Les Aventures du professeur Nimbus

16 Nov

Tightrope Walker During the Occupation – Part 2/4[1]

by Antoine Sausverd

Translated by Annick Pellegrin

Edited by Harriet Earle

Original publication: Sausverd, Antoine. « Les Aventures du professeur Nimbus : Funambule sous l’occupation. » La Crypte tonique septembre – octobre 2013: 13-18. Print.[2]

Daix, Francist Partisan

To add to his money-related dissensions, the artist had political conceptions. One part of his personality did not show in the drawings that he created for the general press: his ferocious political engagement. Indeed, the artist became a member of the French fascist movement, Francism, shortly after its creation, in September 1933, and he remained a faithful partisan throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Close to both Mussolini’s Italian fascism and Hitler’s national-socialism, Francism was led by the charismatic Marcel Bucard, a former ultranationalist fighter. His theses were radical: the party attacked Freemasons, Jews (starting from 1936), and Léon Blum, before going after all the capitalists of the US. He is also a self-declared opponent to the parliamentary regime and of the “front socialo-communiste” [social-communist front]. But on the political playground, Francism was mostly isolated and did not have much weight.

Delachanal put his talent to the service of this very small group. Starting in 1934, he worked for the party’s newspaper, Le Franciste, and illustrated some of the party’s publications. His works, which he signed with the pen name “A. Duhamel” reflected the extremist Francist theses and expressed a virulent anti-Semitism.

For this extreme-right party, Winkler embodied the perfect scapegoat. The boss of Opera Mundi combined all their hateful phobias at once: Jewish, Freemason, agent of US capitalists. One must believe that the need to feed his family was far stronger than political reasons for Daix who worked for “l’ennemi” [the enemy] Winkler. Regardless, the series Nimbus never let its illustrator’s political orientations show.

Nimbus Without Daix

In November 1940, Opera Mundi, settled in Marseilles, got in touch again with Le Journal, which had been without Nimbus for several months, since Daix had left for Paris. As de Marsillac wrote to his offices: “J’ai en effet l’impression que le dessin et la qualité des Nimbus ne sont pas les mêmes et qu’on a trouvé un faux Daix, le titre du professeur Nimbus appartenant à Opera Mundi.” [I indeed feel that the drawing and the quality of the Nimbus are not the same and that a fake Daix has been found, the title of professeur Nimbus belonging to Opera Mundi].[3] The new strips sent by Opera Mundi were not signed and it was obvious that they were not Daix’s work but that of a less talented artist…

In conflict with Daix, Opera Mundi had indeed turned to another artist: on 17 December 1940 they had signed a new contract for the creation of the series of professeur Nimbus with Lucien Sée as scriptwriter[4] and Lief de Enden,[5] an artist of Russian origin who had been working for Winkler since the 1930s.[6] The new Nimbus strips created by this team, without signatures but bearing the Opera Mundi copyright, were published in Le Journal starting on 27 December 1940. Despite de Marsillac’s repeated requests that it be Daix who drew the strips, the daily, for lack of anything better, published the new strips.

In January 1941, Daix, who did not know that Opera Mundi had employed a new team for Nimbus, went into attack mode: he sent a letter to the agency in which he demands, in addition to the payment of unpaid dues, the annulment of their contracts. He explained this request by citing the terms of the 1934 contract: “par suite à l’impossibilité dans laquelle votre maison se trouve actuellement de pouvoir continuer à travailler avec moi, je vous propose de bien vouloir liquider notre affaire à l’amiable” [given that it is currently impossible for your publishing house to continue working with me, I suggest that you dissolve our agreement in an amicable way].[7] This cancellation would lead to the “retour pur et simple” [simple return] of his author’s rights on Nimbus. This intervention not having had a positive outcome, Daix left things at that for the time being.

A New Career in Occupied Paris

Without Nimbus, nor a contract with Opera Mundi, Daix did not however stay out in the cold. The situation in the occupied capital was favourable for him. His past political connections were not useless.

Daix asserts that he worked for the Propaganda Abteilung and the Gestapo during the Occupation.[8] For the German propaganda, he created, amongst others, brochures that were anti-Semitic, anti-English or that praised voluntary work in Germany. But the extent and nature of Daix’s work for the Germans remain little known.

Thus Daix continued the career that he had started as an illustrator and strip author before the war and collaborated in several newspapers of the occupation press, such as La France au travail and Jeune force, published by the group Jeunesses Maréchalistes. It is reported that the Parisian daily Le Matin, the editorial line of which was characterised by a stubborn engagement with Nazi theses, had asked Daix to take up the Nimbus strip again for publication in its pages.[9] Still in conflict with Opera Mundi, Daix turned down this offer. Instead, he created a new strip in which the hero was an avatar of Nimbus whom he resembled like a twin: Les Aventures du baron de Crésus. This strip, also mute, was published as from 17 November 1940.

Under the occupation, Francism came back to the fore, calling for respect and obedience to Maréchal Pétain. This party was amongst the most collaborationist, its members took part in the police operations and anti-Semitic and anti-communist repressive operations. As soon as he returned to Paris, Daix joined once more the reformed party. In February 1941, Daix sent a mandated a militant of the Francist party section based in Aix-en-Provence and asked him to sort out his differences with Opera Mundi in Marseilles “sur demande de Marcel Bucard” [at the request of Marcel Bucard]. To no avail. The artist continued to illustrate the newspaper and Francist propaganda supports.[10]

A year and a half after having sought to recover Nimbus from Opera Mundi, Daix seemed to have turned a new leaf and to have started a new career. One event would come and reverse this situation.

[1] This is the second part of a four-part essay. The first part can be found here:

[2] The original text has been very lightly revised for inaccuracies and spelling mistakes.

[3] A.N., 8 AR 431 file 1311: Letter from de Marsillac to M. Prud’homme, dated 29 December 1940.

[4] Before the war, Sée was Nimbus’s “gagman”, with Daix paying him a percentage of his own pay for that work.

[5] Information given by Jean-Claude Glasser in the foreword to Daix, André, and Jean-Claude Glasser. Les Aventures du professeur Nimbus : 1934 – 1940. Paris: Futuropolis, 1985, p. 7. For that text, Glasser had had access to the archives of Opera Mundi.

[6] Daix, André, and Jean-Claude Glasser. Les Aventures du professeur Nimbus : 1934 – 1940. Paris: Futuropolis, 1985, p. 7.

[7] A.N., Z6/86 file 1311: Letter from Daix to Opera Mundi, dated 21 January 1941.

[8] A.N., Z6/86 file 1311: Questionnaire of the Centre de diffusion du Francisme filled out by Daix.

[9] According to his son Jean Delachanal’s testimony.

[10] A.N., Z 6/86 number 1311: Letter from Daix to André Fayet, dated 20 February 1941.


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