© J.-J. Procureur
François Walthéry, born in Argenteau on 17 January 1946, was sent to several workshops at Saint-Luc in Liège at the age of sixteen. His teachers felt that the adolescent had a talent for drawing, but that he was not yet old enough to follow the general curriculum, which was intended for much older students.
A neighbour of Cheratte, the cartoonist Mittéï, gave him a few pointers to improve his work, resulting in some twenty "Pipo" strips, which were accepted for JUNIOR, TINTIN's little brother.
In July 1963, still wet behind the ears, he was taken to the editorial office of SPIROU by his mother. The single, small sketch he had brought along in his wallet attracted the attention of Yvan Delporte, Charles Dupuis and Peyo ! Desperately looking for collaborators to satisfy the demand for the Smurf strips, Peyo took him on, only to discover that the boy did not feel very comfortable with the little blue fellows. He needed a little more action.
Initially supervised by Will, Walthéry was put to work on the "Jacky et Célestin" series for LE SOIR ILLUSTRÉ. From the autumn of 1963 to 1966, Walthéry illustrated four episodes under the pseudonym Pop's, gradually developing a style of his own. After completing his military service, he was considered good enough to take over "Benoît Brisefer", one of the more ambitious series the Master created exclusively for SPIROU. Here too, he illustrated four episodes, from 1968 to 1973.
At the same time, he worked out a new character based on a script by his studio colleague Gos: "Natacha, hôtesse de l'air" was accepted in 1967, but the forthright little lady did not appear in SPIROU until 1970.
Editors then took turns chasing up work from a cartoonist, known for his proverbial delays. This became even worse when the eternal juvenile, now successful, started to honour every festival in France and Navarre with his presence. In thirty years, he has still not yet managed to complete twenty books about the luscious Natacha!
Although scriptwriters (Gos, Borgers, Stoquart, Wasterlain, Tillieux, Mittéï, Cauvin, Mythic, Peyo, Michel Dusart) as well as background artists (Jidéhem, Mittéï, Will, Wasterlain, Laudec, Georges Van Linthout) successively worked on her, her adventures have only appeared in small doses, initially published by Dupuis (13 books in 18 years), and then by Marsu-Productions from 1989 on (half a dozen titles).
During the absences of the fair lady, the cartoonist occasionally turned to small, relatively short-lived projects: a collection of the stories of "Vieux Bleu" based on scripts by Cauvin in 1980, a tribute to "Tchantchès", the eccentric character from Liège, in 1988, promotional posters and scouting calendars.
After creating two volumes devoted to his most autobiographic character, "Le P'tit Bout de chique", at Marsu-Productions, he then entrusted him to Mittéï. Since 1993, he continues to supervise the "Rubine" series, illustrated by Dragan de Lazare and written by Mythic for Éditions du Lombard.