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August 22, 2011


Jean Tabary, 1930-2011

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Jean Tabary, the co-creator of the Iznogoud series and a frequent collaborator of iconic French comics writer Rene Goscinny, died on August 18. He was 81 years old.

Tabary was born one of nine children in Stockholm in 1930. His father was a professional musician. After a brief period as a young adult working various jobs, he made his first sale to Vaillant in 1956. The Richard et Charlie series ran for nearly eight years and was later collected by Tabary himself.

imageIt was only a few years into his long career that Tabary created two of his longer-lasting properties. Totoche, launched in 1959, was a youth-focused strip that ran in its own feature for years, was given its own monthly magazine for a period, and even spawned a popular spin-off featuring two supporting characters. A year earlier, Tabary created the first iteration of an intermittent feature called Grabadu et Gabalioutchou, a gag-oriented comic employing different formats.

In 1962, Tabary began a fruitful collaboration with writer Rene Goscinny. A secondary character in their first collaborative comic (Les aventures du Calife Haroun el Poussah) soon dominated the feature and became a runaway hit, eventually appearing in Pilote. The strip was renamed after the character: Iznogoud, the scheming Grand Vizier, and plots were constructed around the character's desire to overthrow the ruler he served and take his place. Tabary's energetic cartooning proved a lovely, appropriate match for Goscinny's clever wordplay. When Goscinny died in 1977, Tabary took over the feature and began to focus on longer stories more suited to publication in album form. The would eventually sell over 10 million books, and spawned a 1990s cartoon version and a 2005 live-action film.

The success of Iznogoud gave Tabary the resources necessary to start his own publishing house after Goscinny's passing. It was initially called Seguiniere and later changed it name to Editions Tabary. Tabary published two monthly magazines (Les Vacheries de Corinne a Jeannot and Les Recres de Totoche), anchoring those efforts with new versions of past, successful works. He also collected his older work into volumes with varying degrees of success.

There were 27 albums made featuring Iznogoud almost exactly half the work of Tabary providing writing and drawing and emerging from his own publishing house. The last book, La faute de l'ancetre, came out in 2004. The artist suffered what one obituary described as "a cardiovascular accident" in that year.

Jean Tabary is survived by two sons and a daughter and was preceded in death by his wife in 2005.

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