Teddy Ted - 'Le Combat des Géants' (1965).

Gérald Forton was a French-Belgian comic artist, specialized in realistic comics that appeared in many important Franco-Belgian comic magazines of the 1950s and 1960s. In Spirou, he created the jungle adventurer 'Kim Devil' (1953-1956) with scriptwriter Jean-Michel Charlier, and he worked with Yvan Delporte on the space adventures of 'Alain Cardan' (1957-1959). Between 1959 and 1976, he was a regular in Vaillant/Pif Gadget, drawing stories with the journalist 'Jacques Flash' (1959-1960) and the western hero 'Teddy Ted' (1964-1975) from scripts by Roger Lécureux. He was also the second artist to draw Henri Vernes' adventure comic 'Bob Morane' (1962-1967) in Femmes d'Aujourd'hui and other magazines. In 1980, Forton moved to the USA, where he worked as a comic artist for DC Comics, Eclipse Comics and First Comics, before becoming a storyboard artist for the American animation industry. One of the projects he worked on was the Filmation TV series 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe', for which he also drew the short-lived newspaper comic (1986-1987).

Early life and education
Gérald Marcel Forton was born in 1931 into a French family in Brussels, Belgium. His paternal grandfather was Louis Forton, the early 20th-century French comic pioneer and creator of the three comic scoundrels  'Les Pieds Nickelés' (1908). The Forton family moved back to France in 1940. Even though he hardly knew his grandfather - Louis Forton died when Gérald was three - young Gérald Forton decided to become a comic artist too. His family was supportive, but his father demanded that his son should follow classical drawing studies, resulting in a formal education in Fine Arts at the École Nationale Supérieure des Métiers d'Art in Paris (1949-1953). In his spare time, Gérald Forton enjoyed watching American movies and reading French western comic books by artists such as Étienne Le Rallic. One of his fellow art students was the future comic artist Jean-Claude Forest, with whom he discovered the masters of American newspaper comics through the magazines distributed among G.I. soldiers after the Liberation. Among his favorite artists were Milton Caniff, Alex Raymond, Mel Graff, Chester Gould, Al Capp and Frank Robbins, but the main influence of Forton's own comics was Fred Harman, creator of the western heroes 'Bronc Peeler' and 'Red Ryder'. In old age, Gérald Forton tried in vain to relaunch his favorite comic, 'Red Ryder', but despite having consent of Harman's heirs, the project never saw the light. Still, cowboy adventures and the American Far West have been a recurring element throughout Forton's life and career.

Passion en plein ciel by Gérald Forton
'Passion en Plein Ciel' (Bonnes Soirées, 1953).

Early comics
After four years of study and still in his late teens, Forton left art school to focus on a career in comics. Between September 1950 and March 1953 he  contributed his first realistically drawn comic stories - varying in length from eight to nineteen pages - to Caméra 34, a magazine published by Éditions Vaillant. Regular scriptwriters for these stories were Roger Lécureux, Jacques Kamb, Pierre Castex, or Gérald Forton himself. Between January 1951 and July 1952, he illustrated nineteen volumes of the monthly 12-page comic book about world traveler/adventurer 'Jim Cartouche', published in the landscape-format by Éditions Ray-Flo. Written by Alex Risène (pen name of René Lexis), the series was then continued by Pierre Frisano. During the same period, he made occasional appearances in small comic magazines. Gong magazine of Éditions Élan ran his 1951 short story 'Chinoiserie', after which Forton joined the weekly magazine Zorro, published by Jean Chapelle's SNPI. For this publication, he made his first western comic, 'Ted Jordan', as well as the aviation series 'William' (1951-1952). In 1952-1953, Forton was also present in the large-format magazine L'Express Illustré, illustrating covers and the comic strip 'Jeff Bary' (in collaboration with Jean Joly). This association was short-lived however, as the magazine folded after only three issues.

