Sammy by Berck
Sammy

Flemish artist Arthur Berckmans, who used the pseudonym Berck, was born in Louven. He studied drawing at the Louven Art Academy and at the Saint-Luc Institute in Brussels. He started his career making religious drawings for the Jesuites monthly Pro Apostolis from 1948 until 1952. For this magazine, he also created his first comic stories, 'La Vie de Saint Ignace' and 'Le Père de Smet au Nebraska' ('De Grote Zwartrok'). Berckmans continued to illustrate the books by the Louven-based Jesuites until 1956.

Strapontin, by Berck
Strapontin et le Monstre du Loch Ness

By the mid 1950s, Berck joined Publi-Art, the advertising division of publishing house Le Lombard. He made a great many illustrations for advertisements and stories, that were published in Tintin and Line, and took over 'Le Grenadier Victoria', the advertising comic strip for Victoria chocolat, from Albert Weinberg. Other advertising strips that Berck illustrated include 'Polochon dans la Pampa', 'Vic et Rio' and 'Les Frères Cha-Cha'.

Strapontin by BerckPanchico by Berck
covers for Tintin #617 and #775

By 1958, he found his way to Tintin magazine. His most notable work for this magazine is the series about cabdriver 'Strapontin', which he made in cooperation with René Goscinny, and from 1965 with Jacques Acar. Together with writer Yves Duval, he began a second series called 'Rataplan', about a little drummer boy in Napoleon's army in 1961. Berck and Duval additionally made a couple of oneshot comics, such as 'Panchico' (1963), 'Ken Krom' (1966) and 'Lady Bound' (1967).

Rataplan, by Berck
Rataplan

In addition to his work for Tintin, Berck cooperated with Leo Loedts on several stories for the magazines Zonnekind and Zonneland of the publishing house Altoria in Averbode between 1963 and 1976. Under the name Studio Arle, they created 'Wim en Eric: De Verdwenen Sloep' (1965) and the adventure series 'De Zwartepinken', with scripts by Maurice Renders (1965-1972), in Zonneland. The stories are also published in the French-language counterparts Dorémi and Tremplin.

Mulligan by BerckSammy by Berck
Spirou #1600 and #1731

In 1968, Berck left Tintin and his series 'Strapontin' and 'Rataplan' and transferred to Spirou, where he changed from his strict style to a looser, more liquid one. His first work for his magazine was the comic about New York towboat captain 'Mulligan', written by Raymond Macherot and Yvan Delporte. However, it was the gangster series 'Sammy' that became his most famous creation. 'Sammy', written by Raoul Cauvin, first appeared in 1970 and became one of the staples of Spirou magazine.

Sammy by Berck
Sammy

While drawing 'Sammy', Berck also worked extensively for publishers and papers from Holland, Flanders and Germany. He created the daily comic about pre-historic giant 'Lombok' in cooperation with Daniel Jansens in Het Gazet van Antwerpen in 1969. This series was also published in the French language in Le Soir Jeunesse and Samedi Jeunesse. For the Dutch comic magazines Sjors and Eppo, he developed the boyscout series 'De Donderpadjes' with Rudy Jansen (1971-74) and the adventure series starring the wealthy orphan 'Lowietje' ('Lou' in French) with Piet Hein Broenland (1974-83).

Mischa, by Berck
Mischa

From 1972 to 1974, he was hired by Rolf Kauka in Germany to create new stories of the science-fiction series 'Mischa' for the Kauka magazine Primo. To keep up with the heavy workload of all his series for Spirou, Sjors/Eppo, Primo and the papers, Berck set up Studio Berck to assist on the artwork. Among the artists that have worked for Berck are Francis, Guy Bollen, Lucien De Gieter, Armand Sorret, Hurey, Bédu and W. Ophalvens. Raoul Cauvin contributed many scripts for both 'Lowietje' and 'Mischa', although anonymously, while his daughter Luut was the colorist on many of Berck's comics.

Lowietje by Berck
Lowietje - Olympische Spelen

Arthur Berckmans continued to draw new 'Sammy' stories for Spirou throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, while steadily dropping his other activities. He retired after 31 albums in 1994, and sold his part of the rights to the publisher Dupuis. Cauvin continued the series for another nine albums with Jean-Pol as Berck's successor.

De Donderpadjes, by Berck
De Donderpadjes (Sjors #42, 1973)

Last updated: 2014-02-11

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