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", consisting of André Franquin, Morris, Peyo, Will, Maurice Tillieux, Jean Roba and Jidéhem. 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 and the fictionalized depictions of Spirou's offices in the 'Gaston Lagaffe' comic and his editorials. Delporte furthermore wrote an impressive lot of comic strips, both for Dupuis and other publishers.

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

He was born in Saint-Gilles in the Brussels region in 1928. 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 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. As he knew the English language, 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 wrote his first comic script in 1949: a long serial featuring 'Jean Valhardi', that was drawn by Eddy Paape at the time. After 'Á la poursuite de Max Clair' (1949), a second story followed, called 'Chez les êtres de la forêt' (1950).

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)

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 publisher Charles Dupuis. One of his first acts was moving the offices to the Galerie du Centre in Brussels, that also housed Georges Troisfontaines' offices of World's Presse, the main provider of realistic comics to the magazine. While in Brussels, the offices were more frequently visited by the contributing artists. This enhanced the sentiment of companionship and team spirit, that was quickly echoed in the pages of Spirou. 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 that were 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

The friendly rivalry between Spirou and competing magazine Tintin was also exploited by Delporte, like written accounts on a supposed argument between 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

Delporte furthermore 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. It was Delporte's friend Gaston Mostraet who lent his name, but it was most likely Delporte himself who was the main inspiration for the character. '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. And sometimes the truth didn't even differ that much from what was presented: at one point Delporte brought an actual lion cub called Pinky to the office, that was previously used as documentation by Spanish artist José Larraz for his comic serial 'Michaël'. He later also brought a monkey to the office, but that was two years after Franquin had done the same in his 'Spirou'/'Gaston' cross-over story 'Bravo les Brothers' in 1965.

GastonSmurfs

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 merchandizing 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, that had first introduced the characters. Delporte and Peyo both participated in the script for this film. Delporte's role was thus, 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.

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

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. 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. He continued to do scriptwork for Spirou in the decades to come, though, most notably the poetic and magical series 'Isabelle', that 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

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), that were reprinted in Spirou in the 1980s. He furthermore wrote stories with 'Colin Colas' for Eddy Ryssack, that were printed in the Koralle publications Zack (Germany) and Super As (France) in 1979. 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, 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' by René Follet.

Le Trombone Illustré
Header for Le Trombone Illustré by Franquin

Delporte returned to Dupuis once more in 1977 with the launch of Le Trombone Illustré, a tabloid-sized supplement to Spirou, that he created with André Franquin. Le Trombone contained more adult-oriented and satirical comics than Spirou and the effort was shortlived. One of the most notable creations during this period was 'Idées Noires', the cynical and engaged black-and-white comic by Franquin, to which Delporte provided several ideas. 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.

Schtroumpf magazineJohan et Pirlouit

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', that were drawn by Alain Maury. He remained interested in wacky ideas at old age, and from 1995, he performed as a signer with the Boys Band (Dessinée), an all-star band of comic authors, featuring 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.

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

Delporte's colorful persona and appearance have been captured by many of his colleagues, since the editor-in-chief with the characteristic beard has made guest appearances in many comic series. He 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). 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, that contained the entire content of all 30 issues, was published in that same year.

Delporte caricaturé par Franquin
Delporte caricature by Franquin

Series en boeken door Yvan Delporte op voorraad in de Lambiek Webshop:

X

If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.