Yvan Delporte
Delporte at his desk. Photo: Y. Beaugier.

Yvan Delporte was the editor-in-chief of Spirou during the heyday of this comic weekly (1955-1968). It was during his tenure that the pages of the Belgian weekly were filled by the classic "School of Marcinelle", of which André Franquin, Morris, Peyo, Will, Maurice Tillieux, Jean Roba and Jidéhem were the main representatives. Delporte's free spirit and preference for crazy ideas paved the way for many legendary creations, such as the mini-books in the magazine's center, the special thematic issues and the fictionalized depictions of Spirou's offices in the 'Gaston Lagaffe' comic and his editorials. Delporte wrote an impressive lot of comics himself, both for Dupuis and other publishers. In 1980 he was also the instigator of the Upchic (Union Professionelle des Créateurs d’Histoires en Images et de Cartoons), the first special interest organisation for Belgian comic artists. This Walloon/French-language organisation was the counterpart and collaborator of the Flemish/Dutch-language organisation De Vlaamse Onafhankelijke Stripgilde. Both were responsible for sponsoring the establishment of the Belgian Comics Center in Brussels. 

Drawing by Yvan Delporte
Delporte and his friends, drawn by Delporte.

Early life and career
Yvan Delporte was born in 1928 in Saint-Gilles in the Brussels region. Young Yvan and his mother came to Charleroi during the Second World War, mainly because this industrial town had coal during the war years. An avid reader since his early childhood, Delporte came from a family with artistic talents. His cousins were painter/sculptor Charles Delporte and composer/author Paul Louka. He himself started frequenting the artistic circles of Charleroi. He surrounded himself with a group of friends that included Maurice Rosy, Nicolas Klechkowski, who later became a bass player, and Gaston Mostraet, who wrote surreal poetry. The group had their own magazine, called La Sarbacane, for which Delporte was the editor and illustrator. Delporte was somewhat of an odd figure, with his anarchist and provocative nature, his trademark beard and hand-knitted pull-over with a giant Y on it. Where other lads of his age were interested in sports, Delporte delved into the writings of James Thurber and Sigmund Freud, while also being an avid fan of 'Cyrano de Bergerac'. Up until the mid-1950s, Delporte regularly made drawings about his personal life.

Rosy and Delporte
Delporte tells Rosy about Freud, from Rosy's autobiography 'C'est la vie!' (Dupuis, 2014).

During this period, Delporte also landed his first job as a photographer in the printery of Éditions Dupuis, the publisher of magazines Bonnes Soirées, Le Moustique and Spirou. He was later also assigned to retouch (actually, censor) the American comic strips that were published in Spirou, such as Clarence Gray's 'Brick Bradford'. Since he knew English, he also served as a translator, and as a lay-out man for Spirou and Le Moustique. By 1948, he had his own section called 'Le Pithécanthrope' in Le Moustique, which he signed with a cartouche resembling a duck. He also provided an occasional cover illustration and cartoon to Le Moustique (and its Flemish counterpart Humoradio).

Le MoustiqueBij de Dokter, from Humoradio
Cover illustration (1948) and cartoon page (1949) for Le Moustique/Humoradio.

Early scriptwriting
Delporte wrote his first comic scripts in 1949 and 1950: three long serials featuring 'Jean Valhardi', drawn by Eddy Paape: 'Le Roc du Diable' (1949), 'Á La Poursuite de Max Clair' (1949) and 'Chez les Êtres de la Forêt' (1950). Although his full talent had not come to bloom yet, elements of Delporte's typical sense for satire and irony were already present in these 'Valhardi' stories.

Delporte by Chaland
Chaland and Yann describe the goofy side of Delporte in their contribution to 'Les Histoires Merveilleuses des Oncles Paul' (Vents d'Ouest, 1986).

Editorship of Spirou (1955-1968)
Yvan Delporte fulfilled his military service between 1953 and 1955. He then returned to Dupuis, where he was appointed editor-in-chief of Spirou, of course under strict supervision of the paternalistic publisher Charles Dupuis. One of his first acts was moving the offices to the Galerie du Centre in Brussels, which also housed Georges Troisfontaines' World's Presse offices, the main provider of realistic comics to the magazine. This made it more inviting for Spirou's artists to drop by, enhancing the collective team spirit, which was soon reflected in the magazine itself. Delporte's pal Maurice Rosy was art director/man of ideas, and together they brought Belgian comics to new heights. In the aforementioned mini-books, new talent, mostly from Dupuis's in-house art studio, could present their work, such as Louis Salvérius, Charles Degotte, Eddy Ryssack, Serge Gennaux, Jacques Devos and Lucien De Gieter.

