Plunk by Luc Cromheecke
'Plunk!'

Luc Cromheecke is a Flemish comics artist, best known for several absurd humorous comics, of which the pantomime comic 'Plunk' (1989, 2006), about a pink extraterrestrial alien, is the most internationally recognizable. He gained a cult following with the surreal gag comics 'Tom Carbon' and 'Taco Zip' (both from 1985) and made the charming children' comic 'Roboboy' (2002-2009) with Willy Linthout. Cromheecke's style can be described as a cute, child-friendly mix between the Dupuis school and Flemish absurdism in the tradition of Marc Sleen. A frequent contributor to Spirou since 1985, he is one of the few Flemish artists who gained popularity in the French-speaking countries. His work has additionally been published into Spanish, Indonesian, Danish and German. Together with Bruno De Roover he created the biographical comic 'De Tuinen van Daubigny' (2016) about 19th-century French painter Charles-François Daubigny, which was a remarkable break with his usual style. 

Taco Zip by Luc Cromheecke
'Taco Zip and Plunk!'

Early life and influences
He was born in 1961 in Antwerp into an artistic family. His grandfather was a sculptor of religious statues and his great-uncle was the Antwerp animal sculptor Josué Dupon. He grew up reading Flemish comics like Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' and Marc Sleen's 'Nero', and also Franco-Belgian classics like 'Spirou' and André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe', Hergé's 'Tintin', 'Astérix' by Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny and 'Lucky Luke' by Morris and Goscinny. He later also developed an interest in the work of Dutch artists Windig & De Jong, the British caricaturist H.M. Bateman and the Americans Cliff Sterrett, George Herriman, Saul Steinberg, Peter Arno, Eldon Dedini, Sergio Aragonès and Robert Crumb, as well as the Frenchman Lewis Trondheim.

Bob Burk by Luc Cromheecke
First published comic page in Robbedoes: 'Bob Burk' (issue # 2177, 1980).

Early comics
Cromheecke was just 18 years old when his first comics were published in the magazines Blondie and Robbedoes. In Blondie he published a comic strip named 'Zap', about a motorcyclist who resembles Frank Zappa, one of Cromheecke's favorite musicians. In Robbedoes he published the humor comic about private investigator 'Bob Burk' (1980). He signed these with the pseudonyms "Zap" (again referring to Frank Zappa) and "Maf" (Dutch for "mad" or "looney"). In the early 1980s Cromheecke studied painting, graphics and advertising at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He dropped out because he frequently disagreed with his graphic arts teacher, particularly for doodling odd little characters on his etchings. Cromheecke preferred making silly comics with his pals Laurent Letzer and Fritzgerald for their own alternative magazine Flan Imperial, of which only one issue appeared in 1983. It also featured comics by the Dutch artists René Windig and Eddie de Jong.

Tom Carbon, by Luc Cromheecke
'Tom Carbon'

Tom Carbon
Cromheecke and Letzer created the character 'Tom Carbon', which they managed to get published in the weekly magazine Robbedoes and its Walloon counterpart Spirou in 1985. Tom Carbon is an odd uncle who originally told weird and funny fables and stories. Later he starred in his own series of hilarious adventures, of which the longer stories 'Luna Toys' (1988) and 'Tannenbaum' are the most notable. The latter remained unpublished for several years, because their publisher forced them to make the series into an one-page gag comic. Éditions Dupuis collected the series in four albums between 1991 and 1994. By 2010 'Tom Carbon' was picked up by the Dutch publishing house Strip2000. The first albums were reprinted with new covers, and 'Lunatoys' and 'Tannenbaum' got their long awaited album publications. In 2012 Glénat also published a French-language compendium.

