Raoul Cauvin is one of Europe's most successful and productive scriptwriters of humorous comics, and one of the pillars of Spirou magazine and the publishing house Dupuis since the 1970s. Among his best-known works are historical adventure series like 'Les Tuniques Bleues' and 'Sammy', as well as many humorous gag and short story features like 'Les Femmes en Blanc', 'Pierre Tombal', 'L'Agent 212' and 'Cédric'. Despite being largely for children and having a light tone, some of his series are also characterized by their gallows humour and morbid themes.
He was born in Antoing, a town in the Hainaut province of Wallonia, on 26 September 1938. His mother was a tailor of trousers, and his father was employed in the offices of Antoing's power factory. He grew up in a Catholic environment reading comic magazines like Pat, Bravo!, Tintin, Spirou and Héroïc Albums. Raoul enrolled at the faculty of Decorative Arts of the Saint-Luc Art Institute in Tournai in 1953. He specialized in advertising lithography, only to discover, upon graduation, that the profession hadn't existed anymore for many years!
Cauvin had his first job in a factory in Callenelle, where he painted saint's figures, crucifixes and other holy objects. Then, after fultilling his military service, he found employment with the publishing house Dupuis in May 1960. He initially worked in the publisher's art studio under the guidance of Maurice Rosy and alongside artists like Salvé, Jamic and Arthur Piroton. He was assigned to draw crossword puzzles, and to do the lettering of Robbedoes, the Dutch edition of the publisher's magazine Spirou. By 1961 he became a cameraman with TVA Dupuis, the audiovisual department of the publishing house, headed by Eddy Ryssack.
He remained with the studio in the centre of Brussels throughout the decade, participating in animation projects with characters like 'Mr. Magoo', 'The Smurfs', 'Musti', and 'Tip & Tap', but also more experimental films like 'Teeth is money' and 'Le crocodile Majuscule'. He left TVA Dupuis in 1971, because he couldn't get along with Ryssack's successor Ray Goossens. He inherited the studio's Rank Xerox copier and set up his own photo lab in the Dupuis offices at the Rue de Livorne in Brussels. It was there that he not only lended a helping hand to visiting artists with his copier (Franquin even featured Cauvin and his Xerox in one of his 'Gaston' gags), but he also started building on his large comics oeuvre.
Raoul Cauvin featured in Franquin's 'Gaston' strip
Cauvin had written his first comic scripts for Spirou in 1963-1964; the first being two mini-books in cooperation with Ryssack, Degotte and Matagne under the joint pen name Desquatre. His other early works were also largely in cooperation with his studio colleagues. With Ryssack, he made the gag strip about the flees 'Arthur et Léopold' in 1968-1969. He created the two crooks 'Loryfiand et Chifmol' with Serge Gennaux in 1967-1969, while he also wrote the bulk of Gennaux's strip about 'L'Homme aux Phylactères' ('The man with the speech balloon') from 1965 throughout the 1980s, although he remained uncredited until 1984. He also created 'Les Naufragés' with the young Claire Brétécher between 1968 and 1971.
Cauvin's oeuvre expanded after the departure of editor-in-chief Yvan Delporte in 1968 and took a flight when Thierry Martens got the job in July 1969. He delivered plot ideas for 'Gaston', 'Boule et Bill' and 'Les Schtroumpfs' by Franquin, Roba and Peyo, respectively, and aided Monique and Carlos Roque with their gag strip about the duck 'Wladymir'. He also got the opportunity to work with Raymond Macherot, with whom he created short stories starring the housecat 'Mirliton' between 1970 and 1975 (in 2007 Cauvin participated in a relaunch of the series by Éditions Flouzemaker, drawn by Erwin Drèze). While still with TVA Dupuis, Cauvin additionally wrote one-page stories starring 'Musti' for Bonne Soirée, a women's weekly by Dupuis, between 1970 and 1972 with art by either Jacques Van Driessche or Robert Lebersorg.
His biggest break came however with the creation of 'Les Tuniques Bleues', a comic series set in the Wild West, that filled the gap that was left after Morris departed from Spirou with his series 'Lucky Luke'. The comic debuted with a couple of gags and short stories in 1968, and initially settled around a group of cavalrymen and their dealings with a tribe of Indians. Drawn by Louis Salvérius, the series gained popularity when the setting was changed to the American Civil War, and the main characters were restricted to corporal Blutch and sergeant Chesterfield. During the creation of the fourth long story, Salvérius passed away prematurely, and Cauvin has continued this well-documented series with Willy Lambil from 1972 until the present day. Dupuis has collected the series in book format since 1970.