Other artists introduced under Delporte's reign were Marcel Remacle, for whom he wrote 'Bobosse', Jidéhem, who became Franquin's loyal co-worker, Jean Roba, who would popularize the family comic with 'Boule et Bill', Raymond Macherot, who moved over from competing magazine Tintin, and Willy Lambil, with his series 'Sandy et Hoppy'. Delporte also had an eye for the more innovative artists. He wrote 'Saki et Zunie' for René Hausman, an artist whose poetic style somewhat deviated from the more traditional Spirou comics. Delporte also introduced female cartoonist Claire Bretécher to the Spirou audience. As Delporte was bilingual, Flemish and Dutch artists also got the opportunity to publish in Spirou. Berck moved over from Tintin and drew 'Mulligan' from scripts by Delporte and Macherot. Spirou also published 'Judge Tie' by Dutch authors Frits Kloezeman and Robert van Gulik, and the work of young talent Rob Peters.

Spirou's Tintin coverTintin's Spirou cover

During Delporte's reign, the magazine was livened up with contests, special thematical issues (with content rising up to 100 pages!) and playful editorial articles. Delporte also played with the friendly rivalry between Spirou and their main competitor Tintin. For instance, he wrote articles about a fictious argument between artists Tibet (Tintin) and Morris (Spirou). The 1965 April Fools' Day issues of Spirou and Tintin were each published with covers in the lay-outs of their adversary. Delporte also introduced double-sized seasonal issues, with extra comics and beautiful covers. In Maurice Rosy's collection 'Gags de Poche', he translated Charles M. Schulz's 'Peanuts' and Walt Kelly's 'Pogo' for a French-speaking audience.

Yvan Delporte fait une apparition dans Gaston Lagaffe
Yvan Delporte and Pinky, by André Franquin.

Gaston Lagaffe and other comics
Delporte wrote scripts for the sci-fi serial 'Alain Cardan' by Gerald Forton (1957-1959), 'La Ribambelle' by Jean Roba, 'Starter' by Jidéhem and 'Benoît Brisefer' by Peyo. But he was most notably involved in the launch of two of Europe's most iconic comic book properties. The first was 'Gaston Lagaffe', Franquin's ever-goofing anti-hero, who first intruded Spirou's editorial sections in 1957. Delporte's friend Gaston Mostraert inspired the character's first name, but his playful personality likely owed more to Delporte himself. 'Gaston' eventually appeared in a series of gags set in the fictionalized offices of Spirou, drawn by Franquin and Jidéhem, but also in a series of editorials written by Delporte. This further increased the joyful atmosphere of the magazine, as the readers got an alleged look behind-the-scenes at the ins and outs of their magazine. Some of the wackier gags in 'Gaston' actually had some base in reality, like Gaston's tendency to bring animals to the office. Once Spanish artist José Larraz needed a picture of a lion to document himself for his comic series 'Michaël'. To help him out, Delporte hired an actual lion cub named "Pinky" and let it play around at the office for a few weeks. Even the horse and chimpanzees that once surprised Gaston's colleagues had visited Spirou's headquarters in real life.


The Smurfs 
The second important event that Delporte participated in was the launch of the solo career of Peyo's tribe of blue good-natured dwarfs, 'Les Schtroumpfs' ('The Smurfs'). The characters had made their debut in Peyo's medieval series 'Johan et Pirlouit', but got their own comic strip in the mini-books section in 1959. Delporte wrote many scripts for this series, that soon surpassed all Peyo's other creations in popularity. The result was a large merchandising line, and animated series of TV cartoons; the first being developed by TVA Dupuis as early as 1959. The feature film 'La Flûte a six Schtroumpfs' was produced by Dupuis-Belvision and released in 1975. It was an adaptation of the 'Johan et Pirlouit' story of the same name, where the Smurfs had made their debut. Delporte and Peyo both participated in the script for this film. Delporte's role was of such importance, that his name was mentioned alongside Peyo's name as co-creator on the credits of the animated series by Hanna-Barbera in the US in the 1980s. In 1989, Delporte became the editor of Schtroumpf Magazine, a new publication built around Peyo's dwarfs. After Peyo's death in 1992, Delporte was also involved in writing new stories starring 'Johan et Pirlouit', drawn by Alain Maury

