Spirou's adventure starts with the encounter between Charles Dupuis, a Belgian publisher, and French artist Rob-Vel (short for Robert Velter). The year is 1938, and Charles wants to launch a new children's magazine, centred around the main character of Spirou the bellboy, and he hires Rob-Vel to work his magic. And so both the character and the magazine are born! It is the beginning of a long creative partnership; Spirou is quickly joined by Spip, his pet squirrel, then Fantasio, the Count of Champignac, the Marsupilami, Seccotine… In the magazine and the albums, and then later in video games, animated series and now through Parc Spirou Provence, Spirou and his friends have experienced countless adventures.

Throughout his life, Spirou has been drawn by extraordinary talents. Not unlike Spirou and his friends, these authors and artists have formed a bond that translates to their work: in the magazine, characters from a given series could regularly be seen making cameos in another's strip.

Surrounded by established artists (such as Joseph Gillain, A.K.A. Jijé) who have since achieved posterity in the history of Franco-Belgian comics, these young authors - André Franquin, Morris, Peyo, Will, Jidéhem, Roba and many more - have become internationally recognized references in their field. They even created an artistic movement in the Ninth Art (which refers to graphic novels and comic books), the "School of Marcinelle", dubbed the "Big Nose School" in reference to such characters as Gaston Lagaffe.

Through the years that ensued, these geniuses authored albums that have become classics, and characters that have permeated into popular culture and our collective imagination.

These characters first conquered libraries, toy stores, video games and now even the small and the big screens, bringing along their values and identity: a healthy mix of bravery, curiosity, courage and conviction.

Spirou, Fantasio and their squirrel Spip are a trio of intrepid and daring journalists. Their strength comes from their friendship and the reliance on their companions: the Count of Champignac, a renowned mushroom scientist who creates fantastical inventions (a serum that numbs its user to the effects of the cold, another that grants superhuman strength, a gas that softens metals...); Seccotine, a strong-willed journalist and an independent woman; and the Marsupilami, a prodigious animal with a 20-foot-long tail along many other gifts (amphibious, able to speak, with a keen sense of smell and a temper with sometimes destructive consequences...).

The Marsupilami seen with its family isn't the one who travels along Spirou and Fantasio. They may look very much alike, but that one still lives in its native Amazon forest, that was represented with such wonderful imagination in the album The Nest of the Marsupilamis (Le Nid des Marsupilamis). With its partner, they have three little intrepid Marsupilamis and live in harmony with the surrounding animals and indigenous tribes, respectful of nature, its benefits but also its dangers.

 

It was André Franquin who created the modern representation of Spirou, Fantasio, Spip, the Marsupilamis and their friends. Other authors have expanded the characters' adventures since his passing in 1997, but they've all kept the Belgian master's visual references in mind. Franquin is also the creator of the first anti-hero in Franco-Belgian comics history, a true phenomenon from his first appearance in 1957 in Spirou magazine: Gaston Lagaffe.

Gaston was originally a lazy, clumsy but respectable young man, but over the years became more of a free spirit, the inventor of implausible devices, a poet and a practical joker, and even developed a certain political sensibility: he's a peaceful but determined environmental activist. Deep down, Gaston is still a child, and so he only feels platonic love for his co-worker, Mademoiselle Jeanne. His good-heartedness and his irreverent humour have made him a timeless character.

In a very different universe, but at a time when Franquin was earning Spirou a deserved recognition, Morris created Lucky Luke. Throughout a prolific career entirely dedicated to his character, Morris surrounded himself with remarkable talent to write fun, well-documented stories about the Far West that were full of twists and turns. His most memorable collaboration was the one with René Goscinny, co-creator of Asterix and Le Petit Nicolas ("Young Nicolas" or "Little Nicholas" depending on the translations). Lucky Luke crossed paths with many 19th century American legends, from Indian chiefs like Sitting Bull to President Lincoln, as well as famous figures or infamous outlaws such as Calamity Jane, Billy the Kid and, of course, the Dalton family – the real one, before moving on to the fictional and inept cousins, created by Goscinny.

 

These iconic characters are also joined in the park by the younger generation, in the form of the Zombillenium universe. Created by Arthur de Pins, a versatile artist as gifted in the medium of comic books as he is in traditional animation, Zombillenium tells the stories of the employees in a rather special amusement park: they're all mystical creatures – devils, vampires, walking skeletons, werewolves... You can experience the "park within a park" in a dizzying and spectacular multi-dimensional simulator. But let's not reveal everything... Come and have a look for yourself!