Comic Creator Benoît Gillain

Benoît Gillain

Benoist, Benoît, Bruno (?), Bruce (?)

(30 August 1938, Belgium - 12 October 2016, France)   Belgium

Benoît  Gillain

Bonux Boy by Benoît Gillain

Benoît Gillain - who signed with Benoît or Benoîst - was the eldest son of Joseph Gillain, the classic Belgian comic artist known as Jijé. Benoît was an artist in his own right, who has worked mainly in advertising. As a cartoonist he is best remembered for 'Bonux-Boy' (1959-1961), a comic strip which promoted a washing powder product. Very rare for a comic strip based on an advertising mascot, 'Bonux-Boy' grew from a series of gags into a full-blown adventure comic series. In Italy 'Bonux Boy' was used to promote a different washing powder product and thus renamed as 'Tidino'.

Early life and comics career
He was born in 1938 in Dinant, in the Belgian province Namur. At age 10 he and his family departed Belgium and headed for the USA and Mexico, accompanied by his father's pupils André Franquin and Morris. The family stayed there for three years, and settled in France shortly after their return to Europe in 1951. It was there that Benoît met the future comic artists Jean Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, who were the same age and remained lifelong friends. Growing up among artistic people had its effect. As a teenager, Benoît learned the trade from his father, whom he assisted on his comics. In 1953 and 1954, the fourteen-year old helped with filling black areas in the final two 'Blondin et Cirage' stories. Between 1955 and 1958, he assisted with the lettering and applying of the color indications for several 'Jean Valhardi' and 'Jerry Spring' stories. Benoît's brothers Philippe and Laurent have also worked with their father on his comics at one point in their lives, whlie his sister Dominique became a painter and illustrator. In 1959, Benoît Gillain got married and left the parental home.

L'Arbre de Noel de Franz by Benoit Gillain
'L'Arbre de Noël de Franz' (Dutch version published in Robbedoes issue #1027, 1957).

Early publications
Gillain got the opportunity to publish his first drawings in the magazines of his father's publisher, Éditions Dupuis. He made a short Christmas story called 'L'Arbre de Noël de Franz' with writer Octave Joly for Spirou in December 1957, and made a cover illustration for Le Moustique in January 1958. Also in 1958, he created the comic strip 'Bouby' for Panorama Chrétien. It showed a strong resemblance to 'Le Petit Nicolas' by Jean-Jacques Sempé and René Goscinny; the latter even wrote a couple of gags for it. 

Bonux-Boy, by Benoît GillainBonux-Boy, by Benoit Gillain

Bouby was a predecessor to 'Bonux Boy', a character Gillain used to promote Bonux washing powder between 1959 and 1961. The little boy with the paper hat (with strategically placed product placement) and his white dog first appeared in illustrated advertisements. Gradually he starred in one-page gag comics and two serialized stories which promoted the extra toys and gadgets in every Bonux powder box. 'Bonux Boy' was published in Franco-Belgian comic magazines like Spirou, Tintin and Pilote during the period 1959-1961. Inspired by the Spirou mini books, Bonux-Boy also featured in a series of at least 18 mini comics, published between May 1960 and December 1961. Besides longer stories with the 'Bonux-Boy' character (which Benoît made with help from his father), these booklets also contained work by Jijé, Peyo, Will, Jean Roba, Jidéhem, Guy Bara, Guy Mouminoux, René Follet, Herbert, François Craenhals, Paul Deliège, Jo-El Azara and Jean Giraud. In Italy, the character was renamed 'Tidino' and used for the promotion of Tide washing powder. 

Other advertising work
Benoît began a publishing imprint in Paris, called P.É.G. (Productions Éditions Graphiques). Between 1966 and 1968, P.E.G. produced Total Journal, another promotional children's magazine, distributed through Total gas stations. Editors for this publication were Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin, the future authors of 'Valérian', while regular contributors were Claire Brétecher, Gotlib, Nikita Mandryka, Jean Giraud and Jijé. Gillain eventually moved away from comics and focused on other advertising work. He had his own company called Benoît Gillain Design et Communication, through which he designed campaigns for the high fashion house Lanvin, the wiring devices of Legrand, Givenchy perfumes and the retail chain Fnac. The future comic artist Marc Malès began his career with Gillain's agency.

Final years and death
Later in his life, Benoît Gillain was regularly interviewed for the files published in the luxury collections dedicated to his father's work by Éditions Dupuis and Dargaud. In 2010, Benoît Gillain did the graphic design of the book 'Joseph Gillain, peintures et sculptures', which was a catalogue of Joseph Gillain's paintings and sculptures, produced by François Deneyer. An exhibition accompanying the book was held at the Maison de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels from June to October 2010. Benoît Gillain passed away on 12 October 2016.

Une Pêche Sous-Marine by Bruno
'Une Pêche Sous-Marine' (Ames Vaillantes #24, 15 June 1958), a comic story by "Bruno".

Similar pseudonyms (or not?)
Over time, several pseudonyms and additional comic productions have been attributed to Benoît Gillain. These presumptions have however been refuted by Gillain connaisseurs like François Deneyer and Gilles Ratier, who have stated that Benoît Gillain turned to advertising early in life, and never returned to comics. As a result, the identity of the artist(s) working under the pen names Bruno and Bruce remains a mystery.

In Alain Beyrand's 'Catalogue Encyclopédique des Bandes Horizontales Dans La Presse Adulte de 1946 à 1975 de Lariflette à Janique Aimée' (Pressibus, 1995), Benoît Gillain is linked to the pen names Bruno and Bruce. Although the book writes about a "Bruno Gillain" as the son of Jijé, it is obvious that the authors refer to Benoît. The signature of a certain Bruno appeared in the pages of Fripounet et Marisette with stories like 'Les Énigmes de Pic et Nic' (December 1957), 'Bergerette et Pastour - Perdus dans l'Orage' (1960), 'Pastour et Bergerette' (1960) and 'Torchon et Serviette' (1962). Bruno was also present in Âmes Vaillantes with the story 'Une Pêche Sous-Marine' (1958) and the adventures of 'Pierrot and Pierceline' (1960), in Marijac's magazine Le Journal de Nano et Nanette with 'Les Mémoires de Ninou Bébé' in 1959, and in Francs-Jeux. He made a comic strip called 'Mac'Adam Enquête' for Presse-Océan in 1961. Considering the drawing style and the signature, this work could have been done by Benoît Gillain. However, French artist André Rigal is also known to have signed his work with the pen name Bruno.

Mac'Adam by Bruce
Mac'Adam Enquête by "Bruno".

The drawing style of "Bruce" was more loose than that of Benoît and Bruno. Bruce was the author of five mini stories in the magazine Spirou between 1962 and 1966, which starred the character 'Phil'. The same Bruce also made a gag strip called 'Prune et Mirabelle' for Ouest-France in 1965-1966.

Phil by Bruce
'Phil' (Robbedoes #1476, 1966), by "Bruce".

Series and books by Benoît Gillain you can order today:


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