2 years ago the ever prolific Brabant Strip team dedicated its 100th album in their Fenix Collection to the 1947 album “Le Mystère du vieux chateau fort”, this time in a Dutch version. This Bob De Moor album was one of the few ones published on a scenario by his brother-in-law John Van Looveren, and it’s one of the most beautiful ones ever released because of its graphic design and the colours used.
The original version had been released in 1947 by the Brussels-based editor Editions Campéador and was a translation of an originally in dutch written story. It’s unclear who had translated the story back then, but sure thing is that there is an original dutch written script for this story which we found back in the archives of Ludo Van Looveren.
More recently a copy of this original version was auctioned holding a drawing Bob De Moor added in March 1976. It’s one of the few of these albums where De Moor created a character (during a signing session?). The drawing depicts the King Pi-Po-Pen which De Moor gave an overhaul in his typical Tintinesque Barelli style.
From 1 February 1954 until 25 May 1954 the newspapers De Nieuwe Gids, De Antwerpse and ’t Vrije Volksblad published the Snoe & Snolleke story “Het geheim van Vulcania”. The album has since the publication in 1954 never been published in album format, at least not in its original form, black and white that is.
In 1993 the album saw a coloured album release via the Standaard Uitgeverij, however many of the drawings had been adapted to fit a coloured version – as we have shown several times already – so for many people it was still a mystery how the album actually looked like in black and white.
We also have to mention that a version of the black and white album had been spread by Het Belgisch Stripgenootschap, albeit in a not so good copied format, and according to our information, this version (which has been reprinted for years) is an illegal one.
But luckily there is the team of Brabant Strip who have now released the black and white version of the album in their Fenix series, including the announcements as published in the newspapers. The album comes with a real cover on top. When looking at the cover you should be able to immediately recognise the hand of no-one else but one of Flanders (even Belgium’s) best comic artists, Dirk Stallaert (Nino, Mieleke Melleke Mol, Plankgas en Plastronneke, …).
I contacted Dirk for some feedback.
BDM: Normally it’s Bob De Moor’s son Johan who takes care of the cover artwork (after the work of his father) for the Fenix reissue series of Snoe & Snolleke. Why did you make the cover this time?
Dirk Stallaert: I honestly have no idea why Johan didn’t draw it this time. I know via Brabant Strip that he didn’t mind me drawing the cover. Maybe he just didn’t have the time for it.
(Editor’s note: In a phone call we had with Johan De Moor, he confirms that it was a lack of time but he also stresses that he was pretty sure that Dirk Stallaert was the perfect man for the job. Case proven.)
BDM: Have you chosen the scene (visible in the strips 37, 38) on which the cover is based or was it suggested to you?
Dirk Stallaert: It was Yves Kerremans from Brabant Strip who suggested to use that scene.
BDM: I suppose it’s not an easy task to invent a cover for an album, which is not yours to begin with. Were there elements in this album that made it a difficult task?
Dirk Stallaert: Aaaah, it’s always a difficult task to try and get things right. Even for my own work it’s always a difficult task to make a cover and when I have to work in someone else’s style it’s even more difficult. I have just received the album yesterday and what stands out I think is the thickness of the lines… it’s quite heavy I must say and the fish isn’t flexible enough to my taste. But like I said, there’s always something to complain about. “Le plaisir de se voir imprimé” is a pleasure which I haven’t had this time. I quite like how the sky looks though. I nicked the idea from “The Black Island”. But don’t tell anyone!
BDM: Ha, as always you have succeeded in perfectly representing the style though as used by Bob De Moor in the album, but keeping your own ‘schwung’ (the sawfish that is).
Dirk Stallaert: I’m quite glad you have discovered the ‘schwung’, because I missed that flexibility. I had documented me really well and had first made a few sketches of the sawfish.
(Editor’s note: Dirk Stallaert sent us the sketches below.)
As always the pencil sketches are a lot more fluent and expressive. The shark which you can see in the sketch didn’t make it in the final version. It’s often a problem when using the clear line, you only have one line, and that one has to be the perfect one.
Good news reaches us from the Brabant Strip headquarters. The team behind Brabant Strip have been able to find the original newspaper clippings of the 1954 Snoe and Snolleke story “De zwarte draak” (“The black dragon”) during a foray at the Vossenplein in Brussels.
