Greek publication of 'Alix', by Jacques Martin
Alix - 'Les Legions Perdues' (Dutch-language version from Kuifje #47, 1962).

Jacques Martin was a French comic creator who worked alongside colleagues Hergé, E. P. Jacobs and Paul Cuvelier as part of the original team of Tintin magazine artists. He is best known for creating the young Ancient Roman 'Alix' (1948- ) and the contemporary journalist 'Lefranc' (1952- ), whose adventures are continued to this day. Over a career of six decades, Martin became one of the most influential creators of historical comics. Besides the Roman age, Martin set his stories in ancient Greece ('Orion', 1990-2011), ancient Egypt ('Kéos', 1991-1999), the Napoleonic era ('Arno', 1984-1997) and the reign of Louis XIV ('Loïs', 2003- ). Martin's comics are so well regarded for their graphic realism and meticulous attention to detail, that his stories are often used as teaching aids in classrooms. At a time when censors determined what was suitable for young readers, Martin's comics about Antiquity were controversial, as they sometimes featured, when historically appropriate, full frontal nudity. Between 1953 and 1972, Jacques Martin assisted Hergé in his studio, illustrating several columns for Tintin magazine. Martin also helped with Hergé's comic, including the modernization of older 'Tintin' and 'Jo, Zette and Jocko' stories from weekly features into book format. In 1972, Jacques Martin established his own comic studio, which became a training ground for a new generation of historical comic artists.

Alix by Jacques MartinLefranc by Jacques Martin
Cover illustrations by Jacques Martin appearing on the covers of Kuifje #6, 1951 (Dutch) and Tintin #815, 1964 (French) magazine.

Early life and career
Although Martin is closely associated with Belgian comics, he was a Frenchman, born in the border town of Strasbourg in 1921. When Jacques was eight years old, his family left the Alsace region and moved west, settling near Paris. Jacques's father, Pierre Martin, was a career army pilot. Before Jacques was born, his father was involved in the French occupation of the German Ruhr after World War I. Pierre Martin died in a plane crash in 1932, leaving his son and Swiss-Belgian wife behind. A large part of Jacques Martin's youth was spent in boarding schools. As a child, Martin was interested in history, classical painting, sculpting and comics. Among his graphic influences were the painters Canaletto, Jacques-Louis David, John Constable and J.M.W. Turner, while in comics his main inspirations were Hergé and, later on, Edgar P. Jacobs and Alex Raymond. Martin studied engineering at the Catholic School of Arts and Crafts in Erquelinnes, a town just over the Belgian border. He later continued his studies in Lyon. There, he learned the rules of perspective, geometry and structural analysis, laying the groundworks for the realism in his later comic art. After the outbreak of World War II, Jacques Martin and his mother moved to Cannes, where he worked at French aircraft manufacturer SNCASE. In 1942, using the pen name Jam, Jacques Martin published his first comic strip. 'Les Aventures du Jeune Toddy', appeared in Je Maintiendray, the magazine of the 14th French youth workcamp division in Die, Drôme. A year later, he was assigned to work at the German Messcherschmitt airplane factories in Augsburg, Germany , followed by an assignment in Kempten, Bavaria, where he stayed until the end of the war. During this period, Martin made a series of realistic sketches and illustrations - grim testimonials of those dark times.

'Le Sept de Trèfle' (published in Dutch as 'Klaveren Vier' in Story in 1949).

Move to Belgium
After World War II, Jacques Martin briefly worked for Paul Grimault's Parisian animation studio, where he discovered that medium didn't really interest him. In the 1940s, Belgium was the Mecca of the European comic industry, so Martin decided to try his luck there. At first, he moved in with his maternal aunt in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, not far from Brussels. By 1947, Jacques Martin relocated to Verviers, the hometown of his young bride, Monique Schnorrenberg. The pair had two children, Frédérique and Bruno.

comic art by Marleb
'Monsieur Barbichou'. Note the Marleb signature in the center panel on this late 1940s comic strip.

