Victor Sackville #7 - La Nuit de Prague.

Francis Carin is a Belgian comic artist, specialized in historical comics that deal with his native Walloon region during the early 20th century. A recurring time period in his work is the First World War, which is the main setting of his signature spy comic 'Victor Sackville' (1983-2010), created in collaboration with the writers Gabrielle Borile and François Rivière. Wallonia's industrial revolution and its class struggles were the subject of his own comic, 'Ennemis de Sang' (2014-2016), created in collaboration with his son, David Caryn. During his career, Carin has been a contributor to prominent comic magazines like SpirouTintin and Circus, and he was also one of the artists working on Jacques Martin's classic 'Lefranc' series (2004-2007). In later years, Francis Carin has been known for his educational comics about religious figures or history - both national and regional - which he draws in collaboration with Didier Chardez (Didgé) for publishers like Coccinelle BD and Éditions du Signe.

Early life and education
Francis Carin was born in 1950 in Retinne, a town in the Belgium province Liège. Part of a worker's family, his grandfather had come from Flanders to work in the region's coal mines. Carin's father was a farrier in the Hasard coal mines of Micheroux. As a child, François Carin enjoyed reading Tintin magazine, taking a particular liking in Jacques Martin's 'Lefranc' and Edgar P. Jacobs' 'Blake et Mortimer'. As a teen, he also devoured modern thrillers and novelists like Henry de Montherlant. Between 1967 and 1973, Carin studied Illustration at the Plastic Arts faculty of the École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc in Liège.

'Rupture', early comic story drawn by Francis Carin, published in Tintin magazine #40, 1976.

Early career
While still a student, Carin published his first caricatures in Allons Liège!, the club magazine of the Royal Football Club de Liège (1972). After graduation, he began working in the advertising industry, interrupting his career in 1974 to fulfill his military service. In 1975-1976, his art appeared in advertising newspapers such as Norlux and Principauté. Early in 1976, he also made his debut as a comic artist, illustrating two short stories from scripts by Jean-Paul Thaulez in Tintin Sélection, a pocket book special by Tintin magazine. A third story appeared in the following year. By then, Carin had also joined several other artists from the Liège region - including Laudec, Michel Pierret and Fabrizio Borrini - in the team of the local comic fanzine BOHF!. Through the journalist and novelist René Henoumont, he landed a job with the satirical Belgian news weekly Pourquoi Pas?. From September 1976 until the magazine's cancellation in 1989, Francis Carin provided Pourquoi Pas? with a great many political caricatures and illustrations.

Spirou magazine
In 1979, Carin won a drawing competition organized by the Belgian comic magazine Spirou, and his winning submission was published in the 1 February 1979 issue (#2128). Around this time, he also got in touch with one of the Spirou regulars, 'Jess Long' artist Arthur Piroton. It was under Piroton's wings that Francis Carin made his true debut as a comic artist. From scripts by Mittéï, the duo collaborated on the graphics of a new series called 'Les Casseurs de Bois' (1979-1981), about a group of aeromodelling enthusiasts. Even though the subject was also picked up in Spirou's editorial pages, the comic failed to capture an audience, and was cancelled after three serials. After this debut, Francis Carin moved on to work on solo projects, but he remained friends with Arthur Piroton. During the Durbuy comic festival of 1996, Carin curated an exhibition dedicated to the work of his old tutor.

'Les Diables Bleues' (Dutch version from Robbedoes #2299, 1982).

Teaming up with fellow Liège artist Michel Pierret (AKA M. Lamarne) for the scripts, he then co-created six short stories with 'Les Diables Bleus' (1981-1982, 1986). Featuring a group of French infantryman ("Poilus") in the trenches, the series was Francis Carin's first World War I comic. The series also ran in the Dutch-language version of Spirou as 'De Blauwe Duivels'. While his two Spirou series were not collected in book format after their initial serialiation, limited edition book collections of both 'Les Casseurs de Bois' and 'Les Diables Bleus' were published in 1997 by Éditions Point Image in its Monde Cruel series.

Tintin magazine
In 1982, Carin made the transition from Spirou magazine to its competitor Tintin. After a modest debut, he provided some gag ideas for the cartoon series 'Clin d'Oeil' by his friend Serge Ernst. In the following year, Carin contributed to a special issue dedicated to veteran artist Edgar P. Jacobs, making the 12-page tribute story 'E.P Jacobs Dans Le Théatre du Mystère' (1984) with scriptwriter François Rivère. In the following year, they created a short story about Charlie Chaplin for the Tintin special Super Tintin, but it wasn't until 1988 before Carin and Rivìère became magazine mainstays with 'Victor Sackville', another World War I series.

Victor Sackville #1 - 'Le Code Zimmermann'.

