My dog Marlowe’s full name is Marlowe Kador Mathews (MKM). “Marlowe” can hark back to either Christopher or Philip, as one pleases, but the “Kador” can only refer to the magnificent creation of Christian Binet in the pages of the comic magazine Fluide Glaciale, a precursor of the Les Bidochon strip cartoon that has been going strong since the 1970s.
The word “bidochon” has entered the language as a term for your average numbskull French person from the lower social orders, somewhat like “beauf” – a “yokel” or “redneck ». The Bidochon strip cartoon features a couple in their 50s, Robert and Raymonde Bidochon, and their friends and family, and the daily trials and tribulations of their lives in our modern consumer society. It has so far run to 21 albums, but in the early days the couple had an intellectual dog called Kador who is himself the hero of four albums that preceded the Bidochon albums.
The contrast between highbrow Kador the dog and the lowbrow Bidochons is wonderful. Kador likes nothing more than to sit in an easy chair by the radiator, a glass of brandy in his hand, specs on the end of his nose, reading Kant or David Hume. He is deeply interested in philosophy. He uses the toilet in the house and when Robert tries to teach him how to pee on a lamppost he feels his dignity compromised. He loves bookish TV programmes while the Bidochons only watch crummy game shows, and he is particularly interested in the beauties of medieval architecture. His interest in female dogs is limited, and he periodically writes to the Society for Protection of Animals to complain about his treatment at home.
His creator, Christian Binet, is now 70 (see last photo below), and in the first Kador album he recounts how Kador presented himself for an audition at his theatrical impresario office, and soon became the star of the show. The Kador and Bidochon albums are very minimalist, in black and white, and in one early album Binet couldn’t be bothered to draw in the decors so he just put in the names of what should be there – table, wardrobe, window, etc. There are similar metafictional tricks in many of the albums. Throughout, the expressions and body language of Kador and the Bidochons are marvellously entertaining.
It’s a well-known fact that “BD” (bande dessinée) culture is alive and well in France, and at every vide grenier you’ll find a welter of albums for sale, if not a professional collector selling and trading his collection. I’ve always admired the artistry of many of their creators, but when it comes to great stories with superb characters, the magazine Fluide Glacial is hard to beat. It was founded in 1975 and when I first came to work in France in 1976 all the young people were enthusing about it. It’s fair to say that I learned a lot of idiomatic French from this magazine, and it is still thriving. But I do regret that Kador slipped out of Les Bidochons. He was such a wonderful contrast with the moronic Bidochons – the French Snoopy, a Left Bank intellectual hound.