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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 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. He signed his work with Benoît or Benoîst, but he possibly also worked under the pen names Bruno and Bruce.

He was born in Dinant on 30 August 1938, and ten years old when 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. Benoît learned the trade from his father, whom he assisted on the inking, coloring and lettering of the comics 'Blondin et Cirage', 'Jean Valhardi' and 'Jerry Spring' from an early age. His 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.

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

He 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. The character was a predecessor of 'Bonux-Boy', who starred in advertisements of Bonux washing powder in the 1960s. This would become Benoît's best-known comic creation.

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

Gillain initially drew several one-pagers and two continuing stories to promote the goodies that came with the Bonux powderboxes. These stories were printed in comic magazines like Spirou, Tintin and Pilote in the period 1959-1961. Inspired by the Spirou mini books, Bonux-Boy was also featured in a series of at least 18 mini-comics in 1960 and 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 to 'Tidino' and used for the promotion of Tide washing powder.

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.

Later in his life, Benoît Gillain was regularly interviewed for the dossiers published in the luxury collections dedicated to his father's work by Éditions Dupuis and Dargaud. He passed away on 12 October 2016.

Une Pêche Sous-Marine by Bruno
Une Pêche Sous-Marine (Ames Vaillantes #24, 15/6/1958), a comic story by "Bruno"

The comics encylopedia about French newspaper comics published by Éditions Pressibus in 1995 links Benoît Gillain to the pen names Bruno and Bruce. Although the book writes about a certain "Bruno Gillain" as the son of Jijé, it is obvious that the authors refer to Benoît. The signature of Bruno appeared in the pages of Fripounet et Marisette, on stories like 'Les Énigmes de Pic et Nic' (December 1957), 'Bergerette et Pastour - Perdus dans l'Orage' (1960) and 'Pastour et Bergerette' (1960). Bruno was also present in Ames Vaillantes with the story 'Une Pêche Sous-Marine' in 1958, 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, it could well be that this is work 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 furthermore 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 in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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