50 years of investigations in Le Pèlerin with the Pat'Apouf comic strip

50 years of investigations in Le Pèlerin with the Pat’Apouf comic strip

In the imagination and memories of generations of readers, Pat’Apouf has held a special place. The detective with the pipe, jovial and insightful, a Tintin puff often hidden by a felt pen, kept subscribers spellbound for… fifty-two years! In 1938, Yves Gervy, its creator, who drew mainly for children, presented himself at La Bonne Presse to offer his services. It is finally for the whole family that he will draw! At the time, the only two editors of the PilgrimFather Guichardan and Henri Save, sought to modernize the weekly and offered it a comic book page in each issue: a revolution!

Gervy then imagined this pleasant and above all human character, with his qualities and his faults. “The infallible superman who succeeds in everything, it was not for me!”, he said later, adding: “I looked for a name adapted to the chubby and somewhat comical physique of our character”. “Our” because in his house in Périgord where he drew, Yves teamed up with his wife Germaine, who took care of the coloring. Gervy was also a pseudonym, a contraction of their two first names.

Very quickly, the detective became popular and its author became attached to it to the point of continuing to crunch it during its mobilization in 1939-1940. In June 1945, when Pilgrim reappeared after a five-year hiatus, Pat’Apouf therefore resumed his adventures to engage in the fight against the black market. Later, he investigated industrial espionage, the destructive passion for money or ivory trafficking. The pre-war comedy had meanwhile disappeared. The adventures were set in a more agonizing climate, with surprisingly many violent deaths for a Catholic family-oriented publication. Fortunately the bandits repented and prayed before dying! In 1956, at the time of the transition to offset which made it possible to enlarge the boards, Gervy felt the need to renew himself: he created Jacky, a new character, a stowaway on a ship bringing the detective from America to France. . The long narrative sentences disappeared in favor of a lighter style which once again became comic, even burlesque.

Gervy’s last board appeared on May 27, 1973, in the special issue published by Pilgrim for the centenary of the magazine. The designer who retired, Jean Ach took up the torch. Two other designers – Ballofet and Gulcis – followed after the death of Jean Ach, until the summer of 1990, when Pat’Apouf finally bowed out.

In the meantime, a fruitful association with the comic strip had thus been sketched out: from 1962, the newspaper published in serial form plates of Asterix, of which Asterix among the Belgians exclusively in 1977. The following year, he did it again with The ungrateful age, by Achille Talon.

Humor, always humor

Pilgrim, family and popular magazine, has never lacked humor. Father Vincent de Paul Bailly had clearly understood that in order for the greatest number of people to read, it was necessary to make their task easier. And what better than illustrations and pictures for that? Going through second-hand dealers, he thus acquired his first shots and engravings at little cost. Then, he hires his first designers to produce news vignettes where caricature has a good place: Lucien Thomin, Guydo, Henriot, Montégut and so many others will follow one another. It is necessary to evoke here especially the work of Achille Lemot (1846-1909) who will become, from 1896, the faithful illustrator of the virulent tirades of Father Bailly.

Pilgrim also takes advantage of the latest advances in engraving to multiply the illustrations inspired by works of art, historical scenes, etc. The hiring of a talented young Uruguayan illustrator, Eugène Damblanc, dit Damblans (1865-1945) will provide the title with its finest plates. These are, sometimes, real illustrated stories that he composes, prefiguring in his own way what will be after the war the emergence of the ninth art, the comic strip. There, cartoonists, often trained in the world of advertising, will have a field day every week to edify or amuse the children. Before, now, to amaze the adults they have become.

By Dominique Lang

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