Another early hit series was the action-filled comic about the bodyguards Sammy Day and Jack Attaway, that was set during the American Prohibition years. Cauvin made 31 albums starring the characters with Flemish artist Berck between 1970 and 1994, and then another nine with Jean-Pol until 2009. The author delved into other periods of history, such as the days of the musketeers, with 'Câline et Calebasse' drawn by Mazel (1969-1976), and the Neapolitan era with 'Godaille et Godasse', drawn by Jacques Sandron (1975-1986).
Cauvin and Mazel continued their collaboration with 'Boulouloum et Guiliguili', a jungle serial about a mini-Tarzan and his gorilla. Debuting in 1975, the comic took a more mature tone in 1983, when the main characters were renamed to Kaloum and Kong and the series was retitled to 'Les Jungles Perdues'. Dupuis published ten books until 1987. 1975 also marked the beginning of Cauvin's long collaboration with Daniel Kox and the creation of the chubby police officer 'L'Agent 212', Cauvin's longest running gag strip.
Raoul Cauvin was also called in for help when a young artist applied for a spot in Spirou. He wrote short stories for Marc Wasterlain, Hislaire, Brouyère and Zygmunt, and created the comical space opera 'Les Naufragés de l'Espace' (1973-1978) for newcomer Guy Counhaye, as well as the little chicken 'Christobald' for Antoinette Collin in 1975-1976. And let's not forget 14-year old Philippe Bercovici, whom Cauvin introduced to the pages of Spirou in 1976, and with whom he created the parody on classic love stories, 'Les grandes amours contrariées', between 1979 and 1981.
Cauvin with Berck, Lampil and Fournier, from: Pauvre Lampil (artwork by Lambil)
The 'Carte Blanche' section of Spirou contained the debut of 'Pauvre Lampil', an "autobiofiction" series about the dramatic relationship between a comic artist (Lambil, a.k.a. Lampil) and his scenarist (Cauvin). Cauvin and Lambil made irregular appearing installments in this hilarious series from 1974 until 1994 (and then with some occasional reappearances in the 2000s). Also in 1974, Cauvin teamed up with François Walthéry for 'Le Vieux Bleu', a nostalgic comic series inspired by Walthéry's great-grandfather, who was a pigeon fancier. In 1988, Cauvin and Walthéry collaborated again, when Cauvin provided the script for the 'Natacha' episode 'Les nomades du ciel'.
Together with Nic Broca, Cauvin formed one of the two teams that succeeded Jean-Claude Fournier on the 'Spirou et Fantasio' comic. Cauvin and Broca made three long stories with Spirou's title character from 1980, until Tome and Janry got full reign over the series. Cauvin also cooperated with the Dupuis division S.E.P.P. on the comics version of 'The Snorks' ('Les Snorky'), a concept for an animation series developed by Broca about strange underwater creatures, in 1981. Cauvin made one comic book with Broca, and then provided the scripts for a series of stories published in the Italian magazine Il Giornalino with art by Franco Oneta and published in book format by Dupuis in 1986 and 1987.
The 1980s marked the beginning of a new genre in Cauvin's oeuvre; semi-controversial comic series with a more black and cynical humor. The first was 'Les Femmes en Blanc', in which the medical world is mocked, drawn by Philippe Bercovici from 1981 onwards. 'Pierre Tombal', a gag series with Marc Hardy, followed in 1983 and has a more morbid tone, as it deals with a gravedigger and his "customers". With Glem, he regularly made gags starring a group of hungry vultures, called 'Les Voraces' from 1986 well into the 1990s. By 1992, Cauvin and Bédu added 'Les Psy', a series that settles around the psychiatric world.
Other new creations had a milder theme, such as the series about the little cherub 'Cupidon', created with Malik in 1988 and written by Cauvin until 2011. The antics of the little schoolboy 'Cédric' and his friends and family (drawn by Laudec) became another highlight from 1986, and was even adapted into an animated TV series in the 1990s. Cauvin and Laudec also created 'Taxi Girl' from 1992 until 1998. Between 1993 and 2004 Cauvin renewed his association with Mazel to create 'Les Paparazzi', a parody on the society press.
