Thomas Pips, by Buth
'Thomas Pips', cover illustration for 'Het Kasteel der Schaduwen' and 'In De Greep van Mysteras'. 

Leo de Budt, who signed his work with "Buth", was a Belgian painter, illustrator and comic artist, best-known as the creator of 'Thomas Pips' (1946-1985). This humorous detective strip, and occasional gag comic, ran in Ons Zondagsblad and later 't Kapoentje for almost 4 decades. Buth easily switched between a cartoony and more realistically-drawn style. In the latter category, his longest-running series was the historical-educational comic 'Vader Kapoen Vertelt' (1969-1982), also published in 't Kapoentje. Buth is additionally remembered for his annual Tour de France cartoons (1947-1982) in the newspaper Het Volk, hiding at least one mouse in his drawings for competitive readers to find. Over the course of his career, he also illustrated various one-shot adventure comics and regular literary stories for 't Kapoentje, Het Volk, Ons Zondagsblad, De Gentenaar and the children's magazines Zonneland and Tam-Tam. In the 1960s, he was one of three cartoonists who designed the 'technical difficulties' cards for the public TV channel B.R.T. 

Early life and career
Leo De Budt was born in 1919 in The Hague, The Netherlands, as the son of Flemish immigrants. They had fled to The Netherlands when the First World War broke out, since the country remained neutral during the conflict. In 1922, the family returned to Belgium and settled in Ghent. Buth's father, Victor de Budt, was a painter. Originally, Buth wanted to become a doctor, but his father was a good friend of expressionist painter Frits Van den Berghe. who encouraged the young boy to study art at the St. Lucas Institute in Ghent and take evening lessons at the local Academy. Van den Berghe drew various comics for the newspaper Vooruit and wanted to train Buth to become his assistant. At the Academy, Buth also received lessons from Jos Verdegem, whom he considered his mentor. Buth ranked painters like the Flemish Primitives and Albrecht Dürer among his main graphic influences. In the field of comics, he looked up to Harold Foster's 'Prince Valiant', Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' and Chic Young's 'Blondie'.

Buth's earliest comics, cartoons and illustrations were assistance work for Van den Berghe, published in Vooruit (1936). He also livened up a weekly page in the radio magazine Radiobode and, from 1939 on, cartoons in the military magazine De Pinnekensdraad. When Van den Berghe passed away in 1939, Buth continued his comic series in Vooruit for a while, until World War II interrupted everything. As the Nazis occupied Belgium, Buth asked his father to visit the now largely abandoned office of De Vooruit to pick up his cartoons. Some of them poked fun at Hitler and he wanted to avoid trouble. 

In 1942, Buth married a Belgian-Japanese woman, with whom he had two children. 

Gawain, by Buth
'Gawain' (Balming, 1943).

World War II
During World War II, Buth published in various newspapers and magazines controlled by the Nazi press, including Vooruit, 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 pure antisemitic cartoons and Nazi propaganda. Other cartoonists who once drew for Volk en Staat have been C. Dick, Paul Jamin, Armand Panis and Willy Vandersteen. From 26 January 1941 on, Buth's pantomime gag comic 'Mijnheer Dinges' ran in Vooruit. For Volk en Staat, Buth drew the daily children's comic 'De Wereldreis van Flip en Flop' (from 21 April 1941), about two boys travelling across the globe. This specific story would be reprinted in book format in 2008 by Brabant Strip. His fantasy romic 'Gawain de Dappere' (1943) ran in Balming and was strongly inspired by Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon'. For both magazines, he also livened up the children's and teenage sections 'De Plezierige Vragenbus', 'Voor Ons Jonge Volkje' en 'Voor Onze Jongeren'. 'Mijnheer Dinges' and 'Flip en Flop' were later also reprinted in the children's magazine Ons Rakkersblad. In De Nationaal-Socialist, Buth drew the pantomime comics 'Hanske, de Vendelknaap' and 'Grietje, Het Kerlinneke' (1941), which promoted the youth division of the Flemish Nazi party VNV.

