L'aventurier, from Bob Morane to Indochine

Comics Music Novel TV show
Intergenerational hit, L'aventurier d'Indochine is a direct reference to Bob Morane, the all-time hero of Henri Vernes' novels. A guaranteed change of scenery.
Reality/Fiction Bob Morane L'aventurier

“Égaré dans la vallée infernale

Le héros s’appelle Bob Morane

À la recherche de l’Ombre Jaune

Le bandit s’appelle mister Kali Jones

Avec l’ami Bill Ballantine

Sauvé de justesse des crocodiles

Stop au trafic des Caraïbes

Escale dans l’opération Nadawieb.”

Lyrics of L’aventurier (Indochina)

From the first notes of the song L’aventurier, the bodies sway to a frantic rhythm. The mythical song of Indochine was released in 1982 and became over the decades the most played on stage by the band.

Bob Morane, a crazy literary saga

Bob Morane, the infernal valley by Henri Vernes (Marabout)
Bob Morane, the infernal valley by Henri Vernes (Marabout)

But who is this Bob Morane? Why does this adventurer travel all over the world? This character comes from the eponymous literary saga imagined by Henri Vernes. Created in 1953 for the Marabout Poche collection, it includes no less than 230 novels, about thirty short stories and more than 80 comic books!

Four hours for an intergenerational hit

L'aventurier by Indochine (Clémence Melody distributed by BMG Ariola)
L’aventurier by Indochine (Clémence Melody distributed by BMG Ariola)

When the Indochine song was released, the world of Bob Morane was almost thirty years old! His public success – the critics are less enthusiastic – inevitably comes to Nicola Sirkis’ ears. It takes less than four hours for the band’s leader to put the lyrics of this timeless hit on paper. For these few verses, he uses titles of novels, places of the adventures of the baroudeur but also inventions.

“At the time, we were in the middle of the Rambo trip, the invincible heroes… I went digging in the library I had brought back from Belgium, I found Bob Morane books with incredible titles, which corresponded very well to the music. So I stole all the titles of all the books that Henri Vernes had written, I moved them around, replaced them, to recompose a story.”Nicolas Sirkis confided to the newspaper Le Point in 2017.

Getting lost in the Infernal Valley

Baliem Valley Papua New Guinea
Baliem Valley Papua New Guinea – Photo Wikimedia Commons by Lasthib

Bob Morane is a former hero of the Battle of Britain. Officer, engineer and polytechnician, he is also a journalist-photographer. This is how the adventurer travels the different continents, wanting to make justice reign.

The first sentence of the song mentions the Infernal Valley. A place where Bob Morane would be lost. It is also the title of the first novel of the saga of Henri Vernes. The story takes place in Papua New Guinea. The hero must transport goods from the coast to the interior of the island. This country is mainly composed of mountains and active volcanoes, hence the presence of valleys such as Sepik, Suowi or Beliem. It is the latter that Henri Verne uses for the setting of his story.

The Baliem valley is 80 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide and is located at an altitude of between one and two thousand meters. The landscapes are sumptuous, oscillating between vast clearing, luxuriant forests and serpentine rivers.

Being terrorized in Manicouagan

The Manicouagan Reservoir by Martin Schmieder (wiki commons)
The Manicouagan Reservoir by Martin Schmieder (wiki commons)

The song continues with the Yellow Shadow and Mister Kali Jones, the enemies of Bob Morane. Indochine then evokes the Traffic in the Caribbean, 49th novel of the saga. This outlawed bargaining should be stopped. The Caribbean Sea was, at the time, a place of illegal trade of all kinds. Henri Vernes knows the place well because he has traveled there a lot.

As for the Sultan of Jarawak, he and his country do not exist. It is an invention of the novelist, in particular to write the eighth volume of Bob Morane.

En pleine terreur à Manicouagan”, hums Nicola Sirkis. And this time, the place does exist. This lake is located in the province of Quebec in Canada. This water reservoir would have been formed after the impact of a meteorite of five kilometers in diameter. Today it is an important wildlife reserve in the country. It is in this wild region that Bob Morane meets for the first time Miss Ylang-Ylang, a formidable adversary.

