Bob De Moor was one of the masters of the Belgian "Ligne Claire" ("'Clear Line") style. He is best known for creating series like 'Meester Mus' ('Monsieur Tric'), 'Cori de Scheepsjongen' ('Cori le Moussaillon') and 'Barelli' for Tintin, but he was also a loyal assistant to Hergé and Jacques Martin and a versatile contributor to Flemish comic magazines. Throughout his entire career he switched between humorous and dramatic narratives with the greatest of ease. He was the first artist to draw the long-running children's gag comic 'De Lustige Kapoentjes'. Some of his most impressive artwork can be read in his historical comics, of which 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' ('The Lion of Flanders') remains a classic. His masterpiece, however, is 'Cori de Scheepsjongen' (1952-1993). The thrilling adventures of a young cabin boy who sails along with the Dutch East India Company in the 16th-17th century are a stunning and vivacious expression of De Moor's love for ships and the ocean. Overall, De Moor was a versatile talent who somewhat unfortunately sacrificed most of his personal career in function of Hergé. As a result the general public is less familiar with his name than they ought to be, while millions of readers have unknowingly seen his artwork in 'Tintin' without even realizing it.
Robert "Bob" De Moor was born in Antwerp in 1925 as the son of a technical artist who drew tools for a living. Throughout his entire life De Moor had a keen interest in shipping. Even as a child he often visited the Antwerp harbour to watch the ships come in and go by. He adored maritime novels and films, particularly those set in the 16th and 17th century. From his youth on he documented himself thoroughly about the subject, down to how ships were exactly built and constructed. De Moor became such an expert in the matter that he was able to spot inaccurate details in the way ships were portrayed in Hollywood films and book illustrations. Still, he felt more for a career as an artist than a sailor. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in his native city Antwerp. During World War Two he worked for the AFIM animation studios, where he drew backgrounds for productions like 'Smidje Smee' and 'Pimmeke'. One of his colleagues there was Ray Goossens.
While the Liberation in 1944 brought peace back to Belgium, De Moor was also severely injured by a piece of shrapnel and lost the middle and ring finger of his left hand. This didn't hinder his graphical career, though. Shortly after the war, he began a steady production of comic strips for the Belgian press. To keep up with the workload, he eventually founded the Artec Studio with his brother-in-law John van Looveren, who did the business part and some scriptwork. Other artists involved were Armand van Meulebroeck and Jef and François Cassiers (who were best known as the Flemish comedy duo De Woodpeckers. Jef Cassiers would later also become the scriptwriter of a gag comic based on his comedic TV character Het Manneken, drawn by Marc Payot.) For someone with such a love for ships and boats it came to no surprise that De Moor's first comic strip, 'Bart, de Scheepsjongen' (1945-1946), followed the adventures of a cabin boy in the late 16th century. The comic was published in De Kleine Zondagsvriend, the youth supplement of the newspaper De Zondagsvriend. Other comics by De Moor published in this magazine were 'Inspecteur Marks' (1946-1947), 'De Lotgevallen van Hannes Boegspriet (1946-1947)', 'Hobbel en Sobbel' (1946-1950), 'Dat Wondere Pimpeltje' (1948) and 'De Verklikker' (1949-1950).
During the same period, De Moor made illustrations and cartoons for ABC and Zondagsvriend, while creating new comic strips for Week-End ('Professor Quick' in 1947-1952, 'De Lotgevallen van Babbel & Co' in 1949-1950) and 't Kapoentje, the children's supplement of Het Volk edited by Marc Sleen. De Moor developed the first incarnation of 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' (1947), a comic that served as a follow-up to Willy Vandersteen's 'De Vrolijke Bengels'. It featured a similar cast consisting of five young children, a bumbling police officer and a teenage hoodlum, but De Moor gave them different names. The protagonists were named Janus, Benjamien, Bertus, Petrus and Eefje, the police officer 'Pakker' (literally "Grabber") and the hoodlum Dorus. De Moor drew gags for two years, before leaving 't Kapoentje in 1949 and passing the comic on to Marc Sleen. Many artists have drawn the comic since then, often with a changing cast, such as Marc Sleen, Hurey, Jean-Pol, Jef Nys, Karel Boumans, Jo and Tom Bouden. De Moor also drew the medieval story 'Willem de Vrijbuiter' (from the fifth episode renamed as 'Willem Koelbloed') for 't Kapoentje in 1947-1948, which was published as 'Willem Koelbloed' in De Volksmacht in 1949-1950.
