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Willy Vandersteen: Suske & Wiske/ Bob & Bobette etc.

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ClaroQuerido
Member
#1 · Posted: 9 Aug 2005 22:58 · Edited by: Moderator
Is anyone here familiar with these books? I think some of them are great and almost as good as Tintin. The artwork is also very good and sometimes excellent - also very like Hergé's style (ligne-claire, realistic). 'Orville' (Lambik)'s personality is a rip-off of Captain Haddock and Bobette (Wanda) looks a lot like Tintin. The creator was Dutchman Willy Wandersteen (now dead) but other people drew albums too.

The ones I am refferring to are the ones that were translated into English about ten/fifteen years ago under the title 'Bob and Bobette' although once on a KLM flight as a child I was given a copy of 'Willy and Wanda' which was the same but the names weren't translated (it was called 'The Jewel in the Lotus' and was one of the best I've read in this series).

The Bob & Bobette titles I can remember reading were:

The Flying Bed
Rhino Rescue
The Plunderers
The Diamond Boomerang
The Amazing Coconut
Kingdom of the Sea Snails
The Poisened Rain
The Texas Rangers
The Jewel in the Lotus

I used to own all these but I foolishly gave them away or sold them for next to nothing. I only have the Jewel in the Lotus now.
advnarayan
Member
#2 · Posted: 9 Sep 2005 03:53
i have read a couple of bob & bobbette books myself- and they closely follow the tradition of the jo, zette works. the works were written by bob demoore (i blieve i am not sure) and i also believe that demoor had some role in illustrating tinin...., but again i am not sure....
Tintinrulz
Member
#3 · Posted: 9 Sep 2005 06:47
I saw and read The Diamond Boomerang when I was 9, several years after discovering the Tintin adventures. This was in my primary school library and because I didn't know better I thought it was another of Herge's creations. I remember the comic was quite good, but had a naive interpretation of Australia (like Rescuers Down Under etc). Tintin is far better though.
thundercars
Member
#4 · Posted: 9 Sep 2005 20:59 · Edited by: thundercars
I can fill in some gaps concerning Bob and Bobette.
The original name in Dutch is Rikki and Wiske, but that was used only for the very first album in 1945/46. From the next book onward it was (and still is) Suske and Wiske. The original (Flemish) artist was Willy Vandersteen. All the stories were first printed in instalments in the newspaper De Standaard (later picked up by lots of regional papers in both Belgium and The Netherlands. (I have 56 stories clipped from our newspaper when I was a kid).
Willy Vandersteen was the driving force behind Studio Vandersteen, which published lots of series, usually thought up by Vandersteen, who worked on the first couple of stories (both the storyline and the drawings), then left it to the studio people. Most of the series were quite popular, and even Biggles got his series in the mid-sixties.
Because of the workload and advancing in age, Vandersteen had an apprentice (who started with inkting the line-drawings to get a 'feel' for the characters). His name was Paul Geerts. He gradually took over from Vandersteen in the early seventies, and still makes occasional visits to comic-fairs for signing sesions. He continued right up to about 2000, when his successor was already waiting in the wings: Marc Verhaegen. He had the touch, but was in great trouble early on. He had very radical ideas (like giving Wiske a very revealing top) in order to modernise the strip a little. I'm not sure if he is still working on Suske and Wiske right now.
I can tell a lot more about Suske and Wiske, just let me know.
At the moment the factory is still going strong. The stories are still being published in the newspapers, then appear in book, usually 4 or 5 a year. Currently there are about 200 stories, and there are a couple of beautiful facsimile's and large format books for the fan.
A collector has a daunting task, though: all the books from 1946 onwards...
jock123
Moderator
#5 · Posted: 9 Sep 2005 21:41
Thanks for all that, thundercars - there have been various references to the Suske and Wiske books under various guises (as well as being Bob and Bobbette in the past, they are currently being published in English as Spike and Suzy), but there hasn’t been anything quite as comprehensive about them, and more importantly the artists, so it is welcome to read more.

