The announcement of the release of a new album by Gaston Lagaffe, during the Angoulême International Comic Festival in 2022, took many by surprise. Initially scheduled for release in the fall of the same year, The return of Lagaffe22e volume of the adventures of this uncomfortably likable character, took another year to be published, following a legal challenge led by Franquin’s daughter, Isabelle, over whether or not the Dupuis editions had the right to resume the character created by his father in 1957. .
Finally, the arbitrator ruled last May and it was on November 22 that the disc was found in bookstores, to the relief of its author, the Quebecer Delaf (Marc Delafontaine), who found himself in the heart of a legal saga that does not directly affect him. The truth is that there are still four years of his life that could have been thrown in the recycling bin like this. “I had accepted the idea that the album might not come out and I was still at peace with it. I embarked on this adventure for the joy of doing it and telling myself that I was going to learn a lot. Also, when this saga, there was still a lot of work to be done on the record, so it was the lack of response that cost me.”
And Isabelle Franquin, in all this, asked to see drawings, to meet the author who was going to take over her father’s work? In context, this would have been natural. “No, because for her, it was more a matter of principle. I was willing to do it, she didn’t want it. It’s not more serious than that. »
It must still be special to work all this time and produce an album that could never see the light of day. We can imagine, a few months from its original publication date, that an album must be almost ready to be sent to the printer. “No, it wasn’t finished. It existed from end to end, but there were still inked plates that I wanted to go back to. My drawing evolved enormously throughout this process, which lasted four years. In short, I’m a bit perfectionist and there was still a lot of work to do.
And how do you become the one to bring Gaston back? Because there is, basically, a connection with the Dupuis editions, which published the series Navels co-signed by Delaf, there is still a whole step to go before he is proposed to face one of the most popular characters in French-speaking comics. “In fact, I was invited to do a cover for the album The gallery of errors (Gaston tribute album made by several authors, published in 2017). The instructions were to do a Gaston gag, my style, and I decided to evacuate that instruction because I wanted to do it Franquin style, telling myself that if it didn’t work, it wasn’t serious anymore. . And it worked so well that in 2018 I was asked to cover Gaston. »
“My favorite series when I was a kid”
And do we hesitate before accepting, or do we jump right into the adventure? “I was a super fan of Gaston. It was my favorite show when I was a kid. I made posters because I couldn’t find any in the stores. I even spent Halloween dressed as Gaston. And when it was offered to me, I had the impression of entering a parallel world, telling me that this kind of thing could not exist. I was shocked and surprised. I still took time to think about it, we are always a little afraid of being an impostor, even though the little one inside was screaming at me to accept! Because between the tribute page and the album, there’s a world. But the timing was good, I finished an album of Navels, and I told them that I was willing to try, but that they should give me time and means. »
And to get back on track, do you have to re-read everything, study everything? “I went into this thinking I would learn a lot. I reread everything, I cataloged it, I took notes to get closer to Franquin’s drawing. He had done it himself taking Spirou de Jijé, and he said the transition had to be smooth, that the reader didn’t have to see the difference, and then the author could just move on. So I took the time to learn, and by planking, I realized it was possible, and it happened. Not really there was a moment when we said, “yes, we’re doing it!” »
And is there still some of that personal touch? “Yes! Of course, I used Gaston’s classics, like the bowling ball or the gaffephone, but I also decided to link gags, to create a more continuous part of the story. I also introduced new characters, like the character of the psychologist or the printer. But all this is done gently. »
And will there be others, Gaston albums signed Delaf? “It still took four years, but it was super exciting and I felt really privileged to be able to play a character that I loved. On the other hand, it turned out to be a very exhausting process and I have always chosen my projects by instinct, and at the moment my instinct is still in the fog. I think we’re happy with Dupuis, but I still have to think about it. »
But honestly, after reading this first Gaston de Delaf, our gut tells us that there will probably be more. We hope so.
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