Jump by Charel Cambré
Jump - 'De IJzervreter' (2008).

Charel Cambré is a Flemish illustrator, animator and comics artist. He first came to notice with various celebrity comics based on popular Flemish media stars, such as 'De Pfaffs' (2002-2003), 'Spring' (2004-2007), 'Mega Mindy' (2007-2009) and 'K3' (2009-2010). Since 2005 he is one of the artists continuing Willy Vandersteen's long-running and succesful series 'Suske en Wiske', assisting Luc Morjaeu. He was also the artist who drastically rebooted the franchise with the spin-off series 'Amoras' (2013), scripted by Marc Legendre. This modernized and more mature spin-off polarized audiences, but nevertheless became a huge bestseller, paving the way for other projects reimagining Vandersteen's characters. Cambré also drew a series of his own named 'Jump' (2007-2015), about a group of adventurous teenagers. He is one of the few artists in the otherwise so despised celebrity comics genre who managed to outgrow this niche and gain more respect from critics and audiences alike. Not only is his artwork more accomplished, but he is also able to write funny gags and stories of his own. Cambré proved himself to be a witty satirist as well, thanks to his gag comic 'Albert en Co' (2008-2013, renamed 'Filip & Mathilde' from 2013 on) about the Belgian royal family. He and Legendre also created the satirical comic 'Schuimslagers' (2011), which satirizes Belgian politics and the European Union through the metaphor of a shipwrecked crew on a deserted island, and a retro-styled Flemish rendition of the Franco-Belgian classic 'Spirou et Fantasio' ('Robbedoes Special', 2017-2018). 

Early life 
Cambré was born in Herenthout in 1968. His parents owned a local bar and he learned drawing on beer felts when he was young. Cambré studied arts at the Kunsthumaniora of Lier for three years, and then spent another four years at the Animation Academy in Ghent. He ranks the "School of Marcinelle" with artists like André Franquin, Jean Roba, Albert Uderzo, Berck and Will among his main artistic influences.

Street Kids, by Charel Cambre (2000)
'Street Kids' (2000).

Jaak / Streetkids
He cooperated with several French and German animation projects through Graphics & Animations in Antwerp, making storyboards and lay-outs. He  worked in advertising through Disket in Turnhout. Cambré also drew cartoons for magazines, including the weekly feature 'Jaak' in Vacature. In the late 1990s the young artist proposed his gag comic 'Streetkids' to Suske en Wiske Weekblad, and was accepted. 'Streetkids' featured the humoristic adventures of two hip boys, Dolf and Ket. Unfortunately Suske en Wiske Weekblad published its final issue in 2003, which meant the end of 'Streetkids' too. 

De Pfaffs
Between 2002 and 2003 Cambré drew two comic book albums based on the popular reality TV series 'De Pfaffs' starring goal keeper Jean-Marie Pfaff and his family. The stories were pre-published in Dag Allemaal and published in album format by House of Books. Cambré wasn't the first comics artist to publish a comic book about Pfaff, though. Two decades earlier, in 1984, F. Defossez already drew 'Jean-Marie Pfaff - De Held van München'. While 'De Pfaffs' sold well much of the profits went to VTM, the channel that broadcast and produced the series. After two albums the publisher couldn't invest in any more titles. 

De Pfaffs, by Charel Cambre
De Pfaffs 2 - 'Kan de Sam nog zingen?', featuring a caricature of Lyndsey Pfaff, daughter of Jean-Marie Pfaff.

Studio 100
By that point Cambré was already creating celebrity comics for Studio 100, the succesful Flemish media concern who specialize in various popular children's TV series and associated merchandising. Aided by scriptwriters Luc Morjaeu and Bruno de Roover and inkers Steven Dupré, Randall.C, Roberto Bazal and Pol Vierset, he drew 'Spring!' (2004-2007) - based on the eponymous teenage TV soap - and 'Mega Mindy' (2007-2009) - based on the children's TV superheroine. The cast members of 'Spring' were frequently replaced by other actors, which forced Cambré to remodel his comics stars in between all the other commissions he already had. He got more enjoyment out of 'Mega Mindy', for which he wrote most of the comics narratives personally. Unfortunately the sales of the comics weren't lucrative enough to continue. In 2009 Cambré  succeeded Patriek Roelens as the artist of the comic series about Studio 100's popular girl group K3, which was scripted by Jan Ruysbergh and inked by Pol Vierset. The trio made two 'K3' albums. It took until 2019 before the new line-up of K3 starred in a new comics series, this time written by Bruno de Roover and drawn by Dirk Stallaert.