Jacques Martin got his first Belgian illustration assignments from the publisher Desclée de Brouwer and the advertising agency Office Technique de Publicité (O.T.P.). He contributed caricatural and realistic comics to newspapers and magazines. Martin made the humorous adventure serials 'Le Hibou Gris' ("The Grey Owl", 1945) and 'Le Sept de Trèfle' ("The Seven of Clubs", 1946) for city newspapers in Belgium's Wallonia region - L'Indépendance in Charleroi, and La Wallonie in Liège. Each serial starred two characters clearly inspired by Hergé's Tintin and his little white dog, Snowy: a young man called Jack, and his little black cat, Minne. Between 1947 and 1949, these two adventure tales were reprinted in the comic magazine Story. During his first few years in Belgium, Jacques Martin also worked as a freelance artist in Maurice Houtwaert's studio, where he met advertising illustrator Henri Leblicq. Martin and Leblicq collaborated on drawing comics, signing their work with the collective pseudonym "Marleb", a name made up from the first three letters of their two last names. Martin drew the characters and Henri Leblicq created the backgrounds. Even after the team broke up the following year, Martin continued signing "Marleb" on his own work until 1950.

Oeuil-de-Perdrix, by Marleb (Jacques Martin)
'Oeuil-de-Perdrix à New York' (Bravo, 1950).

Belgian illustrator Jean Dratz, who also worked as the art director for Bravo magazine, invited Jacques Martin to be part of their team of artists. Martin's contributions included the pantomime humor comic strip 'Monsieur Barbichou' (1946-1949), a one-shot story, 'Lamar l'Homme Invisible' ("Lamar, the Invisible Man", 1947) and serials about the Native American 'Oeuil-de-Perdrix' (1947-1950). The first Oeuil-de-Perdrix story, 'Le Secret du Calumet' (1947), debuted directly in book format by Éditions Bravo. The stories 'Le Signe du Naja' (1948) and 'Oeil-de-Perdrix à New York' (1950) were first serialized in Bravo magazine before being compiled into book format. For Wrill magazine, Martin created the realistically-drawn story 'La Cité Fantastique' ("The Fantastic City", 1948), which was later released in comic book format by Artima as the 47th issue of the 'Ardan' series (1965).

'Alix l'Intrépide' (Dutch edition, 1948).

In 1948, Jacques Martin began working for Tintin magazine, where he remained for the majority of his career. Tintin magazine had been launched two years earlier by the Brussels publisher Raymond Leblanc as a new home for Hergé's comic creations. Besides Hergé, other early comic creators for this magazine were E. P. Jacobs, Paul Cuvelier and Jacques Laudy. Becoming part of the core team, Jacques Martin asked permission to launch his own series. Martin, who had a keen interest in Roman history, took inspiration from Gustave Flaubert's 'Salammbô' (1862), a historical novel set in Carthago during the third century, BC, in creation of his young blonde Gaulic protagonist, Alix. Physically, Martin's hero was modelled after Greek sculptures of young men. Initially, Tintin's editors, Hergé in particular, had little faith in the series. Hergé felt the series left a lot to be desired: to him, the artwork looked stiff, the comic's overall tone was overly serious, the layouts too basic and the narrative too wordy. Despite this editorial reluctance, Tintin magazine debuted the first episode of the series, 'Alix l'Intrépide' ("Alix, the Intrepid"), on 16 September 1948. Over the course of the next episodes, Martin improved his craft, finding a better balance between text and illustration. In his second story, 'Le Sphinx d'Or' (1949), the young Egyptian Enak made his debut. Originally intended as a one-shot character, Enak eventually became a regular cast member as Alix's sidekick and best friend. The 1951 Alix story 'L'Île Maudite' ("The Cursed Island") was a reader favorite, many of whom considered it a masterpiece.

'Alix' has been in print continuously since 1948, making it one of the longest-running Franco-Belgian comic series ever. The first five 'Alix' books were released by either Lombard or Dargaud, but from 1965 on, Éditions Casterman took over as the series' book publisher. 'Alix' has been translated into Dutch, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Icelandic, Swedish and Finnish. In most languages, the character's name is the same, except in Dutch, where he is known as 'Alex', and in Icelandic, where he is called 'Ævintýri Alexar'.

Alix - 'L'Île Maudite' (Dutch edition, 1951).

