Philippe Vuillemin is to comics what Delépine and Kervern are to the cinema: an anti-conformist with anarchic tendencies, more than mere mischief maker, but less radical than a punk.
Vuillemin is a direct descendant of Jean-Marc Reiser, his style instinctive and messy, if not downright or dirty. His own expression for it is "ligne crade", the dirty line, an ironic reference to Hergé's "Ligne claire", and Vuillemin is quite happy to doodle, to deliberately smudge, re-draw, cut out and stick his drawings until he achieves a result that satisfies his animal instincts. An original by Philippe Vuillemin is more than just a drawing: it tells a story, retracing the act of creation itself, as evidenced by the fingerprints, the smears of cigarette ash and coffee littering the finished product.
Born in 1948, Philippe Vuillemin naturally gravitated towards L'Echo des Savanes, Hara-Kiri and Charlie Mensuel when hunger struck. Aside from a drawing style that totally overturned comic strip conventions of the time, Vuillemin stands out due to his uncompromising tone and his love of vulgarity. With this free and easy writer, lavatorial jokes and obscenities fall like spring rain. Determined to turn the most dubious subject matter into a joke, as in Hitler = SS, where he sails perilously close to the wind, Vuillemin can sometimes leave the rest of us floundering.
He divides opinion, and he lets us know about it even in the corridors of the Académie des Grands Prix d'Angoulême, whose prize Vuillemin was awarded in 1995, to Morris's absolute disgust.
Born in Marseilles (FR) in 1958. Lives and works in Paris (FR).
Philippe Vuillemin?s father was an inspector for SACEM and as a child Vuillemin wandered the length and breadth of the country at his father?s side, spending some time in Corsica, and later Orléans, before ending up in Paris. Vuillemin was eighteen at the time and had, as he puts it, ?straw sticking out of my boots, a head stuffed with ideals and spots all over my face?. It was the start of a tricky period in his life in which he was trying to ?find? himself. He listened to rock music, shaved his head, joined a punk band. He took on a series of small jobs, in order to make ends meet, and stole food from Monoprix shops ? living a life that was a far cry from his parent?s middle-class aspirations.
In 1977, Vuillemin met Yves Got, co-author of Le Baron Noir. The encounter was to prove decisive. Got recognised that here was a young illustrator of real distinction and talent. After dipping his toe in the water with his Histoires courtes, published in L?Écho des Savanes, Vuillemin struck up a friendship with Choron and joined Hara-Kiri. He was beginning to make quite a name for himself as a comics writer and when asked by a journalist why short stories Vuillemin replied that it was to speed things up and stop him getting bored. ?I was a bit jaded, even at that young age?, he admits.
Real success came in 1980, when Vuillemin began collaborating with magazines like Charlie Hebdo, Zoulou, Grand Café and Zéro. His first comics were collected in the album Saine Ardeur, then a year later in Sueurs d?Hommes (Éditions du Fromage), with Albin Michel publishing Frisson de bonheur in 1983. In 1984, following the success of Raoul Teigneux contre les Druzes, Vuillemin took over Les Sales Blagues de L?Écho, proving a worthy successor to Coluche and Reiser. Like them, he dealt with ordinary folk, but the drawing style was wayward and the message scathing. L?Écho des Savanes had cottoned on to Vuillemin?s talent and exactly where it lay: subtle observation, ferocity, economy of means. And the public lapped it up. ?I enjoy violence a lot, but I don?t enjoy having bread thrown in my face?, the artist remarked in an interview for La Dépêche, between puffs of his cigarette.
Vuillemin went on to illustrate Le Professeur Choron?s texts in Les Versets Sataniques de l?Evangile ? the title alone promising the kind of humour that once again pushes propriety to its limits. Nevertheless, in 1989, the year of its publication, ?Sister Theresa? was to give the work her stamp of approval by sealing it with an interview. And Vuillemin finally received the official recognition of his peers when, in 1996, he was awarded the Grand Prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. The world is changing and Vuillemin has found a niche for himself within the Ninth Art. Following his lengthy collaboration with L?Écho des Savanes, dBD and Libération, he is currently part of the team at Charlie Hebdo.
Vuillemin?s caustic humour is as overwhelming as it is denunciatory; but the artist asks more questions than he answers. Focusing closely on the world around him, he sets out to seriously challenge his readers. His rapid, economical and precise drawings utilise a crude and straightforward style of mark making which is as uncompromising as the stories he tells. And what the artist himself calls his ?dirty line? ? the very opposite of delicacy ? serves his gallery of characters marvellously well.