Mega Mindy #6 - 'De Superplant'.

Assistant work
In 2005 Marc Verhaegen was fired as the main artist behind 'Suske en Wiske' at Studio Vandersteen. This opened opportunities for Luc Morjaeu and Cambré, who joined the studio and quickly worked themselves up as two of the franchise's prime artists, with Morjaeu as the lead artist of the main series. The first album they collaborated on was 'Het Slapende Goud' (2005), along with Walter Van Gasse.  Cambré also assisted Tom Bouden on a few adventures of 'Kroepie en Boelie Boemboem'.

Jump 
In 2007 Cambré managed to launch his own comics strip, 'Jump', published by Standaard Uitgeverij. This children's series centers around the courageous young skater Dweezil, confident inline skater Lisa, geeky but clever BMX'er Brains and his pet armadillo Armando. At first Cambré feared that audiences might confuse 'Jump' with his other series 'Spring', since the verb "springen" means "to jump" in Dutch. But luckily 'Spring' was cancelled, so this confusion was prevented. 'Jump' was prepublished in Zonneland. Cambré wrote and drew all stories in the 'Jump' series personally, but left the inking to Jan van Rooij and Jos VanspauwenTom Metdepenningen has served as the comic's colorist. He has also given public relations workshops about the series. One of the series' admirers was veteran cartoonist Merho. For the 12th 'Jump' album, 'De Kop van Kiekeboe', he gave Cambré permission to make a cross-over with the cast of his own series 'De Kiekeboes'. In 2012 Standaard Uitgeverij cancelled the series, but it found a new home at publisher Strip2000. Up until 2015 about 19 albums of 'Jump' have been published, some gags, other full-blown adventure stories. In these modern times quite an achievement for a comics series not based on a popular media franchise.

Filip & Mathilde
In 2008 Cambré created his first comic strip for a more adult audience: 'Albert & Co' (2008). The idea came from Sophie Verbist, employee at House of Books, who wanted Cambré to create a gag comic about the Belgian royal family. Such an idea had never been attempted before, although king Baudouin/Boudewijn and Albert II had occasionally been given cameos in comics series like Marc Sleen's 'Nero' and Willy Linthout's 'Urbanus'. Guido van Meir and Jan Bosschaert's one-shot comic book 'Pest in 't Paleis' (1983) had poked fun at Boudewijn and queen Fabiola too, but only as side characters. Verbist suggested stand-up comedian Geert Hoste as scriptwriter for Cambré's comic. At the time Hoste enjoyed tremendous popularity in Flanders with his annual theatre shows poking fun at current events and particularly the monarchy. Yet their collaboration didn't go so well. Although the plan was cancelled the artist still liked the idea enough to send some material to publisher Glénat, who instantly greenlighted the project.

Albert & Co by Charel Cambré
Albert & Co - 02 - 'Op Reis Naar Oostende!'. Belgian king Albert II is surprised to see his son Prince Laurent take a picture of Prince Filip on a toy horse. Laurent's comment: "It's a pity you don't have a white beard, because otherwise you would be the spitting image of uncle Leopold" refers to Belgian king Leopold II. In a case of life imitates art Prince Philip would later start wearing a beard in real life! 

The series started off as 'Albert & Co', with king Albert II as main protagonist and the rest of the family as side characters. When the monarch abdicated in 2013 in favor of his son Filip, the comic underwent a title change: 'Filip van België', since it was now published by Strip2000. Three years later, when a new publisher took over, Ballon Media, the title was changed again to 'Filip & Mathilde'. 'Filip & Mathilde' depicts former king Albert II, his wife Paola, king Filip & queen Mathilde, prince Laurent & princess Claire and their respective children in exaggerated versions of their public image. Originally former queen Fabiola was a recurring character too, but after her death in 2014 she was written out of the series. Cambré draws 'Filip & Mathilde' completely on his own, while Jos Vanspauwen provides the inking. Cambré also writes his own gags. He stated that the characters provide an endless source of funny material. Quite an understatement, given that, as of today, 'Filip & Mathilde' is effectively his longest-running comics series still in production! All episodes are prepublished in Story. It was also his first comic strip to be published in both Dutch as well as French. No surprise, given that the royal family is more popular in Wallony. However, since the celebrity comic is a gentle satire it's enjoyable to both royalists as well as republicans. 

