As part of the press promotion for the new BENNY BREAKIRON film in France, Peyo’s daughter, Veronique Culliford, wrote a terrific article on her father, his creative process and why Benny holds a special place in her heart. It’s a must read for any Peyo fan!
GROWING UP WITH BENNY
1960 was the year my father decided to create a new comic strip
series. He wanted it to appear in the leading Belgian daily Le Soir, which
was already running his story about a little cat called Pussycat, which
the publisher, Dupuis, wanted for its list. My father agreed to withdraw
Pussycat from the newspaper and hand it over to Dupuis but he was loath
to abandon the newspaper because it had offered him a chance when
was just starting his career. This is why he developed Benny Breakiron.
However, when Dupuis found out about the new work, they actually
preferred it to Pussycat !
My father always created likeable, very thematically structured
characters. After dwelling in the Middle Ages with Johan et Pirlouit
(Johan and Peewit) and the Schtroumpfs (the Smurfs), Benny Breakiron
offered him an opportunity to write stories set in the modern world.
Benny’s visual setting is very 1960s, the era when he was created.
I was only two when the character was unveiled to the public. He really
formed the background to my formative years.
BENNY BREAKIRON – A DIFFERENT KIND OF HERO
My father’s idea in creating Benny Breakiron was to take a stance opposite
that depicted in the case of the American superheroes of the time, so he
invented a character who was not an all-powerful adult but a child who
nonetheless had the ability to react to anything that stirred his anger.
My father always liked to play around with the adult child concept and,
in the case of Benny Breakiron, the hero expresses himself like a child.
His way of thinking is not as articulate as that of an adult, and that
contributes to the light and refreshing feel of his adventures. He has
no qualms about saying what is on his mind. Benny has reached the
age when things can fill him with a real sense of indignation. He cannot
I was about eight when I first read the adventures of Benny
Breakiron. I started from the beginning, with The Red Taxis. Like all
children I just looked at the pictures to start with. Then, when I was
about 10 or 11, I really started to understand the meaning of the texts.
As with all my father’s books, the adventures of Benny are multilayered,
thus featuring surprises for children of every age. My feeling as a girl
was that Benny needed protecting because he was alone! At times you
long to share his adventures, to put yourself in his shoes, at other times
you want to help him. We can all also relate to him often being rejected
by children of his own age because he is different from all the others.
We are on his side. He evokes strong feelings, even though we know it is
only a comic book. He is also very endearing because his parents are not
around. But he does not seem to be unhappy being alone. He is looked
after at home by his guardian, but we are never told if he might have
parents who have to work far away. I think my father’s approach was
intended to focus on his character, tell Benny’s story rather than getting
involved in the story of a family. Children think about themselves but
not always about their surroundings. This gives his perspective a kind
of authenticity that reminds us all of something.
As he does not always manage to get close to people of his own
age, Benny has very close relationships with adults. Mr Dussiflard is
a man on his own, and Ms Adolphine is a woman on her own. Benny Breakiron
seeks the company of those who have time for him. He would like to
tell them about his amazing powers but he is always thwarted from
doing so by circumstances! He is not keeping a secret, he just never
manages to share the secret. These are the kinds of things children may
experience and express later on when they reach adulthood. Parents
do not always realise either… I believe it is something quite powerful, a
childhood theme that is particularly relevant nowadays.
Unlike superheroes who are able to do anything they want and
can save the world every day of the week, Benny Breakiron is just like anybody else.
He is incapable of solving a problem if he has a cold. His vulnerability
makes him someone special. He possesses powers that all children
dream of having but he continues to be normal. However, this does not
prevent him from creating one or two disasters to add a bit of spice to