Zidrou: An Author of All Seasons

interview

June 18, 2018

Born in Brussels, Belgian author Benoît Drousie, aka Zidrou, began his adult life as a teacher before switching to writing in the 1990s. The year 1997 marked the release of his comic book series Ducoboo, and just like that, he was reborn as Zidrou, who has since become one of the most prolific and accomplished comics authors active today. With yet another of his series joining the Europe Comics catalog, we sat down with him for a chat, to try to find out the secrets behind two decades of bestsellers and fan favorites.

Your series Glorious Summers (Dargaud, Europe Comics in English), created with Jordi Lafebre, is joining our catalogue just at the right time! So here’s your chance to win over our readers: why should folks choose this series to read over the coming months?

This summer. This spring. This fall. And this winter. There are no seasons when it comes to treating yourself. With Glorious Summers, it’s vacation every day!

Your books range from drama (Lydie) to thrillers (Bearskin) to adventure (The Mighty Return of Ric Hochet), not to mention your long-running series for younger readers (Ducoboo, Tamara). Would you say that there is a Zidrou hallmark? Or do you try to innovate and surprise readers with each new book?

I don’t like to eat the same thing all the time—varying your diet is one of the basic rules of healthy eating. And it’s the same thing with writing.

You’re one of the most prolific comics authors out there today, often working on several scripts at the same time. How do you manage to keep them straight, and move forward on all fronts simultaneously?

I reread what I wrote the day before. And then I continue, I improvise, I invent as I go along. With a general outline to follow, more and more, to reassure my artists and editors!

You’ve said in the past that you were afraid of always having to do the same thing, and you mention here that you like to vary your writing “diet.” But isn’t there a risk of varying your work too much? Do you think that your readers — and your editors — are ready to follow you wherever you go?

No, I don’t think there’s any risk. They can stand to change restaurants every once in a while! Besides, I don’t see what a 47-year-old woman would be doing opening up one of my Ducoboo books anyway!

You collaborate with many different artists. How much leeway do you give them? Do you take care of the frame and page composition yourself?

The more freedom they have, the better off they are… and me as well! I break down the script frame-by-frame of course, and I give my artists clues and ideas, but they are the ones who are really in charge here, they are the directors and cinematographers! I simply try to adapt to the specific characteristics of each artist I work with. With Jordi Lafebre, for example, I know I’m going to be working with the best possible actors — his artwork is so forceful, and his “actors” play their roles so well.

Your stories take place around the world, from England (Shi) to Australia (A Hell of an Innocent) to Africa (The African Trilogy). How do you go about bringing to life these faraway places?

As a writer, I try to be a sponge, drawing inspiration from things that I have seen or read or, more rarely, from places I have actually traveled to. Apart from that, I write down just about whatever comes to me, and add in parentheses “find docs,” inviting (shamefully) the artist to research the scene as needed. For me, this kind of information gathering isn’t really my thing. I only research things that are absolutely essential to the credibility of my stories.

Your books are often set as well in distant and complex time periods, such as the eras of World War I (The Folies Bergère) and World War II (Vice Squad). To what extent do you lay the groundwork for your stories before launching into the script? How much time does the writing process take?

The faster and the more spontaneous I work, the better! That said, sometimes the bicycle seems to move forward on its own, and other times you have to pedal hard. I read or watch documentaries about the subject I’m working on, but only when they interest me — as was the case for the books you mention. Over time, I’ve reached an average of one full album for a full month’s work.

Lastly, you’ve mentioned in the past your desire to write a heroic fantasy tale, as a kind of icing on the cake for a career that has already been incredibly prolific and varied. Do you have any projects currently underway?

I have two in a drawer somewhere… but no time to devote to them for quite a while yet. That said, things might snowball if I come across an artist who’s equal parts “heroic” and “fantasy.” But before that, I’d like to get back to a bit more adult humor and comics for kids. For the fun of it!

Header image: Glorious Summers © Zidrou & Lafebre / Dargaud Benelux