Schuimslagers
On 20 July 2011 Marc Legendre scripted a satirical comic strip, 'Schuimslagers', which was drawn by Cambré and prepublished in Knack during the summer. The story satirizes the European Union and the then ongoing Belgian government formation crisis. Herman Van Rompuy (European president at the time) is depicted as the captain of a huge ship, with German chancellor Angela Merkel as first mate and French president Nicolas Sarkozy as boatswain. Suddenly their ship starts making water because sailor Giorgos Papandreou, jr. (Prime Minister of Greece at the time) didn't close the porthole, in reference to Greece's bankruptcy in the late 2000s which caused a crisis within the union. Their ship strands in Belgium, where they are instantly baffled by all the quarreling local politicians. Merkel asks the Belgians to direct them to "their leader". Unfortunately nobody in the country knows who that might be, since government negotiations are still ongoing. She is directed to the previous leader Yves Leterme (who remained PM as long as the crisis wasn't solved), depicted as an ineffective beach guard. Leterme directs her to Bart De Wever and Elio Di Rupo, winners of last elections, who are still playing their game of Stratego. Since both refuse to quit their game nothing is happening. Meanwhile, on board of the stranded ship, mutiny is at hand...


'Schuimslagers', with cameos of German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero, President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and European President Herman van Rompuy. Zapatero's line 'I know nothing' is a reference to Manuel the Spanish waiter from the TV sitcom 'Fawlty Towers'. 

'Schuimslagers' was well received by Knack's readers and hailed as the best political satire in comic book form since Humo published Guido van Meir and Jan Bosschaert's 'Pest in 't Paleis' (1983). Legendre and Cambré's comic is brimful with funny cameos of European politicians such as Catherine Ashton, José Manuel Barroso, Silvio Berlusconi, Brian Cowen, Jan Kees de Jager, José Ángel Gurría, Viktor Orbán, Viviane Reding, Mark Rutte,José Sócrates, Jean-Claude Trichet, Geert Wilders, José Luis Zapatero and Belgian politicians like king Albert II, Gerolf Annemans, Wouter Beke, Siegfried Bracke, Pieter De Crem, Alexander De Croo, Karel De Gucht, Jean-Luc Dehaene, Filip Dewinter, Caroline Gennez, Paul Magnette, Olivier Maingain, Charles Michel, Joëlle Milquet, Kris Peeters, Jan Peumans, Didier Reynders, Annemie Turtelboom, Vic Van Aelst, Wouter van Besiën, Johan Vande Lanotte, Frank Vandenbroucke and Guy Verhofstadt. Belgian animal welfare activist Michel Vandenbosch, Belgian historian David Van Reybrouck and Dutch historian Geert Mak also have cameos. 

Ironically enough the entire comic strip stranded too when Knack's chief editor Karl van den Broeck - who greenlighted its publication - was fired. As such the story ended prematurely with the ironic caption 'To be continued?' Despite a satisfying conclusion to the narrative 'Schuimslagers' was still only 16 pages long, too short for an album publication. 

Amoras by Charel Cambré
'Amoras'.