In 1944 Buth also adapted the Nazi film 'Münchhausen' (1943) by Josef von Báky into a comic strip, scripted by Karel Brandes. Based on the novel of the same name by Rudolf Erich Raspe, 'Münchhausen' is notable as the only German movie produced during World War II to not be political propaganda. Buth's comic, published as 'De Dolle Avonturen van Baron von Münchhausen' and in French as 'Les Folles Aventures de Baron Münchhausen' by publisher Het Licht and their French-language sister publication La Flamme, is therefore also a straightforward fantasy adventure story. 

Most of Buth's illustrations during this period were done for stories and columns by Flemish poet and playwright Blanca Gyselen. Gyselen was politically active within the Flemish Nazi party DeVlag. After World War II, she and Buth were convicted for Nazi collaboration. On 30 June 1947 he was sentenced to six months jail and a lifelong publication ban. To get around this ban, he started using a pseudonym, 'Buth', a misspelled variation of his last name. After a retrial in 1951, the ban was reduced to a mere five years. Since that amount of time had already passed, the ban was lifted altogether from 27 March 1951 on. 

Comics in the late 1940s
During his post-war career, Buth was active as an advertising illustrator for Publiart, a commercial agency headed by Guy Dessicy, specialized in comic book merchandising. Buth also designed the cover of 'Ivanov's Almanak' (1946) and for the Dutch children's magazine Taptoe, he drew the one-shot science fiction story 'De Blauwe Wolk: De Wereldramp van 6941' (1946), scripted by Raymond Jean de Kremer, AKA John Flanders. This marked the first of many times that Buth would collaborate with John Flanders. Buth regarded Flanders as a difficult taskmaster, since the novelist expected his illustrators to reproduce his stories as exact as possible, down to the lay-out he dictated. Nevertheless, Buth did eventually create his own visual interpretations of Flanders' texts, regardless of what the author thought of them. 'De Blauwe Wolk' was reprinted in 1997 by publishing company Bonte and made available as a comic book. For Taptoe, Buth also drew a comic based on medieval explorer Marco Polo. 

Thomas Pips - 'Het Kasteel der Schaduwen' (1948).

Thomas Pips
On 7 February 1946, the first episode of Buth's best-known comic series 'Thomas Pips' was published in the newspaper Het Volk. Originally a family gag comic, it revolved around the bumbling dad Thomas Pips, his wife Tin(n)eke, son Flip, daughter Mieke, Bobby the dog (later renamed Floppy) and Felix the cat. In spirit, the comic series was comparable to Chic Young's family gag comic 'Blondie'. Thomas and Tineke were the spitting image of Dagwood and Blondie. Later, Buth would redesign Tineke so she would resemble his own wife more. 'Thomas Pips' gags continued in Het Volk until 9 January 1947.

From 9 January 1947 on, 'Thomas Pips' was retooled as a humorous adventure comic. Thomas became a detective, while his family members were written out of the series. They were replaced with new cast members, namely police officer Snoek, Giele the crow and Thomas' comic relief sidekick, Slappe Sys. Slappe Sys was originally a tramp. The first four stories were written by John Flanders. During the Tour de France of 1948, Buth was too busy drawing his daily cartoons, but afterwards 'Thomas Pips' returned to the paper, albeit again as a gag comic. From 16 November 1948 until 28 June 1949, two new serialized adventures ran in Het Volk, this time scripted by Lod Lavki (pseudonym of the priest Ludovic Van Winkel, 1893-1954). Under his pen, Pips became a family man again, while his son Flip served as his sidekick. 

On 24 September 1949, Het Volk moved 'Thomas Pips' to their Sunday supplement Ons Zondagsblad. It ran as a gag comic until 16 November 1952, after which Marc Sleen's 'Oktaaf Keunink' replaced it. Meanwhile, 'Thomas Pips' also appeared as an adventure and occasional gag comic in the children's comic magazine 't Kapoentje, a supplement to newspaper Het Volk. From 21 June 1951 until 1982, it was a mainstay in its pages. It also ran in French in 't Kapoentje's French-language sister magazine Le Petit Luron, although the title 'Thomas Pips' remained the same. During this period, two new cast members were added. Thomas Pips' son Flip was renamed Henkie in 1954, after the birth Buth's own second son, Henk. Thomas also received a next-door-neighbour, Kilo. Kilo is a tall, robust man, with whom Thomas has a love-hate relationship. In some gags and stories, they are good friends, while in others they are fierce rivals. Between 1958 and 1965, Buth also drew several one-panel gag cartoons featuring Thomas Pips trying out a specific sport. These sport-themed gags were collected in the 1997 book 'Thomas Pips. Sport en Spel' (Negende Kunst, 1997). 

