Pilote (French: [pilɔt]) was a French comic magazine published from 1959 to 1989. Showcasing most of the major French or Belgian comics talents of its day the magazine introduced major series such as Astérix, Barbe-Rouge, Blueberry, Achille Talon, and Valérian et Laureline. Major comics writers like René Goscinny, Jean-Michel Charlier, Greg, Pierre Christin and Jacques Lob were featured in the magazine, as were artists such as Jijé, Morris, Albert Uderzo, Jean (Mœbius) Giraud, Enki Bilal, Jean-Claude Mézières, Jacques Tardi, Philippe Druillet, Marcel Gotlib, Alexis, and Annie Goetzinger.
Following the publication of a teaser issue number 0 on June 1, Pilote made its debut proper on October 29, 1959. The magazine was started by experienced comics writers Goscinny and Charlier, and artists Albert Uderzo and Jean Hébrard. Previously this team had worked together on several other projects, creating Le Supplément Illustré, a cartoon supplement for newspapers, and providing cartoons for Radio-Télé, a magazine published by Radio-Luxembourg. Pilote was marketed by Radio-Luxembourg, and featured orials written by popular radio personalities of the day. The 300,000 copies of the first issue sold out in one day.
Charlier and Goscinny handled most of the initial writing. Although Charlier came up with two popular series, Tanguy et Laverdure with Albert Uderzo and Barbe-Rouge (Redbeard) with Victor Hubinon, it was Goscinny and Uderzo’s Astérix le Gaulois which was the biggest hit and the magazine’s initial mainstay.
Financial problems arose in 1960, but were resolved when the magazine was bought out by Dargaud publishers. Dargaud expanded the magazine with several new series, including Charlier and Giraud’s Blueberry and Greg's Achille Tallon in 1963. In 1967 the popular science-fiction series Valérian et Laureline debuted and in 1968 the popular Western comedy Lucky Luke (by Morris) was transferred to Pilote from Spirou magazine. Other notable appearances included series from the British comics magazine Eagle such as Fraser l'Africain (Fraser of Africa) and Winston Churchill by Frank Bellamy.
Attempts were made in the 1970s to update the magazine with material of more interest to adults, but many artists like Druillet and Giraud felt Pilote was no longer the appropriate vehicle for their aspirations and left to found new magazines such as Métal Hurlant (the French original that inspired Heavy Metal). Partly as a result, Dargaud reduced Pilote’s publication schedule from weekly to monthly in 1974, and René Goscinny was replaced as or-in-chief. At this time, a new generation of artists also started publishing in Pilote, namely Caza, Lauzier, and F'Murr. Their comics reflected the new, more adult direction.
Sales initially improved but a steady erosion took place through the 1980s as interest in the medium declined. Pilote was merged with the comics magazine Charlie Mensuel in 1986 and continued as Pilote et Charlie until 1988, when the name was changed back to Pilote. However, declining sales prompted Dargaud to suspend publication after what became the final issue on October 1, 1989.
After 1989, there has been no regular publications of the magazine, although the name has been used for occasional oversized specials.
|Publication schedule||Issue date(s)||Issue circulation||Magazine sales|
|Weekly||29 October 1959||300,000||300,000|
|5 November 1959 to 7 January 1960||235,000||2,350,000|
|14 January 1960 to December 1960||125,000||6,375,000|
|1961 to 1973||125,000||84,500,000|
|Monthly||1974 to 1988||125,000||22,500,000|
|January 1989 to October 1989||125,000||1,250,000|