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12 La Douce

12 La Douce is the first solo album of François Schuiten in the Obscure Cities series. Along with his mission to design the scenographic for the Train Museum in Brussels, François Schuiten has always been fascinated by the universe of the railways (recall The Rail, designed for four hands with Claude Renard in 1981 AD).

This album focus on the crew of the old railroad and their steam locomotive and facing a changing environment. 12 La Douce evokes the industrial environment of the early twentieth century. The loco is at the heart of the story, based on a model that really existed.

This is the first time that François Schuiten is in sole command of an album 1).

François Schuiten says: “To be precise: when Benoît was in the middle of writing his biography of Jacques Derrida, given what he had to do, he told me he could not begin until some time a new album of the Obscure Cites . I thought it was a good time to try to challenge myself and realize, for the first time, a book alone. Benoît has also encouraged me. It took a little longer than expected. 12 La Douce definitely has things in common with the world of the Obscure Cities but it is not one for many reasons. The main one is that it is not signed by both of us. There are, of course, weaknesses in the stories, weaknesses that I am willing to take. Benoît and I have two projects together. And one of them we will focus all our energy, after the promotion of 12 La Douce is complete” 2).

Of great importance to François Schuiten, 12 La Douce is a long-term task that the designer is gradually in place long ago. One of the main characters is an enigmatic girl one day cross the road to Leon, the railroad hero of the story.

The publication of this one shot of 88 pages in black and white was on April 18, 2012 AD 3). Earlier information talked about 96 pages 4).

Editions & translations

201212 La DouceFrenchCasterman90HCN/A
201212 La DouceFrenchLibrary Brüsel & Bruno Graff Editions190HCN/A270 signed copies and 46 copies hors commerces. The album has the complete La Douce story in conceptual drawings together with the end results.
201212 La DouceFrenchCasterman176HC9782203060630Deluxe edition in oblong format
201212 SchoonheidDutchCasterman90HC9789030365686
201212 AtlanticGermanSchreiber & Leser90HC9783941239920
201212 La DoceSpanishNorma Editorial90HC9788467909029
201212 A DocePortugueseASA90HC9789892319520
201212 A DocePortugueseASA90HC9789892319537Different cover, 500 copies
201212 L'AmataItalianAlessandro Editore90HC9788882853242
201212 KaunokainenFinnishArktinen Banaani90HC9789522700629
201512 The BeautyEnglishCasterman88HC2203098511Released with the opening of Trainworld

With the opening of Trainworld in 2015, also La 12 - variations sur l'Atlantique 12 was released, with images that were made by François Schuiten around 12 La Douce.


Fifty years ago, Leon Van Bel a machinist and mechanic who is close to his retirement, is still clinging passionately to his job as a railroad worker and the machine that he works with: the 12.004. The 12.004 is a sumptuous steam locomotive of over twenty feet long , with whom he has already traveled four times around the earth. Leon calls his loco affectionately 12 La Douce.

But basically, he has no illusions. In this world, that could be ours, traditional rail transport will soon be dethroned by the cable car and van Bel irretrievably discarded, sacrificed like his machine to the demands of modernity. To protect the locomotive the old railway worker revolt and tries unsuccessfully to steal 12 La Douce.

Nevertheless convinced that he will find 12 La Douce, he stowed away on board of the cable car in the company of a mute young woman whom he has crossed paths briefly in some dramatic circumstances …

Library Brüsel and Bruno Graff Editions published a luxe version of La Douce. 270 signed copies and 46 copies hors commerces. The album has the complete La Douce story in conceptual drawings together with the end result.

In November 2012 Casterman published a deluxe edition of La Douce. This deluxe edition has an elegant landscape format: quality paper and a cardboard crude special cover. Each of the original plates of the book are split into two, a total of more than 160 pages. The book includes a special section of twenty color pages, bringing new images: preparatory documents, illustrations, sketches, photos, etc..



The fabulous locomotive heroine of 12 La Douce is directly inspired by a real machine: the Atlantic type 12 engine, cut for speed with its spectacular aerodynamic fairing and designed in the late 30's for the Belgian railroads, delivered in only six copies just before the War World end its career. The type 12 achieved a top speed of 165 km per hour, amazing for its time 5). They were intended to pull the express trains between Brussels and Ostend.

Particular is that these locomotives fell back on the Atlantic type, i.e. with two driven axles. The locomotive had two cylinders and partial inner fairing panels.

See more on 12.004 La Douce at: 12.004 (La Douce)

Augmented reality

The 12 La Douce album will have some unique augmented reality. When holding your webcam in front of a special page in the book some additional extras will show up. Secondly on the Angouleme comic festival a special setup of La Douce will be there where also reality is altered. The setup will be shown in the Brüsel comic shop in Brussels at a later stage 6).

The reader needs to open the book to the web cam on his computer, after downloading a software developed by Dassault Systèmes. By moving the book, the engine starts to spit a plume of black smoke. Movements imparted to the album by the player control the operation and speed of the locomotive coming out of the book and literally soars in the universe designed by François Schuiten. The landscape scroll and eyes are traveling in a futuristic world of poetry striking.

I dreamed of this locomotive back on. Get her out of the book became an obsession, tells François Schuiten. I wanted the reader to share this fascination with technology. Dassault worked from pictures in the album and experience the augmented reality allow the reader to discover the hidden secret of this adventure. This is an extraordinary encounter between the top of the art of the early twentieth century and the technology of the twenty-first century.7)

More information on the augmented reality of the 12 La Douce album can be found on a separate page on Augmented Reality.

At Casterman started a special website on this augmented reality. Dassault Systemes joins forces with Casterman to provide readers of comics complementary experiments using interactive experimental 3D technology . The aim of these new experiences: extend the BD in the digital world. From April 2012 AD, readers will discover on the website two experiments centered around the comic book La Douce.

  • One, in augmented reality, will give life to the locomotive and handle it with the album for single knob (cover pages are specific to the experience).
  • The other in virtual reality, will offer an immersive 3D journey. The teams of Dassault Systemes worked in close collaboration with François Schuiten to transcribe the emotions in these experiments to the ones in his albums.

Press dossiers


François Schuiten was interviewed by ExpressBD (French).

On the 12 Simplify and work alone
Real and imaginary A new world
Past and Future Reactions

Work in progress

Some announcements were made in the CasterMags before the 12 La Douce album was released.

See also