© P. Pinchart
Jean-Philippe Stassen, born on 14 March 1966 in Liège, adores his beloved Cité Ardente, but is an inveterate traveller at the same time.
Attracted by the sun and the people of Africa, he frequently goes on expeditions to Algeria, Senegal and Burkina Faso. On one of his trips, he ends up in a bar run by an old man who makes an unforgettable impression on him.
He returns to Liège with a bulging sketchbook, and confides his impressions and emotions to his old friend Denis Lapière. The scriptwriter uses these elements as a basis for the story of Célestin and Leila. After "Bahamas" and "Bullwhite", published by Albin Michel in 1988 and 1989, "Le Bar du vieux Français" will become their third joint project, appearing in the prestigious "Aire Libre" collection in 1992.
This two-part work wins numerous prizes : the Prix "Canard" at the Sierre Festival, Best Foreign Album at the Breda Festival, Best French-Language Album in Durbuy, Comic Book Prize at the "Vingt-quatre heures du livre" at Le Mans, "Alph'Art Coup de Coeur" and the Prix de la Presse ("Bloody Mary") at the Salon d'Angoulême. A complete collection would become available in 1999.
In 1996, Stassen features in "Aire libre" again with "Louis le Portugais", a moving and human tragedy mainly set in Liège, based on a script of his own for the first time. Instead of setting his story in the exotic parts of the city, he prefers to describe the suburbs he knows so well, seen through the eyes of a charming mix of characters from foreign climes. Whether they are lovers, thieves or drug addicts, they are all rendered with feeling, tenderness and humour.
Reviving the art of the chronicler in comic books, Jean-Philippe Stassen uses an abundance of colour and reveals himself to be an excellent storyteller. He repeats this in 1999 with "Thérèse", in which his heroine returns to her African roots, and again in the superb "Deogratias" - published in the "Aire Libre" collection - in which he weaves his own story around the genocide in Rwanda, something that profoundly marked him. He rounds this work off with travel accounts and portraits in "Pawa", published by Delcourt.
His work extends a bridge between two continents and is a warm and modern portrayal of the problems of immigration.