François Walthéry is a Belgian comic artist, best known for creating the series about air hostess 'Natacha'. Born in Argenteau and raised in Cheratte, Walthéry was fascinated by comics since his early childhood. Among his influences were the classic artists of Mad Magazine, such as Wallace Wood and Jack Davis. He was only 15 years old when he presented his work to comic artist Mittéï.
He did inking, framing and erasing chores until Mittéï gave him the opportunity to fill the page in magazine Junior/Ons Volkske which was left when Géri turned ill. This resulted in the publication of 18 pages of Walthéry's comic strip 'Pipo', which the artist signed with Pop's, in 1962. In that same year, he enrolled in the Saint-Luc Institute in Liège, where he took courses for about a year. It was during his studies that he met his fellow comic artists Pierre Seron, Dany and Hachel.
Young Walthéry tried his luck with the magazine Spirou, and got a job with Peyo's art studio in the Avenue de Boetendael in Brussels in 1963. Among his early jobs was drawing 'Jacky et Célestin', a series that was previously drawn by Will and Jo-El Azara, and was published in Le Soir Illustré. He also assisted on 'The Smurfs' but his most important work for Peyo was taking over the artwork of 'Benoît Brisefer'. Walthéry drew three long stories with the little boy with immense strength between 1969 and 1972.
In addition to his work for Peyo, he continued to work on some of his own projects. With his studio colleague Gos, he made a couple of short stories for Spirou, and set up what was about to become Walthéry's trademark series in 1967. But it wasn't until 1970 that the first episode of 'Natacha hôtesse de l'air' made its appearance. 'Natacha' was an idea of Yvan Delporte, Spirou's former editor-in-chief. The series marked the arrival of female heroes in Spirou magazine, together with Roger Leloup's 'Yoko Tsuno', which began in the same year.
She was quite a break in tradition within the conservative Catholic Spirou magazine, not just because she was the first female protagonist after Jidéhem's 'Sophie' (1970) but also because she was a young, attractive woman rather than a schoolgirl. Censorship sometimes creeped in to make her less erotic. On some of her album covers Natacha's breasts had to be redrawn to make their roundings underneath her shirt less prominent. Another aspect that made 'Natacha' different from previous comics in Spirou was the far more dynamic drawing style, with swift chase and fight scenes. By 1972 'Natacha' had become so popular that Walthéry left Peyo to fully concentrate on this hit series.
The two initial stories were written by Gos, but throughout the years, Walthéry has worked with a wide variety of scriptwriters, including Étienne Borgers, Peyo, Maurice Tillieux, Mittéï, Raoul Cauvin, Marc Wasterlain and Mythic. He also called in the help of other artists like Jidéhem, Will, Laudec, Mittéï, Georges van Linthout and Bruno di Sano to assist on the backgrounds on several occassions. 'Natacha' was also collected in a series of 13 books by Éditions Dupuis. The series is published by Marsu Productions since 1989.
Although 'Natacha' is his most important series, Walthéry has created a couple of other comics while working with Spirou. The first one was 'Le Vieux Bleu' ('The Old Blue One'), about a pigeon fancier set in the working class environment of Cheratte, the town Walthéry grew up in. The series was inspired by Walthéry's own father who died of old age around this time period. He too kept a pigeon named "old blue one". It appeared irregularly in a series of short stories written by Raoul Cauvin between 1974 and 1979 and was also collected in an album. A version in the Liège dialect was also published.
'Le P'tit Bout d'Chique' was Walthéry's third series and was also largely based on nostalgia and the artist's childhood memories. The poetic strip about a little boy that is a little ill-at-ease in the world of adults was published in Spirou between 1975 and 1978. Marsu Productions collected the initial stories in an album in 1989. A new album written by Serdu and drawn by Walthéry followed in 1992. The series was then continued by Mittéï for another four albums between 1994 and 1998.
François Walthéry was also present at Lombard from 1993 with the series about female police officer 'Rubine'. The comic is written by Mythic and drawn by Walthéry in cooperation with Dragan de Lazare and later Boyan.
Une Femme dans la Peau
Walthéry, a master in drawing beautiful women, further showcased his talent in the erotic comic 'Betty Strip' (Noir Dessin, 1992) and in 'Une Femme dans la Peau', an adult comic series published by P&T Production and Joker Editions from 1994. Scripted by Fritax and later Mythic and with assistance from Georges van Linthout and later Bruno di Sano, the series tells the story about a man named Antoine, who wakes up in a woman's body.