Thomas Pips, by Buth
Thomas Pips

Leo de Budt, who signed his work with 'Buth', is best known as the creator of  'Thomas Pips' (1946-1985). This humorous detective strip ran in 't Kapoentje for almost 4 decades. Buth made many comics, cartoons and illustrations for this children's magazine and his parental newspaper Het Volk. Apart from 'Thomas Pips' he is also remembered for his annual Tour de France cartoons in which he always hid at least one mouse for competitive readers to find. A versatile artist, Buth drew both humoristic comics as well as realistically-drawn stories. 

Early life
He was born in 1919 in The Hague in The Netherlands after his Flemish parents had fled there at the start of World War One. His father, Victor de Budt,  was a painter. In 1922 the family returned to Belgium and settled in Ghent. Buth originally wanted to become a doctor, but one of his father's good friends was the famous expressionist painter Frits Van den Berghe. who encouraged the young boy to study art at the St. Lucas Institute in Ghent. One of his teachers there was the then well known artist Jos Verdegem, but Van Den Berghe remained Buth's main mentor until he passed away in 1939. In 1922 the family returned to Belgium and moved to Ghent. It was here that De Budt studied art at the St. Lucas Institute in Ghent. Among his graphical influences were the Flemish Primitives, Albrecht Dürer, Harold Foster's 'Prince Valiant', Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' and Chic Young's 'Blondie'. 

Gawain, by Buth
Gawain (Balming, 1943)

Early comics career
De Budt published his first cartoons and illustrations for the newspaper Vooruit in 1936. After Van den Berghe passed away, he took over several of his comics series in this publication. He also came up with his own comics, such as 'Mijnheer Dinges' (1941). During World War II, De Budt worked for the pro-German press, including Volk en Staat, De Nationaalsocialist, De Blauwvoet, De SS-man, De Vlaamsche Post, Stemmen uit Duitsland and Balming. His contributions varied from innocent children's comics to antisemitic cartoons and propaganda. Comics included the daily children's strip 'De Wereldreis van Flip en Flop' in Volk en Staat (1941) and 'Gawain de Dappere' in Balming (1943). For both magazines he also illustrated articles in their children's sections 'Voor Ons Jonge Volkje' and 'Voor Onze Jongeren' with illustrations for which Flemish poet and playwright Blanca Gyselen wrote the text. In 1942 Buth married a Japanese woman, with whom he had two children. 


Thomas Pips - Het Kasteel der Schaduwen (1948)

Thomas Pips
After the war many contributors to these Nazi magazines were convicted for collaboration, including Gyselen and Buth. In 1947 he received a lifelong publication ban, which was withdrawn in 1951. Around the same time he started publishing under the pseudonym Buth. He made the comic 'De Blauwe Wolk: De Wereldramp van 6491' in Taptoe in 1946, as well as the cover of the 1946 'Ivanov's Almanak'. On 7 February 1946 he also created his best-known character 'Thomas Pips' in Het Volk. Both the character, as well as his wife and son were based on Buth and his own family. It started out as a stop-comic, but longer stories, written by John Flanders and Lod Lavki, appeared from 1 August 1947 on. Starting in June 1951, this detective comic appeared on the center pages of comic magazine 't Kapoentje, where it stayed until 1985. Gags starring Thomas, his dog Floppy and his long-suffering neighbour and best friend Kilo appeared in Ons Zondagsblad between 1949 and 1952, until they were replaced by Marc Sleen's 'Oktaaf Keunink'. From that moment on 'Thomas Pips' appeared exclusively in 't Kapoentje. 

Herrie in de Ronde by Buth
Thomas Pips - Herrie in de ronde (1966)

Tour de France
From July 1947 on Buth drew a daily one-panel cartoon to coincide with the annual Tour de France. Each drawing featured a busy spectacle of onlookers, cyclists and Thomas Pips on his bike. As a running gag Buth hid one mouse or several mice in the picture. Het Volk turned it into a daily readers' contest. People had to either look for one mouse or count how many of these rodents they could spot in that day's episode. Generations of Flemish readers have grown up searching for Buth's mice. His Tour de France cartoons debuted around the same time that Marc Sleen made his Tour de France comic strip, which was also published in Het Volk. However, while Sleen quit his comic in 1965 when he moved to De Standaard, Buth continued his Tour de France cartoons and mice puzzles in Het Volk until 1982. The cartoons were often accompanied by columns "written by Thomas himself". In reality they were written anonymously by Michel Casteels. Buth's Tour de France cartoons are still reprinted in Flemish newspapers today, along with the mice-searching contests. Some of his illustrations were used as decoration for Guido Cammaert's book 'Tour de France encyclopedia 1903-2003'.

