Jean van Hamme, artwork by Francis Vallès
Les Maîtres de l'Orge, artwork by Francis Vallès

Jean Van Hamme is one of Europe's most prominent comic writers. With such legendary and highly successful titles as 'XIII', 'Largo Winch' and 'Thorgal' to his name, he qualifies as a master in the comics field. A career in writing wasn't his initial focus however. After obtaining his degree in political economy, he took on a long career in the field of marketing. He wrote his first comic stories on the side, starting with the erotic and mythological 'Epoxy' for Paul Cuvelier in 1968. Also for Cuvelier, Van Hamme wrote some episodes of 'Corentin'. He was also involved with the adaptation of this series to animated shorts by the Belvision studios. After writing some 'Magellan' stories for Géri in 1969 and 1970, Van Hamme began writing for Tintin magazine on a regular base.

Largo Winch, by Jean Van Hamme and Philippe Francq
Largo Winch, art by Philippe Francq

It wasn't until 1976 that Van Hamme cancelled his marketing activities and focused solely on writing. His main writing activities of the 1970s include 'Domino' for André Chéret (written at first by Greg), the aviation series 'Michael Logan' for André Beautemps and the one shot graphic novel 'Histoire sans Héros' with Dany. Van Hamme and Dany continued their cooperation in 1978 with the 'Arlequin' series. With the creation of 'Thorgal' in 1977, Van Hamme had his first big hit. Illustrated by Grzegorz Rosinski, 'Thorgal' wasn't a regular historical comic about a group of vikings. Playing with fantastic elements, the series is more a heroic fantasy.

Thorgall, by Grzegrorz Rosinski and Jean van Hamme
Thorgal, art by Grzegorz Rosinski

Another highlight of Van Hamme's career began in 1984, 'XIII', illustrated by William Vance. With the main theme based on Robert Ludlum's book 'The Bourne Identity', the series is built around a character in search of his true identity. What follows is a series of exciting intrigues, government and military cover-ups, murder attempts and action scenes. At the same time, he produced the political-fiction series 'S.O.S. Bonheur' for Griffo at Dupuis publishers.

Jean Van Hamme began adapting his 'Largo Winch' novels into comic strips, which resulted in yet another successful comic series, illustrated by Philippe Francq. The success led to a live action television series in the 2000s. Between 1992 and 1999, Van Hamme made 'Les Maîtres de l'Orge' with Francis Vallès, a series of eight books about a dynasty of Belgian brewers. Since 1996, he has been working on new stories with Edgar P. Jacobs' 'Blake et Mortimer', that have been drawn by Ted Benoit, René Sterne and Antoine Aubin.

Other new creations include 'Wayne Shelton' with Christian Denayer in (Dargaud, 2001-2003 and from 2009) and 'Lady S' with Philippe Aymond (Dupuis, since 2005). Van Hamme's unused script for a TV mini-series was turned into the comic series 'Rani' by artist Francis Vallès and scriptwriter Alcante (Lombard, since 2009). By 2007, Van Hamme retired from his series 'XIII' and 'Thorgal', leaving the writing to Yves Sente. He continues to write new stories for 'Largo Winch', 'Lady S' and 'Wayne Shelton'.

XIII, by Jean Van Hamme and William Vance
XIII, art by William Vance
(in French and Dutch)

Last updated: 2013-05-13

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