Isolate yourself in the Burmese jungle

A creek downstream of Pwe Kauk Falls. Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay, Myanmar [Burma] - Burma by LBM1948 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
A creek downstream of Pwe Kauk Falls. Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay, Myanmar [Burma] – Burma by LBM1948 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The warriors of Doc Xhatan capture Bob Morane. This man reigns supreme over Upper Burma. Worse, when Major Morane dies, Bill Ballantine, his faithful friend, tries to take revenge and pursues the infamous Mr. Ming in Burma.

Nicola Sirkis thus refers to the two titles of the saga: The mysterious doctor Xhantan and The punishment of the Yellow Shadow.

Today, Burma is a country closed to the outside world and run by a military junta. It was part of the British Empire. When Henri Vernes imagined these two stories in the 1960s, Burma had been independent since 1948. A coup d’état broke out in 1962, putting General Ne Win in charge. The country extracts precious stones such as ruby, jade or sapphire.

Drifting on a sampang

Indonesian sampan in North Java by Hervé Cozanet (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Indonesian sampang in North Java by Hervé Cozanet (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The real hero of all time is also drifting on board the Sampang. Is the founder of the group Indochine referring to the small, light, flat-bottomed boats or to the Indonesian city? It’s hard to say because Bob Morane is drifting on board, so the boat, but there is a capital letter in Sampang.

On the island of Java, Sampang is an administrative region of a province. It has a population of nearly 800,000.

L’Aventurier alongside Let’s Dance and Beat It

L'aventurier d'Indochine illustrated cover by Marion Bataille
L’aventurier d’Indochine illustrated cover by Marion Bataille

L’aventurier was recorded by Indochine in September 1982 in the Aguesseau studio in Boulogne-Billancourt. The song is very popular with the radio stations, which broadcast it during prime time and several times a day.

The single sold over 500,000 copies, while the self-titled album sold 250,000 copies. That year, in 1983, the song ranks alongside Michael Jackson’s Beat It and David Bowie’s Let’s Dance as one of the best-selling singles.

Henri Vernes is very touched by this attention for his hero. In fact, he explained in 2015 that the song has a real impact on the sales of novels and comics.

Novels, comics

Bob Morane, The Eyes of the Fog by William Vance and Henri Vernes (Dargaud)
Bob Morane, The Eyes of the Fog by William Vance and Henri Vernes (Dargaud)

In 1959, Bob Morane was published as a comic strip in the Belgian weekly Femmes d’aujourd’hui. Henri Vernes is in charge of the adaptation and the scenarios, while Dino Attanasio is in charge of the graphic part. Previously, the artist had illustrated the interior drawings of the novels. L’oiseau de feu, the first story, was then published by Marabout.

The designers follow one another throughout the volumes, notably Gérald Forton, William Vance, Coria and Dimitri Armand. Thus, Bob Morane et le Collier de Çiva is published in 1963 under the brush of Dino Attanasio. A title that we find in the lyrics of L’aventurier, itself referring to that of a novel by Henri Vernes. All of this – novels, music and comics – is linked between the works.

The comic series has also known a parodic version under the title Bob Marone, scripted by Yann and put in image by Conrad in the 1990s. The two friends, Bob and Bill, are portrayed as a gay couple.

Novels, TV series

Note that a television series was broadcast by the ORTF in 1965. Two seasons of 26 episodes in all were proposed thereafter on the Five in 1988 and on Antenne 2 the following year. The TV show featured Claude Titre as Bob Morane and Billy Kearnes as Bill Ballantine.

Finally, an animated series was co-produced by Canal+ and Super écran in 1998. It was visible on the encrypted channel for a single season of 26 episodes. The credits then included the instrumental version of L’aventurier, Indochine’s biggest hit.

“Et soudain surgit face au vent
Le vrai héros de tous les temps
Bob Morane contre tous chacal
L’aventurier contre tout guerrier.”


Bob Morane is 33 years old in the novels, and this forever.

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By Damien Canteau

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Passionné par l'Histoire, les animés, les Arts et la bande dessinée en particulier, Damien est le rédacteur en chef du site spécialisé dans le 9e art, Comixtrip.

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