In part 2 of Veronique Culliford’s interview/article, she talks in depth about her father, Peyo.
PEYO – A CREATIVE ARTIST AROUND THE HOUSE
My father, Peyo always shared his ideas with my mother, who was a bit
like his muse, but he never discussed his work with the family. Only my
mother would offer her opinion, which he would use to decide whether
to press on with his ideas or not. She also chose the colours. But when
we were children, my father never discussed his creative work with us.
He had his studio in the house. Father was always close by, from
morning until evening. We were the ones who set off for school, but
he did not set off for work! He had his team with him during his daily
business. François Walthéry, who created Natasha, was 17 when he
arrived at the studio. He was a bit like a big brother to me when I was
only 4. It was a real family affair, even though my father only discussed
his work with his colleagues.
We had to wait until the book was finished and fine-tuned before
we were able to read it. Nowadays, owing to my various responsibilities
I have to get involved in the early stages of a project’s development, but
my real pleasure is to be able to settle down on the sofa with the colour
book in the form in which it will be published. I love to turn the pages,
savouring the details and breathing in the scents of the printing shop.
My father was not in any special frame of mind when working on
Benny Breakiron but he cooperated with various people. When he was
working on the Les Schtroumpfs, he would have certain colleagues to
help with those characters, and when he worked on Benny Breakiron
he had others. There was Will, the cartoonist behind Tif et Tondu (Tif
and Tondu), who did the sets for Benny Breakiron.
My father was also a very emotional person. I think he tried to convey his
feelings and emotions in his series. I do not mean to suggest that Benny
was a projection of my father as a young boy. He actually had a brother
and sister, as well as lots of cousins who he played with a great deal, all
forming a big gang of friends. However, and we never discussed this,
he lost his father when he was eight. So if he never mentioned family, it
may be something he hardly understood and something that was not
part of his experience. This may be one of the keys to Benny.
From my own children’s experience, I can see Peyo’s stories
continuing to delight one generation after another. My children are spoiled
for choice in our house when it comes to comic books. They read whatever
they want! But towards 10 years of age, they all gravitate instinctively
towards Benny Breakiron. I used to find the books under their beds when
they were supposed to be sleeping! As I am a mother who works and
travels a great deal, I do not always have time to talk things over with
them. I do not ask them what they think about their reading matter. They
know their grandfather was the one who wrote and drew these stories
and they are very proud. They became aware of Peyo’s status when they
were about 10. They did not read the Les Schtroumpfs so much. They did
read a lot of Benny Breakiron, then switched to Johan et Pirlouit.
The values my father’s stories convey are both positive and
universal. Parents have nothing to fear about their children reading
comic books by Peyo. They are kind of unblemished while reflecting a
meaning and morality that is not much in evidence nowadays. They are
a bit like contemporary fables. This is something mothers and fathers
are delighted to share with their children.
Peyo was more of a storyteller than a cartoonist. He had
a lot to tell because he must have done a lot of dreaming as well. He
was someone who used to look at the world in an imaginative way. He
had a knack of approaching the most serious subjects with a light and
humorous touch. Benny draws us into a real world, with real thieves
and real baddies. It is a real world, and I think he was anxious to express
something on this score as well. My father was very fond of Benny and
had a particular affection for the character.