World's Presse
Recently married and unable to find a proper apartment in Paris, Forton decided to return to Belgium and settle in Brussels. After his arrival there in 1952, he was quickly hired by the World's Presse agency of Georges Troisfontaines, that provided the magazines of Éditions Dupuis with comics and other features. Between 1952 and 1964, he drew 87 installments of 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul', Spirou magazine's series of educational short comic stories, written by Octave Joly. Forton's artwork also appeared in Spirou's women's weekly Bonnes Soirées, for which he illustrated sentimental comic serials in ink wash, such as 'Passion en Plein Ciel' (1953-1954), 'Bérengère de Mon Cœur' (1957-1958), 'Les Fiancés Ennemis' (1958-1959), 'Antonia et son Brigand' (1960-1961) and an adaptation of the Raoul de Navery novel 'Patira' (1961), as well as 22 comic biographies in the series 'L'Histoire Vivante' (1955-1962). It marked his first collaborations with the scriptwriters Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean-Jacques Marine, with whom he collaborated on several comic projects for Spirou magazine too.

Kim Devil, by Gérald Forton
'Kim Devil'.

Kim Devil
Forton's best known work for Spirou magazine was 'Kim Devil' (1953-1956), an adventure series scripted by Jean-Michel Charlier. Like a typical 1950s comic adventurer, Kim spent his time exploring inhospitable South American jungles and discovering ancient civilizations, while defending himself against mad scientists, spiders, snakes and ruthless femme fatales. Serialization of the debut episode 'La Cité Perdue' ("The Lost City", 1953-1954) commenced in the 31 December 1953 issue of Spirou magazine, and was followed by three more serials: 'Le Peuple en Dehors du Temps' ("The People Without Time", 1954-1955), 'Le Monde Disparu' ("The Lost World", 1955) and 'Le Mystère du Dieu Blanc' ("The Mystery of the White God", 1956). All four stories were collected in album format by publisher Dupuis, and later reprinted in black-and-white in the budget comic monthly Samedi-Jeunesse, published by Éditions du Samedi. Two additional short stories appeared in Spirou's sister magazine Risque-Tout (1955-1956). Too busy with his other projects, scriptwriter Charlier then terminated the series, leaving Forton to complete the final pages of the last serial by himself.

Between November 1955 and October 1956, Forton was also a productive contributor to Risque-Tout, the short-lived tabloid-sized comic paper produced by World's Presse as a sister magazine to Spirou. From the first issue on, published on 24 November 1955, Risque-Tout ran Forton's detective serial 'Le Garage Bleu' ("The Blue Garage", 1955-1956), which continued almost throughout the paper's entire run. Other Forton work in Risque-Tout were the two 'Kim Devil' short stories, the text comic riddle feature 'L'Inspecteur Genin' (1956) and the launch of the science fiction series 'Alain Cardan', created in collaboration with scriptwriter Yvan Delporte. In a near future when Earth is colonizing planets in the solar system, Alain Cardan is one of the "sky detectives" of the CIR, a fictional international research center of the United Nations, whose mission is defending Earth from powerful organizations wishing to conquer space and take control of Earth. When Risque-Tout folded, Forton returned to the pages of Spirou magazine, taking 'Alain Cardan' with him. Four more episodes of Delporte and Forton's fearless space pilot were created between 1957 and 1960. Another episode of 'Le Garage Bleu' appeared in 1961 as a Spirou fold-in mini-comic.

Alain Cardan - 'Allo... Ici Vénus' (Spirou #1062, 1958).

Collaborations with J.J. Marine
In 1957, Spirou magazine ran two short stories with Forton's reporter character 'Guy Pingaut'. With writer Jean-Jacques Marine, Forton additionally created the pirate comic serial 'Capitaine Morgan' (1962), a joint production of Spirou magazine and the radio station Europe 1. The comic serial coincided with the serialized globe trotter expedition of journalist Jean Portelle, who travelled to Cocos Island in the footsteps of 17th-century buccaneer Henry Morgan. Forton and Marine also collaborated on 'L'Énigme de la Formule JKO2' (1964), the only adventure of the comic book geologist Cyril Sinclair. Gérald Forton is often credited with the artwork of the pirate comic 'Roch Rafale' (1963-1964), which was also written by J.J. Marine, but in fact drawn by Forton's wife at the time, Yolande Canale.

