François Walthéry, a high-flying draftsman
The Belgian cartoonist and scriptwriter François Walthéry was born on 17 January 1946 in Argenteau, in the Liège region. In adolescence, the young man felt early on that he had a vocation for drawing, so much so that those around him encouraged him to take courses at the St Luc Institute in Liège. His teenage years were also the golden age of Belgian comics, which saw a host of great authors and their countless characters blossom.
Walthéry began his career with two giants, firstly Peyo, the creator of Johan and Pirlouit and the Smurfs, and secondly Will, the illustrator of Spirou and Tintin covers, and designer of Tif and Tondu, among others. With the growing success of his little blue men, Peyo looked for collaborators to help him with his work, so Walthéry got off to a good start in the 1960s. After a few years of successful apprenticeship, the young François was ready to stand on his own two feet and created his own character: Natacha. This attractive and mischievous young stewardess, who rejoiced in adventures full of twists and turns and suspense, has been successful since the 1970s. The heroine's physique is similar to that of the beauties of the time: notably Dany Saval, who played the role of an Air France stewardess in Boeing. Solo female heroines had been rare until then. They certainly existed as secondary characters (like Castafiore in Tintin) or as part of a pair (Zo and Zette, Bob and Bobette, etc.), but here she was an independent main character. In 1974, Walthéry created a new comic strip, Le Vieux bleu, which described the adventures of a pigeon fancier and his "champion". Jules dreamt only of winning first prize at the Angoulême competition, while his winged companion took it easy, liked to dawdle, laze around, and admire the landscape, not realising that every minute counted and thus driving his master completely crazy. This adventure was translated into Liège Walloon (under the title Li Vî Bleû) and met with a success that neither the publisher nor the author had imagined (the highest ever circulation of a book in Walloon). It is believed that this publication helped to revive interest in this regional language. Statues have even been created of these two comic book companions, in Cheratte, a municipality of Visé. In 1988, in another demonstration of his attachment to his native land, Walthéry published an album dedicated to the most Liège-born of all heroes, Tchantchès, a character directly from regional folklore. A few months later, Le p'tit bout d'chique, a kid involved in many misadventures, was born. He also oversaw the "Rubine" series - a seductive female cop portrayed for the Lombard publishing house since 1993..
In 2015, he was awarded the Grand Prix Saint-Michel for the body of his work, and a year later the Grand Prix Diagonale du Jury (which in 2019 became the Prix Rossel de la bande dessinée) as a reward for his work.