Self-taught artist Luc Lefèbvre, a.k.a. Ptiluc, is best known for his humor comics about rats: 'Pacush Blues' and 'Rat's'. He has been making comics since he was nineteen. He was born in 1956 in Quévy, Hainaut, as the son of a chemist. His father enjoyed painting and his mother had taken an arts course when she was younger. Ptiluc studied at the University of Louvain to become a vet, but his drawings showed more promise than his biological knowledge. At the age of 17 he suffered a life-changing accident. When his bike came in collision with a truck his left arm was paralyzed for over a year. He also suffered from epileptic seizures. In this condition the boy was unable to continue his studies. Thus he had more time to draw and focus on a different future, while both the truck driver and his parents paid his medical expenses. He would later look back on the incident as a "blessing in disguise".
Ptiluc's main inspirations come from American underground comix and the French magazines Fluide Glacial and Rigolo. He cites Hugo Pratt, Marcel Gotlib and André Franquin as his prime influences, but also adores the work of novelist George Orwell. Ptiluc sent his first drawings to the magazine Tintin, but was refused on the grounds that his work didn't really fit within the family magazine. However, chief-editor Jean-Luc Vernal phoned Charles Dortant, head of the company Archers, and claimed he found "the new Picha". Thanks to Vernal's help Ptiluc soon contributed to magazines like Échec à l'Échec, Moto News, Vie Privée and Spatial. After Vie Privée went bankrupt he found a new home in the magazine Aïe!, where his series 'Pacush Blues' (1980) first saw light.
This gag comic about rats living in a drain would eventually become his signature work. Ptiluc said he closely identified with this animal species, because people always said he resembled one, due to his long nose. When this magazine folded as well, Ptiluc tried all major publishing companies, but was refused time and time again. Thierry Martens, head of Spirou at the time, even downright wrote him "to look for another profession". With 'Pacush Blues' put on hold, Ptiluc found a job as illustrator of school-books teaching French students how to read, write and speak Dutch. These books were published by Didier-Hatier, whose chief editor, Maurice Trévinal, was a comic book fanatic as well. Trévinal founded his own comic book company, Vents d'Ouest, where Ptiluc would finally find an outlet to continue 'Pacush Blues' from 1983 on with tremendous sales.
'Pacush Blues' looks like a funny animal comic at first sight, but contains sarcastic and often nihilistic commentary on humanity. There are no single recurring characters. None of the rats are individualized and all just look and act basically the same. While the comic features some black comedy gags at times there is also more poignant food for thought. The rats often wonder about the meaning of life and especially the role humans play in the destruction of the planet. The second volume, 'Jefferson ou le mal de vivre' ('Jefferson, or the pain of existence', 1983) was dedicated to the artist's late brother.
'Pacush Blues' also features several stabs at the creations of Walt Disney, whom Ptiluc dislikes. He once referred to Mickey Mouse as a "mediocre American with the voice of a transsexual." One of Ptiluc's celebrity admirers was André Franquin, whose approval both encouraged him and helped him get launched. Franquin once wrote about 'Pacush Blues': "I have frequently checked out Ptiluc's rats over the years, they've come to show me their mean-spirited progression from time to time. I haven't caught the Black Plague, I've always followed them with a good-hearted laugh. It was time that an editor launched these rats unto the greater public. In my opinion they would soon become an epidemic."
Pacush Blues 13 - Correspondance avec les corps obscurs
After moving to France, Ptiluc made an homage to his hometown Mons in the two books of 'La Geste de Gilles de Chin et le Dragon de Mons' (1989) using a more realistic style. In 1991 Vents d'Ouest was bought by Glénat. Ptiluc joined Albin Michel, where he published a new series about apes and monkeys: 'Ni Dieu, Ni Bête' (1992). Since 1995, he works on an additional rats series, called 'Rat's', in which the rodents are in a constant battle with frogs. He has made the comic with the help of his assistants Édouard David (1995-1999) and Jean-Louis Garcia (2000-2009) and the scenarists Corcal and Philippe Viala. Books were published by Les Humanoïdes Associés and Soleil Productions. The comic was restyled into a series about pirate rats called 'Pirat's' at Audie/Fluide Glacial in 2013.
He made a series of short stories for L'Écho des Savanes under the title 'La Foire aux Cochons' from 1998. This time pigs are used as a metaphor for his pessimistic view of human society. It follows the same existential themes he addressed with 'Pacush Blues', but in a different context. Ptiluc was inspired by a documentary about pigs he saw on ARTE. It dawned to him that rats live in a society of their own, outside the human world, while pigs are de facto part of our human society. The parallels between pigs and humans seemed more direct and tragic at the same time, since pigs are basically prisoners of a predetermined destiny forced upon them by humans.
Since 1999 he has been working regularly with Joan and Harty on several thematic albums for Vents d'Ouest and Albin Michel, mostly dealing with musical genres ('Across de Reggae', 'Techno Attitude', etc.) and health ('Clope Attitude', 'Bio Attitude'). Ptiluc additionally made a comic album about drunken philosophies called 'La Murge' (Glénat, 1997) with Kris Person. With Joan he additionally created 'Frigo', about the everyday life of the inhabitants of a refrigerator for Les Humanoïdes Associés in 2000-2001.
Despite his bike accident Ptiluc is also a passionate motorcyclist. He has travelled through Africa and Siberia on this vehicle and drew the series 'Mémoires d'un motard' ('Memories of a motorcyclist', 2001-2005) as a graphic chronicle of what he saw and experienced on the road. With scriptwriters Richard Malka and Agathe André and artist TieKo he created the biblical satire called 'La Pire Espèce' for Vents d'Ouest in 2010. Ptiluc and Malka also wrote a reboot of Louis Forton's classic comics series 'Les Pieds Nickelés', which was drawn by Luz in 2011.
Ptiluc has also participated in several collective comic projects. Together with 20 other comic artists (Zep, Frank Margerin, Yslaire, Cosey, Philippe Vuillemin, Milo Manara, Loustal, Gilbert Shelton, Max Cabanes, Dupuy and Berberian, François Boucq, Gérald Poussin, Thomas Ott, Frank Pé, Frank Le Gall, Riff Reb's, Eric Buche, Enrico Marini and Valott) he illustrated a record single for the project '20 Vraies Fausses Pochettes De Disque Par 20 Vrais Dessinateurs de BD' (1995). Ptiluc chose for French singer Renaud's song 'Vingt Ans que Ça Dure'. He has also illustrated advertisements for Virgin Cola.