
Bob Morane has inspired and influenced many other writers and artists, such as Jean-Michel Charlier, Jean Giraud, Jean Van Hamme, and Xavier Dorison, who have created their own adventure heroes, such as Blueberry, XIII, and Long John Silver. He has also inspired and influenced many other characters and franchises, such as James Bond, Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, and Nathan Drake. He has also inspired and influenced many fans and readers, who have followed his adventures, collected his books and comics, joined his fan clubs, and participated in his conventions and festivals.
Bob Morane is still alive and relevant today, as new editions and adaptations of his novels and comics are being published, and new projects and initiatives are being developed. For example, in 2019, a new comic series titled Bob Morane Résurrection (Bob Morane Resurrection) was launched, which featured a modernized and updated version of Bob Morane and his universe. The series was written by Luc Brunschwig and Aurélien Ducoudray, and drawn by Dimitri Armand. The series was well received by critics and fans, and was nominated for the Angoulême International Comics Festival Award in 2020.
Bob Morane is more than a character, he is a legend. He is a part of the collective imagination and memory of generations of readers and viewers. He is a source of inspiration and entertainment for millions of people around the world. He is, as the theme song says, the adventurer.
Conclusion and FAQ
In this blog post, we have explored the journey of Bob Morane, from his creation by Henri Vernes in 1953, to his adaptations into bandes dessinées and TV shows. We have seen how Bob Morane has evolved and adapted to different genres and media, and how he has influenced and inspired other writers, artists, characters, and fans. We have also seen how Bob Morane has left a lasting legacy and impact on the French and Belgian literature and culture, and how he is still alive and relevant today.