Historical accuracy in 'Alix'
'Alix', along with René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix' (1959), were two wildly popular European comic series set in the Gaulish-Roman era. Both series enjoy an excellent reputation for their extensive historical research. While the humorous adventure stories of 'Astérix' comics sometimes contain intentional anachronisms, Jacques Martin's 'Alix' is a realistic drama series, and the artist went through great lengths to make his stories as historically accurate as possible. Martin read every book about the era he could find, and consulted with historians in order to get the details correct. Martin chose not to romanticize history: scenes of slavery, torture and execution are portrayed in a matter-of-fact manner. For visual inspiration, Martin drew inspiration from Romantic Art, literature and media. Some storylines were inspired by historical novels and films. Many of Martin's atmospheric illustrations are influenced by art of the ages, from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture to Renaissance and Neoclassical paintings and sculptures. The great strength of the 'Alix' stories is how they make the past come alive. Martin decided not tie his series to one specific century in Roman history: 'Alex' stories are set within a 400-year timespan, ranging from the First Century BC to the Fall of the Roman Empire. The flexible time-frame for the series allows Alix to meet historical characters from different eras, including Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Pompey, Vercingetorix, Livia Drusilla and Nero. Martin's efforts to make his series historially accurate paid off. Many European history teachers use 'Alix' comics as teaching aids for their lessons. The good will generated by the popularity of 'Alix' helped Jacques Martin later on to successfuly produce new historical comic series to the same educational market. 

Alix by Jacques Martin
Alix - 'Les Proies du Volcan' (Dutch edition, 1977).

Controversy about Alix
'Alix' was a different historical comic series in other ways than its accurate period details. During his career, Jacques Martin often had to combat prudent editors, publishers and censors who felt certain scenes were unsuitable for children. The most common objection was the inclusion of nudity, although in ancient times, especially in Rome, nudity wasn't considered taboo. Lots of people throughout Antiquity, especially slaves, walked around scantily clad. In 'Alix', some characters were drawn bare-breasted, others groups didn't even wear loincloths. Many cultures of that era were similarly blasé about nudity. Various characters, including the two protagonists Alix and Enak, are portrayed without clothes. Alex and Enak's friendship is often interpreted as a homosexual partnership - again, something not uncommon in ancient Greece and Rome, but not seen before in mainstream historical comics. Articles in the gay magazines Le Gai Pied (1984, 1988) and Têtu (2009) used illustrations from the 'Alix' books to support their analysis of homosexual overtones in the comic. Martin explained he never intended the characters to be gay, but he understood that readers could interpret them as such. In 1965, some censors voiced the opinion that certain panels depicting the strong affection the 40-year old character Adréa displayed for the 16-year old Alix were inappropriate for a children's comic.

Another common criticism of the 'Alix' comics was their depiction of actions present-day audiences consider cruel. Slavery is portrayed as a harsh but common phenomenon. In 'Les Fils de Spartacus' ("The Son of Spartacus", 1974), a mother sells her son off into slavery for gold. Several stories have characters being tortured or executed in shocking ways, like in the story  'Le Tombeau Étrusque' ("The Etruscan Tomb", 1967), where children are sacrificed to the god Moloch by burning them alive. The series didn't avoid showing gladiator games or bloody battles either. Even when Jacques Martin toned down the violent imagery, some scenes were still considered disturbing. In France, two early 'Alix' albums, 'La Griffe Noire' and 'Les Légions Perdues', were banned until 1965, because censors felt the stories were too reminiscent of the ongoing war for independence in the French colony Algeria. When certain critics attributed these scenes of cruelty to the artist's tormented childhood, Jacques Martin responded that he was merely attempting to depict all aspects of the Ancient world in detail, both good and bad.

Alex by Jacques Martin
Alix - 'Le Tombeau Étrusque' ('The Etruscan Tomb', 1967)

Assistants and successors for 'Alix'
Jacques Martin wrote and drew his signature series, 'Alix' for a period of 40 years. During the 1950s and 1960s, he received assistance with coloring and backgrounds from his assistants Roger Leloup and Michel Desmarets, After the 19th volume of 'Alix' was drawn in collaboration with Jean Pleyers in 1988, the series went on hiatus. In 1996, the twentieth installment appeared, drawn by Rafael Morales and Marc Henniquiau, and regular album production was resumed with Morales supplying the artwork until 2006, when Christophe Simon became lead artist, in collaboration with Cédric Hervan. Since 2013, Marc Jailloux has been the official 'Alix' artist. During the Simon and Jailloux eras, "guest" artists like Ferry, Marco Venanzi and Giorgio Albertini also drew the artwork for various 'Alix' installments. Jacques Martin remained closely involved with the scripts until 2006, after which other scriptwriters gradually took over. Since then, François Maingoval, Patrick Weber, Marco Venanzi, Michel Lafon, François Corteggiani, Géraldine Ranouil, Matthieu Bréda, Pierre Valmour and David B. have written one or more "Alix' stories.

