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Friday, 8 August 2014

Cinebook The 9th Art: Red Baron 1 - The Machine Gunners' Ball

Authors: Pierre Veys & Carlos Puerta
Age: 12 years and up
Size: 21.7 x 28.7 cm
Number of pages: 48 colour pages
Publication: July 2014

ISBN: 9781849182034
Price: £6.99 inc. VAT

In the skies of France during the Great War, a red-painted fighter is chasing a British SPAD. The relentless German pilot eventually wounds his opponent mortally, and lands near the downed Briton to watch him die, confessing his delight in war and victory. Ten years earlier, a young Manfred Von Richthofen is attending a military academy in Berlin when, during an incident with classmates, he comes to realise he has an unnatural gift…

 This is fantastically drawn -more water colour painted(?)- book and Carlos Puerta is a name I'll look out for in future.  Exquisite.

But the story I have a problem with. I've just looked through a couple of my history books and even carried out a quick online check.  Veys creates a persona for Richthofen of a sociopath. Almost psychopathic -he follows down an allied pilot he has wounded and gets pleasure from watching the man die.  He is also shown being violently psychopathic -even smashing his skull-head walking stick into a woman's face.  WHERE...THE....HELL did Veys get this from? I just phoned a friend who studied von Richthofens early life and described what is in this book. He was dumb-founded.

Anyone who has done research on von Richthofen knows that he was "typical officer class" -a hunter, horse-rider, a bit arrogant and if you leave aside the propaganda book he was forced into writing while in hospital and which he distanced himself from later, he soon lost the brash arrogance of having shot down and killed a fellow human being.

So, the art I love but I in no way like this fictionalisation of someone to make them what they evidently were not.  The Austro-Hungarian Empire the German Empire and Turkey were the "bad guys" of World War One (let's get accurate and stop saying the all-encompassing and inaccurate "Germany" all the time) but there were as many horrors committed by the Allies as them and if you are going to start fictionalising things then make that clear rather than present it as a fact.

Art great but first ever (!) bad review of a Cinebook title for story.


  1. Beautiful art. Truely lovely. But this does go to show that it is the synthesis of GOOD STORY TELLING and appropriate art that makes a great story - that's what makes Charley's War such a great story.

  2. Great art, yes but lousy characterisation. If you use an historical figure the writer needs to work on what is known -not make it up. grrrrrrrr

  3. To quote: "Richthofen was much more of a cold-blooded warrior and a more complex character than his legend would have us believe. In Richthofen’s own words from Castan’s book: “I never get into an aircraft for fun. I aim first for the head of the pilot, or rather at the head of the observer, if there is one.” But the flying ace also wrote that he felt terrible whenever he finished a mission. For propaganda reasons, the German military wanted Richthofen to appear as a hero, but he probably never really felt like one. Castan describes him as “a tragic figure, fighting fanatically, remorselessly, in a war that is lost.” and: "On the day after his death, Richthofen was buried with full military honors in the village cemetery at Bertangles, near Amiens, France. Showing their high regard for Richthofen, members of the Australian air squadron served as pallbearers and an honor guard." And a quote from one of the Gallant Knights of The Air in the RAFC: "I hope he roasted the whole way down". meh. Maybe he had a dicky tummy that day.

  4. Before you ask: aiming for the head means an outright kill, no wounded pilot waiting for minutes until smashing into the ground or, perhaps far more horrific, actually being burnt to death in a plane on fire and no parachutes -pilots are said to have jumped out in mid-air.

  5. Well Richthofen in his autobiography did describe strafing ground troops as fun

  6. I think a lot of what went into the book was propaganda -Richthofen wasn't happy with but the sporting hunter is/was a big thing in Germany. So strafing a few troops on the group isn't that out of place and its a distant killing thing. RAF (and other) bomber crews just did their job and "We never even thought about people. There were no people down there just Nazi targets" The point is that nothing points to the character in the Cinebook album who really is a twisted piece of work. But I'm just a reviewer!