Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, to a Slovak mother and a Bosnian father who had been Tito's tailor, he moved to Paris at the age of 9. At age 14, he met René Goscinny and with his encouragement applied his talent to comics. He produced work for Goscinny's comics magazine Pilote in the 1970s, publishing his first story, Le Bol Maudit, in 1972.
In 1975, Bilal began working with script writer Pierre Christin on a series of dark and surreal tales, resulting in the body of work titled Légendes d'Aujourd'hui.
He is best known for the Nikopol trilogy (La Foire aux Immortels, La Femme Piège and Froid Équateur), which took more than a decade to complete. Bilal wrote the script and did the artwork. The final chapter, Froid Équateur, was chosen book of the year by the magazine Lireand is acknowledged by the inventor of chess boxing, Iepe Rubingh as the inspiration for the sport.
Bilal's most recent publication is Quatre? (2007), the last book in the Hatzfeld tetralogy, which deals with the breakup of Yugoslavia from a future viewpoint. The first installment came in 1998 in the shape of Le Sommeil du Monstre opening with the main character, Nike, remembering the war in a series of traumatic flashbacks. The third chapter of the tetralogy is titled Rendez-vous à Paris (2006). It gives a good indication of Bilal's popularity, being the fifth best selling new French comic of 2006 with 280,000 copies.
His cinematic career has recently been revived with the expensive Immortel (Ad Vitam) which is his first attempt to adapt his books to the screen. The film received split critics, some panning the use of CGI characters but others have seen it as a faithful reinterpretation of the books.
On May 13, 2008 a video game based on the Nikopol trilogy was announced entitled Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals. Published in North America by Got Game Entertainment in August 2008, the game is a "point and click" adventure for the PC; however, the Lead Designer wasBenoit Sokal and not Bilal himself, who was the art designer, along with Yoshitaka Amano for the upcoming video game Beyond Good & Evil 2.