In 1965, Marc Sleen left Het Volk and 't Kapoentje to join rival newspaper De Standaard. At the request of his editors, Buth therefore remodelled 'Thomas Pips' into a children's adventure comic again. In total, Het Volk published 27 'Thomas Pips' titles between 1965 and 1979, all scripted by Buth himself. He would draw the series until 1982. Publishers Worldstrips and De Negende Kunst reprinted some rare 'Thomas Pips' titles in the 1990s. 

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

Tour de France
In July 1947, the first post-war Tour de France was organized. It had been eight years since the last edition, so the media turned the return of this cycling event into a big spectacle. Newspaper Het Volk launched a special Tour-themed paper, 'Speciale Editie voor de Ronde van Frankrijk', the first of its kind in the Belgian press. To attract readers, their house cartoonists Marc Sleen and Buth made exclusive cartoons. Sleen drew a daily cartoon, summarizing each tournament of the Tour in a humorous drawing, filled with caricatures of the cyclists. Buth illustrated a daily column, supposedly written by his signature character Thomas Pips, but in reality by journalist Michel Casteels. Each of his illustrations featured Thomas on his bike, amidst a huge crowd of onlookers, rival cyclists, reporters and other people. Apart from Het Volk's Tour-themed paper, Sleen and Buth's cartoons also ran in their regular sports columns. While Sleen covered every Tour de France edition up until 1964, Buth continued even longer, up until 1982. Some of his Tour-themed illustrations were used to liven up Elle Saegeman's book 'Tourgedichten' (1976) and Guido Cammaert's book 'Tour de France Encyclopedia 1903-2003'. A special comic by Buth about Belgian cycling champion Eddy Merckx was published as 'Eddy Merckx. Zo Is Er Maar Eén' (Worldstrips, 2010). Buth's 'Thomas Pips' Tour de France cartoons have been collected in 'In de Ronde/ Dans le Tour' (Het Volk, 1980), which was reprinted twice by Worldstrips, namely in 1991 and 1995. 

Buth's 'Thomas Pips' sports cartoons are especially fondly remembered for their 'find the mouse' puzzles. As a running gag, Buth hid one or more mice in each panel. The paper organized daily readers' contests where people had to either look for one mouse or count how many rodents they could spot in total. Generations of Flemish readers have grown up searching for Buth's mice. In some Flemish neighborhoods, the activity was even included as part of their annual festivities. Buth's Tour de France cartoons are still reprinted in Flemish newspapers today, along with the mice-searching contests. In 2014, newspaper Het Nieuwsblad brought out a special comic, 'Zoek De Muizen van Thomas Pips in de Tour!', collecting all the 'mice cartoon' reprints.

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

Vader Kapoen Vertelt 
On 25 June 1969, Buth launched an educational comic series in the children's magazine 't Kapoentje, titled 'Vader Kapoen Vertelt' (1969-1982). The format was obviously inspired by 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul' in Spirou, created by Jean-Michel Charlier and Eddy Paape. Much like this series, a pipe-smoking fatherly figure told two children about the deeds of famous historical characters. However, there were still differences. In Spirou, the narrator character was presented as an uncle and his two young listeners were boys. Vader Kapoen, on the other hand, was a father who told stories to his son and daughter. Another notable change was that Oncle Paul was clean-shaven, while Vader Kapoen has a moustache. Buth was also not the inventor of the character 'Vader Kapoen', who had been used by editors of 't Kapoentje as early as the 1950s, albeit with a different look and only to introduce one-shot serialized stories and comics, drawn by Rik Clément. In his version of 'Vader Kapoen Vertelt', Buth didn't copy stories from 'Oncle Paul' either. Instead, he picked out biographies of historical characters he personally found interesting, like composer Gioacchino Rossini and art forger Han van Meegeren. In 2018, the 'Vader Kapoen' stories were reprinted in book format by publisher Bonte, under the title 'Levensschetsen'. 