La Libre Belgique
Besides World's Presse, Forton also lent his services to International Presse, the agency headed by Yvan Chéron, the brother-in-law of Georges Troisfontaines. Between 1958 and 1961, he worked with scriptwriter Greg on seven new adventures of 'Tiger Joe', the jungle adventurer created earlier that decade by Victor Hubinon and Jean-Michiel Charlier. They were serialized in La Libre Junior, the weekly comic supplement of the newspaper La Libre Belgique. A couple of years later, Forton returned to La Libre Junior with two stories of 'Criss Golden' (1965-1966), a historical series written by Octave Joly.

Expansion to other magazines
By the late 1950s, Forton expanded his contributions to other magazines. Since 1959, he was present in Vaillant, a French comic magazine with communist roots. His first work for Vaillant was succeeding Pierre Le Guen as the artist of the 'Jacques Flash' series (1959-1960), about a journalist who uses a serum to become invisible and fight crime. After four serials by Forton and writers Jean Ollivier and Jean Sanitas, the feature was taken over by Pierre Castex (script) and René Deynis (art). In 1961, Gérald Forton also appeared in Tintin magazine - Spirou's main competitor on the Belgian market - with the western series 'Les Aventures de Ben Barry' (1961-1962) and a couple of short stories, some starring the character 'Grégoire le Marin' (1962). In 1965, Gérald Forton additionally assisted an overworked Edgar Pierre Jacobs on the 'Blake & Mortimer' episode 'L'Affaire du Collier' ('The Necklace Affair'). He pencilled the first eighteen pages, using photographed models for his compositions. In the end, Jacobs decided to do it all himself, and reworked much of Forton's artwork. Still, Forton's style can be recognized in the first pages of the story. During the 1960s, Gérald Forton additionally appeared in the French regional press, drawing vertical comic strips for newspapers like L'Union, Le Courrier de l'Ouest and L'Yonne Républicaine.

Bob Morane, by Gérald Forton
Bob Morane - 'La Rivière des Perles' (Pilote #289, 1965).

Bob Morane
In 1962, Forton replaced Dino Attanasio and became the second artist to draw the comic series about the adventurer 'Bob Morane', based on the novel series by Henri Vernes. Working with Vernes for the next five years, Forton illustrated fourteen new stories, serialized in the women's weekly Femmes d'Aujourd'hui, the comic magazine Pilote and the Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. With its exciting mix of espionage, crime fiction, science fiction and fantasy, 'Bob Morane' turned into one of the most enduring and successful French comic series, drawn after 1967 by William Vance and then Felicísimo Coria.

In the 1960s, several of Forton's stories were collected in book format by Éditions Marabout and Dargaud. In the late 1970s, Michel Deligne released new book collections, and by 1989 Claude Lefrancq Editeur began reprinting all the early stories. Since the original pages of the Forton episode 'Échec à la Main Noire' - at the time serialized in Het Laatste Nieuws - were missing, they were meticulously redrawn and retraced by Jacques Géron. By the mid-1990s, Claude Lefrancq asked both the original 'Bob Morane' comic creators - Dino Attanasio and Gérald Forton - to make new comic adaptations of the first 'Bob Morane' novels. Forton drew 'La Vallée Infernale' (1993) and 'Le Club des Longs Couteaux' (1996); Attanasio did 'La Galère engloutie' (1994).

Teddy Ted, by Gerald Forton
Teddy Ted - 'Le Triangle 9: Bastion Sudiste...' (Pif Gadget #16, 1969). 

