Comic artist Jean Graton died on Thursday in Brussels at the age of 97.

His foundation announced this news about the artist, known from the

Michel Vaillant

comic books.

The French-born Graton's career began at an early age with illustrations in the

Spirou

and

Tintin

magazines

.

He also signed for the newspaper

Les Sports

.

Graton started in 1957 with the comic books about the fictional racing driver Michel Vaillant.

The comic books have been popular with Formula 1 enthusiasts for decades. Graton traveled the world to attend competitions and made friendships with drivers.

Michel Vaillant

's

series

was taken over by Graton's son Philippe, who had co-authored the comic books since 1994.

The original series ended in 2007 after the release of seventy books.

Some twenty million copies were sold worldwide.

Michel Vaillant restarted in 2012 thanks to Philippe Graton.

In 2003 a film about the comic book character was released.

Graton received awards for his drawings in both France and Belgium.

His family writes that Graton died peacefully surrounded by his loved ones.