Henriette Valium photoHenriette Valium (May 4th, 1959 - Sept. 3, 2021), whose real name is Patrick Henley, was a comic book artist and painter based in Montréal, Québec. Although Valium did gain substantial recognition from the underground comics scene in Europe and North-America since his beginnings in the early eighties, his provocative and hallucinogenic style kept him well away from the mainstream comic book industry. Valium's creations are widely dispersed through numerous anthologies, fanzines, self-published comics, and various mixed-media collaborations, which makes it difficult to establish a detailed chronology of his work.

The 1980's
With the exception of Vagorbine 14 (1981), his first self-published title, Valium's early incursions into the comic book world can be found through various québecois compilations and fanzines. One notable contribution during that period was made to Iceberg (1984), in which he introduced himself for the first time under the pseudonym "Henriette Valium".

Many of the stories written during the eighties were compiled into 1000 Rectums, It's an Album (1987), a self-published anthology. The book introduced many themes and characters that became the author's trademarks over the years. In particular, Valium brought in some of his most recognizable protagonists, such as his alter-ego Pattou, the enigmatic Mister Iceberg, and the evil scientist, Doc Lekron. The stories, often one-page short, mostly revolved around Valium's usual themes, mainly sickness, addictions, abnormal sexuality and social decay in general. Even though the drawings are strongly marked by a penchant towards punk aesthetics, 1000 Rectums did not yet exhibit the complex and violent graphical excess that characterized later publications such as Primitive Crétin.

The 1990's
Along with a brief punk rock experiment as a singer for Valium et les Dépressifs, and the subsequent release of C'est un monstre (1992), the early 1990's were a prolific period that led to the creation of Primitive Crétin! (1993), a self-published 11.5" by 17.5" anthology. The book is a collection of demented and often absurd stories that carry on with the themes and characters of 1000 Rectums, along with the addition of short-lived yet memorable characters like The Boxing-Glove Family or Tiplouplou. The true remarkable feature of the book, however, lies within its staggering surreal drawings. Each page of Primitive Crétin! is a world onto itself, in which images of strange organisms, distorted everyday objects, and extreme urban density are intertwined to create a general impression of disorder. The complexity of the drawings combined with their considerable scale generate an immersive chaotic environment that is almost impossible to decode at first glance. In order to achieve this effect in Primitive Crétin! and his other comics in general, Valium had to work for several months on each page. Thus, the conception of a whole comic book represents a long and strenuous process that takes place over several years.

In addition to frequent collaborations with various independent zines across Europe and North America, such as Zero Zero (which led to a US reprinting of Primitive Crétin! in 1996), Valium also started by the mid-nineties to experiment more formally with collage, which moved his art toward a more abstract and horrific form. Among the interesting collages of that period, we find La Prison Anale des Frères Rouges (1996) and the Curés Malades ("sick priests") series. The later, through the depiction of machine parts and pornography blended over portraits of priests, is a gloomy and graphic criticism on the Catholic Church's historical influence in Québec.

Valium's collage work, with its incorporation of explicit sexual imagery (often going as far as bestiality) and gruesome press photos, prevented him from getting any kind of public recognition, including government subsidies. Since the 1980's, Valium has mostly made a living from printing posters for various Montréal bars, such as Le Café Campus and Les Foufs.

Later Work
The year 2000 was marked by the publication of Coeur de Maman ("Mother's Hearth"), a self-published 11.5" by 17.5" comic book. Coeur de Maman, a bizarre story about an oversized, monstrous mother's hearth, picks up were Primitive Crétin left, with the pages being so heavily illustrated that they become almost unreadable. In the same year, Valium also completed The Survivor, a monumental painting centered around a Joseph Goebbels family picture.

Finally, he also participated, in the spring of 2000, to an exhibition of his work at the LA-based La Luz de Jesus gallery. Valium kept experimenting with collage, integrating Photoshop into his creations, which led among other things to a series of serigraphs titled Les Héritiers du Rêve (2002), and a small book, Mutants (2003). He also worked on a comic book, La Princesse Brune ("The Brown Princess") in 2005.

The Comics Journal Tribute to Henriette Valium by Marc Tessier

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