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Martine in Paris, a new album to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the series

Seventy years after Martine on the farm, the first adventure of a little girl who would conquer homes, Martine explains herself in a serious book, for her fans who have grown up, and Martine is exhibited in a gallery in Paris.

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Martine in Paris, a new album to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the series

Seventy years after Martine on the farm, the first adventure of a little girl who would conquer homes, Martine explains herself in a serious book, for her fans who have grown up, and Martine is exhibited in a gallery in Paris. Casterman Editions are celebrating this anniversary to bring its heroine up to date, like every ten years.

A decade is a short time in the life of a 70-year-old heroine. But children change all the time. For each generation, it is the first anniversary for them,” the director of the youth catalog for Casterman editions, Céline Charvet, told AFP. The little girl no longer has the same popularity as in the heyday, the 1960s to 1980s, when more than a million of her albums were sold per year. But it remains a safe bet.

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At the time of the last of the 60 titles published during the lifetime of the designer Marcel Marlier, “Martine and the Mysterious Prince” in 2010, it claimed nearly 100 million copies. Today, the total has climbed to 120 million in French, and 50 million in other languages. Behind this success, there is the delicate line, the extreme precision, the pastel tones and above all the skill to capture the childish emotions of the artist.

“What makes the memory vivid are the drawings, engraved in the retina, and not the story, which the mothers or grandmothers who read Martine to their child could no longer tell in their heads,” according to Ms. Charvet. Two researchers who delved into Casterman's archives, Florian Moine and Sylvain Lesage, describe her as "Tintin's little sister", created by two Belgians, and who won the hearts of the French. However, she “is the subject of a striking critical lack of interest in relation to the immensity of her commercial success”, they point out.

In an article for the magazine Strenae in 2023, they reveal the meager royalties that the designer, Marcel Marlier, received: “1.75% (and even then, only beyond 175,000 copies sold)” in 1979, “3 % (beyond 130,000 copies)” in 1989. Today, even a beginner illustrator would have difficulty accepting such remuneration. Martine's father did not want to become a millionaire. When in 1997 Michael Jackson himself met Marcel Marlier to buy his drawings, he refused. As for the screenwriter, Gilbert Delahaye, also a poet, Martine was a side activity for him. He based his plots on the illustrations.

Both names are written on the covers of all albums - including those that Gilbert Delahaye, who died in 1997, did not see at all. This is again the case for Martine in Paris, published Wednesday, where the heroine visits the capital. The illustrations are mixtures of drawings from the archives and photos. The story is actually written by Rosalind Elland-Goldsmith, a Franco-British who has already rewritten the old “Martine” to simplify them and remove the most outdated stereotypes.

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Marcel Marlier is the real star of this 70th anniversary. The Galerie Gallimard, in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, is exhibiting originals, including some previously unpublished, from Wednesday until April 11. Artcurial is putting 12 original gouaches on sale on April 10. Unlike Tintin, this remains within the reach of ordinary fans: the high estimate of the highest-rated drawing, the cover of Martine à la montagne in 1959, is 8,000 euros.

Casterman is also releasing Martine, the eternal youth of an icon on Wednesday, a beautiful book which explores the world of the little girl, without avoiding some embarrassing questions. “Martine's albums have sometimes been criticized for perpetuating, until recent times, a strongly gendered type of education,” writes the author, Laurence Boudart, director of the Brussels Archives and Literature Museum. But “when she competes against the boys in running, swimming or skiing, it’s always she who wins!”

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