Fernand Dineur was a Belgian comics artist who was the original creator of 'Tif et Tondu' (1938-1997), one of Spirou's oldest and longest-running series. Yet he only drew the bald and bearded detective duo for about a decade, before being replaced by Will. As such he is somewhat of a forgotten figure, despite his importance as a pioneer in Belgian comics history.
Fernand Dineur was born in 1904 in Anderlecht, near Brussels. He held many professions before he became an artist, such as butcher and police officer. He even worked as a civil servant in the Belgian colony Congo for a while. Near the end of the 1930s he worked as an illustrator for various newspapers and magazines, such as Le Soir and Le Moustique, where he published his earliest comic, 'Les Tribulations de Prosper' (1937). This gag strip also holds historical significance because it was the first original comic strip published in a magazine by Dupuis. In the following year, the Belgian publisher launched the oldest still-existing comics magazine of the country: Spirou. Dineur was present in its first issue, on 21 April 1938, with 'Les Aventures de Tif.' The title character was a bald freeloader who strands on a deserted island in his first adventure. There he meets a castaway who would soon become his sidekick, the bearded captain Tondu. The series was soon retitled 'Tif et Tondu' and thus, as such, the oldest-running comic strip in Spirou, apart from Rob-Vel's 'Spirou' itself.
Dineur's 'Tif et Tondu' was drawn in a jolly, folksy and somewhat naïve style. The duo had various adventures in exotic locations, typical for comics from that era. Interesting to note is that 'Tif et Tondu' is perhaps the second most famous example of an oddly translated comic series by Dutch translators, after Francisco Ibáñez' 'Mortadelo y Filemon' (which was originally translated as 'Paling en Ko', with the word "Paling" ("eel") not referring to the tall, flexible one of the two as one would expect, but the short one. This error was only changed later). In the case of 'Tif et Tondu' both Dineur as well as his successors named the bald character Tif (literally "hair") and the bearded one "Tondu" ("shaven"). Dutch translators either felt this was too confusing or didn't get the joke. Either way, they switched their names around, naming the bald one "Kale" ("bald one") and the bearded one "Baard" ("beard"). On some occasions, they accidentally translated the original text, resulting in the characters adressing one another with their own names!
Apart from his signature series Dineur also found the time to create the "funny animal" comic 'Les Exploits de Bib, Rip, Fitt et Jop' (1939-1940), about respectively a dog, a donkey, a monkey and a wild boar. He also drew 'Les Enquêtes de Flup, Détective' (1938-1946), a whodunit column in which readers were shown a mystery and had to find the culprit by carefully studying Dineur's illustrations. The artist also published in other magazines, like 'Poupotte le Clochard' in Le Soir (1940) and Jeep (1945), 'Furette' in Guy Depière's Bimbo (1945) and 'Ric détective' and 'Le Baron Louf' in Fernand Cheneval's Héroïc-Albums (1948).
Although 'Tif et Tondu' were indeed popular characters in 1940s Spirou, surpassed perhaps only by Rob-Vel's 'Spirou' and Jijé's 'Jean Valhardi', the Dineur stories often seemed to be treated as filler comics rather than a prominent feature. Most episodes were printed in black-and-white and often in a small format, whisked away underneath an editorial page or another comic. The characters did appear in one of the first book publications of Dupuis, 'Les Avontures de Bibor et Tribar - Tif et Tondu' (1940), although they had to share the spotlight with Rob-Vel's characters 'Bibor et Tribar'. By 1948 Dineur's artwork looked increasingly old-fashioned compared to the far more dynamic, contemporary and versatile artists who had enriched Spirou since the end of World War Two. Not only that: he also had the audacity to create eleven complete 'Tif et Tondu' stories for the rival magazine Héroïc-Albums. Dupuis therefore took the decision to fire him. 'Tif et Tondu' were bought away from Dineur and handed over to Will for the next four decades. Dineur initially continued to write the stories until 1952, after which Will collaborated with several scriptwriters who would mature the series, namely Henri Gillain, Albert Desprechins, Maurice Rosy, Maurice Tillieux and Stephen Desberg. From 1990 to 1997, Denis Lapière took over the writing, while Alain Sikorski drew the stories.
Dineur continued publishing comics for Héroïc, like 'Ric Détective', 'Baron Louf', 'Les Confidences du détective Nant' and the scripts of 'Attila' for Cheneval. In addition, he worked for Prenez-Moi (with 'Cap Joc') and Sans Blague. He passed away in 1956, at the age of only 51. While he was a Belgian comics pioneer and creator of a series still widely read today, Fernand Dineur remains somewhat of an unsung hero. His work has rarely been reprinted and is almost forgotten today. A major reason for this was his untimely death, which happened one decade before comics were revalued and reappreciated by both public and critics. Had he lived a little longer he might have become a household name amongst comic book aficionados. As it it is today, Dineur remains caught in the shadow of his successors. His comics are charming in their own right, but have never been subject of much admiration by historians or fellow artists. His drawings are loose and simple and the plots mostly a random series of successive events, with little regard for pacing, lay-out, logic or realism. Nevertheless Franco-Belgian comics would have been much poorer without his unforgettable classic creations.