Victor Sackville
Prior to its serialization in Tintin magazine, the 'Victor Sackville' comic already had a long history. Its origins lay in the early 1980s, when Francis Carin met Gabrielle Borile, a comic critic for Le Vif/L'Espress magazine, who proposed to him the idea for a comic set during the First World War. Joining forces, Carin and Borile recruited scriptwriter François Rivière to mold their ideas into scripts of 46 pages. They first offered their idea to Tintin editor Jean-Luc Vernal, who was interested but wanted to wait with the publication. So instead, Carin had the first story, 'Le Code Zimmermann' (1983), serialized in Pourquoi Pas?. In 1986, Tintin publisher le Lombard released the story in book format in two volumes. By February 1988, the 'Victor Sackville' series was finally picked up by Tintin magazine (and then its successor Hello Bédé), as well as the Dutch edition Kuifje, where it remained serialized until the magazine's demise in 1993.3. Lombard then continued the series with direct-to-book releases, while a collection of voluminous compendiums of the entire series was launched in 2008. Initially writing the series in tandem, Borile and Rivière began to alternate on the scriptwriting duties from the fourteenth album on. In 2010, the series went on a long hiatus after the release of the 23rd book.

Main character Victor Sackville is a secret agent in service of the British king George V in the years around and during the First World War. Codename X67, this slick gentleman - well-coiffed with a stylish moustache - is sent on secret missions all over the world, from the Netherlands to Mexico and from Egypt to Spain. Wherever Sackville goes, he is confronted with German foes. The well-documented scripts are rendered graphically in a Clear Line-inspired drawing style that successfully recreates the atmosphere of this eventful time period. With great detail, Francis Carin depicts the architectural characteristics of the various places where the action takes place.

Victor Sackville #18 - L'Homme de Berlin.

Sydney Bruce
While continuing to draw new 'Victor Sackville' stories until 2010, Carin worked on several projects on the side, either doing illustration work for books and magazines or creating additional comic series. Between 1986 and 1988, both he and scriptwriter Rivière were present in Circus, the history comics magazine of Éditions Glénat, with two adventures of 19th century Scotland Yard inspector 'Sydney Bruce'. Collected in book format by Glénat in 1987 and 1989, the authors Carin and Rivière revived their hero for a third story, published in 2019 by the Swiss publisher Paquet under its Place du Sablon imprint.

Lefranc #18 - 'La Momie Bleue' (2007).

A new opportunity arose in 2004, when Carin was asked by Jacques Martin - another one of Carin's childhood favorites - to become one of the artists of his adventure series about journalist 'Lefranc'. Replacing Christophe Simon in the Martin team, Carin however stipulated that he could only provide one album every two years, since he was still working on his own 'Victor Sackville' comic. As a result, he worked on new episodes in alternation with André Taymans. Carin's first installment, 'L'Ultimatum', was created in collaboration with background artist and colorist Didier Desmit and released in November 2004. Stepping out of his routine of historical comics, Carin's graphic style got a new impulse through the valuable advises of veteran Jacques Martin. When health problems forced Martin to step down, Patrick Weber took over the scriptwriting duties for Carin's second book, 'La Momie Bleue' (2007). However, a dispute with publisher Casterman over his contract ended Francis Carin's tenure on 'Lefranc' after only two books. His role of 'Lefranc' artist was taken over by Régric.

Together with Jean-François Charles, Carin drew the second volume of 'Ella Mahé' ('Princesse des Sables', 2011), a series of fantastic archeology, written by Jean-François and Maryse Charles for Éditions Glénat. In addition, he provided the cover drawings for the collected editions of Gilles Chaillet's 'Vasco', a historical comic about a 14th-century banker. Chaillet - also a former Jacques Martin co-worker - even offered Carin the opportunity to become the regular artist of the 'Vasco' series. Carin however declined, so this role went to Dominique Rousseau.

Ennemis de Sang #1 - 'Les Moissons Funestes' (Dutch edition, 2014).

Ennemis de Sang
Instead of continuing to work on Gilles Chaillet's 'Vasco', Francis Carin embarked upon a project closer to home, writing and drawing the two-volume 'Ennemis de Sang' ("Blood Ennemies", 2014-2016). Published by Glénat, the series was inspired by Carin's grandfather, a worker who had come from his native Flanders to make a living in the Liège coal mines. Making the project a true family effort, Carin teamed up with his son David Caryn to produce the artwork. The story is however purely fictional, telling the tale of two twin brothers who are separated at the age of six months, and raised in different social environments. Set on the eve of the First World War, Carin paints a picture of a new industrialized Belgium with its social inequality and upcoming worker's movement. The time period's class struggle is embodied by the young Omer, who comes from a wealthy family, but is kidnapped and raised by a Flemish family of workers who try to cope with the loss of their stillborn child. To cover up their crime, the couple begin a new life in the mining region of Liège. As a young man, Omer has to find a way between his two realities. While he grows up in a worker's environment, his twin brother is still part of the upper class.

'Philibert Vrau dit Le Saint de Lille' (2014), drawn by Carin and Didgé.

