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Blake and Mortimer by François Schuiten
François Schuiten has made a tribute album of Blake and Mortimer by Edgar P. Jacobs based on a scenario by Schuiten, Thomas Gunzig and Jaco Van Dormael. The album is coloured by Laurent Durieux.
This album, with the title Le dernier Pharaon (The Last Pharaoh), was published on May 29, 2019 by Dargaud.
This dossier has been updated over the years that it took to create this album. You can find information on the end result at Le Dernier Pharaon.
From first rumours until confirmation
The first news that François Schuiten would draw an episode of Blake and Mortimer by Edgar P. Jacobs came from an article with the title “Schuiten s’attaque à Jacobs” in La Dernière Heure (a Belgium newspaper) on October 1st, 2015.
According to the article the scenario would be made by Thomas Gunzig. The album was projected to be published in 2017.
We cannot show you the article of La Derrière Heure anymore 1), but Thomas Gunzig confirmed the news a few days later by the following tweet.
Although there was more and more proof of Schuiten working on this tribute album, no official confirmation was made until February 2018 when Yves Schlirf, directeur Editorial at Dargaud posted a tweet 2) with a picture of Thomas Gunzig and François Schuiten working on the album.
On May 14, 2018 Yves Schlirf posted another tweet with some pictures of François Schuiten delivering the final pages of the Blake and Mortimer album. In this tweet Schlirf confirmed a release date of June 2019 3).
In September 2018 Yves Schlirf posted a tweet of Schuiten working on a covered image. Schlirf reconfirmed again the June 2019 publishing date 4).
A tribute album
Early 2016 more information about the album surfaced. The for June 2019 projected album would be a tribute album. Together with Schuiten Thomas Gunzig, the screenwriter of the Belgian film “Le Tout Nouveau Testament” wrote the scenario along with the director of that film Jaco Van Dormael. The album is drawn by François Schuiten 5). In November 2016 it became known that the colouring of the album will be done by Laurent Durieux 6).
Schuiten talked about this project in “BD Magazine” of June, 2016. He confirmed that the album will be a one-shot, a tribute to Jacobs and Blake & Mortimer as he refuses to pastiche Jacobs. Schuiten confirmed again in an interview with “Pollen” that he will not try to imitate the style of Jacobs 7).
Cet univers Jacobsien m’a fort marqué, plus qu’une continuation, c’est une façon de lui rendre hommage en reprenant son univers sans jamais s’immiscer dans son style. François Schuiten, interview “Pollen”
Schuiten explains: “I found myself confronted with this crucial question: what is fidelity to an author? Aligning with his style or paying homage to mine? Finally, I did what I would like you to do. I do not copy his style, respect the spirit, not the letter. ” 8)
The album has over 80 pages 9). In comic magazine “Casemate” #114 (May 2018) Laurent Durieux mentioned that publisher Dargaud will release a color edition and a black and white edition of the album.
The publication date has been changed a couple of times. End 2016 François Schuiten confirmed that the album would be published in 2018 and not in 2017 as expected before. But in October 2017 he told “Casemate” magazine that the publication will be ready mid 2019 11). In comic magazine “Casemate” #114 (May 2018) Laurent Durieux mentioned that the release of the album is scheduled for June 2019. This release date was confirmed by Yves Schlirf in a tweet on May 14, 2018 12).
At first it was assumed that this project represented a previously stated desire of publisher Yves Schlirf to bring out tribute albums in the line of the secondary collection of Spirou & Fantasio. Big names of the comic word would be asked to develop their vision of Blake and Mortimer, as long as it takes sufficient distance from the main series.
But in an interview with “ActuaBD” 13) he explained that he is not a fan of the “seen by” series as the results are not very consistent. For now the album by Schuiten is a one time thing.
The contract with Schuiten was signed in June 2015 14). The involvement of Schuiten comes not completely out of the blue. Schuiten already supported Chantal De Spiegeleer who was completing the album “Blake and Mortimer 19: La Malédiction des trente deniers” after the sudden death of her husband René Sterne. He has also been asked to draw Part 2 of “The 3 formulas of Professor Sato”, a job that Bob De Moor finally performed to the best of his ability.
