Belgians like everything bold: steak and frites, black Trappist beers, and even their fashion designers (look no further than the grizzlied Walter Van Beirendonck) are evidence of that fact. So it should be no surprise then when it came to ’60s Pop Art and Psychedelia, Belgians too painted with a heavy hand. And the late Guy Peellaert (1934 – 2008) was no exception.
Eschewing fragile the Warholian Jackie Os, kitsch Lichtensteins or even the traipsing psychedelic bohemia of Peter Max, Peellaert preferred to draw the absurd adventures of lofty comic book Amazons. In a mix of Fellini meets FasterPussycat Kill Kill, his gargantuan women kidnapped you by the scruff of your cafe racer scarf and whisked you away on the back of their speeding chopper.
For Pravda (the comic, not the Soviet daily), he modeled his heroine after sultry Yé-yé chanteuse Françoise Hardy. Likewise, Sylvie Vartan was his inspiration for his Adventures of Jodelle. Peellaert, along with contemporaries Guido Crepax (Valentina) and Jean-Claude Forest (Barbarella) set the tone for Europe’s recently sexually liberated ’60s (recently re-dubbed “The Sex-ties”).
For better or for worse, Peelleart entered the ’70s armed with only that decade’s weapon of choice, the airbrush. During his second phase, he churned out two of his most well known works including the baroque coffee table effort Rock Dreams, and the beastly iconic cover of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.
While it would be tragic to imagine that he rode his airbrush into obscurity, his ’60s work has recently been enjoying a revival. Shortly before Peellaert’s demise, graphic/music jackmaster of all trades, Trevor Jackson (a.k.a. Playgroup) christened the cover of his acidic Make It Happen with Peellaert’s trademark Pop femmes. And recently Fantagraphics, home to Love & Rockets, Eightball, Acme Novelty Library and Robert Crumb, announced plans of a re-release (and re-mastering) of Pravda and Jodelle this fall. Guy, it seems, rides again.