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Left to right: Jindra Hojer, Jarka Metelka, Mirek Dušín, Rychlonožka, Červenáček
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Rychlé šípynote  is a 20th-century Czech magazine-published comics series, directed at children and teenagers. It features a club of five boys named, of course, Rychlé šípy. It is probably the comics if you're Czech, the old golden standard every other comics will inevitably be in some manner compared to (if only to say it is nothing like it) - and it introduced the unique flavour of "club comics" to the Czech scene.

It was originally (from 1938) published in the magazine Mladý hlasatel ("Young Herald"), and intended as a fun edifying and educational tool, especially as an inspiration to the reader clubs connected to the magazine. It was - just like the clubs themselves - the brainchild of the writer, and Scout leader, Jaroslav Foglar. The two most prominent artists were newspaper cartoonist (originally lawyer) Jan Fischer (between 1938 and 1948), and illustrator and musician Marko Čermák (a Promoted Fanboy, during the comics' revival in the wake of the Prague Spring). A few other artists filled in for Fischer a couple of times for a couple of issues/pages. Fischer's versions of the characters are the most iconic, and he captured the town sceneries well, while Čermák relished (and still relishes) drawing natural sceneries.

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Rychlé šípy are an intentionally idealised group of teenaged boys who always try do the right thing, help the elderly, never utter vulgarities, etc. They also sometimes solve mysteries because what young heroes of this kind don't? Many of the stories are only single- or double-page, although there is also a number of longer arcs. The majority is adventurous or depicting events intended to edify the readers, but there are also some comical ones.

Despite featuring five main characters, Rychlé šípy are not a Five-Man Band - they're just too good to fill all the required roles... The members of the club are:

The characters are also featured in three novels written by Foglar, the so-called Stínadla Trilogy dealing with the mysterious town district of Stínadla ("Shades", but also with "beheading" undertones in Czech) and its secretive and belligerent society of children, the Vonts. In these books, Rychlé šípy venture into Stínadla in order to unravel its mysteries. The first two books were originally published in serialised form in the magazines publishing the comics at the time; the third was first published abroad and then in Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution in one volume with the first two. The books are:

  • Záhada hlavolamu (1940-41, usually rendered in English as "The Mystery of the Conundrum" note )
  • Stínadla se bouří (1947, "Stínadla in Revolt")
  • Tajemství Velkého Vonta (1986/1990, "The Secret of the Great Vont")

All three books were also adapted into comics form, with Marko Čermák as the artist.

Due to the 20th-century political upheavals in Czechia, the publishing of Rychlé šípy was stopped several times for varying lengths of time, what with Those Wacky Nazis having no use for the independent reader clubs, Dirty Communists perceiving comics as the Western imperialist medium and likewise frowning on independent organisation, and Foglar's Scouting-influenced morality not suiting either of those groups. In a twist of fate, however, this may have only served to introduce new generations of fans to a work that might have otherwise run to the natural end of its course much earlier.

In 1998, the publishing house Olympia published all the stories in a single omnibus book complete with detailed explanatory section - which book, just like the comics itself, then became the standard to which such efforts are being compared in Czechia.


The comics provides examples of:

  • Amphibious Automobile: If you replace "automobile" with "pedal-driven vehicle" - Rychlé šípy build themselves one of those.
  • An Aesop: Unsurprisingly, given the purpose of the comics, a great number of the stories carry some sort of message - either moral, or practical advice ("don't jump into cold water after physical exercise"). Some of the Aesops are somewhat unconventional, though: such as the story in which Rychlonožka wants to have his pictures published in Mladý hlasatel and after a series of hijinks the club manages to get to the editorial office, only to find out Rychlonožka's pictures don't meet the requirements - which are stated explicitly for the readers who might want to do the same.
  • Arch-Enemy: Bratrstvo kočičí pracky - " The Brotherhood of Cat's Paw" - are three boys who display many kinds of unworthy behaviour, including superstitiousness (the cat's paw was meant to be a talisman), and of course try to cross Rychlé šípy at any opportunity.
  • Author Tract: Foglar almost always wrote those, but he was good at making them entertaining.
  • Comic-Book Time: Big time. See above for the range of publishing dates. Beside seasonal changes, there is no obvious reference to time passing after the first year or two of the comics running, but subtle changes do occasionally happen - such as Rychlonožka entering an apprenticeship (thus having finished primary schooling).
  • Denied Food as Punishment: A variant in which a character is only given bread soupnote  for dinner as punishment for coming home late.
  • Dream Sequence: Always Rychlonožka, and always Played for Laughs. Includes Dreams of Flying.
  • Enclosed Space: One longer and tense story arc has Rychlé šípy trapped in a cave by rain and flood for several days.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Mirek may be a genuine Nice Guy who has better things to do than just constantly fight with other boys like those boys with no purpose in their life... but that doesn't mean he won't fight. And you probably don't want to be his opponent when that happens, because not only does his active lifestyle make him a good fighter... he will bring an army of willing followers.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Foglar was actually good at making his Unusual Euphemisms both fun and inventive, and a natural fit in the characters' speech - so good that himbajs šůviks and plantážník ("plantationer") have essentially become the series' catchphrases.
  • Ice Palace: In one Čermák-drawn story, Rychlé šípy find a mysterious and detailed ice building during a winter hike.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Červenáček and Rychlonožka are literally only known by their nicknames: their real names are never revealed.
    • There are other characters as well: Dlouhé bidlo and Štětináč from Bratrstvo kočičí pracky are also nicknames unrelated to their unknown names (although a late story suggests Dlouhé bidlo's surname may be... Bidlo); the third member is known as Bohouš, which is a nickname for Bohumil or Bohuslav.
    • Plus there are Podkova, Metráček, Bambus, Tlouštík and Pískloun, Saf...
    • In the books, there is the menacing Em in Jan Tleskač's diary in Záhada hlavolamu, in the end revealed to be the elder Mažňák, and Širokko, the mysterious figure from Stínadla se bouří.
    • Borderline case with Haha Bimbi, who always introduces herself with her full name (Alžbětina Prknářová), but whom other characters refer to by her nickname, and fans tend to remember her by it.
  • The Runaway: One story arc has Rychlé šípy following the tracks of three boys who ran away from home after they got bad end-of-year school reports. There is also the recurring character of the orphaned Tonda Pírko.
  • Save the Villain: In one story, Rychlé šípy end up rescuing the leader of Bratrstvo kočičí pracky from drowning in a fountain.
  • Shaped Like Itself: In one of the page-long stories, Rychlonožka needs the services of a clock-repairer, whose shop is however closed at the moment. When you look closely, the "Closed" sign actually reads "When I'm not here, I'm away."
  • Smoking Is Not Cool: A Fischer-drawn story has a formerly successful teenaged athlete succumbing to the influence of bad company and losing his athletic skills to smoking. A Čermák-drawn story has a PG-rated version of Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll with a popular local band of older boys teaching younger boys to smoke (trying to convince them it is cool, but thanks to the intervention of Rychlé šípy and the band's overreaction, it doesn't stick).
  • Spell Book: One story arc concerns the old "witch" Jeremiáška and the club's continual efforts to get her magic book to prevent her (and others after her death) from performing (black) magic - which they may or may not believe in themselves.
  • Totem Pole Trench: When Rychlé šípy are trying to inflitrate the editorial office of Mladý hlasatel over the protests of a porter and a cleaning lady in the building, they finally succeed by employing this tactic. Instead of a trench, though, they just use their own winter coats.
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