I’d certainly be interested to read more, especially about the studio and the other books. For example, I recall there having been a short-lived attempt to get Biggles strip-cartoon books out in the U.K. in the seventies, but I thought they were Scandanavian - I guess I was wrong. They weren’t in the clear line style, so does the studio vary its approach to different series?
thundercars
Member
#6 · Posted: 9 Sep 2005 22:23 · Edited by: thundercars
They try to mimic the contents in the drawings: is it serious stuff, then the drawings are very realistic, is it more humerous than the pictures aren't as detailed, but more 'loose', with much less emphasis on scenery or tecnical details (eg. a car is just a thing with a couple of windows and four wheels, but in the more realistic strips you can actually tell that it is a 1959 Chevrolet Impala 4 door hardtop).

There's a definite link with Tintin as well. In the years just after the war it became apparent that Suske and Wiske was a great success in Belgium and Raymond Leblanc (chief editor of Tintin magazine) wanted to have a strip with the typical Flemish sense of humour that would appeal to the Flemish buyers of the magazine. It leaned heavily on French (or French spoken) artists and was not a huge success in the Dutch language countries, although it sold well. He asked Willy Vandersteen to write for Tintin magazine, but a couple of things had to change:

Firstly the newspaper strips were greatly lacking in detail (which is understandable if you think of the volume that is needed for daily publication). This had to be taken care of if you know what standard Tintin magazine had (even in those early days). So good old backroom boy Bob de Moor supplied his magic touch...

Secondly all the stories in those early days were 62 plates long, but the newspaper stories were only 58 plates. That meant, that none of the newpaper stories could be adapted for Tintin magazine and they had to think of completely new stories...

Thirdly: Wiske's look was considered too childish and was changed to the look then in vogue, like Lauran Bacall or Ingrid Bergmann. Have a look at the original filmposter of Casablanca and Wiske's hair looks pretty much like that.

Fourthly they had to be in colour and not in tones of grey like for the newspaper strips.

All this added up to the greatest legacy of the Suske and Wiske strips: 8 brilliant stories, well executed and published between 1948 and 1955 in Tintin magazine.
The books from the newspaper strips were quite cheaply made: just two staples and a (full colour) cover. They were not in colour but had blue-and-white and red-and-white pages. This was the norm up to 1959.
In the mid-fifties the strips from Tintin magazine were published in a blue cover (to set if off against the red covers from the newspaper strips), properly bound and in colour (the first Suske and Wiske books to appear so). For the time they were quite expensive and sold in relatively small quantities, making them very, very expensive nowadays. 100 euro for a well read copy with a damaged spine and loose pages is not uncommon. Good copies are about 300 euros, with the two French hardcovers from the famous Lombard series (The bronze key and The Spanish ghost) fetch at least 500 euros a piece in near mint condition.
george
Member
#7 · Posted: 11 Sep 2005 14:52
For example, I recall there having been a short-lived attempt to get Biggles strip-cartoon books out in the U.K. in the seventies, but I thought they were Scandanavian - I guess I was wrong.

You're probably thinking of the Biggles books by Björn Karlstrom which were indeed Scandinavian - Swedish to be precise. Translated in to English in the late 70s and reprinted in the early 80s, there were at least three volumes. More HERE.

There were also a number of Biggles books from France published ten years ago by Redfox.

As for Willy Vandersteen I remember reading a great piece about him years ago in a fanzine somewhere - maybe Panelhouse? - which touched on his career and mentioned a really interesting series he did set in the Middle ages. I can't put my hands on the issue at the moment, so I might be misremembering.

More on Suske and Wiske HERE.

George
jock123
Moderator
#8 · Posted: 11 Sep 2005 15:38
Thanks, George, that’s what I remembered! It’s interesting that (as far as I know) Biggles hasn’t been a strip-cartoon character in the U.K., but has managed to do it more than once on the continent! I regret not having bought the Karlstrom Biggles titles at the time.

