Les Petits Hommes by Pierre Seron
Les Petits Hommes - 'Le Trou Blanc'.

Pierre Seron was a prominent and longtime contributor to Spirou magazine and its Flemish equivalent Robbedoes from 1967 to 2004. He formed the core of the generation of artists that came after the magazine's "Golden Age" in the 1950s and 1960s, together with François Walthéry, Willy Lambil, Raoul Cauvin, Berck, Jean-Claude Fournier, Roger Leloup and Lucien De Gieter. Seron's style strongly resembled that of André Franquin, the magazine's star author. Some saw him as Franquin's ideal successor on the title comic 'Spirou et Fantasio' instead of Fournier, others dismissed him as a mere rip-off. The publisher didn't pick him because of these style similarities, and therefore Seron stuck with his signature series, 'Les Petits Hommes' (1967-2010). He additionally created 'Aurore et Ulysse, Centaures' (1977-1986) and 'Les Petites Femmes' (1999-2009), but he will always be remembered for his little men who lived in the futuristic and hidden community of Eslapion. Besides Franquin, Seron was also an avid admirer of Maurice Tillieux, with whom he shared a fondness for cynical and insulting communication between his characters.

cover illustration by Pierre Seron
Cover illustrations for Spirou issues #2056 and #2135.

Early life and career
Pierre Seron was born in 1942 in Chenée in the Walloon province of Liège. Because of his father's traveling profession as an engineer, he spent parts of his childhood in the French town of Libourne, the countrysides of Bordeaux and the Ardennes, and even in Montreal, Canada. But wherever the family lived, Pierre found the opportunity to read his favorite comic magazines, Spirou and Tintin. Back in Belgium in 1957, he enrolled at the École Supérieure des Arts Saint-Luc in Liège, where he initially focused on graphic arts and decoration. Comics became his main goal after meeting fellow students and future colleagues François Walthéry, Jean Pleyers and Dany. Upon his graduation in 1961, he presented his work at Le Lombard in Brussels, the publisher of Tintin magazine. Seron became the assistant of the very productive Dino Attanasio, whom he helped on the backgrounds of the comic series 'Spaghetti', 'Bob Morane' and 'Modeste et Pompon'. A young William Vance worked for Attanasio at the same time as Seron.

Working for Mittéï: covers for Kuifje/Tintin Working for Mittéï: covers for Kuifje/Tintin
Working for Mittéï: covers for Kuifje/Tintin issues 1967-02 and 1970-13. The second one is signed "Foal".

Seron's tenure as Attanasio's assistant ended when he was drafted into military service. He spent eighteen months in the army, and was assigned to make educational drawings of Soviet tanks and military aircrafts. Back in civilian life, he got married and found employment as a decorator in the Liège-based department store Grand-Bazar. He didn't return to the comics profession until 1966, when he replaced Dany as the assistant of Jean Mariette, better known as Mittéï. Seron worked as an inker and background artist on Mittéï's series 'Désiré' and 'Les 3A'. He also helped Mittéï with his work for Tibet's 'Ric Hochet' and Maurice Maréchal's 'Prudence Petitpas', while assuming the pen name Foal. Having gained enough self-confidence, Seron presented his own work to Charles Dupuis, the publisher of the competing magazine Spirou.

Les Petits Hommes by Pierre Seron
Les Petits Hommes - 'Alerte à Eslapion-sous-Rajevols' (1967).

Les Petits Hommes
He presented the concept of a comic about the inhabitants of the small town Rajevols, who are shrunk to miniature sizes after they came in contact with a mysterious meteorite. Both Dupuis and editor-in-chief Yvan Delporte were enthusiastic, but they first gave Seron a test assignment. Therefore his first work in Spirou was the short story 'Des vacances de milliardaire' (June 1967), written by Victor Hubinon. 'Les Petits Hommes' ('The Mini People') started ten issues later, in Spirou #1534. Seron was paired with the more experienced scriptwriter and journalist Albert Despréchins, who wrote the first stories based on Seron's concept. The main character is a certain Renaud; in the early episodes the secondary characters are largely interchangeable. The shrunken townspeople have established their own community, called Eslapion. It is of an almost utopian nature and knows an advanced technology, especially after the introduction of the scientist Joachim Hondegger. Throughout the series, the characters are equipped with futuristic aircrafts and weaponry. In most of the early episodes, the mini-people have to infiltrate the "normal" world without being seen, while the main antagonists are the military.