De Moor continued his steady production in the Flemish press all throughout the late 1940s until the early 1950s. He drew the stop-comic 'Petrus en zijn rakkers' (1950-1952) for Het Handelsblad and De Nieuwe Gazet, 'De lotgevallen van de familie Kibbel' (1947-1948) for De Nieuwe Gids, 'Vodje de Zwerver' (1947-1949) and 'De lotgevallen van Kareltje' (1947-1949) for De Zweep, and joined Ons Volkske in 1949 with 'Het Wonderschip' (1949), 'Oorlog in het heelal' (1949-1950) and 'Mieleke en Dolf' (1949-1951).
Apart from those magazines he also drew comics like 'De Dodende Wolk' (1948), 'Monneke en Johnneke' (1948), 'Janneke en Stanneke' (1948-1949), 'Het Land Zonder Wet' (1948-1949), 'De Rosse' (1948-1949), 'Bloske en Zwik' (1949), 'Fikske neemt wraak' (1949), 'De Slaapmachine van Jonas' (1949), 'De Vergeten Stad' (1949), 'De Koene Edelman (of het bewogen leven van Jan Baptist Messire de la Salle)' (1949), 'Het Halssnoer met de Groene Smaragd' (1949-1950), 'De Slaven van de Keizer'(1949-1950) and 'De Tijdmachine van Carolus Clem' (1949-1950) for publications such as De Volksmacht, Volksweekblad, Overal, Het Wekelijkse Nieuws and Pum-Pum. Many of his comics for Flemish magazines were scripted by Gommaar Timmermans, son of famous Flemish novelist Felix Timmermans, who would later become a well-known cartoonist under the name Got. His first publication in the French language was 'Le Mystère du Vieux Château Fort', a comic album scripted by John van Looveren and published by Campéador in 1947.
De Moor started a collaboration with the newspapers Het Nieuws van de Dag in 1950, for which he created 'De Nieuwe Avonturen van Tijl Uilenspiegel' (1950-1951). This was a modernization of the Flemish folk hero Tijl Uilenspiegel set in present times. Some stories, like 'Het Vals Gebit ', were basically Flemish-nationalist propaganda, criticizing the post-war repression of Nazi collaborators and the forced abdication of king Leopold III. Another comic published in this newspaper was 'De avonturen van Nonkel Zigomar, Snoe en Snolleke' (1951-1956, reprinted in 1989 as 'Johan en Stefan', named after De Moor's sons). Of the latter, fifteen stories were created of which four were published in book format by Periodica in Brussels in 1956. More stories were reprinted in the Magnum series by publisher De Dageraad in the 1970s and 1980s, by Casterman in the 1980s and by Brabant Strip in the 2000s.
In 1949 De Moor started working for the magazine Tintin (Kuifje in Dutch), published by Éditions Lombard. His first work for the magazine was a comics version of Hendrik Conscience's historical novel 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' ('The Lion of Flanders', 1949-1950, also published in Ons Volkske). Both the original book as well as De Moor's adaptation are a romanticized account of the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302), when Flemish troops won a victory against French armies. Conscience's novel helped reviving interest and pride in this almost forgotten medieval event. His book became a bestseller and the battle date itself (11 July) a national holiday for the Flemish community. As such, when De Moor published his comic book adaptation, many Flemings were familiar with the story, which likely helped its good reception. De Moor wasn't the first Flemish comics artist to adapt Conscience's novel (that honour should go to Eugeen Hermans in 1934), nor was he the last (Buth, Jef Nys, Gejo, Karel Biddeloo, Christian Verhaeghe and Ronny Matton all tried to do the same), but his version is still considered to be the best. Willy Vandersteen was so impressed that he too decided to make a realistic comics adaptation of a classic Flemish-nationalistic novel, 'Tijl Uilenspiegel', a few years later. De Moor even helped him with some of the artwork. And Buth was so in awe of De Moor's achievement with 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' that he plagiarized several images from the comic for his own text comic version.
