Feb 4, 2013

Fall 1977: Muscleboys in French Class: the Signe de Piste

During my senior year in high school, I thought myself too mature for the boys' adventure books in the Green Library, so I asked my French teacher for something about "adventure" with "no girls in it."  She reached onto her bookshelf and gave me one of those pulpy French paperbacks: Guy de Larigaudie, Yug.  A boy living in prehistoric times who domesticates animals, discovers fire, and travels to distant lands.  And is drawn as a semi-nude preteen, his body hard and golden and glowing in the bright light of prehistory

Ok, that wasn't quite what I was looking for.  Two boys together, and a little older?

Les tambours de l'ete (Summer of the Drums), by Theodore V. Olsen. Michigan Territory, 1832, settlers and Indians each mistrust each other.  Only two teenage boys Kevin and the Indian To-Mah, can help them reconcile.

Both are drawn as slim, golden muscle gods in loincloths or altogether nude, clinging together in an idealized Old West.

Ok, but I didn't care for Westerns.  Something a tad more contemporary?

Mon Ami Carlo (My Friend Carlo), by Gine Victor.  A new boy arrives at a dull boarding school in Italy. A thin boy with a pale face, ebony hair, and eyes like stars.  Milo instantly fell in love with him.  They bedded down for the night in their underwear, their smooth hard chests glowing in the moonlight.

Now I had to ask: what was this publisher who specialized in teenagers in love, and who was this illustrator who created endless pages of muscle gods?

The publisher: Signe de Piste, a collection of boys' adventure novels published between 1937 and the 1990s, most with gay subtexts.

The illustrator: Pierre Joubert (1910-2002), who illustrated many scouting publications as well as many of the Signe de Piste series.  He  specialized in idealized semi-nude boys, preteens or teenagers, muscular, blonde when he could get away with it, enjoying the pleasures of "comradeship."

With Signe de Piste, the Green Library, Alix and Enak, Tintin, Corentin, and Spirou, how could gay boys growing up in France ever feel alone?

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