This re-edition is important for many reasons. First of all, as you probably know, the original version of this story as published in De Nieuwe Gids (and related newspapers) from 12 October 1953 until 30 January 1954 was in a flemish dutch. That very cosy language got annihilated when the Casterman and Standaard Uitgeverij re-editions replaced it by a dutch which was way too much ‘dutchified’. Both editors (and especially their translator) seemed to have forgotten that Snoe and Snolleke were Flemish and not Dutch to start with.
Next, we also showed you in the past that a lot of drawings for these re-editions were adapted because they were printed in colour. A move which makes sense. Also, some drawings were completely changed as you can see here and in the case of this upcoming album, no less than 4 strips were missing in the final re-edition (it’s not sure why these 4 strips were not included, perhaps Bob De Moor didn’t find them useful enough or the originals were missing or it simply wouldn’t have fit in the 46 pages that were planned for the album version – we’ll update this when we find more info). Brabant Strip will edit this album in black & white in its Fenix Collection including the 4 missing strips. On the left you can see an example of the newspaper clipping versus the version as edited by Standaard Uitgeverij.
Note that the re-furbished “De zwarte draak” was originally supposed to be published by Casterman in 1989, but in the end it was Standaard Uitgeverij which would edit it in 1993. 22 years later we now will finally also have the original version in black & white!
And that’s not all, it seems like it that also the newspaper clippings from the “Het Geheim van Vulcania”, the follow-up album from 1954, have been retrieved. Also these ones will be released in album format, in 2016. Until now only a poor photocopy bootleg version of the album was being sold here and there.
Out now is the 100th album in the Fenix Collection by Brabant Strip, namely Bob De Moor‘s “Le Mystère du vieux chateau fort” albeit in a Dutch version with the title “Het Mysterie van de Oude Burcht”. The album is released as a hard cover, full color, in Dutch and they have succeeded in keeping the original colors of the book quite intact. We compared both versions and it’s safe to say that they did a brilliant job. Also the special lettering from the original French edition on Campéador (1947) has been included and gives it that specific touch.
The book is limited to 1000 copies and available from your local comicstore in Flanders and Holland. But be fast, this will become a collection item in record time! We had a short chat with Jean Smits, vice-president of Brabant Strip to talk about this first Dutch version of this Bob De Moor classic from 1947.
How come that this album got chosen to be the 100th one?
Jean Smits: For the 100th album in our Fenix Collection we asked the members of the working group for something special in terms of both content and form, and preferably something of a Flemish “master”. Marc de Lint soon suggested we’d go for a Dutch facsimile edition of “Le mystere du vieux château fort”. Everyone agreed that it was a great idea.
For the reissue you have used the original first edition but not the original plates? It’s amazing though how the colors kept the same vividness as in the original first edition.
Jean Smits: The original plates entered the market a few years ago and are now scattered among collectors. We have been able to locate a number of plates and even the films of the whole book. But ultimately, we decided to start from a topnotch copy of the original book. Mike van der Veer scanned everything, cleaned it up, emptied the text balloons and lettered them in Dutch. Mike also worked on the design and layout of the book plus the cover. Afterwards the printing company Cultura in Wetteren did a highly professional color correction to get the colors as close as possible to the original colors of the book. We are very grateful for the involvement of Jan De Meester from Cultura in this project. He helped us a lot and was closely involved in all the steps of the production process.
The translation did not happen from the original Dutch written script which we found in the archives of Ludo Van Looveren. Why?
Jean Smits: We actually were not aware of the existence of this original Dutch written script. Marc de Lint translated everything and Mike van der Veer has proofread it before he added the texts in the text balloons. After that everything was reviewed thoroughly and the text was adapted in the same way as the text balloons in the original book. A PDF was then created and again proofread by several people after which a few corrections were made.
I have heard that you plan to release more older Bob De Moor material. What is exactly scheduled?
Jean Smits: Indeed, there is still a lot of old De Moor material that awaits a rediscovery but it is still too early to let you know what we plan!
On December 31st 1954, the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuws van de Dag announced a brand new story of Bob De Moor‘s ‘De avonturen van Nonkel Zigomar, Snoe en Snolleke’: “Het Mollenrijk”. Yesterday we talked about the differences between the cover version of the albums as published by Bédéscope and Brabant Strip. Today we focus on what is quite a remarkable change that happened in the story when it was revised for publication. Unlike the other ‘Nonkel Zigomar, Snoe en Snolleke’ albums, this album would not be revised on every page for a publication in color, instead for the Bédéscope version Bob De Moor decided to alter a few things, most notably on page 23 of the album, namely the strips 86/87 and 88 but also elsewhere.