Isabelle by Delporte and WillArnest Ringard by Delporte, Franquin and Jannin

Leaving Spirou (or was it?)
Despite his creative inventiveness, Delporte's tenure came to an end in 1968. His loose way of dealing with deadlines, his provocative nature and his more free-spirited approach to the financial aspects of his work, made him less popular with the other members of the board of directors. Apparently, a macabre parody of the recruitment campaigns of the Belgian army was the last straw and Delporte was fired. All in all, 1968 is considered by many a disaster year for Spirou. Delporte left, Franquin quit drawing 'Spirou et Fantasio' and Morris transferred his 'Lucky Luke' to Pilote magazine and Éditions Dargaud. The Golden Age was over, and Delporte had to seek work elsewhere.

One of his new jobs was performing as the bard Honoré Delbouille, who gave his satirical look on the Walloons in the radio program 'Du Sel sur la Queue'. He also continued to do scriptwork for Spirou in the decades to come, though, most notably the poetic and magical series 'Isabelle', which was drawn by Will from 1969 to 1994. Delporte was the main scriptwriter, assisted by André Franquin and Raymond Macherot in the early years. With Franquin, he also scripted 'Arnest Ringard et Augraphie' for Frédéric Jannin, a comical series of short stories about the ongoing battle between a man and a mole (1978-1980 and then again from 1993-1995). He also provided gag ideas to Jannin's 'Germain et Nous' in the 1980s and wrote stories with 'Les Puzzolettis' for Carine De Brabanter (1987-1988).

Colin ColasSteven Severijn

Work for Le Journal de Mickey
He also expanded his horizon by cooperating with other magazines. For Le Journal de Mickey, he co-wrote the scripts about the caveman 'Onkr' with Jean Malac for artist Tenas (1970-1972). He wrote the stories of traveling artists' group 'Les Zingari' for René Follet (1971-1973), which were reprinted in Spirou in the 1980s.

Work for Zack and Super As
He additionally wrote stories with 'Colin Colas' for Eddy Ryssack, that were printed in the Koralle publications Zack (Germany) and Super As (France) in 1979.

Work for Pep/Eppo
Delporte also reported himself at De Geïllustreerde Pers/VNU, the publisher of the Dutch comic magazine Pep. He wrote several comics for this publication from 1969 on, such as 'Bondonéon' with Dino Attanasio (1970-1972), 'Alfred de Wees' with Claire Bretécher (1971), 'Anna Tommy' with Peter de Smet (1972) and 'Llewellyn Fflint' with Peter van Straaten (1972). He was also present in Pep's successor Eppo, with scripts for 'Steven Severijn' (1989) by René Follet.

Le Trombone Illustré
Header for Le Trombone Illustré by Franquin.

Le Trombone Illustré
Delporte returned to Dupuis once more in 1977 with the launch of Le Trombone Illustré, a tabloid-sized supplement to Spirou, co-created with André Franquin. Compared with the child friendly content in the rest of the magazine, Le Trombone contained more adult-oriented satire. As a result, the supplement only lasted a few issues, but did introduce one classic comic book, 'Idées Noires' ('Black Thoughts', 1977) by André Franquin, for which Delporte provided several black comedy gags. The supplement also featured work by Frédéric Jannin, Roba, Hausman, Claire Bretécher, F'Murr, Rosinski and many more. When it folded after 30 issues, the 'Idées Noires' moved over to Gotlib's magazine Fluide Glacial. The Trombone had a short revival in 1978-1979 under the title 'Et pendant ce temps là à Landerneau' in the comic magazine Á Suivre. In 1980, Dupuis released a full hardcover collection of all Trombone issues. It was reprinted in 2009. A 2005 landscape-format book by Marsu Productions compiled all the magazine headers created by André Franquin.

