It has been announced that comic artist and writer Jean Graton has died at the age of 97.
Graton is best known for the comic "Michel Vaillant" which is set in the world of motor racing, including Formula 1, the Le Mans 24 Hours, rallying, motorcycling and other forms of motor sport. It first appeared in "Tintin magazine" in 1957 and is still ongoing.
The series was especially popular for its mixture of fact and fiction: the fictional Michel Vaillant often meets real-life drivers, reporters and officials, including Peter Collins, Graham Hill, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Colin Chapman; his teammates have included Jacky Ickx, Paul Belmondo (racing son of a famous actor) and Didier Pironi. Vaillant is also often interviewed by real-life reporter Gérard "Jabby" Crombac. Graton also drew comics about the real lives of the drivers.
An animated series and a film were made based on the series.
Like many of the best writers and artists, Graton put a lot of research and detail in his stories, but I found that sometimes they were weighed down by dialogue and text boxes (a bit like Jacobs in "Blake & Mortimer") so for a series set in the fast world of motor racing it could be a bit slow. I've had to struggle in order to get into the series, but eventually I managed to get along with it, especially as the plots become more intriguing and dealt with business conflicts and power struggles as well as racing.
Another thing is that Graton did at times focus mainly on drivers of French origin. He even had French-Canadian driver Gilles Villeneuve win the 1981 F1 World Championship (in "Steve Warson contre Michel Vaillant") rather than the Australian Alan Jones as was the case in real life - which did not appeal much to my Australian, motor racing journalist father :)This webpage
includes a couple of photos of him with Asterix artist Uderzo whom, I've heard, also enjoyed fast cars.
Another great comic artist passes on.