French video game publisher Microids have announced that cartoonist and game developer Benoît Sokal passed away on Friday, May 28, after battling a long-term illness. He was only 66 years old. Sokal was best known for creating the anthropomorphic detective series “Inspector Canardo,” and the steampunk adventure game series Syberia, which he subsequently adapted into a comic with his son Hugo, and artist Johann Blais.
Sokal was born in Brussels on June 28, 1954, and studied art at the city’s Institut Saint-Luc. He began drawing for À Suivre magazine in 1978, where he introduced the depressed duck detective Inspector Canardo (named for the word canard, which means “duck” or “drake” in French). Sokal wrote and drew the first ten volumes of “Inspector Canardo,” and scripted the next 16 (the last of which was released in 2018).
His first video game, Amerzone: The Explorer’s Legacy, was developed at Microids, and released by Casterman and Ubisoft on PC and PlayStation in 1999. Syberia, which was developed and published by Microids for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, followed in 2002. The game told the story of Kate Walker, a lawyer whose latest case leads her to discover an island inhabited by the last living wooly mammoths. It received two sequels in 2004 and 2017, and shortly before his death, Sokal was working on a fourth installment, Syberia: The World Before.
After the release of Syberia, Sokal co-founded White Birds Productions, where he designed 2006’s Paradise (based on one of his comics), and 2007’s Sinking Island. Neither game proved to be as popular as his previous works, and the studio was shut down because of financial problems by 2010. One of the canceled projects, the maritime sci-fi adventure Aquarica, eventually did see daylight, when Sokal and François Schuiten turned it into a graphic novel in 2017.
Sokal’s other recent comics projects included 2010’s indigenous-inspired, environmentalist fable “Kraa,” and the “Syberia” adaptation, which was released as a prelude to the third game in 2017.
Syberia II and III composer Inon Zur stated Sokal “was an amazing artist and real gentle man gone too soon. My sincere condolences to his family, friends and Microids.” Polish artist Kasia Witerscheim (“Sex Death Revolution”) tweeted, “Benoit Sokal was and always will be my biggest influence as an artist. I’m an artist because of this man. Thank you, Mr. Sokal.” Microids stated they “share the grief of his family and friends.”