No, I'm not a fan of “Seen by …” because the result fluctuates from one album to another, and I do not want to venture into this field. In this case, it is more of a tribute, because François Schuiten has great admiration for Jacobs. See it rather as an off-series, not the beginning of a new collection. Moreover, no other “tribute” is currently scheduled. If new evidence arises, namely a legitimate artist who has a vision of the work of Jacobs and wants to make an album, we can accompany it. Otherwise, we will stop with the album designed by Schuiten. Yves Schlirf, “ActuaBD”
The scenario of this tribute album is made by François Schuiten, Thomas Gunzig and Jaco Van Dormael.
Schuiten asked Benoît Peeters for the scenario first 15). The story would have been situated in the Second World War, but that project was frozen 16).
Afterwards Schuiten asked Jaco Van Dormael if he knew of a screenwriter who could help him. Van Dormael proposed himself and he came with Thomas Gunzig, who co-wrote several Van Dormael films 17).
Thomas Gunzig is a Belgian writer whose childhood was heavily marked by dyslexia. He still got his degree in political science. In 1993 he debuted as a novelist, and meanwhile he has written twenty books. He is also a professor of literature, he writes plays, columns for radio, television and newspapers, and even songs 18).
Jaco Van Dormael (Toto le Héros, Mr. Nobody) is also pretty much strip minded. Before he tried to bring the Tintin series to the silver screen 19). Jaco and Schuiten has been working together before on some projects.
During summer of 2016 they worked with Schuiten on the scenario. Thomas Gunzig posed before François Schuiten, while Jaco Van Dormael took the picture, during one of these sessions. Gunzig posted the folder with the first drawings by Schuiten, but could not share anything about its contents. In “La Libre” Schuiten tells that they did a very advanced storyboard when designing the script. “They think 'image' but differently” he said 21).
In November 2018 the three gave an interview with Tout le Baz'Art.They explained that although they discussed everything together, Van Dormael focused on the “bones of the story”, the structure, while Gunzig was focused at the “meat” and Schuiten at the “skin”. Gunzig and Van Dormael explained that they had to challenge Schuiten with their story.
The story with Gunzig and van Domael will be in a more contemporary setting, but also more science fiction, futuristic. They wish to see how Blake and Mortimer would react facing the world today 22).
In “Le Télégramme” of September 2nd, 2016 a pre publication of Revoir Paris started. The newspaper wrote also about the Blake and Mortimer album. According to the newspaper the Palace of Justice in Brussels will be an important part of the story 23).
(…) Enfin, François Schuiten travaille déjà sur un nouvel album consacré à Blake et Mortimer. Il ne s'agira pas d'une nouvelle suite classique à la série de Jacobs mais d'une adaptation très libre de François Schuiten avec comme décor principal l'immense palais de justice de Bruxelles.(…) “Le Télégramme”
In June 2018 Atlantic12 posted an image 24) of the desk of François Schuiten showing some reference material for the Blake and Mortimer album. It shows several images of the Brussels Courthouse including an old image that was used before for the Souvenirs de Bruxelles image.
On May 28, 2018 publisher Yves Schlirf tweeted a photo of François Schuiten researching the Justice Palace in Brussels 25). Schuiten posted in April 2019 several images of these discovering sessions with Thomas Gunzig.
In an interview with “La Libre” François Schuiten says “As you know the courthouse fascinates me, but there is a link with Jacobs: we found notes that he was planning a story that would have happened there. He grew up in the Marolles, at the foot of the palace and I thought the palace was another 'big pyramid', it's like Jacobs gave me the green light posthumously, and reading this story you'll know why there is still scaffolding in the palace! ” 26)
Besides the Palace of Justice also the Koekelberg Basilica will play a part in the story 27).
In the 107th issue of “Casemate” magazine, François Schuiten told that the 2018 deadline will be sometime mid 2019. He had finished 30 of the 83 pages. Although Olrik will not appear in the plot, it is possible that there are a couple of sequences in the Great Pyramid of Egypt 28).
