Plunk by Luc Cromheecke

Luc Cromheecke is a Flemish comic 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. Cromheecke gained a cult following with the surreal gag comics 'Tom Carbon' and 'Taco Zip' (both from 1985) and, scripted by Willy Linthout, drew the charming children's comic 'Roboboy' (2002-2009). 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 graphic novel 'De Tuinen van Daubigny' (2016) about 19th-century French painter Charles-François Daubigny, and 'De Magnifieke Monet' (2023), a three-volume graphic novel series about painter Claude Monet.

Taco Zip by Luc Cromheecke
'Taco Zip and Plunk!' Translation: "Hey, Plunk, I didn't know you played guitar!" - "Me neither, but since I have been making sounds with this thing it's difficult to deny!" 

Early life and influences
Luc Cromheecke 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 Josuë Dupon. Cromheecke 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 only 18 years old when his first comics were published in the magazines Blondie and Robbedoes. In Blondie, he made a comic strip,'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 pseudonym "Maf" (Dutch for "mad" or "looney"). Other early work by Cromheecke appeared in De Gazet van Antwerpen (the comic 'Wendy en de Ufonauten'), Knack, Top, TV-Express, Stic, Carrick, Kartoen and some action group papers. 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 because he doodled 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 1987. It also featured comics by Pévé, Philippe Bercovici, Hugo van Look and 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' (1985), printed in the weekly magazine Robbedoes and its Walloon counterpart Spirou. 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. Between 1991 and 1994, Éditions Dupuis collected the series in four albums. 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'. Translation: "Let's read my horoscope for today: 'Watch out today! Especially for people in your direct vicinity." - "Well, well, Vantilt, reading your little paper during office hourse?!". 

Taco Zip
For the mail section of the weekly Robbedoes, Fritzgerald and Cromheecke created the gag comic 'Taco Zip' (1985). They modelled it after U.S. newspaper comics like 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 'Heinz'. 'Taco Zip' stars the pig-faced police officer Vantilt, his bossy superior Kapitein Piep (who is a mouse) and more wacky characters, like Harold the pig, Wilbur the duck and Plunk the extraterrestrial. Many gags feature even 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 'Taco Zip' gain a cult following. Some readers strongly disliked it, others loved it with a passion. Along with Wim Stevenhagen and Gerrit de Jager's 'Roel en Zijn Beestenboel', it was one of the few Dutch-language comics to appear both in Robbedoes and its French-language counterpart Spirou. '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

Ben, Le Forestier / Ben de Boswachter
For the French magazine Astrapi (Bayard Presse), Cromheecke and Laurent 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 also used in some CD-roms issued by Astrapi. Nevertheless, the series only ran in two issues. It had a more succesful run in the comic weekly 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. 

With Willy Linthout, Cromheecke created the charming 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 series centers around a little extraterrestrial robot who came from the planet Kryptobot. After a nuclear explosion, he fell on Earth, 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

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 comic 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). The pantomime nature of the gags allowed for 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. So, ironically enough, the character effectively achieved his international career.

Plunk has become a mascot for Belgian comics - he lent his name to the Flemish comics prize De Plastieken Plunk ("The Plastic Plunk"). On 2 October 2012 received his own statue in the Oude Heidestraat in Kapellen, Belgium, designed by Joris Peeters. 

Political propaganda comic
In the spring of 2004, Cromheecke made a party 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 party propaganda comics have been Rik ClémentIanMark 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. After working for other magazines for a while, Cromheecke returned to Spirou in 2000. Reprints of 'Taco Zip' and 'Tom Carbon' kept appearing in Spirou and Robbedoes, until Robbedoes' final issue in 2005. Cromheecke's new comics appeared exclusively in Spirou and he remains part of their editorial board to this day. Together with Jean-Michel Thiriet, he makes a weekly cartoon to promote the magazine and attract new subscribers. 

L'Île Carrément Perdue / Het Godvrrgeten Eiland
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
Apart from 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. The painter loved painting landscapes from the comfort of his little boat. Despite not being a household name, Daubigny had a strong influence on the French impressionist movement and Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. As it happened, Cromheecke met comic writer Bruno De Roover who shared his enthusiasm for Daubigny. They made 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 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 and met with critical acclaim. An English-language translation is available too. Out of all of Cromheecke's works, 'De Tuin van Daubigny' iss a remarkable break in style. Even though his graphic trademarks are easily recognizable, the themes are far removed from his usual humorous work.

De Magnifieke Monet
After his Daubigny book, Cromheecke began working on a pantomime four-volume graphic novel series about the life of Claude Monet, of which the first volume, 'De Magnifieke Monet', was published in 2023.

De Toet van Tut
Willy Linthout wrote 'De Toet van Tut' (2020), illustrated by Luc Cromheecke, a story starring the characters from Marc Sleen's comic series 'Nero' in their second adventure after the maestro's death in 2016. From 1 July 2020 on, the homage story was prepublished in Knack. 

De tuin van Daubigny
'De Tuin van Dabigny'.

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 others to our Gallery Lambiek in February 2016. An exhibition of his Daubigny work, 'Cromheecke Tekent Daubigny' (2016), was on display in de Mesdag Collection in The Hague.

Graphic contributions
Cromheecke and Laurent Letzer paid tribute to Nikita Mandryka in the collective comic book 'Tronches de Concombre' (Dupuis, 1995). Cromheecke drew a homage to Pom in 'Kroepie en Boelie Boemboem. Avontuur In De 21e Eeuw' (Nouga, 2010), Marc Sleen in the book 'Marc Sleen 90. Liber Amicorum' (Standaard Uitgeverij, 2012) and to André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' in 'Gefeliciflaterd!' (Dupuis, 2017), all collective tribute albums. He was one of many artists to pay tribute to Ever Meulen during the 'Ever Meulen & Friends' exhibition in October 2017 in Brussels. 

Over the years, Cromheecke has received several prizes for his work, among them two Prix Saint-Michels for 'Best Dutch-language author' (2002) and 'Best Dutch-language Children's Album' (2003). He was honored with 'Best Dutch-language Children's Album' (2003) during the Stripdagen in Alphen aan den Rijn. In 2015, he received 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 comic colorist Sabine De Meyer, who works for Studio Vandersteen and also colors Cromheecke's comics. 

Tom Carbon, by Luc Cromheecke
'Tom Carbon'. 

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