Louis Forton is one of the pioneers of French comics, and the creator of the classic series 'Les Pieds Nickelés'. Forton, who was the son of a horse salesman, was a jockey at first. He began his artistic career in 1904, after meeting the Offenstadt brothers at the racecourses. That year, he published 'L'Histoire du Sire de Ciremolle' in L'Illustré, a magazine published by Offenstadt. The magazine folded shortly thereafter, but was soon replaced by Le Petit Illustré. Forton became one of the regular contributors to this magazine. At the same time, he made numerous illustrations for the military magazines La Vie en Culotte Rouge and La Vie de Garnison. He was also present in Polichinelle, published by Flammarion, and Le Petit Illustré Amusant.
Upon the launch of Mondiale's L'American Illustré in 1907, Forton drew numerous stories under Anglo-Saxon pseudonyms like Tom Hatt, Tommy Jackson and W. Paddock. Among his creations for this magazine were 'Isidore Mac Aron', 'Anatole Fricotard' and 'Séraphin Laricot'.
In 1908, he became the leading artist of L'Épatant, a magazine that had just been launched by Offenstadt. He created numerous covers, illustrations, but also the legendary 'Pieds Nickelés'. The exploits of the three vagabonds Riboulingue, Filochard and Croquignol were an immediate success, and several book collections of this "anarchist" strip, that gave comments on aristocrats and political figures of the time, followed from 1915. Apparently, Forton wasn't drafted during the Great War, but he did send his characters to the battlefield, letting them deal with the "Boches" (nickname for Germans) and even their "Kaiser" in person.
Although he had a big production, Forton enjoyed life. He worked during the morning, and then headed for the racecourses in Paris. This lifestyle resulted in several interuptions in the publication of 'Les Pieds Nickélés'. Readers of L'Épatant often had to wait several weeks before the adventures were continued.
Besides his work on this classic series, Forton continued to draw for La Vie de Garnison, as well as Mon Copain du Dimanche (1911) and Le Pęle-Męle (1924). In 1924, he created 'Bibi Fricotin' in Le Petit Illustré. This became another French classic, and it was continued after World War II by Forton's apprentice Pierre Lacroix. A year later, he created 'Ploum', based on the American comedian Monty Banks, in L'Épatant. Forton continued to draw 'Les Pieds Nickelés' until his death in 1934. The series was briefly continued by Aristide Perré and Albert Georges Badert, until Pellos brought the comic to new heights from 1948. Note that Louis Forton's grandson, Gérald Forton, also became a successful comics artist.