Pierre Tombal, by Marc Hardy

Marc Hardy is a Belgian comic artist, who worked on several mainstream comic series with controversial subject matter in his dynamic and gritty drawing style. After doing assistant work and drawing more traditional adventure comics like 'Badminton' (1974-1975, 1980) and 'Garonne et Guitare' (1975-1978), Hardy and scriptwriter Stephen Desberg shook up the pages of the Catholic comic magazine Spirou with 'Arkel' (1983-1986), a science-fantasy retelling of the battle between Heaven and Hell. With Raoul Cauvin, he turned to morbid humor with the long-running gag series about gravedigger 'Pierre Tombal' (1983-2017) and his departed "customers". No taboos were spared either in Circus magazine with 'La Patrouille des Libellules' (1984-1988), a spoof of the scouts movement and the Second World War, written by the subversive Yann. With the same writer, Hardy subsequently made 'Lolo et Sucette' (1988-1989, 1997-2000), a gag strip about two prostitutes. Marc Hardy applied a more realistic drawing style for the experimental graphic novel 'Feux' (2005) - written by Tome - and his long-awaited and still upcoming spin-off album of the classic comic series 'Spirou et Fantasio'.

Early life
Born in 1952 in Liège, Marc Hardy spent the first fifteen years of his life in Belgian Congo (the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo). Living in a small village in the Katanga Province, he first encountered comics when a visiting family friend brought him a large pile of comic books. It contained issues of Spirou magazine and Le Journal de Mickey, introducing the boy to several classic Franco-Belgian comics, as well as Carl Barks' 'Donald Duck' stories. The Flemish comic series 'Suske en Wiske' by Willy Vandersteen and Tibet's 'Chick Bill' series left the most lasting impression, though. As a child, Hardy also developed a talent for drawing, thinking up and drawing his own stories with the characters from Henri Vernes' 'Bob Morane' books. When Marc's brother suffered a brain infarct, the Hardy family returned to Liège in 1967. For a year and a half, Hardy attended art school at the Institut Saint-Luc, where the comics fan often clashed with his teachers, who were fully focused on abstract art. 

Oncle Paul - 'Les Débuts de l'Homme sur la Terre' (Spirou #1752, 1971).

Assistant work
At age 17, Hardy quit his studies after meeting Jean Mariëtte, AKA Mittéï or Hao, one of the regular artists of Tintin magazine. Hardy became Mittéï's assistant, helping him on 'Modeste et Pompon', the domestic gag series created originally by André Franquin. Mittéï also trained Hardy to draw in a more cartoony style. Though his mentor, Hardy also worked for the comic artist Pierre Seron, whom he assisted on the inking of the 'Les Petits Hommes' episode 'Des Petits Hommes au Brontoxique' (1972). Between 1971 and 1973, Hardy was present in Spirou magazine with five episodes of the educational historical short story series 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul'. Four of these stories were written by Octave Joly, and one by Sylvie Brien, a cousin of Hardy's mother. For Michel Deligne's Curiosity Magazine, Hardy drew 'Military Folies' (1972), a military humor comic. He then joined the studio of Édouard Aidans, with whom he made a comic album about the history of the Tour de France, written by Yves Duval ('La Prodigieuse Épopée du Tour de France', Arts & Voyages Gamma, 1973). He also assisted Aidans on the family adventure comic 'Les Franval'. In 1974, Hardy provided full artwork for two digest-sized 'Franval' stories and one with 'Modeste et Pompon' for the Tintin Sélection pocket books, after which the young cartoonist was ready to stand on his own feet.

Garonne et Guitare by Marc Hardy
Garonne et Guitare - 'La Bruge-Sous-Les-Flots' (1977).

Badminton / Garonne et Guitare
Going solo, Marc Hardy found a homebase in Spirou, where his first creation was the 'Badminton' feature. Based on an idea by Michel Dusart and with scripts by his old mentor Hao (Mittéï), the series told the adventures of David Badminton, a retired British major turned private investigator, and his assistant Pickford. The original two serials, both titled 'Badminton en Amazonie' (1974-1975), followed the two utterly British adventurers in their search for a missing girl, and their subsequent survival in the Amazon jungle. 

After these first two serials, Spirou's editor-in-chief Thierry Martens asked Hardy to drop 'Badminton' and instead draw a new series called 'Garonne et Guitare' (1975-1978), written by Mythic. Ten stories of varying lengths starring two 1920s investigators followed. The series' full title was 'Garonne et Guitare contre Foxy Lady', as an impalpable femme fatale known as Foxy Lady was behind most of the mysterious and supernatural ploys the two heroes were confronted with. However, Spirou's next editor-in-chief, Alain De Kuyssche, was no fan of 'Garonne et Guitare' and preferred the abruptly ended 'Badminton' feature. Being assigned to return to his first series, Hardy drew one new full-length story, 'Badminton contre la Bête' (1980), which showed him settling in the sketchy drawing style that became his trademark for the rest of the decade.

