Marcel Gotlieb was born in Paris in 1934. His parents were Hungarian Jews. At eight years old his father was arrested by the French police and deported to Buchenwald where he died in 1945. Marcel escaped two dragnets and was sent to live in a farm, then to an orphanage. Gotlib later drew a double page dedicated to his daughter in “Rubrique-à-brac,” about his childhood in hiding. Entitled “Chanson aigre-douce,” it tells how he had to leave school “because of the storm” (i.e. the war) and befriended a goat in a barn while the storm was still raging outside.

After finishing school, he worked for a pharmaceutical agency while studying at the Duperré School of Applied Arts in the evening. He landed a position as free-lance letterer before a twenty-eight month military service in Germany. Upon his return, Gotlib was hired at Vaillant, a popular weekly magazine for children. This is where he created Nanar and Jujube, friends of secondary character Gai-Luron (inspired by Tex Avery’s Droopy) who soon upstages them.

Finally, Gotlib contributes to Pilote, the weekly comic magazine created in 1959, and in which Astérix was born. He later admitted to calling the magazine frequently prior to his admission and hanging up before they had time to answer. Gotlib collaborates with René Goscinny on a series called “Dingodossiers.” The title is a portmanteau of the French words “dingo” (mad) and dossiers. Goscinny appreciates his protégé’s deadpan humor, close to American magazine Mad. Gotlib then launches “Rubrique-à-brac,” a very similar series composed of seemingly didactic reports on such themes as family or married life, work, good manners, science, etc. The most famous character is undoubtedly Isaac Newton, who is endlessly hit by an apple or some unlikely – sometimes much heavier – object, leading him to discover the law of universal gravitation. The ladybird, who acts as a kind of Greek chorus, was created to fill the blank spaces in the panels as Gotlib hated drawing backgrounds. Other recurring characters are Professor Burp and Inspector Bougret, whose assistant Charolles was drawn after Gotlib himself.

Feeling that Pilote confined him to children’s stories, Gotlib helped launch the magazine L’Écho des savanes with Nikita Mandryka and Claire Bretécher in 1972. Three years later, he began his own magazine, Fluide Glacial, with friends Alexis (who dies in 1977) and Jacques Diament. His style became more refined and cinematographic as the themes he addressed became more scatological, sexual, and absurd. Franquin, Edika, Manu Larcenet or Riad Sattouf were among the many collaborators to the magazine. During the same period, Gotlib was involved in a number of films, either as scriptwriter or as an extra. From the 1980s onwards, Gotlib progressively stopped drawing. When Jacques Diament retired from his position as editor in 1995, Fluide was sold to publishing group Flammarion. Gotlib was awarded the Grand Prix at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 1991 and an exhibition was dedicated to him at the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris in 2014, for his eightieth birthday.

–Marie Trinchant

 

Further reading:

  • Gotlib, Marcel. J’existe, je me suis rencontré. Paris: Flammarion, 1993.
  • Gotlib, Marcel & Verlant, Gilles. Ma vie-en-vrac. Paris: Flammarion, 2006.
  • Fluide Glacial. Il était une fois Fluide Glacial : 1975-2015… 40 ans d’umour & bandessinées. Paris: Fluide Glacial, 2015