Alix - L'Enfant Grec (1979)
Alix - 'L'Enfant Grec' (Dutch edition, 1979).

Media adaptations of 'Alix'
Over the decades, 'Alix' has been adapted into a few mediums. One of the earliest was the 1960 radio play 'Alix L'Intrepide', directed by Jean Maurel, featuring Claude Vincent as the voice of the title character. In 1998, the comic was adapted into an animated TV series, a co-production of Carrère/ Project Images Films/ Sipec/ Videal, broadcast on France 3 and Télé München. In 2004, four 'Alix' novels, written by Alain Hammerstein with illustrations by Jean-François Charles, were published by Casterman, who also produced an 'Alix'-themed board game in 2018.  

Lefranc #1 - 'La Grande Menace' (1952).

Jacques Martin's other famous creation was inspired by a 1951 trip to the French Vosges region. Martin and his travelling companion spotted an abandoned railway tunnel in the landscape. It was used by the Germans during World War II to harbor artillery, including a V1 missile, intended to bomb Paris. The experience motivated Martin to create a detective series set between the aftermath of World War II and the start of the Cold War. On 21 May 1952, 'La Grande Menace' ("The Great Threat"), the first episode of 'Lefranc', debuted in Tintin magazine. The main hero of the series is Guy Lefranc, a brilliant detective, aided by the Boy Scout orphan Jean Le Gall, AKA Jeanjean. During their investigations of international expionage, Lefranc and Jeanjean are confronted by spies, terrorists and dictators. Their nemesis is Axel Borg, a gentleman thief and master of disguise. The 'Lefranc' stories are known for their direct references to real-life events from the second half of the 20th century.

Like with 'Alix', Tintin's editorial board was initially sceptical when Jacques Martin proposed his 'Lefranc' plans. The editors felt that it would be wiser for Martin to focus on his popular 'Alix" series instead of dividing his time between two series. But Martin persisted, and eventually got permission to proceed with a one-shot 'Lefranc' story, but only after he agreed to the editors' request: make the main duo, Lefranc and Jeanjean, as similar to Alix and Enak as possible. The editorial fear of failure was unfounded - 'Lefranc' became an instant hit with the readers. The series was so successful that Tintin's editors, in an ironic reversal, requested Martin to drop 'Alix' so he could focus entirely on 'Lefranc' instead! Martin continued to produce both series, and over the following decades, new 'Lefranc' stories appeared sporadically. The second story, 'L'Ouragan de Feu' ("Hurricane of Fire"), was serialized in 1959, followed by 'Le Mystère Borg' (The Borg Mystery') in 1964. A book series followed, and continues to this day, successful enough to merit translation into over ten languages: Dutch, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic, Greek and Indonesian.

'Lefranc's success led to criticism from a colleague. When the series debuted, Edgar P. Jacobs, whose 'Blake & Mortimer' appeared alongside 'Lefranc' in Tintin magazine, accused Jacques Martin of plagiarism. Jacobs suspected the Tintin editors of using his creation as a blueprint for this new series. He pointed out Martin's work was drawn in a similar "clear line" style, featured two male detectives and a recurring villiain who bore many similarities to his 'Blake & Mortimer' villain, Colonel Olrik. On the other hand, many other comic series of the time had male duos, mysteries to solve, and enigmatic villains. Still, the disgruntled artist vented his anger by sending Martin a letter challenging him to a duel! It wasn't until 1964, when the episode 'Le Mystère Borg' debuted, that the tensions between the comic artists finally eased. Edgar P. Jacobs publicly congratulated Jacques Martin on the success of the 'Lefranc' series, and when asked about his mail correspondence, referred to his duel challenge as "just a joke".