Taco Zip, by Luc Cromheecke
'Taco Zip'

Taco Zip
For the mail section of the Robbedoes weekly Fritzgerald and Cromheecke created 'Taco Zip' (1985). They wanted to make a typical U.S. newspaper gag comic in the style of Charles M. Schulz's 'Peanuts' and Johnny Hart's 'B.C.', but with more absurd silliness close to Pévé's 'La Plus Mauvaise BD du Monde' ('The Worst Comic in the World') and Windig and De Jong's work. The central characters of 'Taco Zip' are police officer Vantilt, the bossy critter kapitein Piep, Harold the pig, Wilbur the duck and Plunk the extraterrestrial. However, many gags feature far more eccentric side characters and surreal plotlines, including a talking tree and a fridge which turns out to be a time portal to the Middle Ages. The series' silly comedy and non-sequiturs helped the series gain a cult following among readers. Some readers strongly disliked it, others loved it with a passion. It was even one of the few Dutch-language comics in Robbedoes to appear in its French-language counterpart Spirou too. 'Taco Zip' also appeared as a daily comic in the Flemish newspapers De Morgen (their section 'Metro'), Gazet van Antwerpen, Het Belang van Limburg and the Dutch paper De Volkskrant. Albums of 'Taco Zip' have been published by the Dutch publishers Oog & Blik and BeeDee.

Roboboy, by Luc Cromheecke
'Roboboy'

Ben, Le Forestier / Ben de Boswachter
For the French magazine Astrapi (Bayard Presse), Cromheecke and Letzer created 'Ben, le Forestier' (1996). It stars Ben, a bearded forest guard, and the talking animals he encounters in his woods. The character was used in some CD-roms issued by Astrapi too. Nevertheless the series only ran in two issues. It had a more succesful run in Suske en Wiske Weekblad, where it appeared in Dutch as 'Ben de Boswachter'. A series of animated cartoons about Ben were once considered for the Flemish commercial TV network VTM, but this project was eventually cancelled again. 

Roboboy
With Willy Linthout, he created the funny children's comic 'Roboboy' (2002-2009), which appeared in De Jommekeskrant and Taptoe (albeit under a different title: 'Supersnotneus'), Suske en Wiske Weekblad and Spirou. The comic centers around a little extraterrestrial robot who came from the planet Kryptobot. After a nuclear explosion he fell on Earth, where he is adopted by the childless couple Kwabbelmans and their dog Kastaar. The stories are notable for their funny and imaginative plots. Roboboy has trouble adapting to his new environment and vice versa. Many people find him strange, because he is not a "real" boy. Since he's a robot he likes to drink oil and has numerous unusual gadgets hidden inside his suit. Some people dislike him, while others just misunderstand his good intentions. Yet, he often manages to surprise people and subvert their prejudices. It should not be confused with Jan van Rijsselberge's animated TV character 'Robotboy' (2005-2008). 

'Roboboy' won the award for 'Best Dutch-language author' and 'Best Dutch-language children's album' at the Prix Saint-Michel Festival in Brussels. During the Stripdagen in Alphen aan den Rijn it also won the award for 'Best Dutch-language children's album.' 

Plunk by Luc Cromheecke
'Plunk!'

Plunk
Another well-known character by Cromheecke and Letzer - perhaps their most universally recognizable - is Plunk. The bizarre pink creature with the green funnel on its head was originally created for the Belgian Centre of Comic Art in Brussels in 1989. Cromheecke drew a two-page comic about a comics artist who imagines his character 'Plunk' becoming a global success. In the final panel it turns out it was all just a daydream: the crowd who cheered "Plunk! Plunk!" was just water dripping from the ceiling of his paltry apartment. Cromheecke and Letzer made this one-shot comic strip purely for educational purposes. It illustrates the various possible steps a comic strip can make in order to become a best-selling franchise. Plunk himself was just the most stupid and ridiculous character they could imagine. They had no plans to ever use him again. Ironically enough this "fictional" character eventually became a genuine comic book character. In 1990 Plunk became a side character in 'Taco Zip'. 16 years later he received his own gag comic, 'Plunk!' (2006). He even managed to become an actual global success! The pantomime nature of the gags allows an easy translation. He has appeared in Spirou but also in the Dutch magazines Myx and Eppo, the Arabic magazine Majid and even in Norway and a Chinese youth magazine! Plunk has become somewhat of a mascot for Belgian comics - he has lent his name to the Flemish comics prize De Plastieken Plunk ("The Plastic Plunk") and received his own statue in Kapellen, Belgium in 2012.

