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Comic Book / Franquin's Last Laugh
aka: Idees Noires

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Nihilism as comedy.

Franquin's Last Laugh, known in the original French as Idées Noires (Dark Thoughts), is a collection of Black Comedy comic strips by AndrĂ© Franquin and Yvan Delporte. Deeply cynical and the result of Franquin's struggle with depression, it's one long parade of industrial recklessness, suicides, executions, military recklessness, ecological disasters and other accidents and contrast hard with his work on Gaston Lagaffe, the Marsupilami and Spirou & Fantasio. Apart from the obvious, the title is also a play on the unique art style which uses so much black that it almost looks like a negative of a regular black and white comic.

The full collection was eventually released in English in 2018, retitled Die Laughing.

Franquin's Last Laugh provides examples of:

  • Accentuate the Negative: And how! Franquin eventually quit the series because it all became too depressing and formulaic.
  • Accidental Murder: A gruesome example with a tennis racket.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: In an unfortunate combination with Too Dumb to Live when they try to light a fire by smashing hand grenades like silex.
  • After the End: Several gags, usually the result of nuclear war.
  • The Alcatraz: Three gags feature a man desperately trying to escape from an impossible-to-escape prison.
  • Alien Abduction: The Human is only collateral damage though; they're not endangered yet. The aliens are really interested in that nice Lynx she's wearing.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: One famous gag shows a man being executed because he murdered someone. Afterwards the executioner is executed for the same crime and his executioner as well, as well as his executioner and his executioner, and... well, you get the point.
  • All Just a Dream: God turning all military hardware into literal shit.
  • Armies Are Evil: Military officers are by far the most common villains.
  • Atomic Hate: A lot of gags target atomic and nuclear power.
  • Author Tract: Franquin's personal grudges against hunting, the death penalty, the army, war, nuclear power are made clear.
  • Beast in the Maze: One of the comics is about a prisoner sent to a maze that turns out to be a planetoid. In a sequel comic, penitentiary officials appear in an helicopter, tell the perp that his sentence has been worsened, and proceed to airdrop a live tiger into the labyrinth.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid
    • Twice a Catholic priest can be seen acting like an idiot while carrying his crucifix in the background.
    • Another gag features a bus with people who just paid a visit to a place of pilgrimage driving off a cliff. Back home the priest is informed that everyone on the bus died, except for a little pet dog. He concludes: "Brothers, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. His ways are mysterious!"
  • Berserk Button: After 30 years of working a jackhammer, Carlos does not like woodpeckers.
  • Black Comedy: Both literally (everything is drawn in black-and-white) and by figure of speech.
  • Body Horror
    • Child-Bonsaï.
    • Also any mutant that shows up.
  • Coincidental Accidental Disguise: A hunter ends up looking like a rabbit. No points for guessing what happens next.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment
    • A convict is dropped in a labyrinth... Covering an entire planet. And then a panther is added.
    • The same convict stars in a comic about a prison from which it is impossible to escape. It consists entirely of repeats of the same panels.
    • In his final appearance, however, the convict does escape, and the comic actually ends on a hopeful note as he sets off for freedom. In the last panel, he even Breaks The Fourth Wall to Lampshade the fact that for once, there was no brutal or unhappy ending.
  • Crapsack World: After reading this book you realize how depressing this world can be.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death
    Man at funeral: I hadn't taken him seriously when he said he was going to die by a drowning, a car accident and hanging.
  • Dark Is Evil: A little boy is too scared to fetch water outside in the dark. His father grudgingly decides to do it himself, while outside a whole bunch of gigantic monsters wait for him.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The comic is fully black and white to represent the dark topics portrayed in it and the cynical tone of the stories.
  • Determinator: The general who keeps trying to develop an ejection seat for helicopters, even though all his test pilots get shredded.
    General: I insisted that I'd make the test flight myself, but unfortunately I didn't have the required figure...
  • Downer Ending: Virtually every gag ends with a punchline like this one.
  • Egomaniac Hunter: Several gags target hunters.
  • Explosive Cigar: The predictable result of a micro missile being mistaken for a cigar.
  • Explosive Stupidity: Several gags, often featuring hand grenades.
  • From Bad to Worse: Several gags have a far more depressing ending than you originally expected.
  • Gaia's Vengeance: A string of unexplained car accidents turns out to have been caused by hedgehogs having evolved tire-piercing spikes.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A recurring concept in the strips; one of the more iconic (and ironic) uses is in a couple of fake ads for the Pandan ("Bangin", as in "bang in the face") line of hunting rifles, which are specifically designed to kill the hunter who shoots with them.
  • Hope Spot: A man lost in a wintery forest believes he has blindly stumbled into view of a city. Those aren't city lights; they're a wolf pack's eyes.
    Man: I won't freeze to death...
