'Roel Harding'.

Karel Boumans, AKA Kabou, was a Flemish comic artist and illustrator. Between 1952 and 1959, he was an early Studio Vandersteen assistant, drawing the gag comic 'De Grappen van Lambik' and inking many classic 'Suske en Wiske' stories. After creating comic series of his own for Strip magazine throughout the 1960s ('Olivier', 'Bert Crak', 'Roel Harding'), he spent the early 1970s as an assistant to Karel Verschuere and Jef Nys. Ending his career at 't Kapoentje magazine, Boumans was additionally the fifth and penultimate artist to continue the long-running gag series 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' (1976-1985).

Early life and career
Karel Boumans was born in 1931 in Wilrijk. He studied drawing at the Sint-Lukas Institute in Schaarbeek, where one of his teachers was the Belgian painter and graphic artist Luk Verstraete. Verstraete knew Willy Vandersteen personally and introduced Boumans to the maestro.

Studio Vandersteen
In September 1952, twenty-year old Boumans was hired to work in Willy Vandersteen's studio. He started out as a letterer, but that same year he already succeeded François-Joseph Herman as inker, colorist and background artist. Boumans mostly worked on Vandersteen's humor comics, while Karel Verschuere assisted on the realistic series. He became the regular inker of the 'Suske en Wiske' series, starting with 'De Lachende Wolf' (1952) and continuing until 'De Zwarte Zwaan' (1958). Boumans also colored the special 'Suske en Wiske' stories Vandersteen made in a more Clear Line style for Tintin/Kuifje magazine.

'De Grappen van Lambik', by Willy Vandersteen & Karel Boumans.

In addition, Boumans did the finished artwork for the gag comics 'De Familie Snoek' (in De Standaard) and ''t Prinske' (launched in Tintin/Kuifje in 1953), as well as the humor features for the newspaper supplement Ons Volkske: 'De Vrolijke Bengels', 'Het Plezante Circus' (1954-1958) and 'De Lustige Zwervers' (1958-1960). In the mid-1950s, Boumans received the honor of taking over the 'Suske en Wiske' spin-off comic 'De Grappen van Lambik', which ran in the Catholic magazine De Bond. The gags also appeared in French as 'Les Farces de Monsieur Lambique'. Between 1958 and 1959 he assisted Vandersteen on the advertising comic 'De Familie Vergaren', promoting Centra supermarkets. The stories revolve around a family who sucessfully saves money by shopping at the chain. The series also appeared in French as 'La Famille Tirelire'.

Boumans was a technically skilled, but slow worker. In March 1959, he asked for a day off, which Vandersteen refused, since he still had a lot of pages to catch up with. An argument rose and in the end, Boumans was fired. In Ronald Grossey's 2007 book about Studio Vandersteen it was reported that the disgruntled employee got so angry that he threw his ink pots against the wall, shouting: "His name is Vandersteen and he has a heart of stone too!" (referring to the literal meaning for the name Vandersteen: "being from stone"). Boumans left the studio and was replaced by Eduard De Rop.

De Avonturen van Olivier, by Karel Boumans
De Avonturen van Olivier - 'Herrie in Boembala' (Strip #1, 1 September 1962).

After leaving Studio Vandersteen, Boumans worked as an illustrator and advertising artist for the Antwerp-based photo engraving company De Schutter. In 1961, he returned to comics when he became a regular contributor to the new bi-weekly magazine Strip, published by Orbis. Working under the pen name Kabou, he stayed with the magazine until 1969. All of his comics for Strip were later reprinted in Ohee!, the comic magazine with a weekly full story, published by newspaper Het Volk.

In the first issue of Strip, dated 1 September 1961, Kabou introduced the humor adventure series 'De Avonturen van Olivier', scripted by Karel Goderis. The series starred Olivier, a bald-headed uncle with a Chaplin moustache and his niece and nephew. The resemblance with Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' was hard to deny, in particular the dynamics between Olivier and the kids, which resembled that of Lambik with Suske and Wiske. Nevertheless, five stories were made, appearing in Ohee between 1965 and 1973. Goderis and Boumans also made 'Roel Harding' (1964-1966), of which three stories ran in Ohee!. 'De Hot Hitters' (1965), starring an aspiring pop band, was serialized in Strip in 1965, and ran in two issues of Ohee! in 1968. 'Bert Crak' (1967-1969), a humor comic about a failed handyman, was co-scripted by Goderis and Edwin Wouters. It subsequently appeared in four 1969-1970 issues of Ohee!.

'De Hot Hitters'.

Assistant work in the 1970s
In 1970, Boumans signed up with former Studio Vandersteen colleague Karel Verschuere. Verschuere had been fired by Vandersteen and was setting up his own studio. Besides recruiting Boumans, he also managed to buy out three Vandersteen co-workers: Frans Anthonis, Eduard De Rop and Erik Vandemeulebroucke. For the German publisher Erich Pabel, Verschuere's team created western comics like 'Tom Berry' and 'Die Abenteuer von Jimmy Carter und Adlerfeder' (which also ran in the Flemish magazine De Post as 'Arendsklauw'). Unfortunately, a pay dispute motivated Boumans and his colleagues to leave Verschuere again by 1973. In that same year, Boumans was then hired by Jef Nys. He was appointed assistant to Edwin Wouters and designed the backgrounds of Nys' hit series 'Jommeke'.

Bert Crak, by Karel Boumans
'Bert Crak' (Strip, 25 May 1968)..

De 4 Ka's
In 1976, Karel Boumans and Edwin Wouters joined 't Kapoentje, the children's supplement of newspaper Het Volk, where Boumans stayed the rest of his comics career. Together, they created the series 'De 4 Ka's', using the collective pseudonym Wika. The concept was probably inspired by Tibet and Mittéï's 'Les 3A' (1962-1967) from Tintin magazine. Where all members of 'Les 3A' had first names starting with the letter "A", the names of the '4 Ka's team began with a "K", in line with the first letter of 't Kapoentje.

'De Lustige Kapoentjes'.

De Lustige Kapoentjes
In 1976, Boumans also succeeded Hurey as the new artist of 't Kapoentje's flagship comic series 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' ("The Cheerful Rascals"), which had been a regular feature since 1947. The long-running gag comic revolved around a group of children pranking and counter pranking an obese police officer and a sneaky youngster. Like all his predecessors, Boumans kept both concept and characters, but with different names and designs. The new 'Kapoentjes' consisted of three boys, Max (wearing a cap), Slungel (with black curls) and Bick (with blond hair), as well as the blond-haired girl Bieke. The police officer remained nameless, but the villainous youngster was now named Flup. The name of the elderly Moeder Stans was changed to Moeder Siska. In 1978, Het Volk released the only book collection with Boumans' episodes of 'De Lustige Kapoentjes'. In 1985, Boumans retired and passed the series on to the mysterious artist "Jo", who continued it for three more years.

Karel Boumans passed away in 2003 from a intracranial hemorrhage.

Cover of the magazine Strip

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