comic art by Christophe
L'idée fixe du savant Cosinus

Georges Colomb was a professor of natural sciences and the deputy director of the botanical laboratory in Sorbonne. Under the pen name Christophe, he was also a pioneer in French comic art, together with his contemporaries Adolphe Willette, Caran d'Ache, Steinlen, Doës, Émile Cohl and Henri de Sta.

He was born as Marie Louis Georges Colomb in Lure in 1856, and graduated in mathematics, physical sciences and natural sciences from the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1878. He had his first teaching experiences at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris, where one of his pupils was the future novelist Marcel Proust. From 1887, he taught botany at the Faculty of Paris, and he later became a lecturer at the Sorbonne. He is the author of many textbooks in botany and zoology.

La Famille Cornouillet, by Christophe
La Famille Cornouillet

Inspired by Rodolphe Töpffer, he started publishing picture stories in addition to his teaching activities in 1887. He used the pseudonym Christophe, in referrence to Christopher Columbus. His first "comic" story of two panels was published in Mon Journal in 1887. Two years later, he created 'La Famille Cornouillet', an illustrated text story about a family taking a trip to the countryside. It was pubilshed in ten episodes in Le Journal de la Jeunesse.

La Famille Fenouillard
La Famille Fenouillard

This early effort was a prototype for 'La Famille Fenouillard', a satirical picture story with slapstick humor about a typical bourgeois family who makes a trip around the world. It appeared in 53 episodes in the children's magazine Le Petit Français Illustré from 1889 until 1893, and was collected in book format in 1893. Although Cham, Nadar and Gustave Doré had already experimented with the comics narrative, Christophe's 'La Famille Fenouillard' can be considered as one of the first French comics serials. The comic strip also inspired other artists to create similar family comics, such as René-Charles Béliveau's 'La Famille Citrouillard'.


Christophe's comics are full of sharp observations of society, contain rich vocabulary and have frequent cultural winks. He made new features for Le Petit Français Illustré in the years that followed. 'L'idée fixe du savant Cosinus' (62 episodes between 1893-1899) told about a brilliant but absent-minded scientist. 'Le Sapeur Camember' (55 episodes between 1890-1896) described the absurd adventures of an illiterate soldier, while 'Les Malices de Plick et Plock' (55 episodes between 1893-1904) drew inspiration from the malicious gnomes Lothar Meggendorfer had created for the German magazine Fliegende Blätter. 'Le Baron de Cramoisy' (1899) remained unfinished.

Le Sapeur Camember by Christophe
Le Sapeur Camember

In 1915, his 'Les Douze Commandments de Lord Curzon' was published by editor Armand Collin. He has furthermore made illustrations for several works of a spiritual nature, of which he was not the author, such as 'Le Triomphe de Bibulus', 'Les Trois Miracles d'Osiris', 'L'Héritage du cousin Agathias' and 'Les Contes antiques'. A lot of his proto-comics work has been reprinted after his death in 1945.

Plick en Plock by Christophe
Les Malices de Plick et Plock

Besides being one of the earliest French comic artists, Georges Colomb is also remembered for his work as a botanist, and for his efforts to popularize science. He remained active as a teacher until the age of 70. He was also a speaker on Radio-Paris from 1924 to 1939. During World War II, he fled with his family to Nyons, where he died from an intestinal obstruction on 3 January 1945. In 1975, Colomb's granddaugher Hélène Colomb dedicated the book 'Mon Grand-père Christophe' to him.

'La Famille Fenouillard' was adapted into a comedy film in 1960. It was directed by Yves Robert and starred Sophie Desmarets and Jean Richard. The musical score was composed by Gérard Calvi, who later wrote music for the first three animated films based on René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Asterix'.

Christophe - Selfportrait 1937

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