Schtroumpf magazineJohan et Pirlouit

In 1980 Yvan Delporte founded the Upchic (Union Professionelle des Créateurs d’Histoires en Images et de Cartoons), the first special interest organisation for Belgian comic artists. Among the co-founders and members were André Franquin (vice president), Tibet (president), Delporte (secretary), Jean Van HammeYves Duval, Pévé and Morris. While it was often called a syndicate, the founders stressed that they weren’t, though they did pay legal defense through membership fees in case of disputes between cartoonists and publishers. Upchic often worked together with their Flemish counterpart, the Stripgilde, initiated by Danny De Laet, Berck and Eddy Ryssack. Together they initiated and sponsored the establishment of the Belgian Comics Center in Brussels in 1989. The Upchic also had its own bulletin, which often lead to rather open-hearted opinions by professional cartoonists about the industry. In the long run it caused so much controversy that Upchic not only lost support, but also members and income. By 1997 it ceased to be. 

Written contributions
Yvan Delporte wrote the foreword to Cabu's comic book 'Camille-le-camé Contre Mon Beauf' (Le Square - Albin Michel, 1981) and 'Baston Labaffe no. 5: La Ballade des Baffes’ (Goupil, 1983), an official collective parody comic of  André Franquin’s 'Gaston Lagaffe’. Naturally he also penned a foreword to Jean-Claude De La Royère and Watch's 'Spirou Connection' (Récréabull, 1986), a series of illustrations paying homage to famous comic series from Spirou. Delporte scripted a short comic for the collective comic book 'Allez Coucher, Sales Bêtes' (Dupuis, 1991), illustrated by René Hausman. He paid tribute to Nikita Mandryka in the collective comic book 'Tronches de Concombre' (Dupuis, 1995). 

Delporte was a productive comics translator. He translated Dutch-language comics like Marvano's 'Dallas Barr' and 'De Eeuwige Oorlog' ('The Eternal War'), Wim T. Schippers and Theo van den Boogaard's 'Sjef van Oekel' and English-language comics like Charles M. Schulz' 'Peanuts' and Walt Kelly's 'Pogo' into French. 

During his lifetime Delporte received several awards. In 1973 he and Peyo won the Prix Saint-Michel for "Best Humor Script" with 'Schtroumpf Vert et Vert Schtroumpf'. In 1978 he received the Grand Prix Saint-Michel for his role behind the creation of Le Trombone Illustré. He and Frédéric Jannin won yet another Prix Saint-Michel 2007, namely the Press Prize, for 'Arnest Ringard et Augraphie'.

Final years and death
In old age Delporte remained interested in wacky ideas, and from 1995 on, he performed as a singer with an all-star band of comic authors, named The Boys Band (Dessinée), which was a pun on the French word for comic strip ("bande dessinée"). Apart from Delporte, it also featured Janry, Bruno Gazzotti, Fabrizio Borrini, Batem, Midam and others. In his later years, he remained interested in modern comics, especially by artists of L'Association, such as Lewis Trondheim. He participated in exhibitions and wrote articles about comics. In the 2000s, he also wrote stage shows for the Théâtre de Proche in Brussels. Yvan Delporte passed away in 2007 at age 78.

Boys Band Dessinée
Yvan Delporte with the Boys Band (Dessinée).

Delporte's colourful persona and appearance have been captured by many of his colleagues, since the editor-in-chief with the characteristic beard and toggle coat has made guest appearances in many comic series. During the 1960s his looks inspired the sly barbarian Payasson, from Marcel Remacle and Marcel Denis' 'Hultrasson le Viking' (1964-1973). Delporte was featured prominently in Yves Chaland and Yann's contribution to the collective comic book 'Les Histoires Merveilleuses des Oncles Paul' (Vents d'Ouest, 1986). In the late 1990s Marc Sleen and Dirk Stallaert gave Nero in the comic strip 'Nero' a bearded grandfather named Bompanero, whose looks were modelled after Delporte, without looking exactly like him. But his beard and posture are very reminiscent.

Books about Yvan Delporte
Yvan Delporte was the subject of a large book by Dupuis experts Christelle and Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault, called 'Yvan Delporte, Réacteur en Chef' (Dupuis, 2009). A similar-sized retrospective of Le Trombone Illustré, containing the entire content of all 30 issues, was published that same year.

Delporte caricaturé par Franquin
Yvan Delporte caricature by André Franquin.

Series and books by Yvan Delporte you can order today:


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