While considered a classic today, De Moor's 'De Leeuw van Vlaanderen' was not without controversy. Since the original book was such an important influence on Flemish nationalism and had French nobility as major villains De Moor's comic adaptation only saw light in the Dutch-language version of Tintin. The French-language version of Tintin published not the comic, but a written text, illustrated by De Moor, so they could still use the same magazine cover of a medieval battle. One little detail on the cover was changed, though. The Flemish flag was changed into a German eagle. De Moor drew similar comics around medieval themes around the same period, namely 'Sterke Jan' ('Conrad le Hardi', 1951-1952) and 'De Kerels van Vlaanderen' (1952-1954), which was another adaptation of a novel by Hendrik Conscience. Both stories were also published in Ons Volkske.
De Moor additionally appeared in Tintin, with the gag strips 'Fee en Fonske' ('Bouboule et Noireaud', 1949-1951, also published in Ons Volk) and 'Meester Mus' ('Professeur Tric', later renamed to 'Monsieur Tric', 1950-1979). The latter character is, together with 'Cori de Scheepsjongen' and 'Balthazar', his signature character. He used the well-meaning but clumsy schoolmaster both in gag stories of one pages as well as longer stories of four pages in length. De Moor established a Clear Line style in the tradition of Hergé and Jacobs, and created his first continuing series starring the actor/detective 'Monsieur Barelli' in 1950. At first presumably aided by Jacques van Melkebeke for the script, 'Barelli' appeared in new adventures in 1951 and 1952, and then in irregular intervals in 1964, 1968, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1979, 1981 and 1989. In a 1981 issue of Tintin celebrating the 35th anniversary of the magazine Barelli was drawn by Raoul Servais for the occasion. He also drew the humorous comic 'Mik, Dik en Vik. De Zoetwaterpiraten' ('Pirates d'Eau Douce', 1959) for Tintin/Kuifje, as well as the gag strip 'Balthazar' from 1965 to 1967. 'Balthazar' is a pantomime comic, drawn in a very comical and loose style, with no regard for any laws of perspective. The work was not only an art shift for De Moor, but also for the kind of work normally published in Tintin. Readers even complained that it looked too "slovenly" and thus the comic was cancelled after only two years.
In 1952 De Moor created the comics series he is best known for and whom many consider his greatest achievement: 'Cori de Scheepsjongen' ('Cori le Moussaillon'). In a way a continuation of 'Bart de Scheepsjongen', which he drew for Kleine Zondagsvriend in 1945, the work was drawn in a far more realistic style. 'Cori de Scheepsjongen' is set in the 16th-17th century and follows the adventures of Cori, a young boy who is kidnapped by pirates, but rescued by the Dutch East India Company, who adopt him as their cabin boy. The vivacious adventure stories are filled with sea battles, treasure hunts and provide readers with a well documented time capsule of nautical life during the heydays of exploring.
Cori gets involved in battles against the Spanish Armada and the Eighty Years' War between the Netherlands and Spain. His travels bring him to exotic continents such as South-East Asia, Africa, America and the Arctic, while he also meets real-life historical naval officers like Pieter van der Does, Joris van Spilbergen, Willem Janszoon, Piet Heyn and explorers like Willem Barentsz. Above all, 'Cori de Scheepsjongen' is a breathtaking showcase for De Moor's expertise in depicting caravels, galleons and other kinds of vessels down to the tiniest details. The first three stories were published in the 1950s, as 'Onder De Vlag van de Compagnie' (1952) and the two-parter 'De Onoverwinnelijke Armada'. After these three stories it would take until 1977 before De Moor found the time to continue the series. His first new entry, 'Koers naar het Goud' (1982), was actually a redrawn and colorized update of 'Onder De Vlag van de Compagnie'. He followed this with a genuine new story, 'De Gedoemde Reis' (1987), which received the Prix Jeunesse for children between the age of nine and twelve at the Comics Festival of Angoulême in 1988.
