Vasco, by Gilles Chaillet
Vasco #3 - 'La Byzantine' (1984).

The French comic artist Gilles Chaillet is best remembered for his historical series 'Vasco' (1979), which follows the political and economical trials and tribulations in 14th century Italy. He also wrote and occasionally drew various comics set in ancient Rome, such as 'La Dernière Prophétie' (2002-2012), 'Diocletien' (2011) and 'Les Boucliers de Mars' (2011-2013). Storylines closer to our lifetime could be found in series like 'Tombelaine' (2001-2006) and 'Intox' (2003-2008). Throughout his career he was furthermore the longtime artist of 'Lefranc' (1976-1996) for Jacques Martin, and has worked as a colorist and ghost artist on many classic comic series through Studios Dargaud.

Early life
Gilles Chaillet was born in 1946 in Paris. His father worked in architecture, despite not having the proper academic title for it. Chaillet enherited this love for architecture and was also interested in history, particularly the Roman Age and the Renaissance. He grew up reading Tintin magazine, where he loved 'Alix' by Jacques Martin.

Early comics
In 1965 he got hired by Studios Dargaud as a temporary replacement. Instead he would stay with the publishing company for the next 12 years. He did the coloring for series like Albert Uderzo's 'Tanguy et Laverdure', Michel Greg's 'Achille Talon', William Vance's 'Bob Morane' and Jean Giraud's 'Blueberry' pages. He also did the lay-outs for Dargaud magazines like Bonjour Bonheur, Chez Nous and Les Grandes Classiques du Roman Film, as well as 'Maudits Rois Fainéants' (1973) and 'Z'Heureux Rois Z'Henri' (1974), two books related to the TV shows by French comedians Roger Pierre and Jean-Marc Thibault. In 1966 he published a couple of gags in Tintin magazine, while he also made some illustrations for Le Journal du Dimanche.

Idéfix - 'L'Orage' (1972).

The anonymous studio artist managed to adapt into a variety of styles. Between 1972 and 1974 he was involved with merchandising revolving around René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's franchise 'Astérix'. He ghost-drew 14 little spin-off comics with Idéfix the dog, based on stories by Guy Vidal ('Les Aventures d'Idéfix', 1972-1974). Chaillet also made some commercial designs of Astérix and Obélix for a series of labels for mustard jars, as well as the German film poster of the 1976 film 'The Twelve Tasks of Asterix'.

Barbe Rouge
Chaillet also redrew the final four pages of the 'Barbe Rouge' album 'Le Vaisseau de l'Enfer' (1974), when writer Jean-Michel Charlier was displeased with Victor Hubinon's work on these very four pages. Though Hubinon couldn't help it, since he was already in ill health at the time. The album would be his final contribution to the series, after which he passed away in 1979.

Lefranc by Gilles Chaillet
Lefranc - 'L'Arme absolue' (1982).

Lefranc & Les Voyages d'Orion
Until the mid-1970s most of Chaillet's work had been colourisations, illustrations and commercial art, but few actual comics. This changed in 1976, when Dargaud informed him that Jacques Martin was looking for an assistant to help him with his classic detective series 'Lefranc'. At first Chaillet couldn't believe it, since he had such awe for Martin. But he effectively became his new assistant and drew nine albums of 'Lefranc' until 1996. In 1993 and 1995 he illustrated the installments about ancient Rome in Martin's educational 'Les Voyages d'Orion' books. Chaillet's wife, Chantal Defachelle, also helped him with the colourisations in 'Lefranc' and would soon help him out with colourizing his own series as well.

Vasco, by Gilles Chaillet
Vasco #10 - 'Les chiens de Bâhrâm Ghör' (1991).