On the left you see the original strips as published in Het Nieuws van de Dag in 1955. You see a man being kicked out of a cabin. He says he is an architect who had been kicked out by the architects of the Heysel Tower. Snolleke looks at the plans and see that he wanted to build an ‘Ijzer-toren’ (literrally that reads as ‘Iron Tower’). Even for Flemish readers today the joke is not really easy to understand because many will miss a few long forgotten historical elements.
First of all, the Heysel Tower was an abandoned project from the Ghent based Professor Gustave Magnel for the Expo of 1958 to be held in Brussels, capital of Belgium. Dating from early 1955, when the decision to build the Atomium had not yet been taken, the tower of Magnel was supposed to be 500 meters high and constructed in prestressed concrete. That this tower really stood a chance to be built shows the article on the left. The artikel speaks of “a model of the tower of 500 m, which, as reported, will be built near the Heysel in Brussels.” Magnel was also the man who built the Boekentoren in Ghent. Nevertheless the idea was finally abandoned in favor of the Atomium.
The next element is the actual plan of the architect in Bob De Moor’s story. He wanted to change the top of the tower as though out by Professor Magnel into a cross holding the letter combination AVV/VVK which stands for “Alles Voor Vlaanderen, Vlaanderen Voor Kristus”, a well known slogan from the Flemish movement. Not really a good idea since the Heysel Tower was supposed to be an architectural jewel representing Belgium’s intellect and know-how.
And here we arrive at the 3rd element. Snolleke says: “Sukkelaar! Hoe kon hij zo onnozel zijn. Wou van de HEYSEL-toren een IJZER-toren maken.” Here we see a first reference to the (new spelling) IJzertoren. For this we need to go back in history and all this keeping in mind that Bob De Moor was a Flemish cartoonist first of all.
So here we go. During the first World War the Flemish Movement became more and more organized and started to demand more Flemish rights. Good to know, back in those days the official language in Belgian politics but more important in the Belgian army was French and most officers were monolingual French-speaking. After the war, in 1930, the first IJzertoren was build in Kaaskerke, near Diksmuide. It was built by an organisation of former Flemish soldiers. The tower was just like on the plan of the architect decorated with the abbreviations AVV-VVK. Years passed and but up till World War II, the main language in Belgian politics and the army remained French. In short, the Flemish movement hadn’t been able to change a lot.
After World War II, many Flemish were accused of German collaboration. Either by the state (242 people were convicted and executed), or by former members of the resistance (which happened uncontrolled). Other results of the repression included the demolition of monuments, and that also happened to the IJzertoren. On the night of 15 and 16 March 1946, the first IJzertoren was blown up. The perpetrators were never caught, but there are theories of the Belgian state approving the demolition, or even helping the saboteurs.
When Bob De Moor saw his “Het Mollenrijk” published in the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuws van de Dag in 1955, the Flemish movement was busy assembling money to build a new and larger tower on the same site. And it’s in that context that you have to see Bob De Moor‘s original strips. Bob De Moor was not the only Flemish cartoonist to include this in his work (see also our future article on the 1950 Tijl Uilenspiegel story “Het vals gebit”). Also Willy Vandersteen and Marc Sleen would have the topic incorporated in their work. Willy Vandersteen would insert 2 specific frames in the final strip of the De Standaard newspaper publication Spike and Suzy‘s “Prinses Zagemeel” (1948). There you see Spike saying “No Wiske but he is still down” to which Ambrose aka Lambik says “What are you talking about Spike?”. Spike replies -while flying over the rumble of the monument: “The Ijzertoren Ambrose!” Marc Sleen from his side lets Nero give a cheque of 100.000 Belgian francs (2500 Euro) to the IJzerbedevaartcomité (the committee that organized the yearly pelgrimages to the Ijzertoren) in the album “De Hoorn des Overvloeds” and this in order to help reconstruct the tower. As you can see there were a lot of Flemish sensitivities that played back then, even with Flemish cartoonists.
But back to our Bob De Moor story. When Bédéscope asked Bob De Moor to review “Het Mollenrijk”, it was a very logical decision to change those specific drawings. Almost no reader would still remember what that aborted Heysel Tower project was. But for many French speaking readers (especially those in France) the political sensitivities would be very difficult to understand. And even if they would have understood it, it could only have caused problems because many French reading Belgians probably would not have found it funny – political sensitivities you see. The mid-way solution Bob De Moor came up with was quite a good one. He changed the head of the architect by his and now he is a comic author who gets kicked out of the cabin because the architects of the Atomium don’t like his decoration ideas which is to add the faces of Georges Barelli, Sophia Barelli, Cori, Balthazar, Oncle Zigomar and Monsieur Tric on 7 of the Atomium globes. Also funny is the line where you see Snolleke saying “The poor sod! He did look like a talented guy…”.
