Belgian comics for Belgian chocolate

All through his career, Hergé produced various advertising campaigns featuring his characters. They promoted everything from cars to margarine and washing detergent to cigars. With the international success of Tintin, these campaigns were mostly for international brands, but in the early days, they were mostly world-famous in Belgium.

This ad from the 1930s combines the most Belgian of characters, Brussels street urchin Flupke, with the most Belgian of chocolates, Jacques. Established in 1896 Les Chocolates Jacques were probably best known for creamy filling in all kinds of flavours and their collectable pictures. The brand still exists, but is now part of a global conglomerate.

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Red Rum Orchestra on Spotify

Wilt, the 2016 album by Belgium’s finest lo-fi psychedelic countryrockers Red Rum Orchestra, is now on Spotify. That should be reason enough for a post. However, let’s just say that it also provides us with a nice opportunity to showcase the amazing magnificence that is Serge Baeken’s artwork this and many of their other EPs and albums. Head thee here.


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Ever dances in Mumbai

For a special edition of the participatory dance festival Bal Moderne later this month, Ever Meulen adapted the iconic poster he created for the series of Brussels events with a little exotic touch.

I personally preferred the echos of Henri Matisse’s La Dance in Ever’s illustration for the event’s 2012 edition (below).

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Robbedoes has Dutch roots

With Tulips from Istanbul, the latest in the Spirou By spinoff series of Spirou and Fantasio adventures, Dutch cartoonist Hanco Kolk has created the first Spirou book that is quintessentially Dutch. For once, the original story is not in French, and Spirou is first and foremost Robbedoes.

On his Facebook page, Kolk presented this beautiful image, collecting all the giants that inspired him in the making of his book. Spirou godfather André Franquin, of course, along with atom style hero Yves Chaland, but also storyteller extraordinaire René Goscinny and two of the greatest masters of screwball comedy, Billy Wilder and Harvey Kurtzman. And if you look closely, you also see other great examples of the deadpan humor that Kolk favours, such as his bosom buddy Peter De Wit’s Sigmund, Mark Retera’s Dirk Jan and the hyperactive zaniness of Edika and L’Echo Des Savannes. It at least whets your appetite for the actual book…

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Tintin drives a Citroen

Some 10 years ago (almost to the day even), I already showed that Tintin and cars is a complicated matter that does not involve a lot of brand loyalty. Still, French car maker Citroën seems to have had a special place in the quiffed one’s heart in the 1980s. In 1985, the Belgian branch of Citroën even published a calendar, with 12 specially commissioned images featuring  all of Hergé’s heroes alongside famous Citroën models through the ages.

The rendering of the cars is spot on, but the characters seem to be little more than lifted from earlier productions. Tintin in the March image, for example, seems to be long on the cover of Coke En Stock, while the Thompsons in December look awkardly as if they just stepped out of L’Or Noir. Still, a very nice production.

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The wonders of modern photography

In 1985, clear line powerhouse Ted Benoit (who sadly passed away last year), had already published his first Ray Banana graphic novel, Berceuse électrique, and was preparing the second one, Cité Lumière, for the next year (Benoit famously said that a book every year was madness).

In between, he took an assignment from photography equipment manufacturer Kodak to create a short strip extolling the benefits of modern photography techniques for the graphics industries.

Visually speaking, Benoit is still very much a Hergé purist in this strip, finding his way in this particular, stringent style in terms of line, colour and composition. It’s still a long way off from his masterpiece, La philosophie dans la piscine. When it comes to storytelling though, this is already Benoit in full form, full of irony and communication that goes wrong. Due to the fact that he doesn’t use the modern Kodak products, our editor runs late and misses his appointment with the Kodak guy, who chats up the secretary with his boasts about said products (and more?). A real little gem.

(thanks to Ted Benoit Dessinateur for the scan)

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Close but no comic

As with anything that can garner a loyal (if not fanatic) niche following, comics-related imagery are used on any item that even remotely has a collectible value. Case in point today, cigar bands.

Often referred to (at least by me) as postal stamps’ less fortunate nephew, cigar bands originated somewhere in the 1830’s to enable some kind of branding on an otherwise quite indistinguishable product.  Pretty soon this type of ephemera turned collectable (there’s even a name for that, vitolphilia), which in turn resulted in bands being produced with the specific purpose of being collected.

The Dutch brand Murillo, for example, started releasing themed bands in the mid-1970s, and from the early 1990s  issued special, large-sized bands for collectors. Starting in 1999 they began issuing comics-themed band series almost exclusively. They were published in series of ten, featuring imagery lifted from popular (Euro) comics, such as Lucky Luke, Tintin, Suske & Wiske, De Rode Ridder or Asterix, but also Spider-Man, Donald Duck and even imagery from the comic adaptation of the Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace.

Most of these ever went near a cigar, and Murillo itself even stopped producing cigars long before these bands were created. Aesthetically, the bands are not that impressive, with randomly cropped artwork stuck on a fairly standard band. And I’m not even going to ask about copyrights.

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