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This article needs additional citations for verification. Michel Vaillant is a French comics series created in 1957 by French cartoonist Jean Graton and published originally by Le Lombard. The feature first appeared in Tintin magazine, where Jean Graton had already published a number of short stories about real-life sporting heroes. The series appeared in Tintin between 1957 and 1976, in France as well as in Belgium.
On February 7, 1957, Jean Graton created the character Michel Vaillant, with five short stories published in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Tintin, with publication beginning June 12, 1957. Jean Graton later left the writing to his son Philippe, gradually leaving the artwork to the Studio Graton, which he established. Since Graton stopped drawing the series himself, the graphic style has evolved, with Philippe Graton continuing with the writing and three artists providing the artwork. Vaillante is a family-run French business which, in the beginning, was a transporting company. They also create their own trucks and cars and so decide to enter Formula One racing competition.
In 1939, Henri Vaillant, a young driver, creates this new team. Michel, Henri’s son, is the main driver, his usual team-mate being the American, Steve Warson. The team is first managed by Henri Vaillant, then by Michel’s older brother Jean-Pierre. Henri has remained the chairman of the Vaillante firm, but was replaced by Jean-Pierre when he retired. As the Vaillante firm grows, Vaillante’s drivers, among them Michel, accumulate victories, but their success is either disrupted by rivals, by internal problems in the Vaillante team or by the « Leader », the greatest of Vaillante’s enemies. Most of the adventures deal with motor racing life, but they also deal with the Vaillante team drivers’ private lives, with concerns in the Vaillante firm and with various outside problems. The comic is notable for depicting real-life motor racing background, featuring many non-fictional drivers, teams and personalities.
Graton’s graphic style also aims at being realistic, as the illustrations are very technically accurate. Notably, Graton is recognized for the meticulous details he provides on cars illustrations. Michel Vaillant’s name is very similar to that of the birth name of automotive pioneer Karl Benz, which was Karl Friedrich Michael Vaillant. Realism is also expressed in the fictional background. Vaillant’s factories and property are prominenly featured in the series.
The Vaillante firm is run as a real company, it has financial problems, must launch advertising campaigns and search for sponsors. Michel and Jean Pierre lived there in the early books, before striking out on their own. As the context in which the characters evolved, Michel also is shown getting older. While he looked like a young man of about twenty years at the beginning of his adventures, he is seen progressively reaching middle-age. Recently his appearance is younger than previously. Other fictional characters are also shown getting older.
In recent years, their general appearance has become steady. Michel Vaillant is the main character of the series. Michel Vaillant is a complete driver and sportsman. His main occupation is to drive in the Formule 1 championship.
Michel is named world champion in four different albums. He is also able to drive trucks and motorcycles, and practice football, gymnastics, tennis, judo and skiing very well. She first appeared in 1963, as a teenager. At that time, she was a journalist for a newspaper owned by her father Louis Latour, a good friend of Henri Vaillant. In 1966, she appeared again, but as an older, attractive young woman.
From that time on, she appeared in every album of the series and saw Vaillant more and more, until his family urged him to marry her. Jean-Pierre Vaillant is Michel’s older brother by six years. Like Michel, he started as a driver for the Vaillante team. He got married to Agnès de Chanzy, the daughter of Henri Vaillant’s friend living in Argentina, in the very first album. But rapidly, he became more and more interested in managing the family team and to elaborate strategies for Formula One racing. Steve Warson is an American driver and Michel’s best friend.
He first appeared in the series in 1957. Steve has a different personality than Michel: he smokes, drinks, flirts, fights, and defies other drivers. Despite his several flaws, he is a good driver for the Vaillante team and a faithful team mate to Michel, even if his romantic adventures sometimes caused him to be Vaillante’s occasional rival. The « Leader » is a mysterious character who is the worst enemy of Vaillante and owner of the Leader team. The Leader team uses modern and advanced technology to compete against the Vaillante team in motor races. The team resorts to aggressive strategies to win races and uses dangerous drivers, such as Vince Hummer, Bob Cramer, Dan Hawkins and Donald Payntor. The leader was brought up by Buddhist monks.
Ruth alias Jo Barett is the Leader’s daughter and was briefly Steve Warson’s girlfriend. Before knowing her real origin, Ruth was a kind girl and friendly towards the Vaillante team. She became cruel and mean, taking over as the new Leader at her father’s death, and tried to avenge him by fighting against his enemies. Henri Vaillant is Michel and Jean-Pierre’s father.