Jhen by Jean Pleyers
Jhen: Jehanne de France (Dutch version, 1985)

Jean Pleyers is a Belgian comics artist, with a specialization in historical comics series. He best known for co-creating such series as 'Jhen' (1978) and 'Kéos' (1992-1999) with comics legend Jacques Martin. He is also the sole author of the sci-fi serial 'Les Êtres de Lumière' (1981-1983) and his own historical series 'Giovani' (1996-2002). He considers both Paul Cuvelier and Jacques Martin as his most important mentors.


"Publi-strip" for Oxy petrol stations (Kuifje #6, 1971)

Pleyers was born in 1943 in Verviers into an artistic family. His father was a sculptor, and his mother a musician. He attended the École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc in Liège, where François Walthéry, Dany and Pierre Seron were among his fellow students. Pleyers became the assistant of comics artist Gérald Forton in 1966. He participated in the artwork of five stories of Forton's cowboy series 'Teddy Ted' in Pif Gadget and in the 'Tiger Joe' episode 'Safari pour espion' in La Libre Belgique Junior (script by André-Paul Duchâteau). He subsequenly contributed several short stories to the newspaper supplement Le Soir Jeunesse, which were collected in the album 'West Stories' by Michel Deligne in 1977. In 1969 he furthermore illustrated two installments of the educational historical feature 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul' by Octave Joly for Spirou magazine. In the early 1970s he made a brief appearance in Tintin magazine with the short story 'Un royaume pour de la boue' (script by Jean-Claude Pasquiez, 1970) and a series of advertising strips for Oxy petrol stations (1971). In 1971, he also assisted Paul Cuvelier on the lettering of 'La Caravane de la Colère', an episode of the title comic of Lombard's girls' magazine Line. He then adapted about a dozen science fiction novels of the publishing house Fleuve Noir to comics stories for the pocket books of Éditions Artima, such as Aventures Fiction, Sideral and Hallucinations.


Adaptations of the Jimmy Guieu novel Les Êtres de Feu for Aventures Fiction and of the Jean Murelli novel 'L'Orgue de l'Épouvante' for Hallucinations

Despite these early efforts, Pleyers spent most of the 1960s and 1970s trying to find his way in life. He had flings as a bartender, factory worker, waterski hauler and appeared in small roles in opera and cinema. He also travelled a lot, spending six months in the Sahara, and organizing spiritualist sessions for tourists in Spain. He squatted with Paul Cuvelier during most of the 1970s, according to an interview in L'Est Républicain in 1993 living in "old embassies, surrounded by homosexual drug addicts". He also spent three years on the Lesser Antilles. He drew his comic story 'Pat le Guadeloupéen' in Pointe-à-Pitre, the largest city of the French isle of Guadeloupe. In 1977, Deligne published Pleyers' erotic comics album 'Les Enragés de la Peste Blanche'. In that same year, he applied for a job with comics grandmaster Jacques Martin, a promise he had made his mentor Cuvelier shortly before his death. It was the beginning of Pleyers' stable career in mainstream comics, although he and his wife would continue to embark upon spiritual trips to the Asian continent on a regular base.


Jhen - L'Archange

Martin proposed Pleyers the artwork of a comics project surrounding French serial killer Gilles de Rais, a concept he had initially worked on with Cuvelier during the 1960s. This evolved into the series 'Xan' (1978). The first story, 'L'Or de la Mort', was serialized in Tintin in 1978, followed by 'Jehanne de France' in 1980. However, Tintin's publisher Lombard didn't show any interest in publishing the series in album format. The authors therefore turned to Casterman, where the comic was retitled to 'Jhen'. 'Jhen' is set during the Hundred Years' War and follows the adventures of a young sculptor, architect and painter named Jhen Roque. The stories also feature real-life historical characters like Jeanne d’Arc, French king Charles VII and aforementioned Gilles de Rais. Like with all Martin's series, the comic had a great sense of historical accuracy, which Pleyers captured in a baroque and detailed drawing style.


Kéos

After eight albums, Pleyers and Martin left 'Jhen' in 1990 to co-create 'Kéos' (1992-1999), a series set in Ancient Egypt, which inspired three albums. Martin and Pleyers made one more album of 'Jhen' in 2000 ('L'Archange'). Bernard Capo was proposed as the new artist in 2004, but the effort was called off. Pleyers has continued to draw an occasional new album of 'Jhen' since 2008. By now, the scripts are written by Hughes Payen or Jerry Frisen and Jean-Luc Cornette, while Thierry Cayman and Paul Teng are also drawing albums in alternation with Pleyers. Jean Pleyers has furthermore assisted Jacques Martin on 'Le Cheval de Troie' (1988), the final 'Alix' album drawn by the master himself.

Les Êtres de lumière by Jean Pleyers
Les Êtres de Lumière

In addition to his work for Jacques Martin, Pleyers wrote and drew the science fiction series 'Les Êtres de Lumière' (1981-1983) for Métal Hurlant, which was collected in two books by Les Humanoïdes Associés. For Casterman he created the historical comic series 'Giovani'  (1996-2002) for which he did both art and scriptwork. Giovani d'Orfani is a Florentine painter, who goes to the court of Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good to find work as a portrait painter. His encounter with the beautiful courtisan/prophetess Sara Villequier results in a succession of thrilling adventures with bloodthirsty highwaymen, deceitful flagellants, black Knights Templar, wolves, diabolical nuns and hellcats in the first album alone! The series was ended after three albums in 2002. In 2012, Images Innées published the adventure story 'Salt - Les Crânes de Cristal', that Pleyers and Paul Couturiau had originally created for Casterman in 2002. Jean Pleyers lives in Martigny, Switzerland, with his wife Corinne, who is also his colorist. 

Giovanni by Jean Pleyers
Giovani

www.jeanpleyers.com

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