{ feuilleton }


• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


Chute Libre science fiction


La Jungle Nue (A Feast Unknown, 1974). Illustration de Alain Le Saux.

Chute libre means “free fall” in French, and here refers to an imprint of French publisher Champ Libre that from 1974 to 1978 reprinted a series of science fiction titles under that name. The imprint is notable for a number of reasons, not least the striking covers which impress with their uniform design and bold imagery. The combination of black cover with vivid artwork is very similar to the covers Penguin were producing for their SF titles a few years earlier but since there’s little written anywhere about the French books I can’t say whether this was an influence or merely coincidence. I’ve not been able to find a complete list of all the illustrators either. At least two of the covers are the work of Moebius, rare examples of him being commissioned outside the comics medium.

The other notable aspect of the imprint is the books themselves which are an odd mix of the outrageous and sexually provocative end of SF spectrum, together with more usual fare. Some of the covers play to the provocation more than is necessary: Michael Moorcock has always been pleased by the attention his work receives in France but I’ll bet he hates that cover. Several of these titles appeared as SF in the 1970s because of other work by their authors despite there being nothing overtly science fictional about The Atrocity Exhibition or Breakfast in the Ruins. Farmer’s A Feast Unknown and The Image of the Beast/Blown are violent and sexually excessive, and feature little genre material, but managed to slide onto the SF shelves for the same reason. Every so often I wonder whether any of these books (or books like them) would be offered to, or accepted by, genre publishers today.

As usual, if anyone can supply information about the missing illustrators then please leave a comment.


Comme une Bête (Image of the Beast, 1974). Illustration by Moebius.


Les Culbuteurs de l’Enfer (Damnation Alley, 1974). Illustration by Jean-Claude Castelli.


Le Chaos Final (The Men in the Jungle, 1974).


Gare à la Bête (Blown, 1975). Illustration by Moebius.


Les Pionniers du Chaos (Agents of Chaos, 1975).


Vice Versa (The Tides of Lust aka Equinox, 1975).


Le Bal des Schizos (Abraham Lincoln, Simulacrum/We Can Build You, 1975). Illustration by Jacques Tardi.


La Défonce Glogauer (Breakfast in the Ruins, 1975).


Une Bourrée Pastorale (Flesh, 1975).


Venus Plus X (1976).


Orgasmachine (1976).


Défense de Coucher (Raw Meat, 1976).


La Foire aux Atrocités (The Atrocity Exhibition, 1976).


Robot Blues (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1976).


Service d’Ordre (The Men Inside, 1976).


Chacun son Tour (The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, 1977).


Tendre Réseau (The Agency, 1977).


Manque de Pot! (Galactic Pot-Healer, 1977).


A Double Tranchant (The Samurai, 1977).


Tarzan vous Salue Bien (Tarzan Alive, 1978).


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Penguin science fiction



Posted in {art}, {books}, {design}, {illustrators}, {science fiction}.

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9 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Gabriel McCann


    The first PKD one is a bit bizarre as the novel is a bout a simulacrum that looks like Abraham Lincoln. They should add it to this collection of book covers for it at


    I used to have the DAW 1983 edition which at least has a Lincoln simulacrum on the cover not a Hitler one.

    My edition of Galactic Pot Healer was the Berkley 1969 cover here

    Androids was one of the Ballantine covers from the film poster:

    My favourite PKD novel cover of all time is the Grafton 1984 one for Maze of Death:

    Have sadly lost my entire PKD TPB collection these days but those covers give me fond memories of when I first read them and became a “Dickhead” :-)

  2. #2 posted by John


    Yes, it’s an odd collection, and the covers themselves are often difficult to find. Several author sites don’t include them, hence the poor state of some of the images.

    One of those Mazes of Death is an Ian Miller I’d forgotten about. Penguin did a few Dick titles in their series, I have a copy of The Man in the High Castle they did with a Max Ernst cover.

  3. #3 posted by Nick Hydra


    That Tarzan Alive cover is just a Hogarth panel cut out and stuck onto a red backing, surely? NEL(?) did similar with a lot of actual Tarzan books in the mid ’70s as I recal. Always liked those covers…

  4. #4 posted by Gabriel McCann


    I used to have the Berkley 1984 MitHC TPB. Strangely enough the cover actually has a high castle on it.


    Poor Max
    The painting is incorrectly identified on the book’s back cover as The Petrified Forest.


  5. #6 posted by John


    Nick: I thought of Hogarth at first–he was always popular in France–but since I can’t be positive, and since there were other Tarzan artists such as Hal Foster before and Russ Manning after Hogarth, I’ve left it unattributed.

  6. #7 posted by matthew brandi


    I looked at Le Bal Des Schizos and thought Tardi.

    I’m not the only one, see:


    for example.

  7. #8 posted by John


    Thanks, Matthew, I’ve found that credit on a couple of other sites as well so I’ve added it above. It’s odd how some credits are acknowledged while most aren’t.

  8. #9 posted by Gabriel McCann


    PS The Phileas Phogg one looks like a close up of a Robert Crumb portrait of Jesus to me.

    Wish I still had a copy of this somewhere: http://www.philipkdickfans.com/resources/miscellaneous/the-religious-experience-of-philip-k-dick-by-r-crumb-from-weirdo-17/






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