Two consistency corrections were also made on page 21 and 22 of the album where the plate saying “Hier komt de HEYSEL-TOREN verboden op de werken te komen” was replaced by “Ici sera érigé l’ATOMIUM interdit de courir sous peine de poursuites!” As a final note, today, the Ijzertoren is still a symbol of Flemish nationalism, but also a symbol to remember the cruelties that happen during wars, thus a symbol of peace.
An old newsreel on the destruction of the Ijzertoren can be viewed below.
On December 31st 1954, the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuws van de Dag (not to be confounded with the Dutch newspaper De Courant/Nieuws van de Dag) announced a brand new story of Bob De Moor‘s ‘De avonturen van Nonkel Zigomar, Snoe en Snolleke’: “Het Mollenrijk”. It would take 26 years before it would be released in an album format – in french via Bédéscope on 2000 copies – under the title “L’empire des Taupes”, and 48 (!!) years before it would finally see a publication in its original Flemish form, on 775 copies; and this thanks to the work of the people behind Brabant Strip who dug the material up from their archives.
There are quite some differences between both versions which you don’t see on first sight, but they do jump forward when you look closely. Today we’ll handle the cover artwork and tomorrow we’ll take a closer look at the content.
In both cases the cover of the album was a cover Bob De Moor had drawn in 1979/1980, with minor differences. First of all, the cover of Brabant Strip seems to hold the complete ‘borders’ too, which were hidden on the Bédéscope version. As a result you see some extra details on the left and right, and on the top and the bottom. But don’t mistake, some corrections were made too, for instance the Bédéscope version has stalagmites on the right which were cut off in the Brabant Strip version to put the title. The Brabant Strip version also has 2 extra stalactites added in the upper right corner (probably drawn by Johan De Moor – we’ll confirm this). You will also see in the Brabant Strip version that the stalactites in the upper left corner have been corrected, for example where originally Oncle Zigomar‘s head was. Again, we think that these corrections were made by Johan De Moor.
Something that also is quite remarkable is the coloring used for both covers. Whereas Brabant Strip decided to go for a more natural coloring of the characters and environment, Bédéscope went Hawaiian style rendering the whole venomously greenish. Up to you the reader to decide which one you prefer the most, but we’ll stick to the Brabant Strip version.
The biggest difference between both versions however can be found inside the album. But that’s for tomorrow’s news when we dive into some local politics that influenced not just Bob De Moor but many others like Marc Sleen, Willy Vandersteen and so on. Especially for this article we did some traveling and you’ll also learn a bit how Flemish cartoonist incorporated politics into their work.
From 5 January 1956 till 29 Februari 1956, the daily newspaper De Nieuwe Gids (and related titles) published the Uncle Zigomar story “De Sprekende Wandelstok” (Eng: “The Talking Cane”). The story was the 15th and last volume in the series, and unlike other Uncle Zigomar stories it never made it into an album until the fine people from the Flemish non-profit Brabant Strip based themselves on the strips from the newspaper edition to do it in 2001. We’ll be talking extensively about Brabant Strip in the future as they have something really special coming up!
Note that this album was published in a smaller format than usual and counts only 94 strips spread over 24 pages . Bob De Moor had to cut the story short due to his increased workload at the Studios Hergé.
The album cover for the album was made by Bob De Moor‘s son Johan De Moor. The album itself was given for free to the members of Brabant Strip with issue 89 of the BS magazine on 25 June 2001. The edition was limited to 1000 copies and was sold out quite fast. Needless to say that this story was never released in French and has since become a real collectible. BD Must will be re-releasing the series; expect this one to turn up as well in there, and for the very first time in French. But more info later on.
The story itself follows up on the gang’s adventures in the Spanish film “The red caballero”. For this album Oncle Zigomar and Snoe & Snolleke went to the USA, or ‘You-As-Ay’ as Bob De Moor says in his introduction to the story.
On the left you can see the 4 first original strips from the album which recently were sold on a site for € 360. You can easily recognise the clear influence from Bob De Moor’s work for the Studios Hergé (the face of the pilot in drawing 1 and that of the co-pilot in drawing 2 of the 4th strip are typically Hergé’s style of drawing). It’s again a story filled with typical Flemish situation humour.