Jan Graton 1923-2021 | Michelle Phelan in mourning

Jean Graton was “the last sacred monster” of the Franco-Belgian comics. But his commercial success did not always earn him the respect he deserved. A look back at the life of a cartoonist whose career has progressed at a rapid pace.


Jean-Christophe LawrenceJean-Christophe Lawrence
Journalism

(Brussels) The race is over for Jane Graton. The father of Michel Vaillant, the most famous racing driver in the comics, died Thursday in Brussels at the age of 97, surrounded by his family.

“He was sick for a very long time. He was in a nursing home and we couldn’t see him anymore,” confirms Jean-Claude de la Roiere, former curator of the Belgian Comics Center.

It’s an understatement to say that Jean Graton was a big mover. Its commercial success bears this out. In more than 60 years, around 25 million copies of Michel Vaillant’s 79 albums have been sold worldwide.

“He was the last sacred monster of Franco-Belgian comics. His friends and colleagues have been called Goscinny, Uderzo, Charlier, Peyo, Roba and Franquin,” confirms the press release published Thursday by editor Dupuis, who has run the Vaillant brand since 2019.

Michel Phelan, born in 1957, tells the story of the adventures of an intrepid French driver, flag bearer of the car brand owned by the Vaillant family. His victories are numerous on the track, but they are also off the track. Because in addition to being a leadership character, the character is a loyal and courageous man, a respectable son, a loyal husband, an understanding brother and a loyal friend.

Image from Michael Vaillant’s official website

Jan Graton (left)

Disadvantages? Point. Unlike his American friend Steve Warson, who seems to possess all the vices: fiery, angry, unrepentant Don Juan. Or his archenemy “the leader” who will come to pursue him more than once.

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Photo from Michael Vaillant’s album

An excerpt from an album in the Michael Vaillant series

Interesting: Graton has no hesitation in getting his fictional heroes to engage with real characters, like Jackie Ickx, Alan Prost, Michael Schumacher or even Jill and Jack Villeneuve. In the loop Steve Warson vs Michelle PhelanAnd the Even Gil Villeneuve won the drivers’ championship.

Graton machine

Jean Graton was born in Nantes in 1923, and was raised by a father who ran a motorcycle club that led him to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and from here was drawn to motorsport. At the age of 16, he entered the shipyard where he worked as a pilot, a job he hated and made him want to “do something.” [il a] Envy, even if it means taking risks. ”

Lured by comics, he moved to Brussels in 1947. From 1951 to 1953, he wrote for the magazine Spiro a lot Beautiful stories from Uncle Paul Where his realistic style can flourish. Then the rival magazine hired him, Tintin, Where he will create the character of Michel Phelan in 1957.

The series’ first official album, released in 1959 (Big challenge), It is quickly adopted by young readers, especially men. It is the beginning of a long streak of successes for Michel Phelan, who will soon be adapted to the small and large screen.

With the help of his wife, Francine, Graton designs the first eight adventures of the series. But the demand is so strong that he hires a team of collaborators from him VIIIe Pilot, In 1962. The Graton’s machine is now running on a turbo. For Jean-Claude de la Royer, this “more industrial” choice marked a turning point in the adventures of Michel Villain. It will explain the arrogance that the designer suffered throughout his career.

“Because of that, we hardly realized he was a good designer. Yet she had great layouts. He could draw anything.”

The cartoonist retired in 2004, a year after the movie was released Michelle VaillantAnd the It was co-written by director Luc Besson. He left his legacy in the hands of his son Philip Graton, who wrote a number of texts. The character was also renewed in 2012 for “New Season”. Cars, More Recent Issues and Values: Michel Phelan in the XXIe century.

– The French News Agency

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