Amoras
Between 2012 and 2015 Legendre and Cambré also breathed new life in 'Suske en Wiske' by creating a five-volume spin-off series named 'Amoras', based on an original idea of Ronald Grossey who previously made a similar reboot of Vandersteen's 'De Rode Ridder' with Marvano under the name 'The Red Knight'. While 'The Red Knight' was hardly commented upon 'Amoras' caused a veritable media storm! Online teasers showed a more realistic drawing style with mature, action-packed and even gory content. The official press release went so far to publish an obituary for the character Wiske, which further outraged fans. 'Amoras' is set in the future year of 2047, with Suske and Wiske being young adults rather than children. Other characters and familiar elements of the franchise are reimagined in the style of an American superhero comic. The project either intrigued or upset audiences. Some felt it betrayed the fun and family-friendly spirit of the original series by making it overly violent, erotic and filled with foul language. It bowed down to commercialism and Americanized a beloved Flemish classic. Others felt 'Amoras' was a fresh new look at the franchise, which actually took some chances the original series never dared (or was allowed ) to take. Either way Standaard Uitgeverij reassured purists that the traditional 'Suske en Wiske' stories would keep running without any changes and that 'Amoras' would be its own separate entity.

As always, the scandal did translate in huge sales. 'Amoras' even became the bestselling 'Suske en Wiske' album in decades! This paved the way for more 'Amoras' albums and new spin-offs. Vandersteen's 'Jerom, de Gouden Stuntman' was also rebooted as 'J.Rom- Force of Gold' (2014-2016), a spin-off series by Romano Molenaar and Bruno De Roover, which reimagined Jerom as an American-style superhero. When the original 'Amoras' cycle was concluded after six albums, Cambré and Legendre embarked upon a prequel series called 'De Kronieken van Amoras' ("The Chronicles of Amoras", 2017), which focuses on the backgrounds of secondary characters. After three albums about major villain Krimson (2017-2018), the dangerous and magical "Zwarte Madam" ("Dark Lady") became the center of attention. In 2015 Cambré, Ilah, Jan Bosschaert, Ivan Adriaenssens, Kim Duchateau and Kris Martens were asked to draw an adventure of 'Suske en Wiske' in their own style, based on a story by a celebrity. Cambré made the story 'De Spitse Bergen' with actor and TV host Tom Waes. The proceeds went to S.O.S. Children's Villages.


De Kronieken van Amoras #4 - 'Gardavu!'

Pinanti United
In 2015 Cambré launched the gag series 'Pinanti United', which is pre-published in the magazine Fan. It centers around an obese association football trainer, Raymond, who tries to run his juvenile club Pinanti United, despite continuous failures. The comic is notable for featuring regular cameos of real-life football stars.

Spirou/Robbedoes Special
Following their successful stint on 'Amoras', Cambré and Legendre proposed Ballon Media to make a spin-off of 'Spirou et Fantasio' ('Robbedoes en Kwabbernoot' in Dutch) as well. The publisher saw the opportunity to give this Franco-Belgian classic a boost on the Flemish and Dutch market, and greenlighted the project for three albums. The first album, 'Happy Family', appeared in a limited series called 'Robbedoes Special' in May 2017, and was followed by 'Het Plan van Wiebeling' (2017) and 'De Wolfman' (2018). The duo additionally made a special story to promote the 2018 Red Nose Day, a fundraising event for the mental welfare of youngsters at school. Wim Swerts, Michiel Offerman and Steve Van Bael have all lended a helping hand in the production of these stories. Unlike their more controversial take on 'Suske en Wiske', Legendre and Cambré's 'Spirou' is more classically oriented and reliant on slapstick comedy, influenced by the albums of earlier 'Spirou' artists like André Franquin, Jean-Claude Fournier and Nic Broca. Following Cambré and Legendre's Flemish 'Spirou', artists from other countries got the opportunity to create a 'Spirou & Fantasio' for their local markets as well. Hanco Kolk wrote and drew 'Tulpen uit Istanboel' (2017) for a Dutch audience, while Flix created 'Spirou in Berlin' (2018) for Germany.

Graphic contributions
Cambré was one of many artists to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' in the book 'Suske en Wiske 60 Jaar!' (2005). He furthermore made contributions to 'Defensie Stript' (2005), a comic book to promote the Belgian army and 'Brussel in Beeldekens' (2009), a collaborative comics project about the history of Brussels. Another comic strip Cambré paid homage to was Jef Nys' Jommeke in the book 'Jommekes Bij De Vleet' (2010) and André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' in the collective homage album 'Gefelicitaart!' (2017).


Robbedoes - 'Happy Family'. The café owner in the second image is a caricature of André Franquin.

Series en boeken door Charel Cambré op voorraad in de Lambiek Webshop:

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