With his thin mustache, his sparkling eyes and his smirk, he had the charm of detective writers who know how to laugh at everything, as they spend their lives staging death … in the most terrible way possible.
André-Paul Duchâteau, considered one of the most prolific masters of the detective novel in comics, co-creator of Ric Hochet with the cartoonist Tibet (who died in 2010), passed away at the venerable age of 95 years. , on August 26, 2020, in Uccle, in the suburbs of Brussels. It was a bit like the Simenon of the 9th art.
Born May 8, 1925 in Tournai, son of an aviation general passionate about detective stories, the young André-Paul was very passionate about the intrigues of Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens or John Dickson Carr. He also devours the novels of the creator of The Assassin lives at 21, Stanislas-André Steeman, which appear in the weekly The mosquito.
At sixteen, he published his first novel, Murder for Murder, in the “Jury” collection, edited by Steeman. The latter becomes his mentor and confidant. Subsequently, he won the Grand Prize for Police Literature in 1974 with From five to seven before death.
While he was commercial director in a large Belgian printing house, he met Tibet, who had just been hired as a “little hand” by two designers from the company. Tibet and Duchâteau sympathize very quickly, play Ping-pong after office hours and discover a common passion for police intrigues.
Promising trial run
In 1955, when they both worked for the newspaper Tintin, under the direction of Raymond Leblanc, they have the opportunity to create Ric Hochet, a small 14-year-old newspaper auctioneer who, despite his young age, already has all the qualities required of a good investigator. This first 4-page survey shows the young boy to the task. Seller of “La Rafale”, he follows three unscrupulous spies, one of them is an undercover counter-espionage agent. Thanks to his flair and his sense of observation, Ric Hochet will resolve this affair brilliantly: “The two spies entered the country this afternoon. However, the daily newspaper that you have in your pocket only carries one star. That means this is the morning edition!“Clever the kid!
After this promising trial run, the Tibet-Duchâteau tandem is put in place. Their deep friendship serves as the cement for the sixty years of creation to come. André-Paul Duchâteau will recognize it himself: “It takes an immense friendship to be able to work for sixty years with someone, without ever having an argument. With Tibet, we didn’t see the time go by and we really had fun… It was a great adventure! “
Ric Hochet, emblematic figure of the 9th art
After a professional escapade of a few years in the Congo where Duchâteau runs newspapers such The future and African News, the journalist-writer returns to Belgium, and reconnects with his friend Tibet. “On his return, tells Tibet in “The Lombard – Half a Century of Adventures”, I suggested to the editorial board that they post a bi-monthly riddle that readers should solve. The “Lift the glove” section is a huge success. We therefore think of making Ric Hochet the hero of a detective series. André-Paul imagines the scenarios and Mittéi sets up the decorations … “
Tibet goes from the cartoonish style of Chick Bill to a more realistic line. Ric Hochet becomes a sort of Rouletabille. With his eternal houndstooth jacket, white speckled with black, his blue (then red) turtleneck sweaters, not to mention his orange wick, Ric Hochet quickly established himself as an emblematic character of the 9th art.
Legal columnist at the newspaper The blast, Ric Hochet has a pronounced taste for mystery. Mischievous, mocking, curious and determined to solve all the mysteries he encounters, Ric Hochet regularly supports Commissioner Sigismond Bourdon, a kind of paper replica of Inspector Bourrel, famous in the television series The last five minutes. The other recurring character in this detective comic is Nadine, the petulant niece of Commissioner Bourdon with whom Ric Hochet flirts nicely.
In the newspaper Tintin, in 1961, Ric Hochet’s first surveys were Traquenard in Le Havre, Mystery in Porquerolles or Challenge to Ric Hochet. Among the great albums of the years 60-70-80, we retain Evil Twins, Ric Rochet vs. Sherlock, The Mask of Terror, The Double That Kills, Claw at Bouglione, or the terrifying The Specters of the Night.
From the sixties to the eighties, André-Paul Duchâteau was at the peak of his career. The screenwriter works notably with William Vance (Bruce J. Hawker), Rosinski, then Kas (Hans), Daniel Hulet (Pharaoh), Christian Denayer (Yalek, Alain Chevallier, Les Casseurs) and, always, Tibet (Chick Bill, The Fear of Nothing). His comic book production reached several hundred albums.
In 2000, in the album The Romantics, illustrated by Éric Lenaerts, Duchâteau portrays his admiration for Gérard de Nerval. The album The Romantics tells the story of a very surprising, even petulant friendship: that of Alexandre (Dumas), fiery playwright with Gérard (de Nerval), writer and poet penniless a bit dreamy. ? ” I admit it, explained to Figaro Duchâteau, I am not expected in such an area. But that’s exactly what pleases me. By signing the script for Les Romantiques, I show another facet of my personality. Because I am particularly fascinated by the literature of the XIXth century and by this period of the history of France. “
When his friend Tibet died in 2010, André-Paul Duchâteau stopped the Ric Hochet series at volume 78 entitled In pursuit of the Golden Griffon and which appears in September 2010. Since the hero he co-created has been relaunched with his blessing thanks to the tandem Zidrou (on the screenplay) and Simon van Liemt (on the drawing).
“Stakhanovist of the illustrated story, writes Patrick Gaumer in his World Dictionary of Comics, André-Paul Duchâteau has always favored the enigmatic and fantastic dimension. With several hundred stories to his credit, he has established himself as one of the biggest names in Franco-Belgian screenwriting.” We can not say it better.