Catherine Muller, known as Catel, is a French writer and artist.
When she was 12, Catel discovered the works of Claire Bretécher, one of the first female cartoonists in France, sparking her ambition to become a comics artist. She graduated from the l’École supérieure des arts décoratifs (School of Decorative Arts) in Strasbourg. She began her career children’s books, published by Hachette, Epigoni, Nathan, and Dupuis Hatier. Her work includes about fifty illustrated books, some of which were selections of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. She also illustrated L’Encyclo des filles (The Girls’ Encyclopedia) published by Plon.
Catel first branched into adult media in 2000 by writing scripts for the television show “Un gars, une fille” (“A guy, a girl,”) while continuing with the series Lucie, which she calls “the French Bridget Jones”, opening the way for more comics with certain contemporary female concerns. In 2005, she won the Audience Award at the Angoulême festival for the World War I-set graphic novel Le Sang des Valentines (Blood of Valentines) illustrated and written in collaboration with Christian De Metter.
Over the course of her career, Catel has created or co-created several books about famous or important women, starting with singer Edith Piaf, an eponymous book co-created with José-Louis Bocquet. Her next book, also with Bocquet, Kiki de Montparnasse, about the early 20th century actress, model, and artist, received the Grand Prix RTL in 2007 and the Prix-Essential FNAC station in Angoulême 2008.
With Claire Bouilhac and Emmanuelle Polac, she drew a book about the art historian and French Resistance member Rose Valland. With writer Philippe Paringaux, she created Dolor, about actress Mireille Balin, which was selected out of competition at the Angoulême Festival 2010 and was awarded the “thunderbolt” at the “Bulles en Nord” festival. Her third collaboration with José-Louis Bocquet, Olympe de Gouges, a biography of the 18th century French feminist and author of the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen, won the the Grand Prix Littéraire de l’Héroïne Madame Figaro 2012 in the category Biographies/Documentaries.
Her first solo biographical work, Ainsi soit Benoîte Groult, was inspired by her friendship with Groult, a respected French feminist novelist. It received the 2014 Prix Artémisia for exceptional comics work by women.
Currently, Catel is working on Lilac Kharkov with Claire Bouilhac, the story of the mother of actress Mylène Demongeot, who had escaped the Russian Civil War. She also started her next graphic novel with Bocquet, on the life of Josephine Baker.
Catel’s only work currently available in English is Lucie s’en soucie (as Bluesy Lucy) and Kiki de Montparnasse, and I hoped by profiling her here, I could help in some small way to bring some attention and spur some interest in bringing more of her work over. (I for one think it’s a shame the Rose Valland book won’t be available when The Monuments Men movie comes out, in which Valland is played by Cate Blanchett).
And, just throwing this out there, I happen to speak French.