Génial Olivier by Jacques Devos
Génial Olivier - Le Passé Recomposé

Jacques Devos was a Belgian comics artist who worked for the magazine Spirou throughout his career, where his best known series were the spy comic 'Victor Sébastopol' (1962-1988, co-created with Hubuc) and the child prodigy 'Génial Olivier' (1963-1988).

Jacques Devos was born in 1924 in Brussels. His father was a bicycle repairman and thus Devos stepped into his footsteps. For more than 20 years he fixed bikes until he made a late career change at age 37 when he moved into comics. He began his assocation with the publishing house Dupuis and its comics magazine Spirou in 1961. His first work was for the fold-in mini-books section. He wrote western-themed booklets with characters like 'Tim et Tom' (1962-1965) for Louis Salverius, and drew mini-books starring characters like 'Schwartzbrot' (1962-1963), 'SuperHerman' (1963-1965) and 'Génial Olivier' (1963-1966) himself. The latter three were early showcases of Devos' slapstick humor, which was often accompanied by absurd fantasy elements. Soon afterwards he was also present in Spirou's regular pages, creating the two Native Americans 'Whamoka et Whikilowat' (1963-1968) with Salvérius and  'Djinn', a genie in a bottle, with Kiko (1964-1966).


Schwartzbrot and SuperHerman, respectively from Spirou/Robbedoes issues #1280 and #1357

With Hubuc, he created the memoires of the German spy 'Victor Sébastopol' in the 1288th issue of Spirou (20 December 1962). The series is set at the start of the 20th century and presented as Sébastopol's chronicles of his brilliant strategies, clever schemes, succesful assignments and amazing inventions. Although the text praised Sébastopol's achievements, the drawings showed what actually happened back in the day and it was usually quite the opposite of what the narcisstic spy claimed. Rather unusual for Spirou, 'Victor Sébastopol' was a text comic, though a peculiar one as the text didn't appear below the images but above them, giving it the allures of an actual journal.


Victor Sebastopol from Spirou/Robbedoes issue #2107 (1978)

The series was originally drawn by Hubuc, but Devos continued the feature on his own from 1964 onwards. It appeared irregularly and with long intervals in Spirou throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Michel Deligne published one black-and-white album collection in 1977. Devos also wrote 'Dans le sillage des Argonautes' (1965), the second longer serial starring Hubuc's Ancient Greeks 'Alertogas et Saxophon'. In addition to his work for Dupuis, Devos drew two albums of the James Bond parody 'Steve Pops' for Casterman in 1966 and 1967.

Le porte aux illusions by Jacques Devos
La Porte aux illusions (Dutch version from Robbedoes #1670, 1970)

Between 1969 and 1972, Devos produced several humorous and often absurd comics for Spirou, which appeared under the title 'Farfeluosités de Devos'. The stories featured a wide range of imaginative creatures and surreal settings, and also toyed with perspective. A book collection appeared in the 'Carte Blanche' series in 1984. These experimental stories can be considered forerunners of Devos's best-known creation, 'Génial Olivier'. This genius boy had already starred in a couple of mini-books during the 1960s; the first was added to the 1321th issue of Spirou on 8 August 1963. 'Génial Olivier' additionally appeared in the 97th issue of the monthly Samedi-Jeunesse in November 1965 in a special 18-page story.

Genial Olivier by Jacques Devos
Génial Olivier

Olivier Delabrange became a regular character in Spirou throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In general, the series dealt with the havoc that Olivier's many inventions caused in his classroom and school, as well as the resulting collisions with his his teacher M. Rectitude and other school authorities. School bully Absalon was also a regular victim of Olivier's inventions, while the genius' accomplice Flafla regulary had to participate in the subsequent punishments. One could wonder why a kid like Olivier, the winner of several Nobel Prizes and an expert in cybernetics, chemistry and technology, needs to go to school in the first place? The series consisted of mainly gags and short stories, but also featured a couple of serials such as 'Le Passé Recomposé' (1977) and 'L'Électron et le Blason' (1979). 'M. Rectitude et Génial Olivier' was collected by Dupuis in 17 albums. Devos drew the series until his retirement in 1988. 'Génial Olivier' presumably served as an inspiration for Alan Moore and Kevin Nowlan's similar whizzkid 'Jack B. Quick' (2006).

Les Chroniques Extraterrestres, by Jacques Devos
Extra-terrestres - Opération Kamikaze (Dutch version from Robbedoes #1975, 1976)

During the first half of the 1970s, Devos made two half-page educational features dealing with the history of firearms and other weaponry: 'La Petite Histoire des Armes à Feu' (1970-1972) and 'Armes Secrètes, Armes Farfelues' (1972-1974). These comics installments were collected in two books by Rossel in 1974, and in one volume by Dupuis under the title 'L'Encyclo-B.D. des Armes' in 1985. By 1976, Devos turned to a highly realistic drawing style for a series of science fiction stories about extraterrestrials, called 'Les Chroniques d'Extra-terrestres'. Devos' aliens appeared in several time periods and dimensions, and interacted with various living creatures. Their author furthermore "proved" they were the source of several legends, like the story of Icarus. Devos made eight short stories in the period 1976-1981 and one final longer serial called 'L'Étoile Verte' (1984). An album was published in the collection 'Les Meilleurs Récits du Journal de Spirou' in 1981.


A later episode of M. Rectitude et Génial Olivier in a psychedelic setting

Jacques Devos passed away at the age of 67 in January 1992, only four years after his retirement. The artist's son Jean-Jacques Devos has released several of his father's work in later years. These included a porfolio with drawings of his former collegues in 2007, and an additional 'Génial Olivier' album with previously unreleased material (2008).


Devos, drawn by Jamic

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