Des souris et des petits hommes (1969)
'Des souris et des petits hommes' (1969).

However, the quality of the stories was rather inconsistent. Seron was still searching for his personal style, while Despréchins' mediocre scripts were in stark contrast with the artist's innovating ideas. It is no surprise that the 1960s stories weren't collected in book format until decades later. Aid came from Mittéï, whom Seron was still assisting at the time. He became the series' writer in 1970, while adopting the pen name Hao to avoid conflicts with his main employer, Tintin magazine.

Les Petits Hommes - Le Vaisseau Fantôme
Les Petits Hommes - 'Le Vaisseau Fantôme'.

With Hao, 'Les Petits Hommes' got its definitive form, subsequently became one of the staples of Spirou magazine, and got its own album collection in 1972. The mini people settled in a new community called Eslapion II, and Renaud's sidekicks Lapaille and Lapoutre got a more prominent role. The stories also benefited from science fiction and fantasy plot elements, such as a group of miniature World War II soldiers ('Les Guerriers du Passé', 1973), a ghost ship ('Le Vaisseau Fantôme', 1975), an invasion of giant carnivorous plants ('Les Ronces du Samouraï', 1976) and an underwater society (the diptych 'Le Triangle du Diable' and 'Le Peuple des Abysses', 1977-1978).

Les Petits Hommes by Seron
Les Petits Hommes - 'Les Ronces du Samouraï' (with a cameo of Capitaine Lahuche by Francis).

Although Seron had already written several short stories by himself, he began scripting the serials as well in 1980. The first one was 'Le Guêpier' (1980), in which the evil Duke of La Fourrière was introduced. The megalomaniac scientist continued to use technology, thugs and even animals to trap the little people in several later albums. New sidekicks were introduced in 'Petits Hommes et Hommes-singes' (1982). The sexy but unbearable Cédille became the female lead in the series, while the rather stereotypical Dimanche added a multicultural element to the franchise. Dimanche (literally: "Sunday") is a black bespectacled man who is unable to pronounce the letter "r". His name alludes to the black character Man Friday in Daniel Defoe's classic novel 'Robinson Crusoë'.

Melting Pot by Seron
Les Petits Hommes - 'Melting Pot'.

Seron's solo stories are furthermore characterized by their experimental nature, both in graphics as in narratives. Most notable is the crossover with the sci-fi series 'La Scrameustache' by Gos and Walt. The album 'Le Pickpocket' (1985) showed the story from the mini people's point-of-view, while Gos told the same story with his characters in 'Les Kromoks en folie'. Seron additionally presented a world with inverted colors ('Le Planète Ranxerox', 1984), a world without color ('Le Trou Blanc', (1985), a story set in two dimensions at the same time ('Voyage entre 2 Mondes', 1989) and one set in a video game ('Melting Pot', 1995). The author enjoyed fooling his audience. In 'Le Dernier des Petits Hommes' (1987), Seron killed off the entire cast of his series, only to reveal at the end that the whole story was merely a film production. He also added a fair amount of self-mockery. An angry reader popped up between the panels every now and then to complain about the story's progression or mistakes by the author. In the 1990s, Seron started making more character-driven plots as well.

Seron shocks his reader in 'Le Dernier des Petits Hommes'
Seron shocks his reader in 'Le Dernier des Petits Hommes'.

In 1986 a theme park about 'Les Petits Hommes' was considered. It was intended as a set with miniature buildings based on Belgian touristic hotspots, where Seron's characters would liven everything up. The park would have been named Eslapion, after the city where the characters live in the comics. However, the plan never went beyond some preliminary graphic sketches  Instead another miniature park opened in 1988, not far from the Atomium: Mini Europe, which exhibits miniature versions of famous European locations. 

La Famille Fohal (Pif Gadget #275, 1974)
'La Famille Fohal' (Pif Gadget #275, 1974).