Teddy Ted
After quitting 'Jacques Flash', Forton drew some occasional short stories for Vaillant until, in 1964, he became a magazine regular as the new artist of the western comic 'Teddy Ted' (1964-1975). In the previous year, the young cowboy was introduced to the readers of Vaillant by scriptwriter Jacques Kamb and the Spanish artist Francisco Hidalgo (AKA Yves Roy). After three episodes of 26 pages each, the original creators were succeeded by Forton and scriptwriter Roger Lécureux. Both were big western fans, who quickly made the series their own, transforming it into a classic of French comics. Giving the series a new look and outset, Lécureux made Teddy ten years older than his predecessors, turning him into a vigilante who works with his brother on the Triangle 9 ranch near the famous town of Tombstone. Taking inspiration from American western films starring John Ford, Henry Hattaway and Anthony Mann, as well as European spaghetti westerns, Gérald Forton fully indulged in drawing western landscapes and his favorite animals, horses. By the time he began working on 'Teddy Ted', Gérald Forton had just settled on his own ranch in Montaigu-de-Quercy, in the south of France, a source of inspiration for his comic art. Assistants on his 'Teddy Ted' art have been Jean Pleyers and Jean Joly. Forton and Lécureux worked on several longer serials from 1964 until 1969, when Vaillant magazine was revamped to Pif Gadget and the editors requested a return to short stories. Lécureux found it increasingly difficult to tell a proper story in ten to twenty pages and by 1975, the series was dropped.

French Spider-Man story, drawn by Gérald Forton for Télé-Junior.

After 'Teddy Ted', the editors of Pif Gadget handed Forton the new feature 'Les Mystères de l'Ouest' (1975-1976), a comic written by Jean Sanitas, based on the western TV series 'The Wild Wild West'. It was his last work for Pif Gadget. Between 1977 and 1982, Forton had a new major client in the monthly magazine Télé-Junior, where he continued 'Les Mystères de l'Ouest', while also serving on the editorial board. The publisher, Franklin Loufrani, sent Forton to the USA to negotiate licensing contracts with Universal, Hanna-Barbera and Marvel Comics. During his stay he met Marvel staff members like Stan Lee and John Romita. For several years, Forton drew locally produced comic stories with the Marvel characters 'Spider-Man', 'Thor', 'The Incredible Hulk', 'Fantastic Four', 'Captain America' and 'Submariner', aimed specifically at the French market. The scripts were either written in the USA by Marvel writer Bill Mantlo, or in France by Sacha Broussine or Forton himself. Télé-Junior also had licensed stories with characters based on European TV series like 'Thierry la Fronde' and 'Zora la Rousse', as well as the U.S. sci-fi franchise 'Battlestar Galactica', all with artwork by Forton.

'Aymeric et les Cathares' (1978).

Historical comics
Despite doing regular assignments for Pif Gadget and then Télé-Junior, Forton did not put his eggs in one basket. In Pilote magazine, Forton helped his friend Sirius by inking the naval tales of 'Pemberton' (1972-1973). In 1976, he also joined Trio - a magazine built around 'Les Pieds Nickelés Magazine' and 'Bibi Fricotin', two comic series created in the early 20th century by his grandfather Louis Forton. Between 1976 and 1978, Trio ran the adventures of the medieval swordslinger 'Yvain de Kanhéric', drawn by Forton based on scripts by Raymond Maric (who used the pen name R. Gravel). Two book collections were published by Michel Deligne. Other historical adventure comics by Forton during this period were 'Rodric et les Cathares' (1975-1976) - written by his wife Yolande Canale and serialized in the newspaper La Dépêche du Midi - and two books about 'Aymeric' (1978-1981), written by Michel Roquebert and published by Éditions Loubatières in Toulouse. Gérald Forton was also a contributing artist to the historical comic collection 'L'Histoire de France en Bandes Dessinées' (Larousse, 1977), working on stories about the French monarchs Henri IV and Louis XIV from scripts by Roger Lécureux and Jacques Bastian.

