Why it matters. Gaston Lagaffe back… in court

If Gaston Lagaffe is not yet back in bookstores, he is on the benches of justice…

What case is it?

A conflict opposes the Dupuis editions (Media Participations group) and the daughter of André Franquin, the creator of the lazy hero, about the publication of a new album and its promotion. A summary hearing is scheduled for Monday in Brussels.

The affair began on March 17: as the Angoulême comic strip festival begins, the Belgian publisher Dupuis announces, on the occasion of its centenary, that it will resuscitate the character of Gaston Lagaffe, emblematic employee of office in espadrilles, which had not been talked about since the death of its creator, André Franquin, twenty-five years ago.

The Belgian comic book publisher has already set everything up: he entrusted the project to the Canadian Delaf (Marc Delafontaine of his real name, also author of “Navels”).

“Le Retour de Lagaffe”, an album in the classic 48-page format, is due to be released on October 19, 2022, with a print run commensurate with Gaston’s reputation: 1.2 million copies. A prepublication in the newspaper Spirou was planned for April (it was suspended given the legal battle).

“It was time”

“Few expected him to return. But, that was the time: if we hadn’t done that, he didn’t have many years of notoriety ahead of him, because most comic book heroes who don’t find a sequel just die.” then justified the editorial director of Dupuis, Stéphane Beaujean.

An “illegal publication”?

The announcement has the effect of a bomb in the middle of the 9th art. But very quickly, Isabelle Franquin, the daughter of the late Belgian cartoonist, showered the enthusiasm of Dupuis editions: according to her, the publication of a new album of the character is “illegal”, because it is contrary to the will of her dad. She therefore decides to take legal action and asserts her moral rights.

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“Moral rights are inalienable”

André Franquin “always expressed during his lifetime, continuously and repeatedly, his desire that Gaston not survive him under the pencil of another designer”, recalled in a press release Me Katz, Isabelle Franquin’s lawyer, insisting that “moral rights are inalienable”.

“Who has not said sometimes on stage what he did not do in private life”

For the editorial director of Dupuis, Stéphane Beaujean, on the contrary, nothing illegal in this new album project: “We are within our rights: we have a contract, it was signed by an author in full possession of his means who includes specific, rare and clear clauses. The only debate you know is that of public speaking where he spoke several times about the fact that he did not want Gaston to be taken back. But who hasn’t sometimes said on stage what he didn’t do in private life, and for once, his private speech seems to say the opposite…”

Me Alain Berenboom, lawyer for Dupuis editions, supports in The Parisian “We will produce declarations which prove that Franquin has not always formally opposed the continuation of Gaston. »

Nearly 32 million copies sold

Gaston Lagaffe appeared for the very first time in 1957 in the magazine Spirou. Since then, his balls have been told in 21 volumes, translated into 27 languages ​​and have sold nearly 32 million copies.

The 21st and last album published by Franquin, “Gaffe à Lagaffe”, dates from 1996. The launch was made at 900,000 copies.

The nonchalant character was the subject of a film adaptation in 2018, “Gaston Lagaffe”, which had greatly displeased Franquin’s daughter, Isabelle. “I helplessly witness the disaster,” she told the Belgian daily L’Avenir.

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Authors worried

Pending the Belgian court decision, the question of moral rights, at the center of the debates in the Lagaffe case, and which could set a precedent in the field of artistic production, worries artists: an open letter was also addressed to the managers of Media Participations, the Belgian holding company of Dupuis.

The text states that “it is essential that the moral rights of authors – dead or alive – be respected. To preserve this necessary confidence, it is imperative that you honor the will of André Franquin, who asked – on numerous occasions, publicly and straightforwardly – ​​that his character Gaston not survive him in the guise of other authors. By flouting his moral rights, you jeopardize the creation of yesterday, the creation of today and mortgage the creation of tomorrow. »

The letter has already garnered hundreds of signatures, including those from best-selling authors like Zep, Geluck.

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