Jean Ache was an artist who worked in a semi-realistic style for many French comic magazines and newspapers. Although perhaps not a household name, his comics were read by millions of readers of France-Soir, Le Pèlerin, France Dimanche, Le Journal de Mickey and many other publications during Ache's career. Among his best-known works are the caveman 'Archibald', the mermaid 'Arabelle', the twins 'Nic et Mino' and the new adventures of 'Pat'Apouf'.
Born as Jean Huet in Le Havre in 1923, he got interested in comic through the American comic series that were published in magazines like Robinson and Le Journal de Mickey. His first effort as an artist was the Disney-inspired but unpublished 'Les Aventures d'une Grenouille' ('The Adventures of a Frog', 1938). Huet was eventually more attracted to animation. During the war, in 1941, he made his own five minute amateur cartoon, called 'L'Émule de Tartarin', with a used camera. According to him it was the first amateur cartoon production in France. It has been repeatedly shown in clubs of non-professional filmmakers since.
He then headed for Paris, where he was hired to work as an assistant animator at Films de Cavaignac. He participated in the production of 'Callisto le petite nymphe', a film on mythology inspired by Art Deco artist André Édouard Marty. Afterwards, he worked with the famous cartoonist Albert Dubout on the animated cartoon 'Anatole fait du camping'. This collaboration lasted until 1943, when Huet went semi-underground to avoid deportation for forced labour in Germany. He earned some money by illustrating booklets in the series 'La Forêt Enchantée', which were written by Dubout co-worker Freddy de Nussy.
He made his debut as a comic artist in 1943 with six books about the extraterrestrial caveman 'Biceps, le Costaud Sentimental' for Éditions NB and Éditions I.P.C., which he signed "Jean Hache". The character also appeared in the collaborationist magazine Le Téméraire, which further published work by Ache's contemporaries Érik, Auguste Liquois and Raymond Poïvet. By now, the artist was signing with Jean Ache. His first post-war material was the comic strip 'Manitou le magicien', which ran in Cadet-Journal.
Ache had his professional breakthrough in O.K. magazine, which was edited by René Detire, and also featured work by Albert Uderzo, Martial, Kline and Pierre Le Guen. His comic 'Tonton Molécule' was published in this magazine from 1946 until 1949, and dealt with an inventor uncle and his two mischievous nephews. 'Tonton Molécule' later appeared in the SFPI publications Zig et Puce, Zorro-Zig et Puce, and Sans Peur. Sans Peur published reprints of Jean Ache's material for O.K., and new installments by Henri Fox from 1952. A similar character called 'Bébé Vitamine' was published in O.K.'s children's counterpart Kid in 1948, and later also appeared in Le Journal des Pieds Nickelés (1966-1968) and the Super J pocket books (1970). Other Ache creations for O.K. were 'Jim Colt contre contre Porc-Épic', 'Brindzing, Tapsek et Fikdou' and 'La Grande Bagarre' between 1947 and 1949.
Simultaneous to his work for O.K., Jean Ache was present in the Lyon-based magazine Mon Journal from its first issue of 8 August 1946 until the last of 22 April 1948. He created the comic 'Achille, Lastuce et Crémolet' about two kids and a dog. 'Achille' returned as a solo character in Benjamin from 1954 to 1957, and the trio was reunited again for a third run in Le Journal de Bibi Fricotin from 1966 to 1971. During the 1940s and early 1950s, Jean Ache made sporadic appearances in magazines like Vaillant (new 'Biceps' pages), Jeudi-Matin (an adaptation of James Fenimore Cooper's 'The Deerslayer', 1949), Comique-Magazine, Le Journal du Dimanche, Libération, Le Mérinos, L'Époque, Paris Normandie Sports, Radio 48, Oxygène, Biribu and Ici-Paris.
He was present in the French Sunday newspaper France-Dimanche between 1948 and 1957. His first creation for this paper was the playboy caveman 'Archibald', a character echoing his previous creation 'Biceps'. 'Archibald' reappeared in the comics magazine Pilote from 1965 until 1974. For France Dimanche, he additionally made the comic strips 'Agénor super Don Juan' in 1949, and 'Amanda la pin-up fantôme', about a Scottish ghost girl who goes to work in a Parisian cabaret, between October 1949 and December 1955. 'Amanda' is briefly replaced by the superheroine 'Coraline' in 1954 and 1955.
