421 Scotch Malaria, by Eric Maltaite
421 - 'Scotch Malaria'.

Éric Maltaite is a Belgian comic artist, whose body of work constantly alternates between humor, adult-oriented and semi-realistic action comics. The son of comics legend Will, he began his career working with Stephen Desberg on several comics for Spirou magazine, most notably the espionage series '421' (1980-1992). Later projects include more self-contained one-shots and mini-series like 'Mono Jim' (1987) with Denis Lapière, 'Carmen Lamour' (1993) with Desberg, 'Zambada' (2001-2006) with Jean-Pierre Autheman. Since 2006 he is part of Éditions Bamboo's team of artists for several topical humor comics, including 'Les Campeurs' and 'Les Fondus'. Together with his friend Stéphane Colman he honored his father's legacy through the 'Choc' trilogy (2014-2019), a spin-off with the back story of the major villain from the classic 'Tif et Tondu' series. Éric Maltaite lives and works in Jávea, a coastal town in the Spanish province Alicante.

Early life
Born in 1958 in Brussels as the eldest child of comic artist Will, Éric Maltaite grew up among the giants of Franco-Belgian comics. As his father was one of the staples of Spirou magazine, the young boy's family home was regularly visited by authors like André Franquin, Peyo, Jijé, Jean Roba and Maurice Tillieux. He watched eagerly when his father drew his 'Tif et Tondu' pages and was quickly determined to become an artist himself. Strange enough, his first efforts were published in Tintin, Spirou's biggest competitor. Four short stories of a strip called 'Bédévision' appeared in 1977. The writer was a certain "Stephen", most likely Stephen Desberg, the young man who had just joined Maurice Tillieux in writing 'Tif et Tondu' for Will!

'Hérodius cœur de poulet' (Spirou Album+ 2, 1982).

Collaboration with Desberg
Maltaite and Desberg became close friends. While Desberg became the sole writer of 'Tif et Tondu' for Will after Maurice Tillieux's untimely death, he also began a fruitful collaboration with Éric. By 1978 they worked together again, publishing their one-shot short stories 'Jules et Gilles' and 'Le Fantôme d'Hérode' in Spirou. Their first more lasting project was 'La famille Hérodius' (1979-1982), a series of short and two longer stories about vicious descendants of the Hérodius dynasty throughout the ages. Maltaite and Desberg however shared a passion for adventure and espionage movies, especially the 'James Bond' series. Their trips to the midnight movie shows formed the groundwork for their most ambitious project.

421, by Eric Maltaite
Early '421'.

Following a hint by Will that Spirou did not have an espionage comic yet, Maltaite and Desberg developed '421'. At first a parody of the genre, the serial debuted under the title '421 contre la Silhouette' in Spirou issue #2177 of 1980. 421 was the code number for British secret service agent Jimmy Plant, a name inspired by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. The artwork was initially a near mint copy of Will's drawing style, but as the episodes progressed, it became more and more realistic. The stories became more serious in tone too, while their subject matter was filled with detective, science fiction and espionage elements. When the final installment was serialized in 1992, '421' had transformed into an action-packed thriller in its own right. '421' has remained Maltaite's longest ongoing series to date, and was collected in ten albums by Dupuis.

Mono Jim by Eric Maltaite
'Mono Jim'.

Other work during the 1980s
Although '421' was his main occupation during the 1980s, Éric Maltaite worked on several other comics on the side. First of all, he helped out his father and Desberg with some short stories of 'Tif et Tondu' and 'Oncle Jules' in the early 1980s. With scriptwriter Denis Lapière he developed 'Mono Jim' for L'Écho des Savanes. The exotic one-shot was set in Cold War 1950s, during the First Indochina War between the Việt Minh and the French army.

Erotic comics
After quittng '421' and their affiliation with publisher Dupuis in 1992, Maltaite and Desberg continued their collaboration at P & T Productions. Inspired by Will's recent excursions into  erotic comics with direct colors, the two men created the humorous one-shot starring the sexy 'Carmen Lamour' (1993). Maltaite remained in the realm of eroticism when he returned to L'Écho des Savanes with his solo one-shots 'Robinsonne, la Naufragée' (1999) and 'Les 1001 Nuits de Schéhérazade' (2001), liberal and sexy adaptations of Daniel Defoe's 'Robinson Crusoe' and the 'Arabian Nights' stories, respectively. Both were published in book format by Albin Michel, and in the English language by Eurotica.

'Robinsonia' (English edition of 'Robinsonne').

Return to humor
Turning to a new, more personal caricatural style, Maltaite illustrated the promotional one-shot 'Ténérife' (1994) in commission of JM Consulting for the visitors of the Las Águilas Jungle Park on the island Tenerife. In the following year he was back in Spirou's pages with 'Route 0' (1995-1997), short stories written by Jean-Louis Janssens about awkard and magical events along one of the US' strangest highways. Equally awkward were the two gags he drew for Thiriet's collective feature about the anthropomorphic cats 'Dédé & Déde' (1997).

Zambada, by Eric Maltaite

Between 2001 and 2006, Maltaite worked with Jean-Pierre Autheman on 'Zambada' (Glénat, 2001-2006), a mini-series about the para military commando of commissioner Antonio Delgado on the otherwise heavenly island Zambada. For this project, Maltaite returned to the semi-realistic drawing style of his final '421' albums. He was also one of several artists to complete 'L'Arbre des Deux Printemps' (Lombard, 2001), the final graphic novel of his father, left unfinished after his death in 2000.

Éditions Bamboo & La Sirène
By the mid-2000s, Éric Maltaite became one of the artists for Éditions Bamboo's many topical humor series. He illustrated five albums of 'Les Campeurs' (2006-2010), a gag series with camping humor, written by Veerle Swinnen and Dugomier. He additionally drew 'Les Fondus de la Glisse', the two installments with ski and snowboard humor by Christophe Cazenove and Hervé Richez for the collection 'Les Fondus' in 2008 and 2011. Bamboo also released an album of Maltaite and Janssens' 1990s comic 'Route 0' under the title 'Nationale Zéro' in 2008. In the same vein, Maltaite turend to Éditions La Sirène as one of the artists of the hotrod biker comic 'Sam Speed' (2010-2014), written by Stéphane Colman and drawn in cooperation with Batem and Olivier Saive.

'Les Campeurs'.

By the 2010s, Éditions Dupuis had reinstated its patrimony with the release of several luxury collections of classic comics from Spirou's history. Among them was 'Tif et Tondu', one of the magazine's original series which had nonetheless been defunct since 1997. The volumes brought back attention to the classic stories created by Will and Maurice Rosy, most notably the ones featuring the mysterious Monsieur Choc. All this time, the true identity of the gentleman-thief with the iron mask had never been revealed. The time was right for Éric Maltaite to return to his roots. Together with his friend Stéphane Colman, he embarked upon the ambitious trilogy 'Choc - Les Fantômes de Knightgrave' (2014-2019), which meticulously constructed the back story of one of the most enigmatic villains of European comics along important events of European history in the first half of the 20th century. Far more grim and violent than the original series, 'Choc' however neatly connected to the Will and Rosy's 'Tif et Tondu contre la Main Blanche' (1955), in which Choc first appears. While Tif and Tondu themselves have no starring role, the police inspectors Fixchusset and Allumette from the original series do. Choc's co-creator Maurice Rosy greenlighted the project, but unfortunately didn't live to see the result, as he passed away in early 2013. Dupuis released the three voluminous installments between 2014 and 2019.

Choc by Eric Maltaite

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