Lefranc by Jacques Martin
Lefranc - 'L'Ouragan de Feu'.

Lefranc: assistants
With two series on his hands, Jacques Martin outsourced the artwork of 'Lefranc' from the fourth story on. The 1970 episode 'Le Repaire du Loup' ("The Wolf's Den") was drawn by Bob De Moor. Between 1977 and 1998, the series had a more regular publication rhythm, when Martin's scripts were drawn by French artist Gilles Chaillet. Chaillet was the first in a long line of Jacques Martin co-workers and pupils, succeeded in turn by Christophe Simon, Francis Carin, André Taymans and Erwin Drèze. Throughout the years, Roger Leloup, Michel DemaretsOlivier Pâques, Vincent Henin, Didier Desmit, Thierry Cayman, Raphaël Schierer, Thierry Lebreton, and Doris Drèze have all assisted on the backgrounds. Colorists for 'Lefranc' include Bruno Wesel, Nicole Thenen, France de Beck-Ferrari, Chantal Defachelle, Loli Irala Marin and Bonaventure. In 2006, Jacques Martin retired from the series, leaving the scriptwork to François Corteggiani, Michel Jacquemart, Patrick Weber, Patrick Delperdange, Thierry Robberecht and Roger Seiter. In later years, new artists brought in to work on 'Lefanc' include Régric, Alain Maury and Christophe Alvès.

photo of Jacques Martin and Hergé
Hergé (left) with Jacques Martin at Studio Hergé.

Studio Hergé
Shortly after his debut, Jacques Martin's growing reputation gave him the opportunity to play a more important role in Tintin magazine. In the late 1940s, he succeeded Edgar P. Jacobs as the illustrator of the editorial section 'Voir et Savoir' ("See and Know") which depicted the history of transportation. Jacques Martin's chronicles 'Les Chroniques de l'Auto' ("Automobile Chronicles", 1948-1953) and 'Les Chroniques de l'Aviation' ("The Chronicles of Flight", 1950-1952) came with a series of chromolithographs, depicting historical cars and aeroplanes down to the tiniest technical detail. Other artists who worked on 'Voir et Savoir' were Bob de Moor, Roger Leloup and Georges Fouilé.

Between 1953 and 1972, Jacques Martin was a member of Studio Hergé, the group of artists working alongside Hergé, the art director and creator of Tintin magazine's title hero. Martin brought along his own assistants, Roger Leloup and Michel Desmaret. Beyond creating his own 'Alix' and 'Lefranc' stories, Jacques Martin notably assisted Hergé on redrawing the backgrounds for the color reprints of classic 'Tintin' and 'Jo, Zette and Jocko' albums. Martin also helped draw the background art of new 'Tintin' episodes: 'L'Affaire Tournesol' ('The Calculus Affair', 1954-1956), 'Coke en Stock' ('The Red Sea Sharks', 1958), 'Tintin au Tibet' ('Tintin in Tibet', 1958-1959), 'Les Bijoux de la Castafiore' ('The Castafiore Emerald', 1961-1962) and 'Vol 714 pour Sydney' ('Flight 714 to Sydney', 1966-1967). Hergé even used some of Martin's ideas, like the joke about the villain Rastapopoulos and the surgical tape attached to his mouth in 'Vol 714'. In that story, Martin also suggested letting Roger Leloup create a technically detailed sketch of Laszlo Carreidas' fictional plane. Martin and Hergé's other assistant, Bob De Moor, are credited with drawing the majority of Hergé's unfinished 'Jo, Zette and Jocko' album 'La Vallée des Cobras' ("The Valley of the Cobras", 1956).


In 1972, Jacques Martin left Studio Hergé to focus on his own creations, which were becoming increasingly successful commercially. Martin decided to flesh out an idea he had long wanted to see: a comic series about the 15th-century French nobleman Gilles de Rais, also an infamous child rapist and serial killer. He first proposed the idea to artist Paul Cuvelier, who wasn't interested in the project, so Martin developed the series with his assistant Jean Pleyers. They realized they couldn't possibly make the notorious nobleman the hero of the series. De Rais was recast as a secondary character and the central character of the new tale became the (fictional) young sculptor, architect and painter Xan Larc. The series was set at the height of the Hundred Years' War, featuring real-life historical characters Joan of Arc and King Charles VII of France, among others.