François Schuiten has visited the pyramids when he worked on the Scan Pyramids project.
“There are several layers in this book: this palace whose abandonment symbolises Belgium; a tribute to an abused author, whose heritage has been stolen; the conjunction with the discovery of a huge hall in the heart of the pyramid of Giza, who joins the mythical album of Jacobs” 29) François Schuiten - “La Libre”
The graphical team consists of François Schuiten and Laurent Durieux. They worked together on several screen print posters. During their joint exhibition in Paris they explained that they also worked together on the last page of Revoir Paris. In that page Schuiten and Peeters give their view on future London 30).
François Schuiten has made the black and white version of the album. Laurent Durieux has done the coloring. After Schuiten delivered the pages in May 2018 at publisher Dargaud, Durieux posted on Facebook that he will be busy for the next 6 months to color all the pages 31). But the six months became almost two years.
In an interview with Tout le Baz'Art we saw both artists work together. Schuiten has made the black and white pages with many small stripes and Durieux is translating these stripes and grays to color. Sometimes he adds color behind the stripes, sometimes the stripes are colored. According to Schuiten the colors of Durieux tell a story.
The announcement poster for the Schuiten/Durieux exhibition also contains a hint to their Blake and Mortimer work: a flying wing. In an interview with “BFM.tv” they mentioned that the Blake and Mortimer album will include a small Atlantic 12 train 33), a hint back to the La Douce album by François Schuiten and the series of screen prints Schuiten did with Durieux.
Title: Le dernier Pharaon
On December 15, 2018 Centaurclub.com found some clues that the title of this album is expected to be Le dernier Pharaon (The Last Pharaoh)34).
The title was confirmed by Yves Schlirf on December 20, 2018 in an Instagram post 35).
The album is released as the 11th album in the “Autour de Blake et Mortimer” series 36).
The clues found by Centaurclub.com pointed to two editions of Le Dernier Pharaon: a normal and a “half-size” edition. Most bookseller sites 37) mentioned two editions for pre-orders:
- a classic album (ISBN: 9782870972809)
- an album “half size” (ISBN: 9782870972830)
The standard edition is a hardcover, 92 pages and weight 400g. Its size will be 237 x 310mm 38) 39).
The “half-size” album is a 176 page album. This edition looked to be in black & white 40), but the photos of Durieux checking the half size version show a colored version 41). Its size will be oblong/italian size (307 x 243mm) with half of the original page per page 42). Limited to 8.000 copies.François Schuiten designed the pages in such a way that they can be divided in two. This “half size” edition makes it easier to focus on the details of the pages and provide a different reading experience.
The albums were printed in Italy by Legatoria Editoriale Giovanni Olivotto (L.E.G.O.) 43).
End of 2019 a bibliophile edition will be released with the black and white pages. This matches the remark of Laurent Durieux in comic magazine “Casemate” #114 (May 2018) that publisher Dargaud will release a color edition and a black and white edition of the album.
The comic shops of CanalBD has published a special edition of Le Dernier Pharaon. Each copy will include a frontispiece signed by François Schuiten and has a different cover. The edition is limited to 2.000 copies 44).
The publication date has changed already a couple of times, but the publication date was finally set on May 29, 2019
Two images were used on several bookseller sites early January 2019 as the cover images of Le Dernier Pharaon. Facebook and twitter posts of the CentaurClub of these images immediately received a takedown request from publisher Dargaud, as they were not officially announced yet 46).
The cover of the special “half size” edition was unveiled in an Instagram post 48) by Yves Schlirf on March 12, 2019 and officially on March 14, 2019.
The cover of the standard edition was announced just before Salon du Livre de Paris, that was held between 15 and 18 March 2019 49) in the French and Belgium newspapers Le Parisien et Le Soir.
The cover of the bibliophile edition was released on April 27, 2019.
During the development of the album no artwork or designs have been shared. But in an interview with François Schuiten by “Arte” (March 2017) we got a first glimpse of the sketches of the Blake and Mortimer album 50).
and the Centaur Club enhanced the image of Gunzig posing for Schuiten to show the sketches of the scenario Schuiten is working on 51).
