Philippe Druillet, born on 28 June 1944, is known for his baroque drawings and bizarre science fiction stories. After having worked as a photographer for several years, Druillet made his debut in comics in 1966 with Lone Sloane, le Mystère des Abîmes, a comic book that drew inspiration from Druillet’s favourite writers H.P. Lovecraft and A.E. van Vogt. Later, Druillet would design several covers for reissues of Lovecraft’s work and a number of film posters.
After Druillet joined the Franco-Belgian comic magazine Pilote in 1970, his Lone Sloane saga became increasingly flamboyant. Six stories were collected in 1972 in Les six voyages de Lone Sloane, widely regarded as his masterpiece. In the comics, the titular character ends up in a universe that is strange to him, becoming an interstellar explorer with strange powers. He is trapped in a galactic battle between space pirates, giant robots, malevolent gods and other strange entities. Druillet makes no distinction between science fiction and fantasy and creates a world in which everything seems possible.
A unique look at Relativity
Sloane was again the hero of the graphic novel Delirius (1973), written by Jacques Lob. In the novel a religious group asks him to help them steal a large sum of money from the Imperator, the ruler of the hedonistic planet Delirius. The book contains a page in which an intriguing and exuberant variant of M.C. Escher’s Relativity (1953) can be seen. Escher’s work had previously been used as cover images for books and psychedelic versions of his prints were also made by hippies and students in the late 1960s. But this is possibly the first time that an artist used an Escher work as a source of inspiration for a completely unique version.
Druillet’s revolutionary designs are what make him unique. He dispenses with the waffle iron model (four rows of three identical frames) and experiments wildly with the page layout. Druillet did not shy away from using very large images. Sometimes a page only consisted of two pictures, yet was still crammed with detail. He also used round frames, triangular frames, octagonal frames—anything was possible. Occasionally, the reader has to tilt the book sideways, because the draftsman was inclined to draw a page in a different direction. Lone Sloane and the characters from his other books roam around in worlds filled with gigantic buildings and bizarre spaceships, displaying a mixture of Art Nouveau, Mayan and Aztec temples and Gothic cathedrals. He uses a lot of symmetry in his work and it is not only the aforementioned print that is reminiscent of the worlds of Escher.
Page examples from Druillet’s books
With Lone Sloane but also Yragaël (1974), Mirages (1976), Gail (1978) and Salammbô (1980)
In 1975, together with Bernard Farkas, Jean-Pierre Dionnet and Moebius, he founded the publishing house Les Humanoïdes Associés and the magazine Métal Hurlant. For this magazine, he created several short stories, which were later collected in the book Mirages in 1976. He kept on working on new comics and stories in the 1970s. At the end of the decade Druillet began expanding his activities to encompass animation, sculpture, architecture, film, photography and painting. Druillet is still active as a comic artist and creator, but outside France he will probably be remembered mainly for his science fiction hero Lone Sloane.