In 1979 Chaillet felt confident enough to create his own comic strip: 'Vasco', which was serialized in Tintin. The series is set in Italy during the 14th century and follows the adventures of Vasco, a young banker. Vasco gets caught up in many different conflicts between bankers and investers, to which his rich uncle Tolomeï often asks to find a diplomatic solution. Vasco often works together with the Dutch baron Hans Peter Van Loo, which is a good thing since Vasco's own brother Lorenzo has become his rival. The character Vasco originated from an unfinished story by Chaillet: 'La Légion des Damnés'. The series provides a vivid and historically accurate portrayal of all the political and economical scheming which took place in the Italian city-states during the 1300s. The books also feature guest appearances and cameos of famous historical characters such as Pope Clement VI, Bertrand du Guesclin, various Italian doges and English, Spanish and French kings. Another artistic highlight is the way Chaillet draws certain locations, since Vasco travels all throughout Europe and Asia for business purposes. Chaillet has received assistance for the background art from Thierry Lebreton (album 6-8), Jean-Pierre Joblin (album 10-14) and Christophe Ansar (album 15-20). From the 22th album on ('La Dame Noire', 2007), Chaillet left the illustration work to Frédéric Toublanc, while he concentrated on the scripts. Toublanc was eventually succeeded by Dominique Rousseau in 2013. After Chaillet's death his wife Chantal and Luc Révillon became the new scriptwriters. Révillon had already written the 16th album for Chaillet in 1998.

Vasco #16 - 'Mémoires de voyages' (1998).

Le Triangle Secret & Vinci
In 2000, Chaillet participated in the artwork of the first book in Didier Convard's crime thriller series 'Le Triangle Secret', along with Pierre Wachs, Christian Gine and Denis Falque. Chaillet cooperated with Convard again in the historical diptych 'Vinci', published by Glénat in 2008 and 2009. Throughout the same decade Chaillet also started writing scripts for other people in the industry.

His first project was 'Tombelaine' (2001-2006), a series drawn by Bernard Capo and set at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th. It revolves around the family domain Tombelaine, which is enherited by Quentin Fortune. Despite his name, Fortune is not in luck, because he is called into military service to travel to China, where he gets involved in the Boxer Uprising (1900). The series follow his adventures in the Chinese Empire which is threatened by Republican forces within the country and European colonial interests.

Vinci by Gilles Chaillet
Vinci #1 - 'L'Ange Brisé' (2008).

Chaillet furthermore wrote the scripts for 'Intox' (Glénat, 2003-2008), a detective thriller about manipulation in and by the media. The series is illustrated by Olivier Mangin. The plot takes place in Guatemala, where protagonist Pablo saves various people from dying in an earthquake. He becomes a national hero, which motivates a French TV owner, Maurin-Villiers, to create a prime time TV show around Pablo. Yet the new-born media star is unaware of the darker and hidden plans of the TV executives and French minister of Internal Affairs, regarding his TV show...

comic art by Gilles Chaillet
La Dernière Prophétie #3 - 'Sous le signe de Ba'al' (2004). 

Comics about Rome
During the final years of his life Chaillet created various comic books set in Ancient Rome. His first step in this direction was 'La Dernière Prophétie' (2002-2012), which inaugurated the La Loge Noire collection of the publishing house Glénat. Written and drawn by Chaillet himself, the plot is set during the final stages before the Fall of the Roman Empire, during the reign of Theodosius I. Flavien, a victim of warfare, descends into Hell where he discovers the existence of seven prophecies of which the final one will tell the destiny of humanity. Chaillet returned to the time period with 'Diocletien' (Cognito, 2011) a one-shot for which he wrote the script and Christophe Ansar made the drawings. Chaillet furthermore created an extensive atlas with detailed maps and drawings about ancient Rome for Glénat in 2004, called 'Dans la Rome des Césars'. His final Rome-related comic book series was 'Les Boucliers de Mars' (Glénat, 2011-2013), drawn by Christian Gine. It follows the political intrigues at Emperor Trajan's court. Chaillet envisioned a trilogy set during different eras of Ancient Rome, but his death put a halt to the project. At the insistance of his widow, Chantal Defachelle, the series was eventually completed with two extra volumes.

In 2005 Gilles Chaillet received a Yellow Kid award for his entire work.

He passed away in Margency in September 2011, at the age of 65.

Fragment of Chaillet's map of ancient Rome (2004).

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