Schanulleke, by Eric de Rop

Eric de Rop is a Belgian comic artist, who worked for Willy Vandersteen's studio between 1970-1976 and 1984-2015. He inked series like 'Robert en Bertrand', 'Jerom' and 'Suske en Wiske', also assisting on the artwork of the latter. His best known series drawn for the studio is 'Schanulleke' (1989-1998), a spin-off around Wiske's rag doll of the same name, written by Patty Klein. Of all Studio Vandersteen employees he was the longest-serving. Throughout his career de Rop also assisted artists like Jef Nys, Jean-PolEddy Ryssack and Merho. He also made several short-lived series of his own: 'Bloemlezing' (1994-1995), 'Ribbedebie', 'Kat en Hond' (1994-2000) and 'Kapoen' (1994-2000), all children's comics for young readers. Since 2013 de Rop is also one of the main cartoonists of the right-wing conservative satirical weekly 't Pallieterke. 

Early life and career
Eric de Rop was born in 1954 in Wilrijk, as the son of Eduard de Rop, one of Willy Vandersteen's assistants in Studio Vandersteen. His father and Vandersteen were therefore naturally two of his graphic influences, but he was also inspired by Fiep Westendorp, André FranquinBerck, Morris and Walt Disney. By 1967 Vandersteen's co-worker Karel Verschuere had left the studio and began his own production of western comics for the German publisher Erich Pabel. Eric de Rop's father regularly visited his friend, and took his son with him. It was here that thirteen year old Eric inked his first comic pages, namely for Verschuere's 'Buffalo Bill'. During holidays, he had also done inking chores for Frank Sels' series 'Silberpfeil' (translated in Dutch as 'Zilverpijl'). At the same time, de Rop studied at the SISA (Stedelijk Instituut voor Sierkunsten en Ambachten) in Antwerp. At that point, Eduard de Rop had left Studio Vandersteen and joined Verschuere. However, Verschuere's studio suffered from bad organisation, which resulted in many of his employees not being paid. It didn't take long for Eduard de Rop to return to Vandersteen again. 

Redrawn version of 'De Witte Uil' (1972). Eric de Rop pencilled and inked strips 185 through 216.

Studio Vandersteen (1)
While his father was still working for Verschuere, the 17-year old de Rop went behind his back and visited Willy Vandersteen to apply for a job. Between 1970 and 1972 de Rop worked as an apprentice for Vandersteen, starting out with inking the 'Bessy' story 'De Hertenjagers' (1971). Interviewed by Leon den Hartog for Brabant Strip in 2007, de Rop told that he once took several new 'Bessy' pages from Vandersteen's studio in the Beauvois Avenue to the local station of Kalmthout. When he parked his bike at the station he discovered to his horror that his luggage carrier had snapped and all drawings were lost! After a panicky phone call with Vandersteen, the studio head instantly got on his own bike, followed the trail de Rop had followed and luckily found all the missing pages. The young assistant was warned "to never let something like this happen again." Despite this incident de Rop was officially hired in Studio Vandersteen from 1972 on, where he would work for the next four years. He spent two months working for Jeff Broeckx in the Antwerp division, inking 'Bessy' stories for the German publishing company Bastei Verlag.

De Rop was eventually assigned to ink the 'Jerom' albums, which were pencilled by his father and written by either Paul Geerts or Vandersteen personally. With Merho as fellow inker, he also participated in the immense 'Jerom' production for the German market. Another production with participation of Eric de Rop was the reboot of 'De Familie Snoek', drawn by Eduard de Rop and Eugeen Goossens, which ran in the Flemish TV magazine TV Ekspress between 1969 and 1972. After fulfilling his military service in 1973-1974 de Rop returned as a staff artist at Studio Vandersteen. He inked Vandersteen's pencils for 'Robert en Bertrand' and assisted on his father's inking of 'Suske en Wiske'. Together with Merho he redrew some classic 'Suske en Wiske' stories, like 'Lambiorix' and 'De Witte Uil', in a more modernized style. 

Jommeke - 'De Vliegende Brigade'.

Assistance work
Between 1976 and 1982 de Rop joined another succesful Flemish comic artist: Jef Nys. In his studio he worked as a background artist on Nys' signature series 'Jommeke' for the next six years. Nys had personally contacted him. While de Rop enjoyed working for Nys, the artwork standards were a lot higher than at Vandersteen. Nevertheless he was allowed to draw some 'Jommeke' stories on his own, such as 'Drie In Eén Slag' and 'De Vliegende Brigade', and six short 'Jommeke' stories made for advertising purposes, such as 'De Regenbom'. During the 1980s, De Rop also assisted Jean-Pol on 'Annie en Peter' (1984-1986) and 'Sport Billy' (1983) for Editions Europeennes (the latter with inking by Eddy Ryssack), and Jeff Broeckx on the advertising comic 'Het Groene Raadsel' (1985) for Ebes.

'Ilian contra Wereldschrik' (Ohee Club #14).

Solo career
On the side de Rop tried creating comic series of his own too. In 1973 he created the story 'Ylian Contra Wereldschrik', which was published in magazines like Koerier (1973) and Ohee (1975). From 1982 on de Rop made sports cartoons for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine and worked for advertising agencies, before becoming an independent comic artist two years later. 

