Jacobs had drawn his last book, Les 3 Formules du Professeur Satō, in 1972 (album, 1977) but the second volume of this adventure remained only in rough form at his death in 1987. It was completed by Bob De Moor and finally published in 1990.
Dargaud bought up the rights to publish Blake and Mortimer in 1992, and within a year writer Jean Van-Hamme and Benoit were meeting at Angoulême to discuss the scenario for a new book. Benoit found the work enjoyable but gruelling, and took three years to produce the album. Their next book (L'Étrange Rendez-Vous, 2001) took five years, and they were beaten into publication by a second creative team, drafted in to keep things on schedule, when Yves Sente and André Juillard brought La Machination Voronov (2000) to the public.
Benoit turned down the invitation to draw another book, though he did offer himself up as a writer, sketching out the plot for an immediately post-Swordfish adventure with the working title of Resurrection (2006), which Dargaud declined. Sente and Juillard went on to produce five more Blake and Mortimer volumes, while Van Hamme teamed up with René Sterne, Chantal De Spiegeleer and Antoine Aubin for two more (a further volume was authored by Jean Dufaux and illustrated by Aubin and Etienne Schréder in 2013).
Benoit did not have to make a great leap to put himself into the style of the series' originator, Edgar P. Jacobs, as he had been a devotee of the ligne claire since the 1980s, inspired after seeing the work of Joost Swarte and joining a new wave of clear-line stylists such as Floc'h and Yves Chaland. Before that he'd been a film student and assistant TV director, turned onto comics by the art of Robert Crumb, and passing through heavy Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Jacques Tardi phases. His clear line creation Ray Banana let him indulge himself in his passion for 1950s Americana.
Ted Benoit's Blake and Mortimer books are masterful and meticulous and he was a very worthy successor to Jacobs' legacy. I saw him speak at the Institut Français in 2008 where he spoke with passion for his love of the comic art form, though I do recall him seeming somewhat weary of the time and effort it took to produce an album, but determined to identify himself as his own man, not merely a supplicant to the might of the likes of Hergé and Jacobs - and he was justified, I think, in having that attitude.
His two Blake and Mortimer albums are published in English by Cinebook as the Francis Blake Affair and The Strange Encounter (both 2008).