Esther Verkest by Kim Duchateau
'Esther Verkest'.

Kim Duchateau is a Belgian cartoonist, illustrator and comic artist, also known simply as "Kim". His signature series are 'Esther Verkest' (2000), about a sexy but crazy young woman, and 'Aldegonne', about an equally twisted little girl. His style is absurd and frequently disturbing. After gaining popularity in the Dutch-speaking regions, his cartoons also found success in English, French and German translations. In 2017, he was the first artist after Marc Sleen's death to be allowed to make an official new 'Nero' story: 'De Zeven Vloeken'. Duchateau is also active as a comic writer, penning stories for the children's comic 'Klein Suske en Wiske', a spin-off of Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske'. The cult cartoonist is additionally active as a radio/TV comedian and a musician in alternative bands.

Early life and influences
Kim Duchateau was born in 1968 in Sint-Truiden as the son of plastic artist Hugo Duchateau. Kim's nephew Dirk Swartenbroekx later gained fame as electronica musician Buscemi. At age 11, Duchateau managed to get one of his gag comics published in the amateur cartoonist section 'Plant 'n Knol' in Robbedoes #2229 (January 1981), the Dutch-language version of Spirou magazine. Between 1989 and 1993, Duchateau studied animation at the KASK (Royal Academy of Fine Arts) in Ghent, where his teacher was Raoul Servais. After graduating with his short film 'Instinctus', Duchateau embarked upon a career in cartooning. He is also a teacher in Illustrative Design at the vocational university Hogeschool PXL in Hasselt, Limburg.

Artwork by Kim Duchateau

Among Duchateau's earliest graphic influences were André Franquin, Marc Sleen, Tex Avery and the Danish 'Rasmus Klump' stories by Vilhelm and Carla Hansen. Later inspirations went more underground, into the absurd, subversive and surreal: Kamagurka, Pirana, Métal Hurlant magazine, Robert Crumb, Marcel Gotlib, Jim Woodring, Daniel Clowes, Roland Topor, Gummbah, Jeroom, and Joost Swarte. Duchateau is fond of bizarre and unusual artists. He loves the films of Federico Fellini, David Lynch, The Marx Brothers and the TV shows of Van Kooten & De Bie, Wim T. Schippers ('Sjef van Oekel'), Hugo Matthysen and Monty Python, particularly the animated segments by Terry Gilliam. Duchateau is also a fan of avant-garde musicians, like Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, The Flying Lizards, Einstürzende Neubauten, Faust, Can, Pere Ubu, Devo, Daniel Johnston, Mauro Pawlowski, Sonic Youth, Igor Stravinsky, John Coltrane, The Velvet Underground & Nico, Die Anarchistische Abendunterhaltung and The Residents. In general, he loves artists who operate outside the norm. In his own comics, he adapts their strange, unpredictable and uncomfortable atmosphere, while still making readers laugh.

Madelfried, by Kim Duchateau
'Madelfried De Onverschrikkelijke'. Translation: "A superhero like me... naked!! I cannot be seen like this. Luckily, I have an idea... or would I attract attention with this?"

Comic career
Kim Duchateau self-published his early comics work under the title 'Verhaaltjes Voor het Slapengaan' ("Bedtime Stories"), of which the first comic books came out in 1989 and the second in 1992. Professionally, he debuted in 1994 in De Mix, the youth supplement of De Morgen. Between 2000 and 2014, he also published single-panel cartoons in this paper's 'Bis' segment. In January 2023, Kim returned in De Morgen with social commentary strips, this time in the section 'De Zotte Morgen', named after Zjef Vanuytsel's song of the same name. Kim's work additionally appeared in Dutch small-press magazines like Incognito, Zone 5300 and Beeldstorm. Kim's comic strip about the white anti-hero rabbit 'Madelfried De Onverschrikkelijke' ran on a weekly basis on the Concentra website SURF-INN, and from 2008 on in the newspaper Het Belang van Limburg. In January 2018, 'Madelfried' replaced 'Beestjes' by Schwantz in the Dutch free public transport newspaper Metro.

Duchateau also created 'De Hulpeloosjes' for PULP magazine. From 1997 until its demise in 2017, he was one of the house cartoonists of the Belgian men's magazine P-Magazine, appearing on a full page in each issue from September 2000 on. Since 2014, Duchateau has created single-panel cartoons for the free newspaper De Zondag. He has a weekly strip on the children's page of NRC Handelsblad and on the online news site Apache. Alternating with Wauter Mannaert, he makes a weekly topical cartoon for BRUZZ magazine and Other clients running Kim's cartoons are VRT NWS and dS Avond.

Aldegonne, by Kim Duchateau
'Aldegonne'. Translation: "Giddy-up! Giddy-up! Hoho, calm down. Don't get carried away, girl."

Duchateau's oldest and longest-running comic character is 'Aldegonne', a black-haired girl in pigtails, always dressed in a red dress and skirt. She has no mother, only a strict, mustached father. The pitiful child finds herself in absurd and disturbing situations beyond her comprehension or appreciation. The gag comic debuted in the late 1990s, and has appeared in magazines like Incognito, Zone 5300, Stripgids, Beeldstorm, Knack and the Zipp supplement of De Standaard. Other early recurring characters in Kim's work were 'Geoffrey het Lijk' ("Geoffrey the Corpse"), 'Samuvar de Domme Cycloon' ("Samuvar the Stupid Cyclone") and 'Gérard le Mouton-Double' ("Gerald the Double-Sheep").

