Luc Cromheecke has been active in several artistic fields, but he is best known as the creator of absurd humorous comics like 'Taco Zip', 'Tom Carbon', 'Roboboy' and 'Plunk'. His humor is a mix of the Dupuis-school and the 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.
Taco Zip and Plunk!
He was born 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 'Suske en Wiske' by Willy Vandersteen and 'Nero' by Marc Sleen, and also Franco-Belgian classics like 'Spirou' and 'Gaston' by André Franquin, 'Tintin' by Hergé, '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.
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 under the pseudonyms "Zap" (again referring to Frank Zappa) and "Maf" (Dutch for "mad" or "looney"). In the early eighties, he studied painting, graphics and advertising at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He abandoned his studies, because he wanted to draw silly stories 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.
Cromheecke and Letzer then 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' started out as a series about an uncle who told weird and funny fables and stories, but later he too got involved in hilarious adventures. Notable are the long 'Tom Carbon' serials 'Luna Toys' (1988) and 'Tannenbaum'. The latter remained unpublished for several years, because the authors were forced to turn their comic into a one-page gag strip on demand of the publisher. Éditions Dupuis collected the series in four albums between 1991 and 1994. It was picked up by the Dutch publishing house Strip2000 in 2010. The first albums were reprinted with new covers, and 'Lunatoys' and 'Tannenbaum' got their long awaited album publications. The first albums were also collected in a French-language compendium by Glénat in 2012.
Together with Fritzgerald, Cromheecke created the more absurd 'Taco Zip' strip. It initially appeared in the mail section of Robbedoes in 1985, and later continued on a daily base in newspaper De Volkskrant. 'Taco Zip' also appeared in the Flemish newspapers De Morgen, Gazet van Antwerpen and Het Belang van Limburg and eventually returned to the pages of Robbedoes/Spirou. The character also appeared on the cover of the final issue of the Flemish Robbedoes in 2005. Several albums of the strip were released by the Dutch publishers Oog & Blik and BeeDee.
For the French magazine Astrapi (Bayard Presse), Cromheecke and Letzer created 'Ben, le Forestier' ('Ben de Boswachter') in 1996. This strip also appeared in Suske en Wiske Weekblad. With Willy Linthout, he created the funny children's comic 'Roboboy', which appeared in Taptoe, 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. 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 destroy their prejudices.
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 appeared 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 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.
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. Between 2011 and 2014, Cromheecke began a new comic with French scriptwriter and cartoonist Sti for Spirou, called 'L'île Carrément Perdue', which was published in the Dutch magazine Eppo as 'Het godvrrgeten eiland'. He furthermore makes Spirou's weekly cartoon to attract new subscribers since the early 2000s.
Besides his work as a comic artist, Cromheecke is also active as a landscape painter. His fascination for the stories about French impressionistic landscape painter Charles-François Daubigny (1817-1878), led to the critically acclaimed graphic novel 'De tuin van Daubigny', which he made with scriptwriter Bruno De Roover. Cromheecke worked on this comics biography for five years, and it was published in cooperation with the Van Gogh Museum in 2016. Although Cromheecke's style is easily recognizable, the themes are far removed from his usual humoristic work.
In 2005 a large exposition about Taco Zip was held in Turnhout, Belgium. It travelled all across Europe and also visited our Gallery Lambiek in February 2006. An exhibition of his Daubigny work called 'Cromheecke Tekent Daubigny' starts in de Mesdag Collection in The Hague in 2016. Luc Cromheecke has received several prizes for his work, such as the Bronzen Adhemar, the official Flemish Community Cultural Prize for Comics, in 2015. He was awarded the Culture Prize for Literature in 2016.