The first two stories were serialized in Tintin magazine under the series' title 'Xan' (1978-1980), which was also the title of the first album series at Éditions du Lombard. In the early 1980s, Martin moved 'Xan' to the publishing house Casterman, which also released the 'Alix' and 'Lefranc' book collections. Martin's previous publisher, Lombard, claimed the copyright to the 'Xan' title and name, so Martin renamed the comic 'Jhen', and changed the protagonist's name from Xan Larc to Jhen Roque to invalidate any copyright infringement claims. Since 1984, all new 'Jhen' books have been published by Casterman. Martin and Pleyers collaborated on nine 'Jhen' albums. The series took a hiatus in 2000, then relaunched in 2008, with Hughes Payen as scriptwriter and Jean Pleyers and Thierry Cayman alternating on the artwork. Since 2013, Jerry Frisen and Jean-Luc Cornette have written new 'Jhen' stories, with artwork provided by either Jean Pleyers or Paul Teng.

In 1984, another historical series was added to Jacques Martin's catalogue - 'Arno'. Through its central character, the Venetian musician Arno Firenze, the comic chronicles events occuring between the French Revolution and the end of the Napoleonic Empire. Arno gets involved with the revolutionary movement in Paris of 1789 and is eventually recruited in Napoleon Bonaparte's army. Jacques Martin once again strove for historical accuracy and tried to depict the Corsican emperor in a balanced way. Napoleon is portrayed as a brilliant politician and military strategist, but at the same time a formidable tyrant. The stories were written by Jacques Martin, with artwork supplied by André Juillard for books 1 through 3, followed by Jacques Denoël, who drew books 4 through 6. The final installment of 'Arno' appeared in 1997. Unlike Jacques Martin's other series, 'Arno' was published by Glénat, who serialized the first 'Arno' stories in Circus and Vécu magazines.

Orion by Jacques Martin
Orion #1 - 'Le Lac Sacré' (1990).

Following a dispute with his publisher Casterman, Jacques Martin created an all-new series intended to echo 'Alix', but set it in a different civilization. Taking place in Ancient Greece, 'Orion' (1990-2011) follows the adventures of the young Athenian Orion, who is recruited as a soldier in Pericles' army. The first 'Orion' album was published by Bagheera, the second under Martin's own Orix imprint, and the third by Dargaud. Martin personally wrote and drew the debut album, 'Le Lac Sacré' ("The Sacred Lake", 1990), and the first 30 pages of the second album, 'Le Styx' (1996). After that, his assistant Christophe Simon took over the duties, finishing book 2 and drawing in book 3 entirely. By the time a new 'Orion' installment was written and drawn by Marc Jailloux, the series was back at Casterman, who published it alongside a re-release of the first three 'Orion' albums in a single volume.

Les Voyages de...
Simultaneously with the start of his new historical comic, 'Orion', Jacques Martin launched an educational spin-off series, with information about Antiquity provided by historical experts accompanied by detailed, high-quality illustrations drawn by Jacques Martin's entourage. After a first installment at Deux coqs d'Or, a children's book publisher, 'Les Voyages d'Orion' (1990-1995) was continued at Martin's own imprint, Orix. Pierre de Broche illustrated two volumes about Ancient Greece, Rafael Moralès one about Ancient Egypt, and Gilles Chaillet two volumes about the Roman era. 'Les Voyages d'Orion' concluded after the last of these these five volumes were published. In 1997, the series was rebranded as 'Les Voyages d'Alix' - an understandable commercial choice, since general audiences were more familiar with Alix than Orion. The original five books were reprinted under the new title, while new installments, about ancient naval history, costumes and cities, were added. Dargaud took over publishing for two years before the 'Les Voyages d'Alix' series found a permanent home with the publishing house Casterman in 2000. Over the years, many illustrators contributed to the collection, including Laurent Bouhy, Cédric Hervan, Jean Torton, Éric Lenaerts, Léonardo Palmisano, Rik De Wulf & Marc Daniels, Gilbert Bouchard, Alex Evang, Yves Plateau, Jean-Marie Ruffieux and Wyllow.