Studio Vandersteen (2)
De Rop also renewed his association with Studio Vandersteen in 1984. Among his first tasks was reworking German 'Jerom' stories for the Flemish album publications. The first 'Suske en Wiske' story de Rop inked was 'De Bevende Berken' (1984), an advertising comic made exclusively for the wash powder brand Dash. He also provided the pencil art for the first seven pages, while Anita Schauwvlieghe also did part of the inking. De Rop then helped working out the sketches of 'De Ruige Regen' (1985), one of the few 'Suske en Wiske' stories Vandersteen personally wrote and drew since his retirement from the series in 1972. Together with Eugeen Goossens he worked out the sketches for 'Suske en Wiske' advertising comics like 'Sony San' (1986), 'Witte Zwanen, Zwarte Zwanen' (1987) and 'Fata Morgana' (1988). De Rop also inked the first three stories of Vandersteen's series 'De Geuzen' (1985-1986), but he dropped the series to become Paul Geerts' regular inker on 'Suske en Wiske'. He replaced Eugeen Goossens, who in turn was assigned to 'De Geuzen'. The first 'Suske en Wiske' album de Rop inked for Geerts was 'De Woeste Wespen' (1987).


De Rop had the honour of drawing the final comic series launched by Vandersteen himself: 'Schanulleke' (1988-1998), a spin-off built around Wiske's rag doll. It originally took off as two children's adventure books created by Willy Vandersteen personally, 'Schanulleke in de Dierentuin' (1986) and 'Eiko de Wijze Boom' (1986). The maestro gave Schanulleke a male sidekick: the clown doll Duddul. On 27 December 1988 'Schanulleke' became a one-page gag-comic for young readers, scripted by Dutch comic writer Patty Klein, and drawn by Eric de Rop. Anita Schauwvlieghe assisted on the backgrounds and inking. All episodes take place in a domestic setting, usually the house or the garden, where Schanulleke and Duddul often interact with anthropomorphic animals like the striped cat Ponpon. 'Schanulleke' was published in De Stipkrant, the children's supplement of De Standaard, and the Dutch toddlers' magazine Okki too. The series was furthermore reprinted in Suske en Wiske Weekblad and in Minitoe, the children's supplement of Nieuws van de Dag. 

Suske en Wiske inker
After Vandersteen's death in 1990, de Rop continued to ink the 'Suske en Wiske' albums made by Vandersteen's successors, Paul Geerts, Marc Verhaegen and Luc Morjaeu. Other inking work was done for the 'Suske en Wiske' spin-off, 'Klein Suske en Wiske' (later retiled 'Junior Suske en Wiske', 2002). This gag comic, originally written by Marc Legendre and drawn by Jeff Broeckx, depicted Suske and Wiske as toddlers, aiming at young readers. de Rop retired from the studio on 13 January 2015. One of the main reasons he cited was the take-over of Studio Vandersteen by Standaard Uitgeverij's parent company, WPG, which meant a drop in salary. 'De Fabuleuze Freak' was the final story with his participation. With about 38 years in total on his resumé, he was the longest-running Studio Vandersteen employee of all time, even outlasting Paul Geerts and Karel Biddeloo

Circus Saroma - 'De Verdwijntruc'.

Solo work
In addition to his work for the studio, Eric de Rop created three mini-comic albums about circus clowns for the pudding brand Saroma between 1988 and 1990. In the 1990s, he made several sporadically appearing series for Suske en Wiske Weekblad (1993-2003). One of them was 'Bloemlezing' (1994-1995), a gag comic about two talking flowers (under the pen name Eric). He furthermore made 'Doebidoe' (using the name Ropson) and 'Ribbedebie', about a sorcerer's apprentice. Several of his comics for the weekly were collected in the album 'Bloemlezing... en andere verhalen' and 'Ribbedebie... en andere verhalen' by Saga in 2013. For the Stipkrant he created 'Kat en Hond', an children's adventure comic about an orange cat named Poezewoe and a blue dog named Kluifje (a nod to the Dutch name of Tintin: 'Kuifje'). His series 'Kapoen' (1994-2001), about a horse, ran in Het Belgisch Warmbloedpaard (1994-2001). Since his departure from Studio Vandersteen, De Rop has been working on his solo comic about the caveman 'Wieisda', of which one album was published by Peter Bonte in 2019. De Rop has additionally assisted on Merho's 'Kiekeboe' series and inked Charel Cambré's satirical gag comic 'Albert en Co' (2008-2013). 

Bloemlezing by Eric de Rop
'Bloemlezing' (Suske en Wiske Weekblad #50, 1994).

Since 2013 de Rop is mostly active as one of the main cartoonists for the conservative, right-wing satirical weekly 't Pallieterke. He draws a comic series titled 'Toogpraat', starring two bar hoppers discussing politics. A compilation of this book was published by 't Mannekesblad in 2016. De Rop also designed the current logo of 't Pallieterke, a drawing of a young boy making a taunting gesture, while winking to the reader. 


Graphic contributions
De Rop paid homage to Jef Nys in 'Jommekes Bij De Vleet' (2010) and Pom in 'Op Het Spoor van Pom' (2011), both collective tribute albums. 

Return to comics
In 2019 it was unexpectedly announced that Studio Vandersteen employee Paul Geerts - who retired in 2001 - would make a new 'Suske en Wiske' story next year: 'De Preutse Prinses' (2020), paying homage to the franchise. De Rop would assist him as an inker. In 2020 he created 'Bas en de Belhamels', a humor comic book about a father who works from home, while managing his two sons and an equally demanding dog. It was written by Paul Reichenbach, who also published the book through his Pear Productions imprint.

Eric de Rop has a cameo in 'De Rode Ridder' album 'Met Masker en Zwaard' (1971) and in the 'Suske en Wiske' story 'De Blikken Bluster' (2005-2006). His son, Dave de Rop, is a well known graffiti artist, who operates under te name Bué the Warrior. 

Cartoon for 't Pallieterke (November 2018), depicting former Belgian king Albert II being carried around in a pram by his illegitimate daughter Delphine Boël, after DNA tests proved she was indeed his biological daughter. 

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