Génial Olivier by Jacques Devos
Génial Olivier - 'Le Passé Recomposé'.

Jacques Devos was a Belgian comic artist, who worked for the magazine Spirou throughout his career. His two signature series were the humorous spy comic 'Victor Sébastopol' (1962-1988, co-created with Hubuc) and the equally funny 'Génial Olivier' (1963-1988), about a child prodigy. Devos also went on a science fiction route with 'Les Chroniques d'Extra-Terrestres' (1976-1984), in which two extraterrestrials unwilling shape history and mythology. Passionate about machinery, particularly weaponry, he wrote and illustrated various educational features for Spirou about the history of firearms and warfare. 

Early life and career
Jacques Devos was born in 1924 in Brussels. As a child, he avidly read the pre-war comic magazines Le Petit Vingtième, Les Petits Belges, La Semaine de Suzette, Les Belles Histoires Illustrées, Le Journal de Mickey, Robinson, Hop-là! and L'Aventureux. After the war, he became fascinated by the comic magazines Spirou and Héroïc-Albums. Showing an early talent for drawing, Devos' early ambition was to become a comic artist. At age 19, he created a full-color comic story, 'Aventures Mirobolantes de Scottie' (1943), which remained unfinished. Decades later, in 2011, the story was discovered in the artist's childhood sketchbooks and released posthumously by Éditions Bague-Á-Tel.

Instead of turning to fulltime cartooning, Devos initially followed in his father's footsteps. After obtaining his mechanic's degree, he went to work in his father's bicycle repair shop. Devos repaired bikes for twenty years, while doing occasional art assignments on the side. In 1951, he had two illustrated articles about the history of tanks published in Tintin magazine. Devos then spent two years illustrating the memoires of a healer, who then disappeared with his original drawings. In ink wash, Devos made an illustrated history of the African war, which he submitted to Le Moustique magazine. In 1960, he also illustrated a short story in Bayard magazine.

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

At age 37, in 1961, Devos could quit his daytime job and focus on his cartooning work, when he began his assocation with the publishing house Dupuis and its comic magazine Spirou. 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).

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

Victor Sébastopol
With Hubuc, Devos 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 praises Sébastopol's achievements, the drawings show what actually happened back in the day and it was usually quite the opposite of what the narcisstic spy claims. While most series in Spirou were balloon comics, 'Victor Sébastopol' was a text comic, though a peculiar variant, since the text didn't appear below the images but above them. This gives it the allures of an actual journal. The series was originally drawn by Hubuc, but Devos continued the feature on his own from 1964 onwards. It appeared with long intervals in Spirou throughout the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Michel Deligne published one black-and-white album collection in 1977.

Other comics
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).

Génial Olivier
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 included in the 1321th issue of Spirou on 8 August 1963. In a one-shot gag a group of Martians arrive on Earth, but nobody understands them. A bespectacled boy named Olivier Delabranche, nicknamed 'Génial Olivier' ("Olivier the Genius"), figures out that they are lost and search for the planet Venus. Since the Martian language is binary, he was able to communicate with them through the use of his pocket calculator. As a punchline, it turns out Olivier has to go home afterwards "because he failed irregular verbs earlier that morning". 'Génial Olivier' appeared in irregularly in two more mini books, before finally becoming a regular series within Spirou's normal pages from issue #1627 (19 June 1969) on.  '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'.

'Génial Olivier' revolves around Olivier Delabranche, a gifted boy. Together with his best friend and accomplice, Flafla, he invents all kinds of crafty potions, formulas, machines, robots and vehicles. Some are intended to impress his sweetheart, Betty. Others merely to get a good grade in school. Or, even more often, to act revenge on the bully Absalon, teacher Mr. Rectitude and/or other school authorities. Sometimes Olivier succeeds, but usually his inventions have unforeseen side effects. This creates a lot of humorous havoc. The school principal is frustrated that this always happens when the superintendent pays a visit. The groundskeeper is irritated because he has to clean up the mess afterwards. And Mr. Rectitude because he falls behind on his teaching schedule. Nevertheless, Mr. Rectitude sometimes has the last laugh. He manages to outsmart Olivier or the inventions backfire on Olivier and Flafla. 

'Génial Olivier' is a fun series for any reader who suffered from bullying or boring, nasty teachers. The wacky inventions allow for a lot of imaginative storylines. Given that Devos himself was a technological whizz, much of Olivier's expertise came from the heart. One only wonders 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? 

'Génial Olivier' mainly consists of gags and short stories, but also features 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. The series was also translated in Dutch as 'Geniale Olivier', sometimes adding Mr. Rectitude in the full title as 'Mr. Kweeniewa en Geniale Olivier'.  Devos drew the series until his retirement in 1988. 'Génial Olivier' possibly served as an inspiration for Alan Moore and Kevin Nowlan's similar whizzkid 'Jack B. Quick' (1999-2002).

From: 'L'Encyclo-B.D. des Armes'.

L'Encyclo-B.D. des Armes
His background as a mechanic left Devos with a passion for technology, resulting not only in inventive fictional gadgets in his comic pages, but also in well-documented depictions of existing machinery. From his grandfather - a World War I veteran - he inherited a keen interest in weaponry, although only the machinery and not the warfare. 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. This project earned Jacques Devos the 1973 Prix Saint-Michel comic prize in the "Research" category.

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

Les Chroniques d'Extra-terrestres
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 "proved" they were the source of several legends, like the story of Icarus. Devos made about a dozen short stories in the period 1974-1981 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.

Graphic contributions
Devos was one of several artists to make a graphic contribution to 'Pepperland' (1980), a collective comic book tribute celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Pepperland comic store. In 1979, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hergé's 'Tintin', Devos drew a homage, printed in issue #184 of Tintin (20 March 1979). 

Death and legacy
Jacques Devos passed away at the age of 67 in January 1992, only four years after his retirement. In later years, the artist's son Jean-Jacques Devos (b. 1949) has released several of his father's works. These included a porfolio with drawings of his former colleagues in 2007, and an additional 'Génial Olivier' album with previously unreleased material (2008).

Jacques Devos, drawn by Jamic.

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