Maurice Tillieux was a master in the detective genre. He stood out for his well-conceived plots and exciting or humorous sequences, combined with moody artwork. Either written for others or illustrated by himself, Tillieux's detective stories rank as the best in the genre.
Born into a family of French origins in Huy in the province of Liège, Tillieux began his career way back in 1936, when his first illustration was published in Le Moustique. However, illustrating was not his initial call, so he took navigation courses in Ostende in order to travel later on. He joined the merchant marines, but his plans were cancelled when the harbor of Bordeaux was bombed by the Germans.
During the War, Tillieux went into hiding to avoid forced labour and he turned to writing detective novels, that were published in the collection Le Sphinx of Éditions Maréchal. During this period, he also did painted advertisements and illustrations for French and Belgian publications.
Tillieux drew his first comics in 1942, but these remained unpublished. By 1944 he was publishing cartoons in Le Moustique on a regular basis, and he joined the studio of Guy Depière in Brussels, who had launched Bimbo in that year, Jeep in 1945 and Blondine in 1946.
illustration for a series about the history of medicine
Using anglisized pseudonyms like John Cliff, James Jhames, Ronald Scott and Jill Morrison, Tillieux drew his first comics for the magazines of Studio Guy (especially Jeep), including 'Bimbo, Romarin et Misky', 'Les Nouvelles Aventures de Bricole', 'Les Débrouillards' and 'Jonas et Zénobie'.
In 1947 he joined Héroïc-Albums, the new comic book launched by his former Studio Guy colleague Fernand Cheneval. He drew the first episodes of 'Bob Bang'. During his period he was also present in Spirou with illustrations, and in L'Explorateur, a magazine edited by another former Studio Guy co-worker, Delwiche, from 1949 to 1950. During the 1947-1949 period Tillieux was also assisting Flemish artist Willy Vandersteen on his realistic comics for Ons Volkske and Overal.
For L'Explorateur, Tillieux created serials like 'Notre Oncle et Nous', and most notably 'Achille et Boule de Gomme', which was the predecessor of 'Félix'. But it was with Héroïc that Tillieux's star rose. Joined by other Studio Guy artists like Marcel Moniquet and Fred Funcken, he stayed with Cheneval's magazine until 1956. His most notable creation was the detective series 'Félix', but he also made the realistic series 'Bill Sanders' and the Caniff-inspired 'Groupe K', as well as illustrations for novels like 'Nouvelles du Captain Kid'.
In addition to his work for Héroïc, Tillieux made a great many strips with 'Monsieur Balourd for the National Association for Work Accident Prevention between 1954 and 1964. He also joined Greg in the short-lived magazine Le Journal de Paddy in 1955, for which he drew 'Vervaine et le Mystère' and 'Le Trésor de Zapatec'.
In 1955 he made the transition to the publishing house Dupuis, where his first creation was the adventure series 'Marc Jaguar' in Risque-Tout. When this magazine was cancelled in the following year, he joined Spirou. He changed the names and looks of the main 'Félix' characters and this resulted in 'Gil Jourdan'. Master detective Jourdan, accompanied by Libellule and Crouton, became one of the staples of Spirou magazine. In this series, Tillieux excelled in clever plots with moody semi-realistic artwork.
try-out paper by Tillieux
At the same time, Tillieux produced the humorous gag series 'César', that appeared in Le Moustique between 1959 and 1966 and was reprinted in Spirou in the 1970s. He also made the short-lived series 'Bob Slide' for Spirou, and a comic starring famous French radiostar 'Zappy Max' for Pilote in 1959-60.
In 1966, Tillieux's main focus became writing scenarios for other artists. In the years that followed, he took on numerous collaborations, starting with Francis, for whom he created the slapstick serial 'Marc Lebut et son Voisin'. In 1968, Tillieux took over the writing duties of 'Tif et Tondu' from Maurice Rosy and turned the series into a true detective comic together with artist Will. From 1969, he restyled some of his old 'Félix' scenarios and used them for a new realistic detective series drawn by Arthur Piroton, called 'Jess Long'.
Other series that Tillieux has written scripts for are 'Alain Brisant' (by René Follet), 'Natacha' (by François Walthéry), 'La Ribambelle' (by Jean Roba), 'Yoko Tsuno' (by Roger Leloup), 'Stany Derval' (by MiTacq) and 'Hultrasson' (by Vittorio Leonardo).
Due to the expansion of his writing activities, he handed over the artwork of 'Gil Jourdan' to Gos in 1970. A tragic car accident abruptly ended the life and successful career of Maurice Tillieux in 1978. One of the classic authors of the so-called "School of Marcinelle", his work has influenced such artists as François Walthéry, Jean Roba, Arthur Piroton and François Dimberton.