Nouveau Tintin
During the second half of the 1970s, Forton was also back in Tintin magazine and its separate French edition Nouveau Tintin with the one-page humorous western feature 'Des Chevaux et des Hommes' (1976-1979), as well as some new stories stories, starring characters like Guy Sedan (1977) and 'Calamity Jane' (1977). The gag feature 'Slim Jackett' was made by Forton specifically forNouveau  Tintin, but remained unused due to the termination of the French edition. In 1979, the series was published in the short-lived Parisian comic monthly Tac.

'Black Lightning' (Detective Comics #494, 1980).

American comic books
In 1980, Forton emigrated to the USA, initially settling in New York to work in the American comic book industry. He first joined DC Comics, drawing issues and stories with the black superhero 'Black Lightning' (1980, in Detective Comics), the western hero 'Jonah Hex' (1980) and 'Arak, Son of Thunder' (1984), as well as stories for anthology titles like 'G.I. Combat', 'Ghosts', 'The Unexpected' and 'Weird War Tales'. At Eclipse Comics, Forton was inking Billy Graham and Denys Cowan's pencils in issues of 'Sabre' (1984-1985) and worked with Michael T. Gilbert on 'Doc Stearn... Mr. Monster' (1987). He was a pencil artist on 3-D comic books like 'Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters 3-D' (1986) and 'The New Wave vs. the Volunteers' (1987), as well as the horror titles 'Hand of Fate' (1988) and 'The Prowler in White Zombie' (1988). Finally, for First Comics, he drew issues of 'Nexus' (1986) and 'Jon Sable, Freelance' (1987), and inked Rod Whigham in 'Team Yankee' (1989), Val Mayerik in 'Sensei' (1989) and Flint Henry in 'Grimjack' (1989).

Masters of the Universe by Gerald Forton
'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe' (19 April 1987).

Animation & movies
By the mid-1980s, comic book assignments began to dry out for Forton. His lifelong passion for horses brought him to California, where he bought a ranch in Apple Valley, at the southern edge of the Mojave Desert. At the West Coast, Forton found employment in the film and TV industry. He worked as a storyboard artist for TV commercials, and was a character and background designer on classic 1980s Filmation cartoon series like 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe', 'BraveStarr', 'The Real Ghostbusters' and 'She-Ra: Princess of Power'. For the McNaught Syndicate, Forton also drew the newspaper comic based on 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe' (20 July 1986-7 June 1987), working from scripts by successively James Shull and Chris Weber. By 1989, Filmation was out of business, and Gérald Forton was recruited by studios like Hanna-Barbera, Spears and Dreamworks. From then on, he worked on animated TV series like 'Captain Planet and the Planeteers', 'G.I. Joe: Operation Dragonfire' and 'C.O.P.S.'. He also made storyboards for the animated TV series 'The Legend of Prince Valiant' (1991-1993), based on the classic comic series by Harold Foster.

For Dreamworks, Forton drew the horses in the 1997 film 'The Prince of Egypt'. He was also one of the storyboard artists of 'Toy Story' (1995), the first fully computer animated Pixar movie. By the end of the 1990s, Forton left the animation industry, and continued his career as a storyboard artist for movies, lending his craft to 'Starship Troopers' (1997), 'Coyote Girls' (2000) and the biopic 'Ali' (2001) by Michael Mann, for which he choreographed the boxing scenes. Forton additionally worked as storyboard artist for computer games, before retiring in 2005 at age 75.

Storyboard art for 'Ali'.

