Franquin, a cornerstone of Belgian comic strip
André Franquin, the cartoonist who produced Spirou and Fantasio and the creator of Gaston Lagaffe and Marsupilami, was a visionary of Belgian comic strip who could captivate young and old alike.
André Franquin was born in Etterbeek on 3 January 1924 and was fascinated by drawing from an early age. In 1944, he started out at the small animation studio CBA, which soon went bankrupt due to American competition. In this short-lived company, he met two other Belgians with a passion for drawing: Morris (the creator of Lucky Luke) and Peyo (the creator of the Smurfs).
In 1945, the three cartoonists were hired by Spirou magazine, published by Editions Dupuis. Franquin's supervisor was Jijé, the creator of the famous lift operator Spirou, who gave this character over to him. He went on to recreate the world of Spirou and Fantasio, adding new characters such as the Count of Champignac, Zorglub and especially Marsupilami, an imaginary yellow animal with black spots who has Herculean strength and a very long tail.
In 1955, he had an argument with Charles Dupuis and left to join the Journal de Tintin, where he created the Modeste and Pompon series, before returning to work for Editions Dupuis. Towards the end of the 1950s, he created a new character in collaboration with Yvan Delporte to liven up Spirou magazine; this was Gaston Lagaffe, the uncontested king of gaffes who would later become the hero of comic books in his own right. At the same time, he launched his own studio where he brought together young authors such as Jean Roba, the creator of Boule & Bill.
At the end of the 1960s, he abandoned Spirou and Fantasio to focus on Gaston. In 1977, he created the Franquin's Last Laugh series (French: Idées noires: Dark thoughts) in Le Trombone illustré, a short-lived supplement of Spirou magazine, continuing it in the monthly magazine Fluide glacial. Ten years later, Marsupilami made a comeback in his own adventures, launched by the Marsu Productions publishing house, to which Franquin sold the character rights.
This cornerstone of Belgian comic strip died in 1997. He stood out due to the quality of his cartoons and the inventiveness of his humour. Franquin was one of the figureheads of the Marcinelle school, a cartoon style associated with the Spirou magazine and characterised in part by caricatures, large noses and rounded speech bubbles.
Copyright photo: Dupuis