La Famille Fohal / Aurore & Ulysse
While working on his main series, Seron found time to do other projects as well. In the magazine Pif Gadget he used the pseudonym Fohal for the humor strip 'La Famille Fohal'  (1973-1976), which was collected in book form as 'La Famille Martin' (1990/1993) by Soleil Productions. The author delved into Greek mythology with the series about 'Aurore et Ulysse', two curious teenage centaurs, who secretly travel from Mount Olympus to the world of the mortals through the "Door to the Unknown". Trying to find their way home, they end up in a different time period everytime they cross the portal. While the first episodes showed the two blue centaurs interacting with the human world, later episodes had more mythological elements borrowed from Homer's 'Odyssey' and 'Iliad', including the gods Zeus and Poseidon, the cyclops Polyphemus, the sirens of the seas and the Amazon warriors. Aurore and Ulysse appeared in Spirou from 1977 to 1986. Most of the early stories were written by Stephen Desberg, but Seron later assumed full artistic control. The characters made their final appearance in the story 'Uwélématibukaliné' (1988, retitled to 'Le Volcan d'Or' for the book publication), which was a crossover with 'Les Petits Hommes'. Dupuis released four books between 1982 and 1985, which were followed by two more albums by MC Productions (1988) and Soleil (1989). A Dutch-language luxury two-volume collection was initiated and published by Saga Uitgaven in 2022, containing all the stories and a lengthy background dossier by David Steenhuyse and Joris De Smet. The Saga production was subsequently sold to foreign publishers as well.

Aurore et Ulysse - L'Odyssée
Aurore et Ulysse - 'L'Odyssée'.

Erotic comics
From 1999 on, Seron started making comics of a more mature and naughty nature for publishers P&T Productions and Joker Éditions. His best-known creation in this genre is 'Les Petites Femmes' (1999-2009), which is not at all a spin-off to 'Les Petits Hommes', as the name might suggest. The author let his licentious spirit free on a series of sexually explicit, yet humorous fantasies set on tropical islands. Other erotic comics work by Seron were the two albums of 'T'as de beaux yeux, tu sais!' at Joker Éditions in 2003 and 2010. Seron furthermore contributed to the humor collection about hobbies, 'Les Fondus', by Bamboo Édition in 2008. He drew the installment about fishing, 'Les fondus de la pêche', from scripts by Hervé Richez and Christophe Cazenove.

Les Petites Femmes by Pierre Seron
'Les Petites Femmes'.

Graphic contributions
In 1980 Pierre Seron was one of many Belgian comic artists to make a graphic contribution to the book 'Il était une fois... les Belges'/'Er waren eens Belgen' (1980), a collection of columns and one-page comics, published at the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Belgium. Seron also contributed to 'Les Enquêtes de leurs Amis' (Soleil, 1989), a collective tribute album to Maurice Tillieux' hero detective 'Gil Jourdan'.

In 1994, Pierre Seron was awarded with the "Betty Boop" for his entire body of work during the Hyères comic festival.

Legacy and influence
The adventures of 'Les Petits Hommes' were serialized in Spirou magazine until 2004. Between 2006 and 2007 two more stories were directly published as albums by Dupuis. Seron concluded his series with the album 'Eslapion 3', which was published by Clair de Lune in 2011. On the cover, the artist announced his retirement from the comic by having Renaud tell the reader: "I came to tell you we are leaving!" The complete series has been collected in luxury volumes by Dupuis since 2010. Seron dropped all of his activities after suffering from a cerebral infarction in 2014. The artist, who had lived near Nîmes in the south of France since 2010, passed away on 24 May 2017, at the age of 75.

His nephew Frédéric Seron is active as a comic artist under the pen name Clarke. Like Mittéï was for him, Seron has been a tutor to young artists like Marc Hardy, AchdéPaul Glaudel and Didier Casten. All have assisted him on his series during certain periods in time. Marc Hardy's wife Christine helped Seron with inking his comics between 1975 and 1980. Pierre Seron was an influence on Thierry Capezzone.

Sequence from the Petits Hommes album 'Le Pickpocket' by Seron
Sequence from the Petits Hommes album 'Le Pickpocket' by Seron.

Same sequence from the Scrameustache album 'Les Kromoks en folie' by Gos
Same sequence from the Scrameustache album 'Les Kromoks en folie' by Gos.


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