Jack Palmer, by Rene Petillon
'Jack Palmer'.

René Pétillon was part of the new wave of comic artists who emerged in the adult-oriented French comic scene of the 1970s. His satirical cartoons have appeared in both serious and more provocative magazines, most notably L'Écho des Savanes, VSD and Le Canard Enchaîné, while in comics circles he is best-known for creating the rather unqualified private investigator 'Jack Palmer' (1974-2013).

Comic strip collected in the album 'On aura tout vu' (1999).

Early life and career
Pétillon was born in 1945 in Lesneven in the Breton department of Finistère. His parents were both bakers. With no formal art training, the young man published his first drawings in Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels' fantastic realism magazine Planète in 1968. He continued his activities as an illustrator/ cartoonist for magazines like Plexus, L'Enragé, Week-End, Vingt Ans and Penthouse, before switching to comics in 1972.

In that year he published his first short story, 'Voir Naples et mourir', in Pilote. Together with Enki Bilal, Annie Goetzinger, Jean Solé and Max Cabanes, Pétillon was part of a new group of authors who had to revive Pilote after the departure of staples like Nikita Mandryka, Gotlib, Claire Brétécher, Jean-Marc Reiser and Cabu. He became a regular in the magazine's pages in 1974, when he introduced his trademark character 'Jack Palmer' in issue #742.

Jack Palmer #1 - 'Une sacrée salade'.

Jack Palmer
Jack Palmer, also referred to as simply Palmer, is a tiny private investigator, dressed in an oversized trenchcoat and hat, and armed with merely a plastic bag of budget textile company Tati. Whereas most detectives actually solve mysteries, Palmer only seems to complicate his own investigations before finally bringing them to a good end. Pétillon constructed an absurd parody of the detective genre, popularized in those days particularly by TV detective Columbo, played by Peter Falk. Largely inspired by the humor of MAD Magazine and the Marx Brothers, the cartoonist furthermore gave satirical comments on politics, the media, the mob and jet set life, while also mocking his protagonist's fictional colleagues Sherlock Holmes and Arsène Lupin. Palmer's publication history seems to be as confusing as his investigations. By 1976 the strip disappeared from Pilote, to find a new spot in the satirical comic magazine L'Écho des Savanes, only to return in Pilote in 1982 and then move back to L'Écho des Savanes in 1989. From 1987 onwards, one-page gags furthermore appeared in Charlie magazine and subsequently the weekly news magazine VSD, while a new story was prepublished in Le Canard Enchaîné in 2009. In the meantime, the series has made appearances in B.D. and Télérama as well. Book collections were published by Éditions du Fromage, Albin Michel, Dargaud and then Albin Michel again.

The 12th album, 'L'Enquête Corse' (2000), won the Alph-Art prize for best French comics album during the 2001 Angoulême comic festival. The album dealt with the "independentist" groups on the isle of Corsica, and received much critical acclaim. A Corsican edition was published with a translation by Francescu-Maria Perfettini, while Alain Berbérian (brother of comic artist Charles Berberian) made a movie adaptation starring Christian Clavier and the unlucky detective. The film premiered in 2004. Pétillon gave his satirical view on Muslim fundamentalism in 'L'Affaire du voile' (2006), of which an Arabic edition was also published. The fact that Pétillon's humor was never vulgar probably explains why only one single imam in Switzerland deemed the book offensive. For the final 'Palmer' album published during his author's lifetime, the clueless sleuth was sent to Brittany (Bretagne), the region where Pétillon was born. Of course editions 'Palmer en Bretagne' (2013) also appeared in a Breton and Gallo dialect version. 

'Docteur Miracle', from Pilote #744.

Docteur Miracle and other short comics
In addition to his main series, Pétillon published several gag strips of 'Docteur Miracle' in Pilote in 1974. He drew 'Le Chien des Basketville' (1975-1976) in L'Écho des Savanes, and ventured into science fantasy with several short stories published in Métal Hurlant and Pilote from 1976 onwards. These were later collected in the albums 'Les carottes sont cuites' (Les Humanoïdes Associés, 1980) and 'Les Aventures de Douglas Ferbanc et Vaseline' (Dargaud, 1982). Pétillon furthermore appeared sporadically in the pages of Fluide Glacial (from 1975 on), À Suivre (from 1978 on) and Chic (1984).

'Courrier pour Jupiter!' (Métal Hurlant #36, December 1978).

He has additionally been a productive scriptwriter for other artists. With Yves Got he made the absurd funny animal series 'Gomard et Kolabuc' for Pilote (1974) and L'Écho des Savanes (1975-1976). Their best known joint creation is however 'Le Baron Noir' (1976-1981), a cynical view on society and politics through the exploits of the unscrupulous predator The Black Baron, a vulture, and a group of mostly impassive sheep. The sheep population however also knows some historic leaders, trade unionists and rebels, while the events are meticulously evaluated and discussed by an elephant and a turtle. The series debuted in L'Écho des Savanes, and then ran as a daily strip in Le Matin de Paris from 1977 until 1981. By 1978 Got took over the scripwriting as well, sometimes aided by Nikita Mandryka, Christian Godard or Martin Veyron. René Pétillon has also written the albums 'Panique à Londres' (2003), 'Scandale à New York' (2004) and 'Triomphe à Hollywood' (2006), starring the characters Dico and Charles. The artwork was provided by Jean-Marc Rochette. With Florence Cestac, he made the humorous comics album 'Super Catho' (2004), which he based largely on his childhood memories.

Cartoon from Le Canard Enchaîné (18 November 2015).

Graphic contributions
In 1983, Pétillon was one of many comic artists paying homage to the recently deceased Hergé in a special issue of (À Suivre), titled 'Adieu Hergé'. He paid tribute to Nikita Mandryka in the collective comic book 'Tronches de Concombre' (Dupuis, 1995). He additionally made a graphic contribution to the anti-racism collective comic book 'Rire Contre Le Racisme' (Jungle!, 2006).

Besides the aforementioned Alph-Art prize, René Pétillon was awarded the Grand Prize of the City of Angoulême in 1989 and the "Grand Prix de l'humour vache 2002" during the Salon International du Dessin de Presse et d'Humour in Saint-Just-le-Martel.

Final years and death
During the 1980s Pétillon also worked as a topical cartoonist, initially for L'Écho des Savanes and VSD. Since 1993 he became a house cartoonist for the satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaîné. He also appeared in a couple of issues of Charlie Hebdo, following the relaunch after the January 2015 terrorist attacks, which caused the deaths of several of the magazine's cartoonists. Much of his cartooning work has been collected in book format by Denoël and Albin Michel.The artist announced his retirement from Le Canard in August 2017 to focus on creating comics again. Unfortunately he passed away from a long illness at age 72,  little over a year later.

Prive dans la Nuit, by René Petillon

Series and books by René Pétillon in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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