Are the Vandersteen titles in the same rather cartoony un-realistic vein of the Karlstrom one, or do they adopt a more straightforward telling of the tales?
thundercars
Member
#9 · Posted: 11 Sep 2005 19:29 · Edited by: thundercars
The Willy Vandersteen Biggles series was published in the mid-sixties and were drawn by Karel Verschuere. The books were of poor quality and produced very cheaply. As with the early Suske and Wiske books they were printed with the blue-and-white and red-and-white pages, two staples and on newspaper paper. The artwork was realistic and quite good considering the volume needed for daily publication.
In all 20 titles were issued. In the mid-eighties a 21st book (The last convoy) was issued in practically the same format. That was the only story that had been published in a newspaper, but was never released as a book. In the nineties a hardcover book was issued by Uitgeverij Vandersteen with The last convoy and the very first story: Biggles in the Far East. A beautiful book on glossy paper and in full colour, but it remained the only one.
I do have all the 91 (Dutch) Biggles books, and it is a long time ago since I've read them, but I seem to remember that the first 10 books or so were based on the actual W. E. Johns books and that the later stories were new ones.

Concerning the Scandinavian ones: I have seen these here in The Netherlands as well, but the artwork is so terrible (in my opinion) that I've never bothered with them. The artist was Bjorn Karlstrom. It was a complete failure too: Only 4 were ever issued over here, all by Semic Press:
1. Het Sargasso mysterie (The Sargasso mystery) 1977
2. Operatie goudvis (Operation Goldfish)
3. De tijger bende (The tiger gang)
4. Ruimtestation Aries (Space station Aries) 1979
I think Semic Press wasn't too convinced either, because they didn't even bother to mention the name of the artist on the front covers.

Since 1990 there is a new series of Biggles and these DO justice to the Johns books, both in artwork and storylines. I only have a couple of these myself, but they all seem to be new stories, but with the original concept in mind. The artwork is very good, although I think that Francis Bergese (the artist) is better at home with planes, submarines and the like than drawing people. The books are very well presented with glossy paper and very nice colours.
21 books have been released so far.

The series set in the Middle-ages is probably De Rode Ridder (The Red Knight). Again in concept a newpaper strip, later released as an album in the same style as the Biggles books. The Red Knight first appeared in 1963 (in album) and is still continuing today (in full colour, no less!).
The first 43 stories were written by Willy Vandersteen and drawn by both Willy Vandersteen and Karel Verschuere, from number 44 onwards it was left to one man only: Karel Biddeloo. Just over 200 books have been published so far.
george
Member
#10 · Posted: 11 Sep 2005 20:17
It’s interesting that (as far as I know) Biggles hasn’t been a strip-cartoon character in the U.K

I think you might be right, now you mention it. I've had a quick look at the comicsuk.co.uk site, but there's nothing there that points to there being a Biggles strip at any time. Of course, we had a lot of anthologies running here in the UK so it might be there was something short-lived in there somewhere.

And yet.... there's a reference at bedetheque.com to a Mike Western drawn strip. Mike was a British artist, so unless he worked directly for European publishers, maybe there was a strip of two that we originated.

Concerning the Scandinavian ones: I have seen these here in The Netherlands as well, but the artwork is so terrible (in my opinion) that I've never bothered with them. The artist was Bjorn Karlstrom.

They're the ones. And you're right, the art is pretty poor.

The artwork is very good, although I think that Francis Bergese (the artist) is better at home with planes, submarines and the like than drawing people. The books are very well presented with glossy paper and very nice colours.

I think Bergèse is a big aviation fan. Not only has he been working on Biggles for years, but his other major strip - Buck Danny, which I've an English language version of - is focused on flying as well.

The series set in the Middle-ages is probably De Rode Ridder (The Red Knight)

There's a very nice De Rode Ridder site HERE, but I've tracked down the article I was talking of. Anyone who used to get Borderline a few years back will find it in PDF 10. Unfortunately the PDF has security around it, so I can't post anything from it, but the series was titled De Geuzen and was about the "16th century wars between the Flemish and their Spanish overlords".

It looks like it only lasted for 10 or so albums (surely quite short by his standards), but looks fascinating nonetheless.

George

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