Georges Pichard

Comic artist known for racy strip cartoons
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Georges Pichard, cartoonist and illustrator: born Paris 17 January 1920; died Paris 7 June 2003.

In France, comic books are considered as an art and literary form suitable for everything from education to entertainment via self-gratification. The country holds over 150 festivals where aficionados of the bande dessinée can meet and talk shop.

Georges Pichard was a grand doyen of the French cartoon industry. He worked with Goscinny and Uderzo on Pilote, the weekly magazine which launched Astérix, and taught several illustrators such as Gotlib who created the Droopy-like dog Gai Luron and Duperdupont, both great favourites in France.

To generations of French teenagers who grew up in the Sixties and Seventies, however, Pichard is perhaps best known as an accomplished draughtsman specialising in racy strip cartoons depicting the adventures of his scantily clad heroines Blanche Epiphanie and Paulette. Published in the satirical magazine Charlie Mensuel, Paulette in particular attracted the attention and condemnation of the right-wing politicians Jean Royer and Michel Debré.

A cross between the US underground illustrators Robert Crumb and Eric Stanton, and clearly inspired by Aubrey Beardsley, Pichard worked exclusively with pen and ink to develop an ornate style which suited the out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire situations his female characters found themselves in.

Born in 1920, Pichard grew up in Paris and studied at the Ecole des Arts Appliqués, an institution he would later rejoin as lecturer. After the Second World War, he worked in advertising and publishing as an illustrator and caricaturist before drawing his first strip cartoon, the girl next door "Miss Mimi", in 1956 for the magazine La Semaine de Suzette.

While tutoring at the Ecole des Arts Appliqués, Pichard began taking more chances with his own work. In 1964, he teamed up with the scriptwriter Jacques Lob and together they created Ténébrax for the magazine Chouchou and Submerman for the weekly Pilote. But the pair really caught the mood of the Swinging Sixties with Blanche Epiphanie, an innocent young woman who constantly finds herself in compromising situations.

First published in the daily France-Soir in 1967, the cartoon shocked and delighted Parisians in equal measures. As the events of May 1968 shook France to its foundations, Blanche Epiphanie experimented with sex and drugs and travelled the world from the bordellos of New York to the harems of North Africa. She even made a Jane Fonda-style trip to Vietnam.

Pichard created other luscious heroïnes with exotic names like Sahara, Athéna, Lolly Strip and Circé. But it was his Brigitte Bardot lookalike Paulette who really set the cat among the pigeons in 1970. Pichard created a subversive and liberated character who went on demonstrations and confronted the status quo. Paulette's obvious charms, often displayed on the cover of Charlie Mensuel, got the publication banned from newsagents in more conservative parts of France, which only added to her popularity in schools and universities.

Pichard continued in that erotic vein with the ludicrously named "Caroline Choléra" for L'Echo des Savanes. He upped the ante with the frankly sado-masochistic adventures of "Marie-Gabrielle de St Eutrope", set in the 18th century and banned from bookshops and kiosks on publication in 1977.

The illustrator proved equally prolific throughout the Eighties and Nineties though "Madoline" and "Maison de Correction Princesse Melanie", the last strip he published in 1999, when he was 79, seemed to clash with his avowed feminist views. He developed a lucrative sideline with licentious comic books liberally adaptated from French classics such as Les Mémoires d'un Don Juan (Guillaume Apollinaire), La Religieuse (Denis Diderot), Germinal (Emile Zola) and also Le Kama-Soutra (after Vatsyayana).

Pierre Perrone