Also during the interview with Tout le Baz'Art we get some glimpses of the artwork and the colours.
On December 24, 2018 François Schuiten posted a work in progress image on his Instagram account 52). You can see a drawing resembling the first official image and the image that is supposed to be part of a portfolio.
The first official image was published in the 2018 edition of the book “L'héritage Jacobs”. it shows Professor Mortimer walking through a submerged street with the Brussels Palace of Justice at the background 53).
There are cats looking at Professor Mortimer. They resemble an image that Schuiten made for Demain le palais de justice: it shows a staircase of the Brussels Palace of Justice which also looks submerged. They are also cats on the stairs.
On February 12, 2019 bookseller Fnac posted a video on their website to promote Le Dernier Pharaon 54). This video was removed at the request of publisher Dargaud. On May 15, 2019 the video was officially released.
Francois Schuiten posted on March 27, 2019 a photo with the original black and white drawing of the cover of Le Dernier Pharaon.
On May 11, 2019 and May 13, 2019 François Schuiten posted the first unedited images of him working on one of the pages.
Centaur Club published in their forum 55) late 2016 some images of a portfolio by François Schuiten. For the occasion of the publication of the Blake and Mortimer album Schuiten worked together with Gilles Ziller of “International Archives”. They made a portfolio of 5 screen prints, numbered and signed, put together in a velvet cardboard. The box dimensions are 570 x 770 mm. The prints are limited to 40-77 copies. The portfolio is expected to go on sale during the short exhibition at Galerie Champaka end of May 2019.
On February 10, 2019 François Schuiten posted an image of the box in his home.
The portfolio reuses an image of Eugen Robick that was used for a serigraph by Ziller before:
and reuses an image that François Schuiten has made before for the La Marque Jaune portfolio by Archives internationales, but the image is slightly altered.
The two other images are situated in front of the Palais de Justice de Bruxelles.
From announcement until launch
Since the official announcement and the disclosure of the covers some more information was shared.
Ryun Reuchamps posted on Twitter a short video of François Schuiten signing a small print 57), it is unknown how this print will be used. The image resembles one of the images of the mysterious portfolio. It might be the frontispiece of the CanalBD edition or an ex-libris.
In April Yves Schlirf posted on Twitter the cover of the bibliophile edition that will be published end of 2019 58). He also posted the announcement poster of Le Dernier Pharaon with 8 June 2019 as the release date 59).
On May 3rd, 2019 the first images of the press kit were published 60): the cover page in black and white and the first page as a crayon drawing.
The press kit features an impressive image of Mortimer in front of the Palace of Justice.
There were four exhibitions confirmed around the release of Le Dernier Pharaon:
- A short exhibition around the album at Galerie Champaka in Brussels from May 31 until June 8, 2019. During the exhibition the Atlantic 12 prints will go for sale and probably also the portfolio made by Gilles Ziller. Atlantic 12 will publish multiple prints: four digigraphies of 80 x 60 cm (about 350 euros each) and some very limited large deluxe prints of the cover and some images from the album in black & white. All these deluxe prints will be made unique by the changes and drawings Schuiten will add to them. This technic is called 'rehaut' in French. These prints will sell between 800 and 1500 euros. All prints will be available during the exhibition at Galerie Champaka. The private opening will be on May 30 from 18 until 20:30 hrs 61).
- Exhibition Le Dernier Pharaon at Maison Autrique in Brussels from May 29, 2019 until January 20, 2020.
- An exhibition during the “les 24èmes rendez-vous de la bande dessinée” in Amiens. This comic festival will be held on June 1 and 2, 2019 62). The release of Le Dernier Pharaon happened at the start of the exhibition.
- An exhibition in Musée Arts et Métiers called “Scientifiction, Blake et Mortimer. The exhibition will be held from June 26, 2019 until January 5, 2020 63). Although focused on Blake and Mortimer there will be no pages of Le Dernier Pharaon on display. A catalogue of this exhibition was published (ISBN: 9782870972847) 64).