Odilon Verjus by Laurent Verron
Odilon Verjus #4 - 'Adolf'.

Laurent Verron is a French comics artist, who began his career as the assistant of Jean Roba on the family gag comic 'Boule & Bill'. It however took until 2003 before he actually succeeded his former teacher as the series' official artist. In the meantime, he worked on more adult-oriented humor comics, such as 'Le Maltais' (1991-1994) with Loup Durand, and 'Odilon Verjus' (1996-2006) with Yann. On several occasions he also collaborated with his childhood friend Chric, including the sci-fi series 'Fugitifs sur Terra II' (2009-2012). Graphically close to the classic "School of Marcinelle", Verron furthermore created the unique 'Spirou' one-shot 'Il s'appelait Ptirou' (2017) with Yves Sente.


'Boule et Bill'.

Early life
Verron was born in 1962 in Grenoble. As a child he was a great fan of Disney movies, and an avid reader of Le Journal de Mickey. He doodled his way through this school years, developing a particular skill in copying pictures of animals. In his teens, he read Spirou and became fascinated by the work of André Franquin. In fact, when he first presented his artwork to the publisher Glénat, his art was deemed too "Franquinesque". So instead, the self-taught artist went to work for an advertising agency, until he saw a new opportunity.

Assistant for Roba
In 1986 Spirou veteran Jean Roba had recently left his homebase at Dupuis and signed up with Dargaud as the new publisher of his gag series 'Boule et Bill'. Roba's contract required him to produce one more album for his old publisher. Dargaud however had big plans for 'Boule et Bill' and searched an assistant for their latest acquisition. Verron applied, was hired and relocated to Brussels. Between 1986 and 1989 he worked alongside the master, gradually learning the trade. He was initially assigned to do artwork on the related merchandising, including the promotional albums 'L'Entreprise de Boule et Bill' (1987) and 'Sabena. Sabena Safety Story' (1990). He also helped with the inking of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd album, before leaving Dargaud to work on his own projects.

Le Maltais, by Laurent Verron
'Le Maltais'.

Le Maltais
Initially staying in Brussels, Verron began an association with the publisher Claude Lefrancq. With writer Loup Durand, he made the adult-oriented adventure series 'Le Maltais' (1991-1994), a humorous parody of 1940s hard-boiled exotic adventure novels. The main hero is a traitorous, but charismatic entrepeneur known as "the Maltese", whose shady business in 1940s Hong-Kong often gets him in trouble. Impeccably dressed in white, the sharp-tongued swindler always manages to save his skin. The series came to an end after three albums.


Odilon Verjus #1 - 'Papous'.

Odilon Verjus
Verron's next project showed a similar offbeat humor. Together with scriptwriter Yann, he created the adventures of the unconventional missionary 'Odilon Verjus' (1996-2006) at the publishing house Lombard. Slightly based on the real life missionaries Henri Verjus (1860-1892) and Alain de Boismenu (1870-1953), the well-paunched Verjus and his novice Laurent de Boismenu are assigned to spread God's word in Papua, where they lead a small community in the 1930s. Throughout the series, the Vatican sends its atypical servants on the most impossible missions, which Verjus then solves with both his wit and his fists. While the authors present well-documented and respectful depictions of the Catholic missions and the customs of the Papuans or the Inuit, the series' main charm is its humor. Verron and Yann add many references to pop culture and historical figures in their stories. There are winks at classic comics like 'Tintin', 'Astérix' and 'Les Pieds Nickélés', but also appearances of real life characters such as Édith Piaf, Joséphine Baker, Leni Riefenstahl, Agatha Christie and the Marx Brothers. Whispered dialogues are full of inside jokes to the inner workings of the publishing house Lombard and the comics industry in general. Verron and Yann made seven albums of 'Les Exploits d'Odilon Verjus'.


Odilon Verjus #2 - 'Pigalle'.

Boule et Bill
By the early 2000s, Jean Roba decided to retire. Not wanting to see his characters die with him, he asked his former assistant to become his successor. Verron helped Roba finish his final pages, and after some negotiations with Dargaud, became the official artist of 'Boule et Bill'. Graphically, Verron wanted to stick as close to Roba's style as possible. No drastic changes were made to the series' outset, and the smooth transition was inaugurated with Verron's first album in 2003, 'Quel cirque!'. For writing the gags about Boule and his long-eared Cocker Spaniel Bill, Verron relied on external writers. The publisher brought in Éric Corbeyran and Pierre Veys as gag writers, while Verron's friend Chric also became a regular contributor. Additional plots were provided by Xavier Cucuel, Jean-Yves Ferri and Diego Aranega. Laurent Verron drew eight albums of the popular children's series, until leaving the pencil to Jean Bastide in 2015.


'Boule et Bill'.

Collaborations with Chric
Besides many 'Boule et Bill' gags, Verron and his Grenoble friend Christophe Salomon (a.k.a. Chric or Cric) have worked on a variety of other projects together. In 2000 they submitted a story to the voluminous 'Comix 2000' anthology of L'Association. In Lombard's Petits Délires collection, Verron and Cric released 'Au fil du zinc' (2003), a comics booklet with thick pencil drawings and texts about pub life. They continued with 'Tête de Gondole' (2005), a similar booklet about people in supermarkets. In 2009 they honored the late Jean Roba and the 50th anniversary of 'Boule et Bill' with 'Roba - A Belgian Way of Life', a mini-booklet which came with Spirou #3741 of 23 December 2009. The two friends additionally embarked upon the science fantasy series 'Fugitifs sur Terra II' (Dargaud, 2009-2012). The pesky little heiress to the throne of Terra II flees her home planet when a coup d'état breaks out. Chased by rebel troops, she has to rely for her safety on the daughter of the palace cook, a young farmer and a genetically transformed orangutan called Baku.

Fugutifs sur Terra II by Laurent Verron
'Fugitifs sur Terra II'.

Il s'appelait Ptirou
Graphically, Laurent Verron has always been ranked among the followers of the "School of Marcinelle", the classic style of humor comics initiated by Spirou magazine's core team in the 1950s. It however took until 2017 before he actually had the chance to work for Spirou's publisher Dupuis himself. On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of 'Spirou et Fantasio', Verron and Yves Sente created the one-shot 'Il s'appelait Ptirou' (2018). Instead of making it a one-shot with their personal take on the classic comics series, the authors presented a fictionalized account of the bellboy that had inspired Robert Velter to create 'Spirou' all those years ago. The result was an adventurous but tragic love story on board of a transatlantic ocean liner in 1929.

Graphical contributions
In addition, Laurent Verron has contributed to several collective albums throughout his career. As early as 1990, he participated in the World Soccer project 'Il Était Une Fois Le Mondiale' (Paul Ide Editions, 1990). He adapted the songs 'La Vie en Rose' and 'Jolie Môme' to comics format for Vents d'Ouest's collective albums about Édith Piaf (2001) and Léo Ferré (2002). He also contributed to the tribute album to René Goscinny, 'L'Album Goscinny' (Ed. Les Arènes, 2002), as well as 'Paroles de Sourds' (Delcourt, 2005), 'Pierre Desproges en BD' (Jungle!, 2005) and 'Regards croisés - La Chine et la France vues par...' (Mosquito, 2015).

Legacy
On 16 June 2004 a comic mural depicting 'Odilon Verjus' was inaugurated in the Rue des Capucins / Kapucijnerstraat 13 in Brussels, as part of the Brussels' Comic Book Route. 


'Il s'appelait Ptirou'.

www.verron-laurent.com

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