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.
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 was a painter and a good friend of the famous expressionist painter Frits Van den Berghe. 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 Harold Foster's 'Prince Valiant', Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' and Chic Young's 'Blondie'. But his main mentor was Frits Van Den Berghe, who educated him in drawing until his death in 1939.
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.
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 In 1947 he received a lifelong publication ban, which was withdrawn in 1951.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 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.
Thomas Pips' is however best known for his annual adventures during the Tour de France. In 1947 Buth started making one cycling-themed cartoon a day during the entire tournament. In each picture he hid a mouse. 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. Some of his illustrations were used as decoration for Guido Cammaert's book 'Tour de France encyclopedia 1903-2003'.
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 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', 'De Moeraskerels', 'De Zwijgende Parelvissers' 'Vacantie aan de Grens', and 'Het Gezin van Marc Trenters'. In addition, he drew 'De Avonturen van Joke en Maaike' in Tam-Tam (1948) and a fantastic version of the Flemish folktale 'Tijl Uilenspiegel' for 't Kapoentje in 1950.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.