Between 1950 and 1962, he was also working for France-Soir, the daily newspaper of the same publishing group. He initially illustrated installments of 'Le Crime Ne Paie Pas', a vertical comic strip series by Paul Gordeaux which depicted true criminal cases. Ache drew the episodes 'L'Affaire des poisons', 'Le Courrier de Lyon', 'L'Inavouable Secret d'Émile de la Roncière' and 'Le Grand Acteur Booth assassin du président Lincoln'.
Arabelle (France-Soir, 1950)
Also in 1950, Ache came up with his most popular creation: 'Arabelle, la Dernière Sirène', about a mermaid who is turned into a human. The comic started as a text strip, and was made into a balloon comic in 1954. France-Soir published about 3,500 strips about 'Arabelle' until 1962. The character made a brief reappearance in L'Illustré du Dimanche in 1967, and then appeared in two long stories in Tintin and a short one in Tintin Sélection from 1972 to 1977. His period with France-Soir and France-Dimanche makes Jean Ache one of the few French authors of his time who worked on rather adult-themed comics, since most of the comic magazines met with strict censorship.
He made an adaptation in 72 strips of the Alain-René Lesage novel 'Gil Blas de Santillane' for Libération Champagne in 1956. He later also made adaptations of novels by Alfred de Vigny, Alfred de Musset, Prosper Mérimée, Pierre De Beaumarchais, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Alphonse De Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Pierre Loti, Alphonse Daudet and Leon Tolstoy. Ache had a brief stint in advertising in the mid 1950s, when he made 'Les Phénos du bon accueil' for the advertising magazine NRJ, the sticker album 'Jacqueline et les bandits de Kerkedec' for Meunier chocolat (1954) and promotional strips in Lisette ('Bon Voyage Viviane', 1955), Benjamin ('Benjamin arrive avec le train blanc', 1956), Ima, l'Ami des Jeunes ('Hervé et Dina', 1956) and the BP magazine La Piste ('Les Courses automobiles', 1957).
Nic et Mino
From 1958 to 1966, he was present in Le Journal de Mickey with 'Nic et Mino', a weekly series in a Clear Line style about two twin brothers who live through weird and fantastic adventures with their wealthy uncle. The comic was written by Claude Dupré (pen name for Agnès Guilloteau), and additionally ran in a couple of regional newspapers, including La République du Centre. Set up by demand of publisher Paul Winkler as a direct competitor to Hergé's 'Tintin', the comic was also collected in four books by Éditions Hardy. In Pilote, Jean Ache revived 'Archibald' and he illustrated pages about current affairs by Gébé, Fred or Pierre Christin, as well as pastiches of famous painters, like Modigliani, Picasso, Chagall, Van Gogh and Buffet. His knowledge of fine arts was also showcased in his set of 'Little Red Riding Hood' retellings (1973), which consisted of seven versions in the style of different painters, varying from representational to abstract.
Jean Ache returned to animation in the late 1960s, when he and Jean Nohain created 15 episodes of 'S.O.S. Les Zlops Attaquent' for television. Later animation projects were 'Loto-Tirelire' and 'Flonflon', which he made made Gilbert Richard. Éditions Jeunesse et Vacances also assigned Ache to develop a magazine based on the latter character, resulting in Flonflon Télé-Jeunes (1970). For this short-lived magazine, Ache made stories starring 'Flonflon', as well as game pages and a comic based on the clown trio Les Bario.
He furthermore appeared in a great many other comic magazines of the time. His comic strip 'La Famille Brocatel' apeared in the S.P.E. magazines Le Journal des Pieds Nickelés and Le Journal de Bibi Fricotin between 1967 and 1970. Among his other creations are the title hero of the comics magazine Pastec by Jean Chapelle's Société Française de Presse Illustrée (1968-1970), and contributions to Record (an adaptation of the Rabelais novel 'Gargantua', 1972-1974), Pomme d'Api (1974), La Croix (1975-1979), Le Journal du Dimanche ('O.V.N.I. soit qui mal y pense', 1976), Les Visiteurs du Mercredi (animal stories, 1978), the ecological weekly Pistil ('Ortax le robot', 1978-1979), the soccer monthly Footy ('Supershoot', 1979-1982) and the army magazine TAM (comic biographies, 1980-1985). In 1973, he was asked to succeeded Gervy as the artist of 'Pat'Apouf' in Le Pélérin. He continued to draw the adventures of the emblematic detective in this Catholic weekly until his death in 1985.
Despite his impressive oeuvre and wide readership during his career, most of Jean Ache's work is forgotten by now. His publications were largely limited to magazines and newspapers, and only few book collections of his work have appeared.