Fred & Léa: 'Micmac à Anvers'.

Pascal Somon is a French illustrator, active in several artistic fields, including advertising, illustration, book design, postcards and... comics. As a comics artist he created a couple of original titles, but he is far more notorious for creating parodies of Hergé's 'Tintin'. In 2014 and again in 2019 he was sued by Hergé's estate for plagiarism and sentenced to hefty fines.

Early life and comics career
Pascal Somon was born in 1960 in Hirson, Aisne, but spent most of his life in Reims, where he also studied art. His comics career took off with some contributions to the magazines Circus and Spacial in cooperation with writer Serge Le Tendre in the early 1980s. In 1986 he made the one-shot detective story 'Dossier Blénergie - Top Secret' (1986), a promotional comic in commission of an association of energy suppliers. That same year he was one of several artists to make a graphic contribution to the collective comic book 'Opération Super 9' (1986), a publicity album distributed by the Union des Assurances de Paris.


'Gin Row'.

In 1991 he was present in Hello Bédé with the one-shot detective comic 'Gin Row' in cooperation with Gérard Dewamme. It was published in book format by Lombard in 1992. In 2001 Somon made a futuristic comic book adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's horror short story 'The Oval Portrait' (1842), which was published by Nucléa in the oblong-shaped book 'Le Portrait Ovale' (2001). The work had huge panels with atmospheric colouring, while the artwork was strongly inspired by the work of comics legend Enki Bilal, who also wrote the foreword. With Jean-Blaise Djian as scriptwriter Somon also illustrated the one-shot 'Fred & Léa: Micmac à Anvers' (2003), a mystery thriller set in Antwerp. The artist finally made two extra contributions to collective comic books, one to 'WWW.Opalebd.Com. 1. Les 10 ans du Ch'ti Site Qui Monte' (2008), which paid homage to the 10 year anniversary of the website www.opalebd.com, and another to 'Une McStory Française' (2009), a collective graphic novel about the history of McDonalds in France.


'Le Portrait Ovale'.

Tintin parodies
Somon's comics career never went far and he eventually shifted to parodying Hergé's best-selling comics series 'Tintin'. In 1991 he was one of 41 famous comics artists to make a contribution to the official Tintin homage book 'Fétiche Arumbaya' (1991). From that point on Somon made homaging Hergé a full time career, though not with official permission. He created postcards, posters, illustrations, parodies of famous 'Tintin' book covers and a few complete stories, such as 'Le Vol Mystérieux' (1997), 'Le Piège Bordure' (2003) and 'Le Mystère de la Toison d'Or'. These works often turn up at auction sites, where collectors pay huge prizes to gain them. Whether everyone is aware that these are not originals by Hergé is not always clear? In 2011 Somon wrote and illustrated two volumes about the "Clear Line" art style, invented by Hergé, namely the book  'Vers La Ligne Claire' (2011-2012). It should also be mentioned that Somon's 'Tintin' parodies have spoofed comics by his good friend Enki Bilal too. 

Hergé's widow, Fanny Rémi, and her husband, lawyer Nick Rodwell, gained infamy over the decades for not taking unauthorized copies of Tintin lightly. The eternal question where parody ends and plagiarism begins has always been a matter of dispute. Some artists, like Harry Edwood and Joost Veerkamp, received official permission to make parodies of 'Tintin' covers. Others were sued in court and forced to pay Hergé's estate Moulinsart. In the past Moulinsart has effectively condemned 'Tintin' parodists like Filip Denis ('Tintin in Switzerland', 1976), Jan Bucquoy ('La Vie Sexuelle de Tintin', 1992) and Baudouin de Duve ('Tintin in Thailand', 1999) in court cases and even officially banned their books in Belgium and France. It was therefore only a matter of time before Somon was sued too.


From the 'Tintin' parody 'Le Piège Bordure'.

Plagiarism court case
In 2014 Moulinsart took Somon to court for "imitation and falsification of Tintin", particularly since he had sold his Tintin-based artwork to an antiquarian in Annecy. About 150 comics artists signed a petition in his defense, among them François Boucq, Philippe Druillet, Régis Loisel, Frank Margerin, Jean-Louis Tripp and Philippe Vuillemin. Despite their support Somon was still sentenced to five months in prison, albeit with a suspended sentence. He had to pay 1.000 euros (1.100 dollars) and 10.000 euros (11.000 dollars) in damages for the two separate charges. Somon furthermore had to pay an official publication of the sentence in the newspaper Union. The artist went in appeal against the sentence, though kept creating new 'Tintin'-based artworks while awaiting a new trial. The case was reopened on 1 May 2019. The accusers now branded him as a recidivist for refusing to quit drawing parodies and asked for an aggravation of the earlier sentence. Throughout it all, Somon maintained that his drawings are homages to Hergé's work and derivate completely from the original stories. He stated that he never degraded the quiffed reporter's public image and always signed his art under his own name: "If someone can find an image which corresponds with a Hergé album I pay him a dinner." Somon also claimed that he had once proposed handing over his publication rights for Tintin to Moulinsart, but never received a reply from them.

On 29 May 2019 Somon lost his case and was sentenced to 10 months in prison, again with suspended sentence and combined with two years probation. He now had to pay over 32.000 euros (35.600 dollars) in damages. In a press statement Somon felt "disgusted (...) like a little boy hit on the fingers with a ruler." Nevertheless the condemned artist announced that he was completely done with Hergé now and never wanted to hear his name again. Yet, he hinted that by 2053 - when 'Tintin' will fall into the public domain - his daughter will be instructed to reprint all his old Hergé-related work again.


Pascal Somon (left) spoofing Hergé and Enki Bilal (right)

Series and books by Pascal Somon in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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