The reason for the irregular appearances of De Moor's series in Tintin can be found in his employment by Hergé studios in 1950. Very quickly he became the main assistant to the Master. He worked on the re-styling and modernization of older 'Tintin' stories and did backgrounds for new ones, starting with 'Objectif Lune' ('Destination Moon'). Among his most astonishing contributions are the moon rocket and lunar landscapes in 'On A Marché Sur La Lune' ('Explorers On The Moon'), as well as his 1965 revision of 'L'Île Noir' ('The Black Island'). Hergé asked De Moor to redraw the backgrounds for this latter album at the request of British publishers, who felt that the original 1936 book presented an out-dated version of their country. De Moor took the effort to actually travel to Great Britain and made countless sketches of local architecture, landscapes and official uniforms. He was also involved with the studio's promotional art and animation projects, such as Belvision's 1956 TV cartoons based on 'Tintin' and the backgrounds for their feature films 'Tintin et le Temple du Soleil' ('Prisoners of the Sun', 1969) and 'Tintin au Lac des Requins' ('Tintin and the Lake of Sharks', 1972). Between all his work for Hergé, he still found the time to help out Jacques Martin, with his 'Lefranc' album 'Le repaire du loup' (1970). He parodied Edgar P. Jacobs' 'Blake and Mortimer' in two pages published in Tintin in 1982. Following Jacobs' death in 1987, he completed the second installment of the 'Blake & Mortimer' episode 'Les Trois Formules du Professeur Sato' in 1989.
Les Trois Formules du Professeur Sato
De Moor illustrated the lyrics of Jacques Brel's song 'Jojo' for a special publication of his lyrics in 1988, distributed by Les Prénoms, Lasne. He also designed the cover of the debut album 'A World of Machines' (1982) by the Belgian pop band The Machines, who are best known for the Belgian hits 'Don't Be Cruel' (1981) and '(I See) The Lies in Your Eyes ' (1982). While De Moor mostly did illustration work he also wrote some gags for comics by Géri.
De Moor's work for Hergé has both been praised as well as contested in later years. Critics have accused him of basically drawing every 'Tintin'-related product, including the albums since 1950, while Hergé didn't even lift a pencil for it. Many scenes in later 'Tintin' stories look and feel more like artwork by De Moor than Hergé. In reality Hergé kept a close watch on the franchise. He still sketched out every story beforehand and had the final say over the content of each new album. While it's true that De Moor did draw the majority of the backgrounds and more technical aspects Hergé still insisted on drawing his main cast characters personally. Fans of De Moor also feel somewhat spiteful to Hergé, because De Moor sacrificied the majority of his own career in function of Hergé. Only after his death in 1983 did De Moor finally find time again to create new stories of his own series, 'Cori' and 'Barelli', though with assistance of Geert de Sutter and later his son Johan de Moor. For a while it seemed likely that De Moor would finish Hergé's sketches for the final 'Tintin' album 'Tintin et l'Alph-Art' ('Tintin and the Alpha Art') and bring it out as a proper album. To his disappointment Hergé's widow Fanny Rémi vetoed against the idea, feeling it would not be in line with her late husband's wish to have the series die with him.
In 1989 De Moor was appointed artistic director of the publishing house Le Lombard, and chaired the board of directors for the Belgian Center of the Comic Strip in Brussels until his death on 26 August, 1992. In 1990 he was on the editorial board of JET, the first European magazine for young talent published monthly by Le Lombard. Bob de Moor's final 'Cori' album, 'Dali Capitan', was completed posthumously in January 1993 by his sons, Johan de Moor and Stefan De Moor. De Moor had five children. Johan De Moor enjoys a career as comic artist and political cartoonist of his own. Stefan De Moor is also active as a graphic artist. Chris De Moor enjoys some fame as an opera singer, while Dirk De Moor is a conductor. De Moor's only daughter Annemie works for Casterman.
Bob De Moor signed his books in Kees Kousemaker's Lambiek store in Amsterdam in 1981.
De Moor is remembered by many as a jolly soul, who enjoyed his work and always had stories to tell. In an interview in Tintin issue 38 (1975) he described comics as a "music-hall of paper" of which he enjoyed "the show, theater and spectacle". Lambiek will always be grateful to De Moor for illustrating the letter "M " in our encylopedia book, 'Wordt Vervolgd - Stripleksikon der Lage Landen', published in 1979.
Kuifje in de Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis