The death of Jo-El Azara, figure of the golden age of Franco-Belgian comics

The publisher Le Lombard, who saw him start, hailed his "impressive career"

The death of Jo-El Azara, figure of the golden age of Franco-Belgian comics

The publisher Le Lombard, who saw him start, hailed his "impressive career". Belgian cartoonist Jo-El Azara, whose real name is Joseph Franz Hedwig Loeckx, died on Tuesday February 7, in the Gers, following a stroke, he was 85 years old. This illustrator and comic book author, historical collaborator of Hergé in Brussels before flying on his own, was the creator, with the screenwriter Vicq, of the series of albums Taka Takata, improbable Japanese military hero, myopic and pacifist. In 1979, this Fleming of origin had settled in Gascony with his companion, Josette Baujot, chief colorist of Hergé, and he had continued his editorial activity there, becoming "a true Belgian-Gascon", according to his own expression. .

Originally, of course, there was Hergé, or rather the Hergé studio, in Brussels. When he returned there in 1954, Joseph Franz Hedwig Loeckx was still a big teenager, barely 17 years old. He will work there for seven years under the eye of the master, a founding experience for his professional training, but also human. Within this very demanding studio, where the clear line reigns, the young cartoonist learns the trade - including the frustration of this sector -, behind the scenes of the adventures of the most famous reporter in the world. He notably contributed to some of the greatest Adventures of Tintin albums: L'Affaire Tournesol, Coke en Stock and Les Bijoux de la Castafiore. "Hergé produced the script and reserved the main characters, Bob De Moor drew the sets in pencil then in ink and I worked from 1954 under his orders, he said in 2019. But I had had enough to design telephones…” So he ended up leaving, encouraged by Hergé himself.

One of the star cartoonists of the newspaper "Tintin"

In the creative cauldron that was then the Brussels studio, he learned the precision of details and the clarity of design, which will remain his trademark. But, the second founding element, he also met a woman, Hergé's chief colorist, Josette Baujot, who died in 2009, endowed with a strong personality ("she was the only one in the studio who could stand up to Hergé on work," recalled Jo-El Azara). He followed her to the heart of the Gers, where he moved in 1979.

Jo-El Azara was inexhaustible about this golden age of comics, of which he had been one of the craftsmen, before moving away from the heart of the Brussels reactor. He had worked there with the biggest names in Franco-Belgian comics: Vandersteen, Will, Peyo, Jijé, Jacques Martin, Bob De Moor, Derib, Hermann, establishing himself as one of the star cartoonists of the Tintin newspaper. In 1965, with the screenwriter Vicq, he gave birth there to one of the most improbable heroes of Franco-Belgian comics: Taka Takata, a myopic and pacifist Japanese aviator in the eternal khaki uniform, a sort of humanist antihero. , flanked by equally crazy recurring characters, such as Colonel Rata Hôsoja – a character inspired by an officer he met during his military service.

In 1994, in order to continue his series, Jo-El Azara decided to create his own publishing house, Azeko. To boil the pot, the cartoonist engages in an astonishing career as an advertising illustrator, where his fine and direct line will seduce advertisers, but also the Angoulême International Comics Festival, which will award him a prize for his "original use of comic book language in advertising".

But, beyond his talent, his many friends remember today that "Jo" was a nice guy. Away from the Brussels cauldron, he never regretted having chosen less glory – perhaps – but more happiness.