Arkel by Marc Hardy
Arkel - 'Les 7 Diables Supérieurs' (1984).

In 1980-1981, Marc Hardy additionally provided Spirou with two fold-in mini-books starring the cat 'Chat Moïse'. After that, he disappeared from the magazine's pages until March 1983, when his collaboration with scriptwriter Stephen Desberg took off. Their series 'Arkel' (1983-1986) was originally intended for the comic artist Godi to draw, but those plans fell through. The gritty artwork of Marc Hardy gave this science-fantasy/sword-and-sorcery comic the moody atmosphere it needed. The series had a daring theme for a magazine firmly roots in the Roman Catholic tradition, and run by a patriarchal family of publishers. The main hero is 'Arkel', a rowdy angel tasked to escort the recently deceased to Heaven in his spaceship. With his allies, he has to defend Heaven against the devil Gordh, one of the seven sons of the fallen angel Baal, who leads invasions of demons and other monsters. Contrary to traditional heroic fantasy, both the angels and the devils are equipped with high-tech spacecrafts and weaponry. Especially the so-called "sting swords" prove effective. A sting of the devils' swords make an angel suffer in anguish for eternity, while the swords of the angels temporarily turn the devils into good-willing softies. Also disturbing for Artkel are the angelic devil Lilith and the devillish angel Estelle, who turn events into true coming-of-age challenges for the young hero.

Arkel - 'Estelle' (1986).

Hardy and Desberg's provocative retelling of the classic story of Good vs. Evil in 'Star Wars' style appealed to Spirou's readership. Publisher Dupuis reluctantly released one single large-format book collection under the title 'Les Sept Diables Supérieurs' (1985). In 1992 and 1993, Éditions Palombia published three more albums. The final episode 'Estelle' ended with a major cliffhanger, but readers had to wait until 2009 before learning the rest of the story. In 2008-2009, Spirou reprinted 'Estelle' as 'Au Plus Haut des Cieux' and then ran the second installment, 'La Nuit du Grand Bouc' (2009). For this occasion, the series was renamed to 'Ange & Diablesses' ("Angels & Devils"). In 2009, Dupuis released the full story in book format in two volumes.

Pierre Tombal, by Marc Hardy
'Pierre Tombal'.

Pierre Tombal
On 29 September 1983 - six months after 'Arkel' - Marc Hardy's best known work, 'Pierre Tombal', first appeared in Spirou. This new feature was written by Raoul Cauvin, who liked Hardy's style, but was also "frightened" by it, as Hardy recalled in the 2013 Cauvin monography by Patrick Gaumer. Hardy made the scriptwriter a couple of sketches, that gave Cauvin the idea of a gravedigger dealing with the quirks and demands of his entombed customers. Long before French publishers like Vents d'Ouest and Bamboo built an entire comics genre around "humor in professions", Hardy and Cauvin introduced one of the most unique concepts for a gag strip. Pierre Tombal is a grave digger, whose name is a pun on the French word "pierre tombal", meaning "tombstone". As a protagonist, he is the straight character and voice of reason. Cauvin and Hardy deliberately made him this way, so he could guide the readers through the feature's macabre concept. The comedy is provided by the deceased, who appear to be not completely "gone", as they continue their existence under the ground as living skeletons or as ghosts. Pierre treats them as residents, chatting with them, listening to their complaints and making sure their stay at his cemetery is a pleasant on. Sometimes he allows them to leave their graves, for instance to go on a holiday, or to act as volunteer skeletons during high school biology lessons. Like a true landlord, Pierre also interferes whenever his deceased customers break the rules, urging them to keep a low profile. All in all: he is more than just a traditional gravedigger, acting as guard, diplomat, confidential advisor, justice keeper and middle man between the dead and the world of the living.

Many gags feature the dead trying to continue the same jobs and hobbies as they did when they were still alive, often scaring the living hell out of mourning cemetery visitors. Not surprised by the antics of the dead at all, Pierre often lectures the living on the daily activities on his cemetery. Apparently, the dead go out, organize games, buy magazines and even have political elections. Sometimes they do this with ease. But often, they overestimate their abilities. In one gag, Pierre takes a skeleton to the beach, urging it to stay behind the windscreen. The self-willed deceased doesn't listen, and his bones are blown away by the wind. The irritated Pierre is forced to run after them, while the other beach visitors are scared away. Several gags or short stories explore the back story or cause of death of one of Pierre's latest buried customers. The 'Pierre Tombal' stories poke fun at famous historical or fictional characters, such as Werner von Braun (who keeps launching his headstones as rockets), Prometheus (whose grave is still plagued by a giant eagle) or Judas (who is buried in a mausoleum as opposed to Jesus whose grave is a mere wooden cross, "because Judas could afford it."). As inside jokes, the authors often put names of friends and colleagues on tombstones. In one gag, Pierre even organizes a signing session of real-life late comic authors. 