Political propaganda comic
In the spring of 2004 Cromheecke made a political propaganda comic, 'Geen Aardlingen Belasten, Maar Limonade' ('Don't tax Earthlings, but lemonade') for the kartel between the liberal parties VLD and Vivant. The work was unsigned, but clearly recognizable as his style.  Other Belgian cartoonists who once made propaganda comics promoting local politicians have been  Mark Janssen and Geert Kinnaert.

Later work for Spirou
Cromheecke, Letzer and Fritzgerald remained associated with Spirou and Robbedoes until 1997, when their contract was terminated due to low sales in France. They chose to work for other publications for a while. By 2000 Cromheecke returned to Spirou, but not Robbedoes which was already going downhill in terms of quality and sales. In 2005 Robbedoes would be terminated, though reprints of 'Taco Zip' and 'Tom Carbon' gags kept appearing until the final issue, which had Taco Zip on its cover. Cromheecke still works for the editorial board of Spirou to this day. Together with Jean-Michel Thiriet he makes a weekly cartoon to promote the magazine and attract new subscribers. 

Between 2011 and 2014, Cromheecke began a new comic with French scriptwriter and cartoonist Sti who admired 'Tom Carbon'. Their joint effort, 'L'île Carrément Perdue' appeared in Spirou and the Dutch magazine Eppo as 'Het Godvrrgeten Eiland'. The series follows a castaway and his dog who are stranded on a deserted island. In typical Cromheecke fashion they meet a bunch of funny side characters, such as local natives, pirates and various exotic animals. 

L'île Carrément Perdue by Cromheecke and Sti
'L'île Carrément Perdue'

De Tuin van Daubigny
Besides his work as a comic artist, Cromheecke is also active as a landscape painter. He has a fascination for the obscure 19th-century French impressionistic landscape painter Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878). Daubigny worked in a sketchy - not too say cartoony - style, devoid of any pretense. Cromheecke wasn't just interested by his artwork, but also his life. The painter loved painting landscapes from the comfort of his little boat. Despite not being a household name Daubigny did have a strong influence on the French impressionist movement and Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. As it so happened Cromheecke met comics writer Bruno De Roover who shared his enthusiasm for Daubigny. They decided to create a biographical graphic novel about the artist to expand his fame among modern audiences. Cromheecke went to the Vlaams Fonds der Letteren (Flemish Literary Fund) to ask for a subsidy to make the album. He received permission, but their first draft was refused. After reworking it the project was greenlighted, but it nevertheless still took two to three years before it was published in its final form. 'De Tuin van Daubigny' (2016) was made in cooperation with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam too and met with critical acclaim. An English-language translation is available too. Out of all of Cromheecke's works 'De Tuin van Daubigny' was a remarkable break in style. Even though his graphic trademarks are easily recognizable, the themes are far removed from his usual humoristic work.

De tuin van Daubigny

Exhibitions
Between 12 June and 15 August 2015 a large exposition about Cromheecke's work for Robbedoes and Spirou was held in De Warande in Turnhout, Belgium. It celebrated 30 years of contributions and travelled all across Europe, among them our Gallery Lambiek in February 2016. An exhibition of his Daubigny work called 'Cromheecke Tekent Daubigny' was on display in de Mesdag Collection in The Hague in 2016.

Graphic homages
Cromheecke drew a homage to Marc Sleen in the book 'Marc Sleen 90. Liber Amicorum' (2012) and to André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' in the collective tribute album 'Gefeliciflaterd!' (2017).

Recognition
Over the years the artist has received several prizes for his work, among them two Prix Saint-Michels for 'Best Dutch-language author' and 'Best Dutch-language Children's Album' and 'Best Dutch-language Children's Album' during the Stripdagen in Alphen aan den Rijn. In 2015 he was honoured with the Bronzen Adhemar, the most important Flemish comics Prize. A year later he won the Vlaamse Cultuurprijs voor Letteren (2016), a prestigious Flemish Culture Award for Literary Achievements, in the category 'comics'. 

Personal life
Luc Cromheecke is married to comics colorist Sabine De Meyer, who works for Studio Vandersteen and also colorizes Cromheecke's comics. 

Tom Carbon, by Luc Cromheecke

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