'Soda' #5.

Bruno Gazzotti is a Belgian comic artist, who began his career as the assistant of Tome and Janry on 'Le Petit Spirou'. He was however quickly promoted to lead artist on Tome's hardboiled crime comic 'Soda' (1989-2005), replacing the original artist Luc Warnant. Gazzotti has had the luck of being the artist of two bestsellers in European comics. With Fabien Vehlmann he launched the fantasy/mystery series 'Seuls' (2006-), which has been adapted into a 2017 live action movie by David Moreau.

Early life
Bruno Gazzotti was born in 1970 in Cointe, near Liège. An artist of Italian descent - his paternal grandfather came to Belgium to work in the mines - he inherited his interest in Belgian comics through his parents. As a child, he devoured the 'Spirou et Fantasio' albums by André Franquin and Jean-Claude Fournier, as well as Edgar Pierre Jacobs' 'Blake & Mortimer'. He was keen on learning how to read so that he could understand the speech balloons and captions in the panels. He not only enjoyed reading the books, but also tried to copy the pages of Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' gags and François Walthéry's 'Natacha', before embarking upon his own projects. He attended the École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc in Liège, but broke off his education because his teachers were completely focused on illustration work and not on comics.

Tome & Janry
In November 1988 Gazzotti presented his work at the editorial offices of Spirou magazine. Editor-in-chief Patrick Pinchart liked his comical work, and assigned him to make some illustrations for Spirou's editorial sections, most notably the 'Guide du Roublard' (1989-1990) by Dahmani. Other early work included two short stories with the character 'Elie Hélium' (1989) in cooperation with Dugomier, and a series of gags written by Sergio Salma. The 18 year-old Gazzotti was also sent to Tome and Janry's atelier in Woluwé-Saint-Lambert/ St. Pieters-Woluwe, near Brussels. The duo had launched their spin-off gag series about the mischievous younger years of Spirou's titular hero and could use a helping hand, as they also had to maintain the production of the main series, 'Spirou et Fantasio'. Gazzo, as he used to sign his work, participated in the artwork of the first two albums of 'Le Petit Spirou', and also assisted on the 'Spirou et Fantasio' album 'Spirou à Moscou' (1990). He was however still in his late teens, when he was offered the chance of a lifetime.

Soda, by Bruno Gazzotti
'Soda' #10.

Luc Warnant, the artist of Tome's hardboiled action comic 'Soda', left the comic industry in mid 1989. He had already drawn eleven pages of the third 'Soda' album, but preferred a career in 3D animation instead. Tome was in need of a new artist, and asked his assistant to take the job. Gazzotti eagerly accepted, and took off where Warnant had stepped out. 'Soda' was one of the most remarkable new series in Spirou magazine at the time. It stars the moody and mysterious lieutenant David Solomon of the NYPD, who has to keep his daytime job a secret from his mother, who is a heart patient. To her, he is a devoted priest, who leaves their apartment every morning in clerical clothing. Unbeknownst to her, he changes into his normal work outfit during his daily elevator ride. As one of New York City's hotshot police officers, Soda and his mother are often threatened by the city's most notorious criminals. And then it's Soda's task to keep his sweet, gullible mother safe without revealing his real identity.

'Soda' #11.

After completing the third album, which appeared in 1990, Gazzotti and Tome cooperated on nine more albums until the series went on hiatus in 2005. During the 1990s, 'Soda' developed into a modern classic of Franco-Belgian comics, and one of the bestsellers in Dupuis' new Repérages collection, which housed more mature comic series. Gazzotti maintained the dynamic and semi-caricatural approach of his predecessor, but applied a cleaner drawing style. When Tome decided to relaunch the series in the 2010s, Gazzotti was however otherwise occupied. A replacement was yet again found in the atelier of Tome and Janry. The comeback album 'Résurrection' (2015) marked the introduction of Dan Verlinden as Soda's new artist.

Other projects
While still working on 'Soda', Bruno Gazzotti worked on a couple of other comics. In 1993 he made the promotional album 'Pilote de chasse' in cooperation with G. De Wilde in commission of the Belgian Air Force. With Ralph Meyer, he provided the artwork of the science fiction one-shot 'Des Lendemains sans Nuage' (2001), which appeared in the collection Signé of Lombard. The story was written by Fabien Vehlmann, with whom Gazzotti teamed up again in 2006.

'Seuls' #2.

Gazzotti and Vehlmann's second collaboration was the children's adventure series 'Seuls', launched in Spirou #3537 of 2006. The series' original cast was a group of five kids who have to survive in the abandoned city Fortville, after all the grown-ups have mysteriously disappeared overnight. The first cycle of five albums follows the kids as they try to adapt to their new reality, while facing all sorts of dangers, varying from escaped zoo animals to other survivors, such as the dangerous "knife master". Even though labelled as a children's comic, the authors don't shy away from tragedy and terror. The heroic Dodji, who acts as the group's leader is (apparently) killed of at the end of the fourth album. The first cycle is concluded with the revelation that the kids have in fact all died and are trapped in a limbo world between life and death. The next volumes explore their adventures in their post-death environment, where they fall prey to the mysterious "15 families" of limbo children, some of which have been there for ages.

'Seuls' #6.

The authors have revealed that they plan to conclude series after five cycles in 22 albums. 'Seuls' was largely inspired by William Golding's novel 'Lord of the Flies' (1954), and proved an instant hit. By 2018 over 2 million albums had been sold, making 'Seuls' one of best-selling contemporary comics for children. A jury of children awarded it the Prix Jeunesse at the Angoulême comic festival twice, in 2007 and 2010. The second and fifth album were furthermore awarded the Grand Prize of Le Journal de Mickey. Besides serialization in Spirou, some episodes have also appeared in the monthly teen magazine Le Monde des Ados. The series has been translated into English, and is published by Cinebook under the title 'Alone'. The first story cycle was adapted into a live action feature film by David Moreau, which hit the cinemas in February 2017.

'Seuls' #8.

Other activities
In addition to his comics work, Bruno Gazzotti is also active as a drummer. He plays with the band The Hooded Moon, and was also a member of The Boys Band (Dessinée), an all-star band of comic authors, which also featured Yvan Delporte, Janry, Fabrizio Borrini, Batem, Midam and others.

On 23 April 1994 Bruno Gazzotti (on the right) signed his books in Kees Kousemaker's (left) comics shop Lambiek in Amsterdam.

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