Het leven van Jezus by Buth
Het leven van Jezus (Zonneland, 8 January 1961)

't Kapoentje
Besides 'Thomas Pips', Buth was also the main illustrator of various weekly sections and short written stories in 't Kapoentje. He had an educational comic strip, 'Vader Kapoen Vertelt' (1969-1982), in which the deeds of historical characters were told. The first episode was published on 25 June 1969. The feature shows a strong resemblance to 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul', which was created for Spirou by Jean-Michel Charlier and Eddy Paape. In the children's magazine Zonneland, Buth illustrated stories like 'Op Zoek naar de Zonne-Eilanden' with a script by John Flanders, as well as 'Het Leven van Jezus' (from 14 August 1960 on), 'De Moeraskerels' (from 27 May 1962 on), 'De Zwijgende Parelvissers (from 29 July 1964 on, based on a script by H. Dufait)' , 'Vacantie aan de Grens' (from 16 December 1966 on, based on a text by L. Houthooft), and 'Het Gezin van Marc Trenters'. In addition, he drew 'De Avonturen van Joke en Maaike' in Tam-Tam (from September 1948 on) and a fantastic version of the Flemish folktale 'Tijl Uilenspiegel' for 't Kapoentje from 2 November 1950 on.

Stanneke by Buth
Stanneke

Other comics and illustration work
Between 1953 and 1956 he published the gag comic 'Stanneke' in Handel en Ambacht, the magazine for local tradespeople in Ghent. Readers of De Post could enjoy his comic strip biographies of historical characters and comic adaptations of famous novels such as 'De Baron van Münchhausen' (1953), 'Reinaert de Vos' (1953) and 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' (1955-1956), most of which were written under the pseudonym "Tijl". He also designed the 'Even Geduld' ('One moment please') title cards which the Flemish TV channel B.R.T. used in the 1960s whenever there were technical difficulties. Another cartoonist who designed animated shorts for the same purpose and TV channel was Ploeg.

Even Geduld by Buth
Even Geduld card by Buth (1961)

Plagiarism controversy
During his five decades long career, Buth produced ten thousands of drawings, cartoons and comics. To reach his deadlines he was often reduced to plagiarizing ideas from other comics. The most notable is Thomas Pips' striking resemblance to Chic Young's character Dagwood Bumstead from 'Blondie'. Several drawings from Bob de Moor's comic book adaptation of Hendrik Conscience's 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' were not so subtly imitated by Buth in his own comic strip version of the same story. When confronted with this "theft" he acknowledged De Moor's artistry and said he merely wanted to pay tribute to him.

Vader Kapoen, by Buth (Kapoentjesalbum 1971)
Vader Kapoen

Buth's educational series 'Vader Kapoen Vertelt' was clearly inspired by 'Les Belles Histoires d'Oncle Paul', a feature created by Jean-Michel Charlier and Eddy Paape for Spirou magazine. Other comics Buth borrowed ideas and styles from were Mittéï and Vasseur (André-Paul Duchâteau)'s 'Les 3 As' and Maurice Tillieux' 'Gil Jourdan'. Still, these were mere small regrettable incidents in a career that spanned nearly half a century and other comics artists of his generation also frequently copied ideas from one another. As such, Leo De Budt should still be acknowledged as one of the key artists in Flemish comics history. 

Reinaert de Vos by Buth
Reinaert de Vos (1953)

Final years and death
Having grown up in a Ghentian neighbourhood De Budt had a lifelong interest in the folklore of this city, particularly its music. He collected old songs and lyric sheets. While he was an accomplished painter too the general public remembers him first and foremost as a cartoonist.  In a 1977 interview with Stripgids, conducted by Jan Smet, Buth felt that "comics have a high artistic value or at least they can have it. I even believe it's one of the hardest art forms around. There are enough people who've studied at the Academy and who can draw beautiful nudes, but find it very difficult to let a man on a horse ride through the panels of a comic strip. Of course, comics are a commercial product, but paintings are too." For several years, Leo de Budt was the oldest Flemish comic artist alive, until he passed away in October 2010. His record was then taken over by Pom - who was only 11 months younger than him - until his death four years later.

Buth

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