Marc Hardy's drawing style provided the perfect mix between humor and gore. Always in for something new, the artist tried to introduce new elements in every album. For instance, as the series progressed (and the writer became older) the series featured more philosophical ponderings about life and death. Moving along with the times, 'Pierre Tombal' episodes poked fun at modern developments like selfies, the evolution of ditching technologies, ​​death insurance marketing and euthanasia. The Grim Reaper (or "Death") became a more prominent secondary character. Usually, the emaciated skeleton in his trademark hood, holding a scythe, is just biding his time. People daring to mock him are killed off before they know what hit them. In other gags, Death is portrayed as a grumpy, stressed-out man, who is fed up with his job, even going on a strike on one occasion. In album 27, Death got competition from Life, a sweet little girl in blue who guides and guards people during their lifetimes. Wherever she goes, flowers grow. Pierre has his own set of rivals too. Some episodes show him in a bar discussing his profession with his colleagues; one running a crematorium, the other providing burials at sea. The three often bicker about which of their methods is the best. More than once, they try to convince a dying man that their funeral service is preferable over the other two. Later in the series, Pierre got a rival from his own family. Album 31 first introduced Pierre's charming niece Marie Tombal, whose far more stylish and modern graveyard attracts more customers than Pierre's. 

Life vs. Death in Pierre Tombal #27. Life sings 'Lilali', a reference to the 1998 hit song by Belgian pop singer Kim Kay. 

The 'Pierre Tombal' feature neatly tied in with Cauvin's other black humor comic, 'Les Femmes en Blanc' (1980), which was set in a hospital and drawn in a similar nervous style by Philippe Bercovici. Just like with 'Arkel', the Dupuis family cringed over the subject matter of 'Pierre Tombal', but Spirou editor-in-chief Philippe Vandooren greenlighted the concept anyway. It still took until the Dupuis family business was sold in 1985, before 'Pierre Tombal' was collected in book format. Indeed, 'Pierre Tombal' too was quite a contrast with Dupuis' traditional Catholic values. The comic strip acknowledged the existence of God in its universe, but afterlives like Heaven, Purgatory or Hell don't seem to exist, and the souls of the deceased remain close to their mortal remains.

On Hardy, making the 'Pierre Tombal' series had a therapeutic effect. Ever since his early childhood the artist was confronted with death, first losing four brothers and then also his first wife. In interviews, he explained that by making fun of the subject and putting it into perspective, he has never been afraid of death again. Readers too liked  'Pierre Tombal', which quickly became one of Spirou magazine's most popular features, prompting Hardy to drop 'Arkel' in favor of this gag series. 'Pierre Tombal' was also translated in Dutch ('G. Raf Zerk'), Spanish ('Pedro Tumbas') and Indonesian ('Tombal'). Running for over 35 years 'Pierre Tombal' eventually disappeared from Spirou's pages in 2017. In 2019, Éditions Dupuis announced that after one or two new albums, the series would be cancelled. So far, no new installments have appeared, and since scriptwriter Raoul Cauvin died in 2021, the future of 'Pierre Tombal' is unsure.

'La Patrouille des Libellules'.

La Patrouille des Libellules
The 1980s were a productive period for Marc Hardy. While slowly gaining fame in Spirou magazine, he was also present in Circus, a adult-oriented comic magazine published by Jacques Glénat. Together with the subversive scriptwriter Yann, he launched 'La Patrouille des Libellules' (literally "The Dragonfly Patrol", 1984-1988), a series about a group of girl scouts. The authors explained their series was a tribute to the atmosphere of the early post-war comics of the Flemish comic legend Willy Vandersteen, of 'Suske en Wiske' fame. One of the scouts is even a grossed-out version of Vandersteen's Tante Sidonia character, but for the rest, sex, violence and cynicism dominate in Yann and Hardy's depraved scouts comic. Originally, 'La Patrouille des Libellules' was a satire of the scouts movement. Starting with the second episode, it became an even harsher satire of the Second World War's political and social clichés, spoofing scouts, Nazis, Jews and world leaders alike. While the series was popular, it also saw its authors accused of antisemitism and incitement to racial hatred. The series ended in 1988 after three albums, leaving unpublished the announced fourth album with the revealing title 'Pas d'Ausweis pour Auschwitz' ("No Ausweis for Auschwitz").

