OK, now this is my favourite comic of all time. Not just mine, but probably of every other human being in the West Balkans. The thing is the comic is not popular on the global scale. Hell, it is Italian and it’s not nearly as popular in Italy as it is here. When a co-creator and the text author, Max Bunker, visited Zagreb, Croatia, he said that the only reason he hadn’t stopped writing it was Croatia.
The popularity of the comic here is mostly attributed to well received early translations. Those translations rooted the comic, and afterwards, the comic has never been uprooted. Another very important reason if you ask me, is the black humour characteristic to the comic.
There are a few cartoons. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Italian and I can’t find localized versions. If anyone has a Croatian or an English localization (hell, even Slovenian and Macedonian would suffice), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Subtitles are preferred, but dubs will do. Thanks!
Anyway, I wanted to introduce Alan Ford to the global public.
At the beginning, lemme just say that Alan Ford is not another superhero BS.
The first issue was released in 1969. It was designed to be a James Bond parody. The plot is set in New York and is about the “secret” agents of Group TNT.
The group is headquartered in a flower shop in New York. The chief of the group lives in a “secret” hideout in New York subway system. The hideout is so secret that every TNT agent and many others know where it is.
The cover of the flower shop is a mockery itself. Not a single flower can be found in a shop and there’s no money in the cash register. Group TNT has no money in general, expect for Number One, but I’ll get to him later. The reactions to a one dollar bill are like “Holy shit, a one dollar bill! I have never seen that much money in one piece.” The shop hasn’t received a costumer in years. When someone actually does walk in, he’s greeted like “Sir, what are you doing here? You must be lost.” The shop is divided in the “shop” itself, “training grounds and Grunf’s underground “laboratory”
Just note that I have translated Croatian names (e.g. Number One, Boss, Superhick…). Italian names might differ.
ALAN FORD – A naïve young man (note that he was young in 1969 and hasn’t aged a day just like the other characters). Was recruited to the group by mistake. He is quite opposite to the other characters. Along with Grunf, Alan is the only agent that always says His Majesty when referring to Number One even when the geezer is not around.
BOB ROCK – Alan’s best friend. He was quite jealous of Alan in the first few issues. He’s always complaining and keeps getting kicked by Number One’s “walking” stick. He’s the caricature of the other comic co-creator, Magnus. He’s very short and always wears a brown “detective” coat. He has a very big nose of which everybody makes fun – people keep referring to him as the “ugly guy with big nose”.
Alan and Bob are rated as “top” agents.
NUMBER ONE – The brains and the true boss of the group. He’s a greedy old man over 3000 years old. His name most likely represents him being the first Homo sapiens. He was introduced in issue 11. He keeps telling his “life” stories. The stories bore his agents so much that they just draw eye balls on their eye lids and fall asleep. The stories are of him accompanying historical characters that vary in time from Beethoven to Greek Homer. The point is that he’s always shown in the same old wheelchair (only the tyred wheel is wooden) with that long beard of his and one tooth. The wheelchair is wooden and big. One of the wheels is that of an old chariot while the other is that of a truck. The mentioned wheelchair is replaced with a modern electric wheelchair given as a gift by Sir Oliver in theearly 2000s. He keeps a “walking” stick by his side, but is never shown walking. The stick is mainly used for hitting others, especially Bob Rock and Clawdovick. His secret hideout is a total opposite of the flower shop – a modern home averagely equipped (“averagely” is luxury compared to the flower shop). His pillow is stuffed with coins and his mattress with paper money. He has a “little black book” which contains every little detail about everyone on the planet. He’s a good boss that pays his employees a (whole) dollar every month. Number One wants to be referred to as Your Majesty although most call him bloody old geezer behind his back.
BOSS – Cass, if you’re reading this, this guy is not why I call you boss.
Boss is de iure the boss of Group TNT. Before issue 11 every TNT agent thought he was the chief (hence the name Boss). In later issues predating issue 11, Boss could be seen talking on the phone to Number One, who was then simply referred as the “supreme commander” (of course, when talking on the phone, Boss kept saying “Yes, Your Majesty”). Number One took the more active role after issue 11. Actually I doubt there was a single issue later without the old coot. Unlike Number One, Boss lives in the flower shop and unlike the old coot, Boss is totally incompetent. Anyway, later he is the sleeping buddy of Jeremiah.
JEREMIAH – Boss’s best bud and his sleeping companion – they both keep sleeping and are quite mad when a customer dares to interrupt their sleep or Number One actually chooses one of them for a mission. Boss and Jeremiah are the most incompetent and the most unreliable TNT agents and they’re mostly left out of everything. Jeremiah is a feeble old man who has every disease known to mankind plus a few yet undiscovered.
GRUNF – An inventor and a mechanic of Group TNT. His inventions vary from a big sling (to transport Alan and Bob from New York City to Toronto) to some sort of a car. The inventions are not very lasting, but it’s amazing what this guy can do for only ¢1 that he gets to make something. He is an exGerman soldier (both from WWI and WWII – note that the first issue is from 1969 when that was possible) who had to change his name, from Grunt to Grunf, to conceal his identity upon coming to the US. He has big sense of honour which is often mocked, just like his nazi history. He deeply respects Number One and thinks of him as his military general. Along with Alan, he is the only one who keeps referring to Number One as His Majesty when the geezer is not around. He wears T-shirts full of dumb mottos.
SIR OLIVER – An English noble man who had to flee from his mother land because of some “misunderstandings” with Scotland Yard. He’s a crook and a professional thief who thinks very highly of his noble blood. He keeps calling Bing to sell him his (illegally obtained) goods.
In the early 2000s, he returned to England when the “misunderstandings” were cleared up. Since then, he appears every now and then in the comic.
