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my creative life

How the 9th Art provides Laurent Simon with more than just free travel through space and time

The VMLY&R London chief creative officer tells us how graphic art influences his creative thinking

By Laurent Simon

Many things have contributed to forming and informing my creative taste.

One of them is the 9th Art, more commonly known as the world of graphic novels, mangas, and comics.

It started at a young age; one of my next-door neighbours was a comic artist. I can still smell the black ink, and I vividly remember being transfixed by the thousands of books on the shelves.

Beyond free travel through space and time, reading graphic novels has taught me three neat tricks.

Storytelling: André Franquin’s Last Laugh comic strips

It’s the art of storyboarding. Every stroke, speech bubble, angle, and character is there for a reason. They all tell the story. And Franquin can reduce it down to one frame. Artists like Roba only need a page.

Franquin’s Last Laugh is a masterclass in satire. No colours. Just black ink and enlightened vitriol. It made me think, smile, reconsider and question. And importantly, his criticism of the world he lived in was constructive, not hateful. I’ve always admired the talent and intelligence it requires of people whose work vulgarises complex ideas, and Franquin was one of them.

Creative minds both write the overall story and craft details that might escape less expert eyes, and these details are what will make a story truly resonate with people.

Art: Moebius' artworks for The Incal

Style is equally as important as substance in bringing stories to life. Graphic novels create worlds that readers get lost in. The same story penned by one quill could look and make you feel vastly different in the hands of French artist, cartoonist, and writer, Jean Henri Gaston Giraud aka Moebius. He was the master at creating worlds.

L’incal could be published today, and it’d still feel more groundbreaking than most of what I read. His unbelievable talent led the unknown French artist brimming with imagination to influence the world’s biggest franchise: Star Wars.

Creating worlds and choosing who is best to do so is the daily affair of any creative leader.

Copy: Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta

Lastly, graphic novels showed me how words could sing. And, in my mind, no one has mastered that musicality like Moore did when V introduces himself to Evey.

Vonderful! When you have a spare three minutes, look at the revolutionary speech too. Once read, it shall never, ever be forgotten. Moore has a more lyrical style than the other authors cited. The ideas and themes he approaches are so important (social justice, personal and collective accountability…), and he does it with flourish and majesty.

If Bess was a Romantic, Moore’s V for Vendetta is profoundly Baroque. Long-form or short-form, prints or posts, words are still queens in the world of creativity.

Laurent Simon is chief creative officer at VMLY&R London


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