Under the controls of La Douce

François Schuiten

François Schuiten is not yet 20 years old when he publishes, in 1973, his first comic strip panels in Pilote. Born in 1956 to a family of architects, he meets his future partner in crime, Benoît Peeters, in school in 1968. However, it is not during his studies at Saint Luc in Brussels with Benoît that he truly makes his debut with comic strips. Rather it is through his brother, Luc, and his stories. Together they start Carapaces, in 1978, in the pages of Métal Hurlant before giving rise to the Terres Creuses cycle. After a new collaboration in 1980 with Claude Renard, his former professor (who produced two comic books with Humanoïdes Associés: Le Rail and Aux médianes de Cymbiola), François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters ultimately create their first joint project in 1982. The readers of (A SUIVRE) magazine are introduced to Les murailles de Samaris.

 

Ever since, the two men remain inseparable. They designed books of all shapes and sizes within the framework of the Cités Obscures. The publications La fièvre d’Urbicande (1984), La Tour (1987), Brüsel (1992), La frontière invisible (2002-2004) and La théorie du grain de sable (2007-2008) had great success. They also wrote two stories drawn by other people: Plagiat! for Alain Goffin (Humanoïdes Associés, 1989) and Dolorès for Anne Baltus (Casterman, 1991).

Bursting out of the panels and pages, Schuiten and Peeters also organized exhibitions – the most famous of which is, without a doubt, Le Musée des Ombres, which was first presented at the Angoulême Festival. They also organized a significant number of readings and performances accompanied by Bruno Letort, a musician they like to integrate into their projects. Their documentaries, including the mythical Dossier B, written and directed with Wilbur Leguèbe, describe—as if an extension of the story from Brüsel—the existence of a parallel city to Brussels that mixes real and fictional testimonies. Their work is at once fantastic, dream-like, visionary, political and philosophical.

 

But François Schuiten is not just comic book author. Since the mid-80s, he has collaborated with various filmmakers, for whom he dreams up décors and costumes: Just Jaeckin for Gwendoline, Raoul Servais for Taxandria, Joaco Van Dormael for Toto le Héros and Mister Nobody. He is also an illustrious scenographer, be it for the public sphere (he designed the Porte de Hal metro station in Brussels and the Arts & Métiers metro station in Paris) or for immense exhibitions (such as Le pavillon des utopies in Hanover in 2000, which attracted 5 million visitors!). He is currently working on a vast project, a railway museum at the Schaerbeek train station in Brussels, located a stone’s throw away from his house.

François Schuiten was awarded the Grand Prix de la Ville d’Angoulême in 2002.

Thirty years after their debut, the two creators of Cités Obscures worked independently long enough for Schuiten to write this book. La Douce is, indeed, the first comic book entirely made – both storyline and drawings – by François Schuiten himself.