In the same tradition, Jacques Martin produced a limited-edition album on the history of his home region, 'Histoire d'Alsace' (La Nuée Bleue, 2001), written by Georges Bischoff and illustrated by Christophe Simon. Other Jacques Martin series were given a similar spin-off treatment. 'Les Voyages de Lefranc', which began in 2004, features historical events of the 20th century, most notably aviation pioneers and the Second World War. After 2011, the series was called 'Les Réportages de Lefranc'. Most installments were written by Isabelle Bournier, with Régric and Olivier Weinberg the main illustrators. 'Les Voyages de Jhen' took off in 2005, giving a tour of European medieval history. Writers for the series have been Georges Foessel, Rolland Oberlé, Benoît Despas, Michel Dubuisson, Marc Ryckaert, Ruben Montovani, Arnaud de la Croix, Marc Houver, Jean-François Patricole and Jean-Marc Fagard, and the pages were livened up by the artists Yves Plateau, Benoît Fauviaux, Nicolas Van De Walle, Nicolas Mengus, Enrico Sallustio, Marie Chaco, Marco Venanzi, Jean Pleyers, Ferry, Mathieu Barthélémy and Olivier Weinberg. 


During the 1990s and 2000s, Jacques Martin continued to launch new projects. With 'Jhen' artist Jean Pleyers, he created three volumes of the historical comic series 'Kéos' (1991-1999), set at the court of Pharaoh Merenptah in Ancient Egypt. Kéos is a young Egyptian prince, who gets caught up in the schemes and intrigues of a high priest. In the third album, 'Le Veau d'Or' ("The Golden Calf", 1999), Kéos witnesses Moses and the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. The three installments were each put out by a different publisher: Bagheera, Hélyode and for the final installment, Casterman.

Jacques Martin returned to Casterman publishing in 2003 to launch his final project. The series 'Loïs', featuring artwork by Olivier Pâques, occurs in the 17th century during the days of Louis XIV. Loïs Lorcey, a young French court painter from Versailles, travels by royal order to North America during the French-English wars in Louisiana, among other locations. Jacques Martin wrote the first two episodes himself, then brought in Patrick Weber to write the following two episodes, before assigning the scriptwriting to Pierre Valmour. Like with his previous 'Orion' and 'Alix' series, Jacques Martin's 'Loïs' spawned an accompanying educational spin-off series: two volumes of 'Les Voyages de Loïs' (2006 and 2010). The first installment is a history of Versailles, written by Anne Deckers and illustrated by Olivier Pâques and Jérôme Presti. Luis Diferr illustrated the second volume, which was set in 17th-century Portugal.

Les Voyages d'AlixLes Voyages de Jhen

Jacques Martin is widely praised for his many well-documented and detailed historical series. Throughout his career, he received several awards and honors. In 1978, the 'Alix' album 'Le Spectre de Carthage' won the award for "Best French-language realistic comic work" at the Angoulême comic festival. The following year, Martin received the Prix Saint-Michel for "Best Script" for his entire body of work, which at the time consisted of three series - 'Alix', 'Lefranc' and 'Xan'. In 2003, the Grand Prix Saint-Michel award was presented to Jacques Martin for his entire oeuvre. Jacques Martin was invited in 1983 by the Tunisian government to visit the archaeological site of Byrsa. His excursion inspired the documentary book 'Avé Alix' (Association Clovis, 1984), which formed the basis of a special exhibition at the Sorbonne University in Paris. During the 1984 exposition opening, Jacques Martin was knighted as "Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres". In 1991, Jacques Martin became Commandeur in the Order of Leopold II. In 1989, the veteran comic artist enjoyed the honor of being one of the domestic comic pioneers included in the permanent exhibition of the new Comic Strip Center in Brussels. Together with Tibet, Jacques Martin is the only French-born artist included; the other featured artists are all Belgians. At the 2008 Comic Festival of Middelkerke, Belgium, Jacques Martin received the "Gouden Potlood" ("Golden Crayon") award.

