For Paul Cuvelier comics were a necessary way to earn money. His true heart lay in painting and sculpting, especially nudes which showcased his passion for the beauty and anatomy of the human body. Cuvelier’s fine art was characterized by a sensuality which has been described as “slumbering eroticism”. The same can be said about some of his comics. Even the juvenile heroes in his ‘Corentin’ stories are scantily clothed most of the time. The friendship between Corentin and Kim can be interpreted in the same homo-erotic subtext as the companionship between Jacques Martin’s Alix and Enak. His final ‘Line’ story also featured a more sexy presentation of the heroine. The 1973 ‘Corentin’ story ‘Le Royaume des Eaux Noires’ featured much nudity and hinted at a sexual relationship between the protagonist and Zaïla. By then, Cuvelier and Van Hamme had already created their groundbreaking erotic graphic novel ‘Epoxy’ (1968).
‘Epoxy’ was created in the wave of adult-oriented comics, which found its breeding ground in the American underground comix movement. The first generation that grew up with the post-war comics continued to embrace the medium, which opened up new possibilities for creators. Free from the restrictions of working for the children’s press, authors could now aim their work at a mature audience. In Europe, magazines like Pilote and Hara-Kiri were at the vanguard of this new movement. Frenchman Jean-Claude Forest‘s sci-fi heroine ‘Barbarella’ (1962) was the first character that embodied the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
In Belgium, Guy Peellaert had pioneered the comics eroticism with his stories ‘Les Aventures de Jodelle’ (1966) and ‘Pravda, la survireuse’ (1967), while Guido Crepax heralded in the “sexties” in Italy with his ‘Valentina’ (1965). Dutch authors Thé Tjong-Khing and Lo Hartog van Banda released their pop-art inspired graphic novel with the sexy ‘Iris’ in 1968. Cuvelier and Van Hamme’s ‘Epoxy’ fully presented the artist’s qualities for sensual artwork, against a story inspired by Greek mythology. Created in 1967, the album was released by the Paris-based Belgian publisher Eric Losfeld in the revolutionary month of May 1968. It initially didn’t catch much attention, but in later years its historical importance was recognized for being one of the first independent and fully erotic Belgian comics. It has been re-issued in later years by Horus (1977), Marcus (1981), Clue Circle (1985), Éditions Lefrancq (1997) and Le Lombard (2003). German and Scandinavian translations of ‘Epoxy’ were however published without the knowledge and consent of the authors, who consequently never received royalties from these editions.
Paul Cuvelier spent the final years of his life in poverty, and in a constant search of artistic fulfillment. A final attempt to pick up ‘Corentin’ was made in cooperation with Jacques Martin, who wrote the script for ‘Corentin et l’Ogre Rouge’ (1973). Cuvelier abandoned the project after the first pages, which were published posthumously in the monography ‘Paul Cuvelier: Corentin et les chemins du merveilleux’ by Philippe Goddin in 1984. Martin later used the plot for the ‘Alix’ story ‘Les Proies du Volcan’ (1978). Jacques Martin also picked Cuvelier as his first choice to draw his historical comics series about French serial killer Gilles de Rais. Cuvelier was however not interested, and was revived by Martin and Jean Pleyers for the series ‘Xan’ (1978, later renamed to ‘Jhen’). Pleyers was Cuvelier’s pupil during his final years. In an interview in L’Est Républicain in 1993, Pleyers recalled squatting with Paul Cuvelier during most of the 1970s, living in “old embassies, surrounded by homosexual drug addicts”. Another assistant of Cuvelier was the Spanish artist Juan Lopez de Uralde, who helped him with the last pages of ‘Corentin et le Prince des Sables’ in the late 1960s. Paul Cuvelier’s final work included some erotic illustrations for Privé magazine in 1975, and the preparations of an exposition with the theme “Fillettes” (“little girls”). The artist however passed away in 1978 in Charleroi at the age of 54 after years of declining health.The extremely large folio edition by Blue Circle is available at www.ftn-books.com