Lolo et Sucette by Marc Hardy
'Lolo et Sucette'.

Lolo et Sucette
After the cancellation of 'La Patrouille des Libellules', Hardy and Yann continued their collaboration with 'Lolo et Sucette' (1988-1989, 1997-2000), a gag comic about two streetwalking prostitutes. Lolo is the corpulent, blond one. Her name is a pun on the French slang term for tits ("des lolos"). Sucette is red-headed and slender. Her name is the French word for lollipop, a double entendre reference to fellatio. The two hookers debuted in a special issue of Circus magazine about prostitution, published on 1 February 1988 (issue #118); it remained a regular gag feature until the following year. Between 1997 and 2000, the series was continued in book format in the Humour Libre collection of Éditions Dupuis, with a total of five albums published. Again, Hardy's dark style was perfectly suited to illustrate the shabby streets and the ladies' scrubby clients. For their "johns", the comic strip featured cameos of famous male comic characters as their clients, including Morris' Joe Dalton (from 'Lucky Luke') and Willy Vandersteen's Lambik and Jerom (from 'Suske en Wiske'), as two gay men who enjoy leather. They also enjoyed giving colleagues cameos, most notably François Walthéry. 'Lolo et Sucette' was translated in Dutch as 'Titia en Pijpelijn'.

Croqu' la vie
For Marsu Productions, Hardy and Yann additionally created two albums of 'Croqu' la vie' (1992-1994), in a way a sex spin-off to 'Pierre Tombal'.

With scriptwriter Philippe Tome, Marc Hardy created 'Feux' (2005), an atypical series at the crossroads between European comics, American comic books and manga. The series kicks off with a young woman crashing down with her space shuttle in an alternative prehistoric universe. Here, dinosaurs have developed their own civilized and hierarchic communities. They adopt her as one of their own, giving her the name Feux ('Fire"). The authors planned several story cycles of this series, but the project stranded after one single episodevolume. A completed second volume has remained unpublished.

Feux by Marc Hardy

Spirou & Fantasio one-shot
Marc Hardy is also one of the artists asked to give his take on the classic 'Spirou et Fantasio' series for the one-shots collection 'Une Aventure de Spirou et Fantasio, par...'. Hardy's story has been years in the making. Commencing on the project in 2009, the artist had difficulties settling on a satisfying drawing style and concept. He eventually teamed up with scriptwriter Zidrou to create a dark and realistic take on the classic series, which is yet to be published.

Graphic contributions and limited editions
Throughout his career, Marc Hardy contributed to several collective projects. The first was 'Qui a tué F. Walther?' (1985), an album produced, published and sold in one single day. Other contributions were to 'Joyeux Noël, Bonne Année' (Vents d'Ouest, 1987), 'Parodies 1' (MC Productions, 1987), 'Animaux a(d)mis' (Alliance Européenne, 1990), 'Flash Back' (COMIC! Events, 1995), 'Rire c'est rire' (F.I.R., 1995) and 'Folklore Wallon en Bulles' (Dricot, 2010). In 1990 he paid graphic tribute to François Walthéry in the collective homage book 'Natacha. Special 20 Ans' (Marsu Productions, 1990), which celebrated the 20th anniversary of Walthéry's series 'Natacha'. Hardy was also one of the participating artists in the completion of' 'L'Arbre des Deux Printemps' (Lombard 2000), the graphic novel left unfinished due to the death of its artist Will.

Since 2012, Éditions Black & White has released erotic art books by Marc Hardy under the title 'L'Irrévérence Selon Marc Hardy'. The imprint also issued a limited edition with Hardy's childhood 'Bob Morane' comics under the title 'Fragments de Mon Enfance' (2014) and a collection of Hardy's old Spirou comic 'Garonne et Guitare contre Foxy Lady' (2018).

With an uncompromising but still reader-friendly graphic style, Marc Hardy managed to captivate mainstream audiences with several provocative comic series. Among his fans, he can count on the comics veteran Hermann, also known for his grim depictions of depraved human beings. One of his sons, Nicolas Hardy, has worked as a comic writer. Father and son collaborated on a special 'Pierre Tombal' comic in commission of the funeral insurance company Le Voeu, 'Papy se disperse' (2011). For Spirou, they also made the short story 'Père Fouettard' (2013) together.

"In Loving memory". Cauvin and Hardy shine on the cover of the 23rd 'Pierre Tombal' album.


Series and books by Marc Hardy you can order today:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.