Another type of recognition for Jacques Martin came in the form of parodies of his work. His deeply serious series were an irresistible target for certain comical cartoonists. In Volume One of his book series 'Pastiches' (Glénat, 1980), Roger Brunel made a porn parody of 'Alix' entitled 'Axile'. In 1981, two parodies appeared in Tintin magazine: Dupa spoofed 'Alix' with his character 'Cubitus' in the September issue (#29), and for the commemorative 30th anniversary issue, 'Lefranc' was parodied by Ernst in the story 'Guy Lefranc. La Grande Menace'. Two more 'Lefranc' parodies appeared in 1984: Roger Brunel's pornographic spoof  'Legland' in the third volume of 'Pastiches', and in 'Parodies de Al Voss' the detective 'Lefranc' was ridiculed by writer/artist Al Voss.

'Vercingetorix' (1985), the final 'Alix' album drawn solely by Jacques Martin.

Final years and death
In 1972, the Martin family moved to Bousval, Belgium, in the present-day province of Walloon Brabant. A great shock came to Martin in 1983, when his friend and former boss, Hergé, died. Along with many other comic authors, Martin paid a tribute to Hergé in a special issue of Á Suivre, 'Adieu Hergé', devoted to the Clear Line master. Hergé's death made Martin wonder what he was still doing in Belgium, a country he initially planned to visit for only three weeks! As a best-selling author, he was heavily taxed by the Belgian authorities. Martin decided to relocate to Switzerland in 1984. The Martin family lived first in Pully, on the western border of Switzerland, then moved to Lausanne, just 5 kilometers away.

During the 1990s, Martin developed a type of muscular distrophy of the eyes, and was only able to see with the help from a magnifying glass. As a result, he refrained from drawing, and focused on writing instead. By 2004, he retired almost completely - his involvement in his comic series was limited to writing short outlines for upcoming stories. While maintaining the role of creative advisor, the artistic supervision of his series was handed over to a committee of family members and representatives of the Casterman publishing house. On 21 January 2010, Jacques Martin passed away in Orbe, Switzerland at 88 years old. Coincidentally, Jacques Martin died in the same month as another famous French longtime Tintin contributor, Tibet

Continuation of Jacques Martin's series
After Jacques Martin's retirement, most of his series were continued by the publishing house Casterman and the Martin family. 'Alix Raconte' (2008), a new spin-off series of three one-shot comic albums, was written by François Maingoval and drawn by Jean TortonÉric Lenaerts and Yves Plateau. Each installment of the series gave a romanticized biography of a historical character - Alexander the Great, Cleopatra and the emperor Nero, in turn - with Alix appearing as a secondary character. In 2012, two years after Martin's death, 'Alix Senator' was launched. In this sequel series, Alix is an older man who is a Roman Senator. The ongoing comic series is written by Valérie Mangin and drawn by Thierry Démarez. A prequel comic series, entitled 'Alix Origines' (2018), written by Marc Bourgne and drawn by Laurent Libessart, was aimed at a younger readership. This series was drawn in a semi-caricatural fashion, a major deviation from Jacques Martin's signature Clear Line style. 

Legacy and influence
As one of the main contributors of Tintin magazine, Jacques Martin has influenced new generations of comic artists, especially in the field of historical comics. Several of his collaborators have become important authors in their own right: Roger Leloup, Gilles Chaillet, André Juillard and Jean PleyersFrancis Carin, among others. Pascal Zanon, Bernard Swysen and many contributors to Glénat's historical comic magazine Vécu (1985-2004) are indebted to Martin too. French novelist and politician Érik Orsenna attributed his passion for Latin to reading 'Alix' as a child. When French president François Mitterrand visited a 1985 exhibition featuring Jacques Martin and Albert Uderzo ('Astérix'), the politician stated 'Alix' was his favorite comic strip. Martin has additionally been cited as an influence by Philippe Wurm.

Books about Jacques Martin
For those interested in Jacques Martin's life and career, Thierry Groensteen and Alain De Kuyssche's book 'Avec Alix' (Casterman, 1984, revised editions in 1986 and 2002), and the retrospective books 'Alix, L'Art de Jacques Martin' (Casterman, 2018) and Patrick Gaumer's 'Jacques Martin, Le Voyageur du Temps' (Casterman, 2021) are highly recommended. Those interested in hearing Jacques Martin's own words, a series of interviews with the artist appear in 'La Voie d'Alix. Entretriens avec Jacques Martin' (Casterman, 2000) by Michel Robert. 

photo of Jacques Martin (1921-2010)
Jacques Martin (1921-2010).

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