French-Belgian artist and writer Jean Graton invented his racing hero Michel Vaillant in 1957 when he first appeared in the short story "La 24° heure" in the French magazine "Tintinin". A number of full fledged adventures followed up, starting with "LE GRAND DÉFI" on January 1, 1958. The audience of mostly young, male readers was obviously fascinated by the time- and ageless hero who also turned out to be a reliabe family man and Formula 1 winner. Michel Vaillant started racing for Vaillant, a leading French car manufacturer, 55 years ago. And of course, being a kind of "jack-of-all-trades", he takes on anything with a motor in all kinds of categories: Formula 1 or various long distance races, rallyes or biker- and motorboat races – you name it. Dedicated fans of motoring sports will probably love the French "Dossiers Michel Vaillant" published since 1995. Next to famous race drivers like Gilles Villeneuve, Alain Prost or Ayrton Senna, the series features a number of "gentlemen drivers" like James Dean and Steve McQueen and legends of the autmobile industry like Enzo Ferrari and Louis Chevrolet. A clever combination of journalism and comic short stories documents their careeres and also the real life developments of motoring sports throughout the ages.
After Graton hat originally designed his comic universe accentuatedly conservative, following the reduced style of the "Ligne Claire", the 1960s soon brought on a more modern approach in the series style and views. Women who had been minor characters until then, became more involved in the plots and were allowed to bring in slightly more important topics of conversation than simple household affairs.
In the 90s Graton's son Philippe joined his father and started writing the scenarios. By the end of the decade his father's illness lead to an artistic takeover by Studio Graton developing the series until 2009. In April 2012 a new creative team kicked off a realunch: Philippe Graton, Denis Lapière (writers), Marc Bourgne und Benjamin Benéteau (artists) took over the adventures and issue #70 as well as the special edition "Michel Vaillant - Work in Progress (#71)", show more than clearly that a new era is about to begin.
Over the last 55 years Michel Vaillant has reached a print rund of over 20 million books in France and Benelux. A number that is rather astounding, given the fact that the series had been self-published at Graton Editeur for years before the big French publishing house Dupuis finally took an interest in 2010 and started reprinting the books. In Germany Michel Vaillant has been succesfully published by ZACK magazine from 1972 to 1981 while the books are now re-distributed by Edition ZACK. No need to mention that Michel Vaillant is also speeding across TV screes in an animated kids' series.