Steve McQueen in Le Mans – the graphic novel

Steve McQueen in Le Mans - coverAs millions of motorsport fans around the world will agree, Le Mans is one of the greatest motor racing films ever. Although to be fair, it’s a fairly short list.

The plot is pretty thin, the dialogue fairly absent and if you’re not a fan of the greatest race in the world, you’ll probably be bored to tears well before the halfway mark. But the authenticity of the racing footage remains some of the best ever committed to film, largely because the producers filmed the 1970 race in detail. They even entered their own car.

Le Mans was the pet project of Hollywood’s most glamorous actor of the 1960s, Steve McQueen. The movie’s troubled production, which affected McQueen for years, is the stuff of legend. As a cult classic, the film is inexorably linked to its star actor and a whole cottage industry has grown out of the movie.

Now a stunning new graphic novel interpretation of the movie has been released, with the blessing of the McQueen estate. It not only re-tells the original story but builds upon it in a wholly sympathetic manner.

Created by Sandro Garbo over a three-year period, Steve McQueen in Le Mans revisits the story of the fictional 1970 race between the Gulf Porsche team of Michael Delaney (played by McQueen) and Scuderia Ferrari.

The graphic novel explores the back story to the start of the movie and develops the main characters more fully. Reading through, you get the feeling of ducking in and out of the movie as the story progresses.

Porsche 917 - Steve McQueen in Le Mans

Michael Delaney’s Gulf Porsche 917K lined up for the start at Le Mans

Garbo’s illustrations are superb, capturing every detail of the Porsche 917, Ferrari 512S and other vehicles, as well as the grand Circuit de la Sarthe and its environs. McQueen himself is obviously front and centre in the story, and his likeness has been skilfully reproduced.

Every other character from the movie has been replaced with a similar-but-not-the-same representation. This is presumably licensing-related, but since Le Mans was always all about McQueen it’s not even a minor quibble.

Steve McQueen in Le Mans - Michael Delaney

Steve McQueen’s likeness has been faithfully and skilfully reproduced

Some of the frames are almost perfect reproductions of shots from the movie, with every detail precisely accounted for. Other images view a particular scene from an alternative angle to the movie cameras, which gives a real behind-the-scenes effect and makes you feel like you are right in the paddock.

Steve McQueen in Le Mans is only the first volume of the overall story, taking the reader up to the defining point of the race. The explosive crashes of Aurac’s Ferrari and Delaney’s Porsche are spread vividly across seven pages in a cliffhanger ending to the first volume.

Hopefully, Volume Two will be with us in rather less than the three years it took to create the first chapter, as I’m anxious to see how Garbo concludes his version of the classic story.

Steve McQueen in Le Mans - fiery flashback

Fiery flashback – the graphic novel fills in the back story to the movie, like the 1969 accident.

Stuart Masson

Stuart is the Editor of The Car Expert, which he founded in 2011, and our new sister site The Van Expert. Originally from Australia, Stuart has had a passion for cars and the car industry for over thirty years. He spent a decade in automotive retail, and now works tirelessly to help car buyers by providing independent and impartial advice.

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