Raoul Cauvin, a prolific writer
Born in Antoing, near Tournai, on 26 September 1938, Raoul Cauvin became one of Belgium's greatest and most prolific writers of comic strips, having achieved the milestone of 50 million albums sold. He was, amongst other things, the creator of famous series of comic strips such as Les Femmes en blanc (Women in White), Pierre Tombal, Les Tuniques bleues (Bluecoats), L'Agent 212 (Officer 212) and Cédric, each of which is an example of a comic strip intended for the public at large, in which humour is a key feature and is omnipresent throughout the pages.
Having completed his training at the prestigious Saint-Luc Institute in Tournai, Cauvin joined Dupuis in 1960 with a diploma as a lithographer, a profession that no longer existed. He started out as a letterer and worked alongside the greatest cartoonists of the 1960s, though soon realised that he would never reach their level. On the other hand, he also noted that not all of them were equally as gifted as storytellers, a fact that ultimately encouraged him to suggest some scenarios to them. When starting out on his career, he wrote for Les Naufragés (The Castaways), a humorous comic strip series drawn by the French cartoonist, Claire Bretécher. This resulted in about fifty plates published as gags and short stories in the young people's weekly, Spirou, from 1968 to 1971.
It was also in 1968 that Raoul Cauvin collaborated with the cartoonist Louis Salvérius to create a set of short stories entitled Les Tuniques Bleues (Bluecoats), which quickly expanded to 44 pages. That series, which went on to occupy Raoul Cauvin for more than 50 years, tells of the adventures of two soldiers, which take place against the backdrop of the American Civil War (1861-1865 ), during which the northern states (Unionists) were pitted against the southern states (Confederates). The two main protagonists in the series, Sergeant Chesterfield and Corporal Blutch, have nothing in common. The sergeant, who is tubby and clumsy, a dyed-in-the-wool military idealist and submissive to his seniors, is always in conflict with his corporal, a dry and nervous little brat, a rebel, an anarchist and a slacker, who has even taught his horse, Arabesque, to lie down on hearing the first shot. Cauvin went on to write 64 adventures of these Tuniques bleues, which have been translated into Dutch, English, Spanish, German and even Catalan.
Other Cauvin creations have also achieved international success, including Cédric, an eight-year-old boy, who is not very studious but is intelligent and quick-witted and is in love with his little Chinese classmate, Chen. And not forgetting Sammy, a mercenary or "gorilla", who places his machine gun at the service of good causes in the Chicago of the 1930s, during the prohibition era, where he rubs shoulders with mythical characters of the time, such as Al Capone and Eliot Ness. Created in 1970, Sammy Day and his boss, Jack Attaway, continued entertaining Spirou's readers until 2009.
The prolific Raoul Cauvin left us on 19 August 2021.
Foto © Vincent Hoper/Dupuis