CLAWDOVICK (2012/3/11) – Yeah, the parrot-bomb Clawdovick in Serious Sam 2 (2012/3/8) is named after this guy. He’s a parrot that Number One inherited from his grandfather (yeah, Clawdovick must be real old). He first appeared in issue 100. Clawdovick serves as Group TNT’s aviation. He speaks many languages. He is the only “roommate” of Number One who he keeps serving.
SQUEAKY – A small guinea pig that Boss keeps in his scarf. Boss is pretty upset when Squeaky wanders away from the scarf.
HOOTER* – A dog adopted by Bob Rock (Bob doesn’t like him very much). I often mix him and Bob Rock up when some of them is being referred to in the comic ‘cause many people make fun of Bob’s nose. Boss and Hooter keep fighting ‘cause Hooter is always trying to eat Squeaky.
Sir Oliver, Hooter the dog, Bob Rock, Boss with Squeaky, Number One, Grunf, Jeremiah and Alan (beginning from the left)
TOBIA QUANTRILL – An old friend of Number One. He owns a poor old theatre, actors of which are usually TNT agents.
INSPECTOR BROCK – A simple police inspector often looking for Number One’s help.
CITY COUNCILLORS – Also called The Three Pigs. Three (fictional) greedy New York City councillors who represent a mockery of politicians in power.
GENERAL WAR AND HIS ASSISTANT BERT – Number One’s military contacts. The general gives (well paid) assignments of national importance to Number One.
BING – Sir Oliver’s trusted customer. He’s never seen (Sir Olive keeps talking to him on the phone).
SUPERHICK – One of the main villains. His alter ego is a local garbage man. His secret power is foul breath which is fuelled by cheap wine. His motto is “steel from the poor to give to the rich”. He hates the poor ‘cause poor make mess around the city, which he later has to clean up. Superhick pissed Number One off when he stole his chair.
LOST CAUSE – A suicidal dude who keeps trying to kill himself, but fails due to some accidents of Group TNT. When he fails to kill himself, he keeps saying “Life is so cruel. I can’t do anything right; not even kill myself – I’m truly a lost cause”.
NEIGHBOUR – An old retired neighbour of the flower shop who’s always listening to his radio, which he paid for with 7300 monthly payments, and is complaining and arguing with TNT agents simply because he’s got nothing else to do.
Naturally, there are many more characters, but the post is long as it is. In 2006 the comic had a major character change with Group TNT dissolving and many characters disappearing. A new major character was introduced, a woman living and working with Alan. However, the classic line-up had a big impact on society, so I think it’s really irrelevant to mention any details about the new line-up.
Impact on society
People living in Yugoslavia during the 1970s simply needed such a mockery of modern society, primarily the US which showed people that the West isn’t ideal. Once the comic get rooted, it has never been uprooted. The impact here can be seen by many Alan Ford quotes, such as (the price?) Practically nothing (when Sir Oliver prices his goods to Bing) which means something is way too expensive, becoming common catch phrases. Hell, the strongest weapon of a Croatian video game (yeah, Serious Sam 2) is based upon an Alan Ford character.
Popular quotes, sayings and dialogues
Better to live hundred years as a millionaire, than one week in poverty! (I have this shit printed on a T-Shirt)
If you wanna win, you mustn’t lose.
The easiest way to turn defeat into a victory is to put on the enemy’s uniform.
Strategic retreat is better than dishonourable defeat.
Mottos on Grunf’s T-shirts:
The one who flies is worthy. The one who is worthy flies. The one who doesn’t fly isn’t worthy
Better to ware down your feet running than to die with unworn feet.
Enemy is never asleep (Grunf always falls asleep when Number One is telling one of his historical stories and often wears that T-shirt when he’s asleep)
Weapons for killing – extra discount for terrorists
We don’t promise anything and always fulfil that – the Party of Truth
Consume more milk and less oil (petroleum)
He who sleeps is not awake
Alan, let’s get the hell out of here. There are two of them and we’re all alone – Bob Rock talking to Alan.
I’m gonna slaughter a thousand men! What the bloody hell am I saying?! At least a hundred! What the hell I am I saying?! I’ll kill at least a dozen! Well, okay, I’ll get one of them.
My dear Methuselah, you are young and strong while I am weak and old. – Number One (talking to the biblical Methuselah)
Buy flowers for the beloved woman, but don’t forget your wife. – motto of the flower shop
Here lies the one who is dead
Here lies the one who forgot to breathe
“Sir, can you tell me who’s that scarecrow by the wall?”
“No, the other one – the one behind her.”
“That’s my sister.”
“You got it all wrong, I’m talking about that despicable thing with a hooter* and glasses.”
“Oh, that’s my daughter.”
“Bloody hell, are all ugly people here related to you?!”
“Almost, but the ugliest person here is not related to me. I’m talking about you.”
GENERAL WAR: You’ll be paid $300,000 for your trouble, Your Majesty.
NUMBER ONE: 400 will suffice.
In the hospital “No Hope”:
NURSE: Doctor, this patient has a terrible stomach ache.
DOCTOR: Take out his appendix.
NURSE: We did that yesterday.
DOCTOR: Then chop off his leg – something needs to be done!
Colt 45 – a finger pointed in person’s back
New Kalashnikov Stalin Type – a broom pointed in person’s back
Old rounded guns and rifles, that pirates used to use, are preferred weapons of Number One.
A sample of the comic is attached** to the post.
* Before your dirty American minds think of anything, hooter as in big nose not as in boobs.
** PDF format (zipped files can’t be uploaded to WordPress and PDF is the best I can do, other than zipping the pictures, to make one file contain multiple images). Download Adobe Reader (2012/3/8) to view it or you can download the zipped file here (2012/3/9). In case you can’t open .zip files, install 7-Zip (2012/3/9).