Born in Liège on 30 October 1924 and deceased 10 July 1989 in Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine, Jean-Michel Charlier left a legacy of a huge amount of work which is still very much alive.
While studying law in the years following the Liberation, he earned himself some pocket money producing illustrations and text for Georges Troisfontaine, owner of the fledgling World Press which supplied a variety of material to Spirou. With Troisfontaines and Victor Hubinon, Charlier created his first large-scale series, "Buck Danny", in 1947, in which he spent a few years drawing boats and planes before devoting himself exclusively to scriptwriting, on Jijé's advice.
A prodigious teller of realistic stories, he had many successes in Spirou with Hubinon ("Surcouf", "Mermoz"), Eddy Paape (the launch of the "Oncle Paul" series and a few episodes of "Jean Valhardi", followed by "Marc Dacier"), MiTacq ("La Patrouille des Castors"), Gérald Forton ("Kim Devil"), Carlos Laffond ("Le Chevalier Thierry"), Herbert ("Simba Lee"), Aldoma Puig ("Brice Bolt").
At the same time, he wrote a large number of scripts for illustrators employed at World and International Press in order to supply material for supplements in the Belgian daily newspapers. The following were among his illustrators on this technical production: Hubinon ("Tiger Joe"), Albert Uderzo ("Belloy"), Dino Attanasio ("Fanfan et Polo"), Martial ("Alain et Christine"), etc.
In 1956, the three mainstays of World Charlier, Goscinny and Uderzo left the Belgian agency to live their own French adventures, illustrating the magazine Pistolin for Chocolat Pupier before creating Pilote. The talented scriptwriter corners the majority of work in his favourite area, the great realistic series: "Tanguy et Laverdure" (with Uderzo, then Jijé), "Barbe-Rouge" (for Hubinon, then Jijé), "Jacques Le Gall" (MiTacq), "Guy Lebleu" (Raymond Poïvet), "Blueberry" (Gir), "Jim Cutlass" (Gir, then Rossi).
Using the title "Les Chevaliers du Ciel", in 1967 Tanguy and Laverdure became the heroes of a television series and Charlier adopted this new method of narration to explore the unknown history of man ("Les Dossiers Noirs" on France 3 from 1979 onwards, "Les Grandes Enquêtes" on TF1, "La Guerre secrète du pétrole") whilst writing scripts for television serials ("Les Diamants du Président", "Nouveaux chevaliers du ciel").
The 1980s saw Charlier regroup his characters and most recent comic strip stories at the fledgling Éditions Novedi with "Buck Danny" (illustrated by Francis Bergèse after the death of Victor Hubinon), "Barbe-Rouge" (revived by Jijé, then Christian Gaty and Patrice Pellerin), "Tanguy et Laverdure" (revived by Jijé, then by Patrice Serres and Coutelis), "Blueberry" (Gir), "La Jeunesse de Blueberry" (Colin Wilson), "Los Gringos" (Victor de la Fuente). These series were taken over by Éditions Dupuis later on.
For the most part, this prolific scriptwriter's characters live on in the hands of others, since Jean-Michel Charlier never thought the show could possibly end. He spent the rest of his life endeavouring to compensate for the disappearance of some of his illustrators by choosing the best possible successors in order to ensure the future of the characters forged by his imagination.