« … Out behind a tree
there jumped a great big hungry wolf
‘Pardon me’, he said, real cool
‘Why make the scene alone?
A crazy chick like you should have
a handsome chaperone’ » — Ridin’ Hood (The Coasters, 1962)
It could be quite convincingly claimed that Jean Ache (1923-1985, né Jean-Baptiste Huet in Le Havre, France) was the most versatile, chameleonic artist of his generation. Not only was he able to accurately adopt any style he chose, “high” or “low”, but he also wielded a panoply of styles of his own devising. To support my claim, take a peek at noted historian Henri Filippini‘s comprehensive survey of Ache’s career (in French), which includes a generous gallery of his multifaceted art. [ Part One ] and [ Part Two ]
From 1971 to 1973, near the end of René Goscinny‘s enlightened regime (his Astérix compère Albert Uderzo ably serving as art director), French bédé periodical Pilote featured a high-calibre series of “high art” pastiches. It was entitled Le Musée Pilote.
The pages of 1973’s Pilote Annuel revealed an Ache tour de force, wherein he retold the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood in comics format *and* in the style of a number (seven, to be exact… but not *the* Group of Seven) of famous painters. The set bore the following cheeky introduction: « Within the scope of the Musée Pilote, we came to realise that numerous artists had never tried their hand at comics. Thanks to our friend Jean Ache, it is now a done deal, and we are pleased to present the tryout pages crafted by these illustrious beginners. It is for you to decide whether these attempts are conclusive, and if these young people’s efforts should be encouraged. »
Here we go!
My initial brush with Ache came in the early 1970s and his short-lived Pastec (1968-70, 9 issues, plus one album). I only ever got my hands the album (« L’Agent secret chante à minuit », 1971), but I never forgot. Like many a childhood fascination, it came out of nowhere, then vanished.
I honestly hadn’t planned to write two consecutive posts about nearly-forgotten French artists named Jean, but something else fell through… and here we are. Sorry!