Jean Graton was one of the main artists for the classic comic magazine Tintin, and is the creator of the successful Formula 1 comic hero 'Michel Vaillant'. Graton, who was born in Nantes, had an early interest in drawing and sports, the latter through his father's involvement in the local motorcycle club. He saw his first drawing published in Le Soir when he was only eight years old. When World War II broke out, Graton went to live with his grandmother and he found a job in a shipyard. He spent his military service in Algiers and returned to Nantes in 1947.
He began his artistic career in Brussels, Belgium, in 1948. While taking evening drawing courses, he found employment his the newspaper Les Sports. He made his first comics for the World's Press agency of Georges Troisfontaines. Graton was among the early artists to draw stories in the historical comic series 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul' for Spirou magazine from 1952 to 1954.
Covers for Tintin (1955)
By 1954, he joined Tintin magazine and the publishing house Lombard, for which he drew several short stories, mainly about sports. He also became a regular artist for Lombard's press agency PubliArt. Graton illustrated a great many advertisements, and also made some commercial comic strips, for Huret, among others. Around the same time, he additionally became an advertising illustrator for Imifi, the publisher of Les Sports. In this occupation, Graton illustrated the comic story 'Frisco Kid' for a sticker book for icecream company Finial-Frisco, as well as the club magazine for Spa-Monopole, Revue du Club Pierrot.
It was 1957 when he created his most famous character, the formula 1 driver 'Michel Vaillant'. Based around a family enterprise in racing, the comic was an instant hit and became a classic in Belgian comics.
In addition, starting in 1966, Graton made 'Les Labourdet' for the family magazine Chez Nous, together with his wife Francine. In 1976, he created 'Julie Wood', a female professional motor driver. She first had her own series, but the character was soon included in the 'Michel Vaillant' series. In 1982, Graton founded his own publishing house, where he continued his famous series, accompanied by his son, Philippe Graton. By then, Graton had collected a team of talented artists around him, like Guillaume Lopez, Louis Fernandez, Christian Lippens, Daniel Bouchez, Christian Papazoglakis and Frédéric Pauwels, who assisted him on the popular 'Michel Vaillant' series.
In 1995, Graton Éditeur launched the 'Dossiers Michel Vaillant' collection, a series of books with comics and articles about famous persons from the car and motorracing scene. The publishing house also reprinted Graton's older work, including his 'Oncle Pierre' stories and the 'Les Labourdet' series.
Mermoz (Tintin, 1957)