Educational comics
In addition to his own creations, Carin has worked on several commissioned comics, generally related to religion or local history. His regular collaborator for these project is the comic artist and writer Didier Chardez, also known under his pen name Didgé. In 1997, they worked together for the first time on 'À la Recherche de Nicolas' (1997), a comic book commissioned by La Teignouse, a social work and welfare organization for youngsters. In 2003, publisher Coccinelle BD hired Francis Carin and Didier Chardez to draw a comic biography of Ozanam, the founder of the Society of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, an international voluntary organization in the Catholic Church. The book was written by Benoît Despas. Years after their first collaborations, Carin and Chardez were again hired by Coccinelle BD for 'Philibert Vrau dit Le Saint de Lille' (2014), another religious biography, this time about Roman Catholic activist and Christian socialist Philibert Vrau, also known as The Saint of Lille.

In 2021, the two artists collaborated on 'Vive la République! La France et ses Présidents' (Éditions Du Signe, 2021), an educational comic written by Bertrand Munier about the history of the French Republic and her Presidents. For the same publisher, Carin and Chardez also drew two historical albums about the First World War, 'L'Alsace à Tout Prix! Tome 2' (2021, script by Jean Paillot) and 'Gueules Cassées - Sourire Quand Même - 100 ans' (2021, script by Isabelle Gaudon). Again with scriptwriter Bertrand Munier - a resident of the French Vosges region - Carin and Chardez made 'Ici C'est Thaon-les-Vosges' (Éditions du Signe, 2022), telling the history of the town of Thaon-les-Vosges through its colorful historical residents.

Covers of 'L'Alsace à Tout Prix' and 'Ici, C'est Thaon-les-Vosges'. 

Other work
Besides comics, Carin has provided illustrations to several book publications, starting with 'Les Gouvernements Belges de 1968 à 1980: Processus de Crise' by Henri Lemaître (Imprimerie Jacques Chauveheid, 1982), an overview of the successive Belgian governments between 1968 and 1980. Later that decade, he made illustrations for four novels in the 'Commissaire Fluet' detective series by René Henoumont, published by Paul Legrain. Since 1988, Carin has been a regular illustrator for I Love English and Je Bouquine, two educational monthlies published by Bayard Presse. From 1984 on, his work has been exhibited in several collective and solo shows throughout the Walloon region. On occasion, Carin creates artwork for portfolios, special prints, posters, cards, boxes, coasters, stickers, record covers, puzzles, beer or wine labels and advertisements. In 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Carin returned to political cartooning and began posting political cartoons on Facebook.

Graphic contributions
Since the 1990s, Carin has participated in many collective comic book projects. In 1990, he paid graphic tribute to François Walthéry in the collective homage book 'Natacha. Special 20 Ans' (Marsu Productions, 1990), which celebrated the 20th anniversary of Walthéry's 'Natacha' comic. In 2010, he participated in regional illustration books such as '62 Auteurs de Boulogne Dessiné' (Les Amis de la B.D., 2010) and 'Le Souffle Coupé, Regards sur la Filature de Ligugé' (BD Lire Editions, 2010). He provided story art for the second and third volume of Bruno Di Sano's saucy 'Sortilège' comic book series at BD Fly (2013, 2018). Once again returning to the Great War theme, he contributed to 'Il Était Une Fois 1914' (Abbaye de Stavelot, 2014), an anthology with short stories about Walloon cities during World War I. In 2015, he appeared in 'Népal, 25 avril 2015' (Place du Sablon, 2015), a collection of comics and illustrations by sixty comic creators from around the world, in support of the earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015. Artwork by Francis Carin additionally appeared in 'Lovely Wheels' (C.M. Éditions, 2021) and 'Spa-Francorchamps' (Points Image, 2021).

With his detailed and meticulous drawing style, inspired by the Clear Line movement, Francis Carin has been much in demand for historical and educational comic projects. Throughout the years, he has received several awards with his work. At the 1986 Durbuy Comics Festival, he was awarded for "Best First Album" with the first installment of the 'Victor Sackville' series. The sixth volume, 'L'Otage de Barcelone' received the 1992 Cori Award at the Salon BD de Maisons-Laffitte. In 1996, the eleventh 'Victor Sackville' volume, 'Piège à Baden-Baden' was honored at the Durbuy festival with the Press Award. In April 1998, Carin provided the winning design for the Beaujolais bottle label competition in Villefranche-sur-Saône. At the tenth Chaudfontaine Book Festival in 2003, Carin received the "Bulles de Cristal du Public" award, and in 2010, he received the North Sea Award at the Knokke-Heist Festival.

In May 1992, the character Victor Sackville received its own comic book mural in the Rue du Marché au Charbon/Kolenmarkt 60 in Brussels, as part of the Brussels' Comic Book Route. 

Family in arts
Francis Carin lives in Turin (Italy) with his wife Cristina Stella, and Italian artist, inker and colorist for Disney comics. They have two children, Sandrine and David Caryn, of whom the latter has also become a comic artist.

The 'Victor Sackville' mural in Brussels.

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