Cauvin by Walthery

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 1960s. Among his best-known works are historical adventure series like 'Les Tuniques Bleues' (1968) and 'Sammy' (1970), as well as many humorous gag and short story features like 'L'Agent 212' (1975), 'Les Femmes en Blanc' (1981), 'Pierre Tombal' (1983) and 'Cédric' (1986). Cauvin's success can be attributed to the fact that he is capable of writing both funny situation comedy as well as captivating emotional narratives. While most of his work is child-oriented and light-hearted, certain series also deal with morbid themes and gallows humour. Something can be said for the fact that Cauvin basically helped Spirou move along with the changing public taste from the late 1960s on. It's one of the reasons why the magazine still remains a best-seller today and why Cauvin is regarded as a living legend by them. While the man is predominantly a comics writer he also drew one obscure comic strip personally: 'Zotico' (1981).

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, but after graduation he found out that this profession was no longer in practice since many years!

Cauvin and Salvé in photocomic
Raoul Cauvin starring in a photocomic with Salvé (Spirou #1776, 1972)

Cauvin had his first job in a factory in Callenelle, where he painted saint's figures, crucifixes and other holy objects. Then, after fulfilling his military service, he found employment at 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. Cauvin participated with animation projects starring Ray Goossens' characters 'Musti' (1968) and 'Tip en Tap' (1969), Peyo's 'Les Schtroumpfs' ('The Smurfs') and Millard Kaufman, John Hubley and Willis Pyle's cartoon character 'Mr. Magoo'. He also created more experimental films like Eddy Ryssack's 'Teeth is Money' (1962) and 'Le Crocodile Majuscule' (1965). 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. Here he helped out visiting artists with taking photocopies, something that was referenced in a 'Gaston' gag by Franquin, where Cauvin and his Xerox machine are depicted. At the same time he also started building out his large comics oeuvre.

Cauvin featured in Gaston
Raoul Cauvin featured in Franquin's 'Gaston' strip

Cauvin wrote 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 done in cooperation with his studio colleagues. With Ryssack, he made the gag strip about the fleas '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.

Les Naufragés by Cauvin and BretecherMirliton by Macherot and Cauvin

Cauvin's oeuvre expanded after the departure of editor-in-chief Yvan Delporte in 1968 and took a flight when Thierry Martens succeeded Delporte in July 1969. Cauvin delivered plot ideas for André Franquin's 'Gaston', Jean Roba's 'Boule et Bill' and Peyo's 'Les Schtroumpfs' ('The Smurfs'). He additionally 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 Ray Goossens' character 'Musti' for Bonne Soirée, a women's weekly by Dupuis, between 1970 and 1972 with art by either Jacques Van Driessche or Robert Lebersorg.

Les Tuniques Bleues by Cauvin and SalveriusLes Tuniques Bleues by Lambil and Cauvin

His biggest break came however with the creation of 'Les Tuniques Bleues' (1968), a comic series set in the Wild West, which filled the void left behind 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. 'Les Tuniques Bleues' is Cauvin's longest-running and best-selling series and therefore arguably his most famous work among the general public. Dupuis has collected the series in book format since 1970.

Sammy by Berck and CauvinSammy by Cauvin and Jean-Pol

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. At the time, both 'Les Tuniques Bleues' and 'Sammy' marked a notable shift in Spirou's overall tone. Cauvin understood that times were changing and that children were a bit more used to seeing death and violence on day-time TV. In order to keep up with new generations he didn't shy away from writing actual bloodshed and violence into these two series' narratives. Characters not only got wounded, but sometimes died too. This concerned both Dupuis' editors and the censors, but criticism faded away when both series became best-sellers. As such Cauvin paved the way for more mature and less childish content in Spirou's pages, including his own more macabre comedy in later series. 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).

Les Mousquetaires by Mazel and CauvinGodaille et Godasse by Sandron and Cauvin

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 and his second-longest series overall, after 'Les Tuniques Bleues'.

Agent 212 by Raoul Cauvin and Daniel KoxBoulouloum y Guiliguili by Mazel and Cauvin

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.

Pauvre Lampil by Lambil and Cauvin
Cauvin with Berck, Lampil and Fournier, from: Pauvre Lampil (artwork by Lambil)

The 'Carte Blanche' section of Spirou contained the debut of 'Pauvre Lampil' (1974-1994), an "autobiofiction" series about the dramatic relationship between a comic artist and his scriptwriter. The title character, Lampil, was unsubtly just the series' artist himself, Willy Lambil, while his scenarist was easily recognizable as Cauvin. The series poked fun at the comics industry and showed that both creators had a gift for self-mockery. Cameos of other artists and writers weren't uncommon either. The irregular appearing series ended in 1994, though made some occasional reappearances in the 2000s. While many readers assume the comic strip was basically fiction, later interviews by Lambil revealed that it sometimes expressed his and Cauvin's frustrations about their profession and even their own creative collaboration. Around the same time Cauvin also created 'Le Vieux Bleu' (1974-1979) with François Walthéry. This nostalgic comic series was 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'.