Reprints and restarts
By the time his assignments from the movie and gaming industry became less frequent, Forton kept busy. He made pen-and-ink drawings and oil paintings of the American Far West, and until old age, kept riding his horses and taking part in rodeo shows. The veteran cartoonist also made a remarkable comeback on the French comic book market, participating in many reprint collections by several small imprints. From 2002 on, Forton contributed new artwork to reprint collections of his classic work, starting with a 2002 reprint by Regards of 'Rodric et les Cathares'. In 2005, the same imprint also published 'Le Cougar' - an until then unpublished western one-shot made by Forton in the mid-1990s with Raymond Maric. Éditions Hibou started reprint collections of 'Teddy Ted' (2006-2018), Forton's work for Caméra 34 (2018-2019) and 'Alain Cardan' (2021). Pan Pan re-released 'Tiger Joe' (2007-2015), 'Ben Barry' (2011), 'Les Aventures de Cyril Sinclair' (2012), while Éditions du Taupinambour reprinted 'Capitaine Morgan' (2009), 'Jacques Flash' (2010), 'Teddy Ted' (2011-2013) and 'Le Garage Bleu' (2014). Forton's short stories for Spirou and Tintin were featured in the collections 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul' by La Vache qui Médite (2010) and 'Les Meilleurs Récits de...' of Éditions Loup (2017-2018), and 'Kim Devil' was part of the Collection Jean-Michel Charlier by Éditions Sangam (2010). Additional reprints were of his early Zorro Magazine comics by Les Amis de Gérald Forton (2011) and 'Les Mystères de l'Ouest' by Éditions Pirate (2012). In the United States, Dark Horse released a collection of 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe - The Newspaper Comic Strips' (2021).

Tom Drake by Gerald Forton
Dan Geronimo: 'Fausse Donne' (Borsalino #4, 2006).

For the rest of his life, Forton also kept working on brand new comic books. In 2003, he contributed to a new line of pocket comic books published by Semic, making cover illustrations and short western, sci-fi and crime features, such as 'Cassandra Troy' (with Jean-Marc Lofficier) and 'Galton & Trumbo' (with Jean-Marc Lainé), both in Mustang. After making two new 'Bob Morane' stories in the 1990s for Claude Lefrancq Editeur, Forton returned to the character on two occasions; first for Éditions Loup on the albums 'Objectif Equus' (2003) and 'Les Mangeurs d'Âmes' (2005), and then again in 2015 for the new story 'Dans l'Ombre du Cartel' at Éditions Joe. Between 2004 and 2006, he drew crime noir comics with characters like Tom Drake and Dan Geronimo - written by Rémy Gallart - for the Borsalino collection of Éditions Loup. For publisher De Borée, Forton drew the installment 'L'Affaire Pauline Dubuisson' (2012) in the true crime series 'Les Grandes Affaires Criminelles et Mystérieuses'. Paying tribute to the characters created by his grandfather Louis Forton, Gérald Forton drew the albums 'Les Pieds Nickelés Visitent les Châteaux de la Loire' (Editions l'Apart, 2013) and 'Bibi Fricotin et la Boîte aux Rêves' (Joe, 2014). In 2017 and 2019, Alain Beaulet Éditeur released two installments of 'Ed Logan', a new western series by Gérald Forton. Among his last completed comic projects were two new 'Teddy Ted' books for publisher Hibou, first 'Le Chinois' (2018) and then '1899 Deadstone' (2021); the latter made in collaboration with Philippe Cottarel and starring an elder version of Forton's signature character.

Plans to restart the jungle adventurer 'Kim Devil' with writer Alain De Kuyssche remained unfinished, and the same went for the 'Hodiak' concept, a comic set in New Orleans with voodoo as a theme. In December 2021, at age 90, Gérald Forton passed away in his Apple Valley home. With his dynamism and ability to work in almost every thinkable genre, he built a large and varied oeuvre. His contributions to many iconic magazines and publishers - both in Europe and the USA - resulted in an impressive CV. But by hopping from one genre and client to another, Forton was difficult to pigeon-hole, in the end making him less of a household name than other artists of his generation, who tied their name to one magazine or publisher. Forton's signature series were either short-lived - like 'Kim Devil' - or taken over from other creators, such as 'Bob Morane' and 'Teddy Ted'. Most of his comics only received limited edition book collections in later years. By the time of his death, Gérald Forton was one of the last remaining artists of the Golden Age of Franco-Belgian comics, active until the very end.

'Deadstone 1899' (2021), Gerald Forton's last published comic during his lifetime.

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