One of Cauvin's final new creations for Spirou was 'Coup a foudre', a series about a transgender bull, of which three long stories were drawn by David Deth between 2008 and 2010. Also in 2008, Cauvin and Bercovici participated in a new series of mini-books containing a 'Femmes en Blanc' spin-off, and created a series of gags about sports collected in the book 'Ce qu'il faut savoir avant de pratiquer des sports de competition' in 2012.
Additionally, Cauvin also wrote comic series that were published exclusively in Spirou's Flemish counterpart. On demand of Flemish editors Jos Wauters and Erwin Cavens, Cauvin wrote and drew(!) 'Zotico', a comic strip in which the author and his garden spider have the starring role, in 1981. When Robbedoes got its own section with original Dutch and Flemish material in 1983, Cauvin participated with some short stories in cooperation with Louis-Michel Carpentier, 'Circus Maximus' episodes with Hec Leemans and the funny Olympics 'De Lolympische Spelen' with Caryl Strzlecki.
Cauvin has been somewhat of a cult star in the pages of Spirou since Thierry Tinlot's tenure as editor-in-chief from 1993 until 2004. He had a starring role in photo comics, editorial pages and jokes (including a coup for the chief editorship in 1996), and appeared on covers and in comics like 'Le Boss' and 'Raoul, scénariste choc' by Bercovici and Zidrou. His 70th birthday was celebrated with a special issue in 2008. Well after reaching pensionable age, Raoul Cauvin is still a highly productive writer for Spirou. By the 1990s he had already trained a new generation of writers including François Gilson and Dugomier, but he has remained standing at the front.
Raoul Cauvin has remained loyal to Spirou and Dupuis throughout his career, with only a few excursions to other publishers. Way back in 1969 and 1970 Cauvin had made 'Luc de Tarente', 'Alerte aux Iroquois' and the western 'Prime pour une Couronne' with Robert Lebersorg for the newspaper supplement Le Soir Jeunesse. They worked together once again on 'Fontenoy', a story about the Austrian Succession, that was published by Archers in 1987. These collaborations with Lebersorg are in fact the only realistic comic stories in Cauvin's oeuvre.
His first collaboration with Louis-Michel Carpentier was a post-apocalyptic tale about rats, called 'Les Toyottes'. The first story was serialized in the ecological comics magazine Pistil in 1978 and 1979 and the series was subsequently published in five books by Casterman from 1980 until 1982, with a final book released by Éditions du Lombard in 1989. Cauvin and Carpentier then made a shortlived toyline tie-in comic called 'De Biepjes', and began an association with the educational publisher Artis-Historia and its magazine Artiscope in 1985. Their best-known collaboration is however the series about the pub owner Poje, initially called 'L'Année de la Bière' and published by Archers in 1986 and 1987. The series also knew a couple of successful editions in local dialects, and was eventually published under the title 'Du Côté de Chez Poje' by Dupuis between 1990 and 2009.
Other non-Dupuis exploits include many anonymous scripts for productions by Berck, such as the SF series 'Mischa' for the German publisher Rolf Kauka (1972-1974) and 'Lou'/'Lowietje', a comic about a wealthy orphan that was published in the Dutch magazines Sjors and Eppo (1975-1983). He made the comic about the postman 'Raphaël et les Timbres' with Jacques Sandron for Je Bouquine by Bayard Presse between 1986 and 1994. In 1990 Cauvin made two comics based on the TV show 'Tatayet' with Olivier Saive for Marsu Productions and he was the plotter 'C.R.S. = Détresse', Achdé's series about the French security forces, from 1995 to 2007.
Ever since the 1970s, Cauvin has continued to work at the offices of Spirou magazine, and remained an employee of the publishing house Dupuis (and its subsequent owners). It was announced in October 2013 that Raoul Cauvin would go into semi-retirement at the age of 75. This meant that he would leave leave his office and terminate his employment after 53 years, but would continue to write scripts for most of his running series, that include 'Les Tuniques Bleues', 'Les Femmes en Blanc', 'Pierre Tombal', 'Les Psy', 'Cédric' and 'L'Agent 212'. And only a few months after his retirement, he even launched a new project with Curd Ridel for Éditions Sadawe, called 'Le Bâtard des étoiles'.
In November 2013, Dupuis released 'Cauvin la Monographie', an extensive book about Raoul Cauvin and the many artists he worked with, written by Patrick Gaumer.