  • Humans Are Bastards and Humans Are Morons: The comic strip takes a lot of pot shots at all the worst aspects of mankind.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Both literally and by figure of speech.
  • Human Sacrifice: To the Sun God. And that's where solar flames come from.
  • I'm a Humanitarian
    • A man kissing his girlfriend ends up devouring her.
    • A man feeding seagulls ends up being eaten up by them, unto his skeleton!
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: One gag features two flies talking about the technological achievements they made so far. One of them fears that they might start making the same mistakes as "them". "Them" turn out to be the human race, since all insects now live inside human skulls.
  • Ironic Death:
    • A man frightened of World War III decides to dig a nuclear cellar then accidentally hits a bomb from World War I with his shovel and explodes.
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Or rather, playing pétanque with grenades. And the Earth.
  • Karmic Death: A lot of people die trying to prevent themselves from being killed.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A politician is merrily walking around town looking up at the military jets he scored the contracts for and gets run over by a car. It's implied that the ambulance won't get there in time, since what with the budget being reallocated towards the military, there are five for the whole city...
  • Mayincatec: One gag is about the human sacrifices done in Middle American civilizations.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: One guy goes to a party and leaves a small audio device behind so he can listen to his walkie talkie afterwards and find out what his friends say about behind his back. This doesn't go too well. He becomes so depressed that he throws himself between two garbage cans so that the garbage men can throw him away.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Feeding the birds.
  • No Smoking: A smoker is informed about the many awful diseases you can get from smoking and eventually gets so frightened he hangs himself, as "yet another victim of tobbaco".
  • A Nuclear Error: Two military experts taking pride in the rapid increase of new nuclear power plants. One of them gets so excited that he says: "Soon the nuclear power plants will grow from the ground like... like...." The next image is the mushroom cloud of an atomic explosion.
  • Nuclear Mutant: And those who work there still claim nuclear power is good because they sure as hell don't want to remain the only cases of mutation.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Franquin was known for his numerous little drawings of horrifying monsters, something he used in this comic strip as well.
  • Overly Long Gag: One gag has a man escaping from Backwards Rock (which is apparently some sort of prison). As he runs away he is zapped away. Then the gag starts over again for three pages, with always the same four panels. Man climbs down, makes an Up Yours! to the guards, runs away, gets zapped away. Finally this gag ends, with Franquin writing a note below the page: "Isn't that great! Just when I have a wonderful idea for a new long running comic book series my publisher refuses to do it!!
  • Perpetual Motion Machine: And for once in this comic it doesn't go horribly wrong either. It just goes unrecognized.
  • Precursors: Parodied. A post-apocalyptic fly civilisation sees Humans as such, but the advanced cities they left behind are just piles of skulls and bones, and besides one of the two flies discussing this considers us to be stupid cunts who blew ourselves up.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Some gags are fantasy-oriented, but other are more disturbing since they take their inspiration from real-life fears like nuclear energy, world war, epidemics,...
  • Reset Button: The secret behind one of several The Alcatraz-es
  • Savage Wolves: One gag has a man lost in the snow wandering around thinking he is doomed. Then he sees lights in the distance and thinks it's a city, but it turns out to be the Glowing Eyes of Doom of a group of wolves.
  • Self-Immolation: As a protest against waste. Naturally, onlookers are horrified at the anti-social wasting of gas.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: One gag tells about the Real Life human sacrifies that the Aztecs committed for the Sun god.
  • Seppuku: The guy at the start of the first page seems pretty amused at discovering a tumour in his guts.
  • Shout-Out: To Franquin's own Gaston Lagaffe, in a very black comic about a misunderstood genius.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: VERY far on the cynic side.
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: One smoker is told by the others how dangerous the habit can be until he gets so scared that he eventually hangs himself.
  • Stab the Sky: An officer on horseback is telling the troops to charge. He holds his sword up before the big moment... and is promptly electrocuted mid-yell. The troops decide that since they didn't hear what it is he was saying, they might as well leave.
  • Suicide as Comedy:
    • A smoker hangs himself because he is so frightened of dying from his habit.
  • Take That!: Franquin clearly didn't like hunters, the military, the nuclear industry and the death penalty.
  • Tar and Feathers: People pray to God for help after a massive oil spill. Cue an exploding plane loaded with feathers in the exact same region.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Happens to an astronaut aboard of a rocket who is accidentally sucked out through the toilet and then catapulted into space.
  • Visual Pun: "Broyer du noir" (grinding black stuff) is a French expression for having depressing thoughts, as seen on the cover.
  • World War III: Shown in several gags. Others take place After the End.

Alternative Title(s): Idees Noires