Bois Willys
'Bois Willys'

Denis Sire was part of a new wave of French comics authors who innovated the medium in the 1970s with more experimental and artistic comics for adult-oriented magazines like Métal Hurlant and L'Écho des Savanes. Sire in particular tackled genres like science fiction and erotic fetishism with a strong retro vibe. His comics pages and illustrations are filled with American automobiles, motorcycles, beautiful women, bondage and rock 'n' roll music in a 1950s atmosphere. As a comics artist, he is best-known for his series 'Menace diabolique' (1979) and 'Bois Willys' (1977-1981), although later in life he became more famous for his pin-up drawings and his illustrations for automotive books and magazines.

Early life
Denis Sire was born in 1953 in the Breton harbor town Saint-Nazaire. His father was an architect, who was a painter in his spare time. Young Denis had no feeling for the secondary educational system, and only really excelled in drawing. At age 16 he enrolled at the School of Applied Arts in Paris, where he studied from 1970 until 1976. One of his fellow students was Frank Margerin, with whom he shared a passion for drawing and music. The two even formed their own rock group in 1975, Los Crados.

Duivelse Dreiging (in dutch) by Denis Sire
'Menace diabolique' (Dutch edition)

Métal Hurlant
In 1976, the two men also presented their work in Métal Hurlant, the groundbreaking French comics magazine by Moebius, Jean-Pierre Dionnet and Philippe Druillet. Sire offered an initial version of his comics series 'Bois Willys', but since the editors wanted science fiction material, Sire developed the hero 'Maurice Leblanc' instead. With no particular interest in sci-fi, Sire's only influences were Alex Raymond's classic space opera 'Flash Gordon' and American 1930s pulp novels, which resulted in his trademark retro approach. Adding to the pulp touch were the many naked women who demanded our hero's attention. Maurice Leblanc, no intentional reference to the author of gentleman thief  'Arsène Lupin', appeared in several short and longer stories, including the serials 'Planète Diabolique' (1977) and 'Grand Piège' (1978). They were collected by Les Humanoïdes Associés in the album 'Menace diabolique' (1979).


'Ziblyne et Bettie'

Bois Willys
The rejected first story of Denis Sire's trademark series 'Bois Willys' was eventually published in L'Écho des Savanes #13 of 1977. The actual series eventually did find a spot in Métal Hurlant, debuting in issue #44 of 1979 and running as short stories until 1981. It's main star was modelled after popular 1950s pin-up and bondage model Bettie Page, five years before Dave Stevens used her appearance in his 'The Rocketeer' comic books. In a 2002 interview with Jean Depelley, Sire recalled he had a true revelation after discovering a book series with Page photographs by Irving Klaw. The atmosphere of the 1950s and bondage have remained recurring elements in his oeuvre. 'Bois Willys' was also collected in book format by Les Humanoïdes in 1981. Bettie and her co-star, the voluptuous blonde Ziblyne, returned for a new story cycle set in the seaside town Lisa Bay, collected in the book 'Lisa Bay' (1985). Denis Sire redrew a large part of his original 'Bois Willys' stories for the re-edition 'Ziblyne et Bettie' (Les Humanoïdes Associés, 1992). 'Lisa Bay' was reprinted under the title 'L'Héritage' by Albin Michel in 2006.


'Lisa Bay'

Rock 'n' roll
Métal Hurlant's chief editor Philippe Manœuvre infused the magazine with a rock 'n' roll spirit. Initially for special issues, Denis Sire teamed up with scriptwriter Alain Paucard for more musically themed stories, starting with 'The Screaming Dad' (1979) and '6T Mélodie' (1979). These stories were later collected in the album '6T Mélodie' (1982). Several of Métal Hurlant's authors also formed the pop group Dennis' Twist. Besides Denis Sire, the other members were Philippe Poirier, Dodo, Vuillemin, Philippe Guyot, Frank Margerin and Jean-Claude Denis. They released six singles between 1982 and 1988, and one album, 'Play Back Complet' (1988). They made it into the 10th spot in the Top 50 of 1987-1988 with their song 'Tu Dis Que Tu l'M' (1986), which was largely inspired by Bruce Springsteen's 'Hungry Heart'. Their fourth single, 'Des Bises... De Moi Pour Toi' (1987), was a French version of the Beatles song 'From Me To You'. Dennis' Twist was active until June 1990.

Later comics work
Denis Sire continued to work for Métal Hurlant until the final issue in 1986, and also created sporadic contributions to other magazines, such as the short-lived comics review Zoulou (1984). The American Heavy Metal ran a selection of Sire's work for Métal Hurlant, but also published some original cover illustrations. By the 1980s Sire had however mostly shifted towards illustration work. Sire returned to the comics medium with the erotic one-shot comic 'L'Île des Amazones' in cooperation with writer Jean-Pierre Dionnet. It was serialized in L'Écho des Savanes, and published in book format by Albin Michel in 1997. For many years, there were rumors that Denis Sire would collaborate on DC Comics' 'Batman'. He had however only made three test pages, which eventually circulated in fanzines. He also provided the cover illustration to the 30th issue of 'Cheval Noir' (1992), the comics anthology series by Dark Horse Comics.


'12 Pilotes'

Automotive illustrations
Throughout his career, the man produced a great many illustrations and paintings with retro-style motorcycles, race cars and pin-ups. They were not only exhibited in galleries, but also published in limited edition art books like 'Best of Racing' (Art Moderne, 1987) and 'Poupées de Sire' (Zanpano éditions, 2010-2011). He was an illustrator for the specialized magazine Moto Revue Classic, and made illustrated documentaries about race tracks with with author William Pac, collected in the book 'Racing 1950-1970: Monaco, Le Mans, Indianapolis' (Éditions La Sirène, 1986). With Jean-Marc Thévenet, he visualized the lives of classic racecar drivers in the book '12 Pilotes' (2014) for Dupuis' Aire Libre collection. Denis Sire designed the official poster for the historic Circuit des Remparts in Angoulême in 2005, and visualized 24 historical scenes from the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 24 paintings for the third edition of Le Mans Classic in 2006.

An overview book of Denis Sire's artistic career was published by Nickel Productions in 2006. The artist passed away in Bagnolet on 16 January 2019, at the age of 65.


'Le Baiser' (2004)

Series and books by Denis Sire in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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