Le Vieu Bleu by Walthery and CauvinSnorky by Cauvin and Oneta

Together with Nic Broca, Cauvin formed one of the two teams which 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 'Les Snorky' ('The Snorks'). The strange underwater creatures were created by Nic Broca in 1981 and spawned a highly popular animated TV series between 1984 and 1989 produced by Hanna-Barbera, who also made the TV cartoon series based on Peyo's 'The Smurfs' 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. He was otherwise uninvolved with the TV series itself.

Femmes en Blanc by Bercovici and CauvinPierre Tombal by Hardy and Cauvin

The 1980s marked the beginning of a new genre in Cauvin's oeuvre; semi-controversial comic series with black and more cynical humor. The first was 'Les Femmes en Blanc' (1981), in which the medical world is mocked, drawn by Philippe Bercovici. 'Pierre Tombal' (1983), a gag series with Marc Hardy, was even more morbid as it revolves around a gravedigger and his "customers". With Glem, he regularly made gags starring a group of hungry vultures, called 'Les Voraces' (1986-1993). By 1992, Cauvin and Bédu added 'Les Psy' to their resumés, a series about a psychiatrist and his patients.

Les Psy by Bedu and CauvinCupidon by Malik and Cauvin

Other new creations had a milder theme, such as the gag series about the little cherub 'Cupidon' (1988-2011), created with Malik for which Cauvin wrote the scripts until 2011. The antics of the little schoolboy 'Cédric' (1986) and his friends and family (drawn by Laudec) became another highlight, and was even adapted into an animated TV series between 2001 and 2002. Cauvin and Laudec also created 'Taxi Girl' from 1992 until 1998. Cauvin renewed his association with Mazel to create 'Les Paparazzi' (1993-2004), a parody on the society press.

Cedric by Laudec and CauvinLes Paparazzi by Mazel and Cauvin

One of Cauvin's final new creations for Spirou was 'Coup a foudre' (2008-2010), a series about a transgender bull, of which three long stories were drawn by David Deth. 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' (2012).

Coup de foudre by Dethuin and CauvinSports de Competition by Bercovici and Cauvin

Additionally, Cauvin also wrote comic series which were published exclusively in Spirou's Flemish counterpart Robbedoes. On demand of Flemish editors Jos Wauters and Erwin Cavens, Cauvin wrote and drew(!) 'Zotico' (1981). This gag comic starred Cauvin himself and his pet garden spider. It remains his only personally drawn comic strip in his entire oeuvre. The only other time Cauvin tried drawing again was in 2003 when he made a graphic tribute to Marc Sleen during the Stripgidsdagen in Turnhout. He drew a character holding a birthday cake and apologized in handwriting: "I'm sorry for the drawing, but I'm just a script writer (as they say)". Next to his drawing Cauvin wrote: "Did you know that I owe it a bit to you that I entered this profession? With big thanks to you, mister Marc Sleen." 

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.

Zotico, by Cauvin

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. From the 1990s on he already began training a new generation of writers including François Gilson and Dugomier, but still remained at the forefront. 

Spirou 3026Spirou 3676

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, which was published by Archers in 1987. These collaborations with Lebersorg are in fact the only realistic comic stories in Cauvin's oeuvre.

Fontenoy by Cauvin and LebersorgLes Toyottes by Carpentier and Cauvin

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 short-lived 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.

Poje by Carpentier and CauvinLowietje by Berck and Cauvin

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 comic albums based on the children's puppet TV show 'Tatayet' (1986-1992) with Olivier Saive for Marsu Productions. He also wrote out plots for the plotter Achdé's 'C.R.S. = Détresse' (1995-2007), a comic strip poking fun at French security forces. 

Tatayet by Cauvin and SaiveRaphael et les timbres by Sandron and Cauvin

For decades, Cauvin was a staff writer who mostly worked at the offices of Spirou magazine. In October 2013 it was announced that the 75-year old veteran would go into semi-retirement. This meant that he would leave leave his office and terminate his employment with the publishing house Dupuis 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'.

Raoul Cauvin has an easily recognizable writing style. He knows how to surprise readers by building up suspense until the final punchline is revealed. The man is a master in playing off characters' conflicting personalities against one another. Cauvin often treats violence and death in a comedic fashion, but has also used it to dramatic effect in his longer adventure stories. By writing so many scripts for so many different series about equally different topics, Cauvin has reached a legendary status in Franco-Belgian comics. The creative centipede attributed his talent to his interest in various topics. He often gets his ideas from paging through magazines or just switching through TV channels. He then conceives his plots in his mind while lying down on his sofa. He then creates a fully sketched (and colored!) script. The man loves horror and therefore not only enjoys movies in this genre, but also the works of novelist Stephen King. Raoul Cauvin won the award for "Best Foreign Author" at the Angoulême Comics Festival in 1976 and in 2008 a Grand Prix Saint-Michel for his entire career. 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. 

CRS = Detreche by Cauvin and AchdéLe Batard des Etoiles by Curd Ridel and Raoul Cauvin

Cauvin's blog at spirou.com

Series en boeken door Raoul Cauvin op voorraad in de Lambiek Webshop:

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