Story illustration for 'De Vreselijke Roos', a werewolf horror tale by John Flanders, printed in 't Kapoentje #12 of 21 March 1973.

Other children's comics and illustrations
For Het Volk's children's magazine 't Kapoentje, Buth was most notable as the creator of 'Thomas Pips' and 'Vader Kapoen Vertelt'. But he also designed the headers of various weekly sections and livened up written stories with illustrations.  From 2 November 1950 on, he drew a fantasy version of the Flemish folklore character 'Tijl Uilenspiegel', which in 1955 was also published in book format by Sparta.

Buth was also present in the children's magazine Zonneland. Here he 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'. Several of Buth's stories for Zonneland were reprinted in the 2010s as comic books. Publisher Brabant Strip brough out 'Op Zoek Naar De Zonne-Eilanden' (2010), while Bonte re-released 'De Moeraskerels' (2014) and several Zonneland stories in one volume: 'Zonneland Verhalen' (2014). 

In addition, Buth drew 'De Avonturen van Joke en Maaike' in the magazine Tam-Tam (from September 1948 on).

Stanneke by Buth

Other adult comics and illustrations
From August 1947 until July 1951, Buth drew a series of cartoons for newspaper Het Volk titled 'Malcontenten'. They depicted local news about the city of Ghent. Between 1953 and 1956 he published the gag comic 'Stanneke' in Handel en Ambacht, the magazine for local tradespeople in Ghent. Stanneke featured the busy life of a working man. Readers of the weekly radio and TV magazine De Post could enjoy Buth's comic strip biographies of historical characters and adaptations of literary classics, like Rudolf Raspe's 'De Baron van Münchhausen' (1953), the medieval poem 'Reinaert de Vos' (1953) and Hendrik Conscience's 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' (1955-1956), most of which were published under the pseudonym Tijl. These last three titles were released as comic books by publishing company Sparta in 1955-1956. In 2000, his comic biography of Flemish poet Guido Gezelle was printed in book format by publisher Bonte.

In 1985, Flemish dramatist Freek Neirynck and comedian/actor Romain Deconinck scripted the comic book 'De Roâste Wassger' (1985), drawn by Buth and Erwin De Bie, serialized in the newspaper De Gentenaar and released in book format by their publishing company. The comic is an adaptation of a play by Neirynck and Deconinck about the real-life Ghent village eccentric Ernest De Vriendt (1879-1955), nicknamed 'De Roâste Wassger'. De Vriendt was an odd character often seen in Ghent during the interbellum. He would collect and clean the clothing of local prostitutes, hence his nickname, which means as much as "The Red Washer". Adding to his colorful appearance was his pet goat, whom he often took along with him. As early as 1947, De Vriendt had already received a cameo in a comic strip, namely 'De Hoed van Geeraard de Duivel' in Marc Sleen's 'The Adventures of Nero'.  

Buth 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. Other cartoonists who designed animated shorts for the same purpose were Hugoké and 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' (1949-1950) were not so subtly imitated by Buth in his own 1955-1956 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 Vertelt', about Dutch art forger Han van Meegeren. 

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 comic 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 comic history. 

Reinaert de Vos by Buth
'Reinaert de Vos' (1953).

Buth's Tour de France cartoons were on display in the European Cartoon Center in Kruishoutem, from 17 June until 30 September 2007. Between 30 November 2007 and 17 February 2008, Buth was subject of the exhibition 'Buth, Vader van Thomas Pips en Andere Muizenissen', held in the Kunsthal of the Sint-Pieters abbey in Ghent. 

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. 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 so are paintings." 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.

Books about Buth
For those interested in Buth's life and career, Danny De Laet's' 'Buth, Leven en Werk' (Negende Kunst, 2007) is highly recommended. 


Series and books by Buth you can order today:


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