Esther Verkest
Duchateau's best known series is 'Esther Verkest', which debuted on 27 September 2000 in P-Magazine. Created as a parody of other female comic characters, Esther is a sexy red-haired heroine, often appearing nude or having sex. Since P-Magazine was a men's magazine, she was designed as a pin-up, but otherwise she is far from a passive sex object. More than that, Esther is arrogant, commits adultery and always wins in the end. Most of all, she is the perfect excuse to create the absurd comedy Duchateau craves. Stumbling upon the comic under the impression that it's an erotic comic, readers quickly discover that jokes are weird and not sexy at all. Esther lives in an absurd world full of freaks, disturbing fairy tale characters and gnomes. Duchateau originally intended these gnomes to appear only for a few episodes, but at the request of his editors he kept them as a running gag, and they became part of his signature style.

Esther Verkest by Kim Duchateau
'Esther Verkest'. Translation: "Oooh yeah! Talk dirty to me, Esther!" - "In English or Flemish? Eh... O.K., if you want so.. eh... fuck me, you disgusting jar full of moulded apricots! You stinking piece of vomit, sizzling in the morning glow. Oooh... disgusting rotting, cut off toe nail. You pop-eye full with maggots of a scabby sheepdog! Impotent baboon! Pathetic weak hanging bag! Fumbling willy! Diarrhea face! Dick! Poor sheep!" 

Esther had a full page in P-Magazine until the magazine folded in February 2017. Her gags have also appeared in Focus Knack and the dog owners magazine Woef (for the occasion, she was given a little dog), and they were subsequently collected in book format by Oogachtend. In the Netherlands, Esther's adventures were published regularly in the comic magazines MYX and Eppo, in Germany in the local edition of Playboy and in France in the adult-oriented magazines L'Écho des Savanes and Fluide Glacial. In Italy, her books appear in translation at Comma 22. In translation her name is shortened to simply 'Esther'. To celebrate Esther's 10th anniversary, a special edition of P-Magazine appeared on 28 December 2010, to which colleagues Jan Bosschaert, Brecht Evens, Ilah, Erik Meynen, Dirk Stallaert and Urbanus all contributed their own graphic homage.

One particular 'Esther Verkest' gag has gone viral, although often altered without the cartoonist's consent. The original was posted on the Esther Verkest Facebook page on 16 April 2016, and shows the redhead bombshell stranded on a deserted island. Laying bricks forming the word "HELP" doesn't attract the attention of the crossing airplanes, so she lays the word "SLUT" instead. Suddenly, all planes set course for her little island. The joke was picked up by the online community and turned into a meme by constantly replacing the word 'SLUT' with other words, thus changing the punchline.

The infamous 'Esther Verkest' island gag that became an Internet meme.

Oogachtend released several collections with Kim's work, starting with 'Unne en andere vingerkrampen' in 1999. This was followed by several other books, including 'Uitzonderlijk Zwaar Vervoer' (2001, which had a foreword by Herr Seele), 'De Vlucht van de Kloothommel' (2003), 'Herman, de Lichtrode Ridder' (2003, a gay parody of Willy Vandersteen's 'De Rode Ridder', drawn by Tom Bouden), and the 'Esther Verkest' series. Under its Matsuoka imprint, Ballon Comics released Kim's 'Tinderstruck!' (2017), an absurd social satire/surrealist self-help book on love and sex in the days of online dating.

Crowd illustrations
Besides cartoons and comic strips, Kim Duchateau is also known for his crowd illustrations. Since 2003, he makes an annual full page drawing for Knack, in which all the remarkable national and international events of the past year are visualized. The feature proved popular with readers and especially high school teachers who let pupils identify the news events in their classes. He made similar crowd illustrations for the annual book's fair De Boekenbeurs in Antwerp.

Kim's crowded chronicle of the year 2016 for Knack magazine. In the skies are the dead celebrities Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Muhammad Ali, Toots Thielemans, singer Eddy Wally and Gene Wilder, with Wilder holding comic artist Marc Sleen hanging from the clouds. Sleen's characters Petoetje, Petatje and Adhemar appear in the left corner, peering over the Mexican-U.S. border wall which U.S. president-elect Donald Trump promised to build. Trump crashes through his own wall, growling at opposing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The collapsing tunnel references the Stefania Tunnel in Brussels, which indeed had to close for repairs. The graffiti slogan "Kom terug, Yvette!" ("Come back, Yvette!") refers to a popular character in the Flemish soap opera 'Thuis' who died in the series. Behind the wall the Belgian government decides to keep nuclear power plants going for a few more years. The chopped off trees refer to the fact that in 2016 more trees were cut than in any other year, while the first wolf in decades was spotted in the Ardennes. People who played Pokémon Go also tried to spot animals, including Pikachu (peering over the wall). Various other obsessive smartphone users are seen at the bottom of the page. At the top of the page a literal monetary stream to Panama symbolizes the Panama Papers scandal, which leaked information about the spendings of various high-profile people. Belgian Minister of Finance Annemie Turtelboom is a literal turtle. The police fines women wearing burkinis, while in the Antwerp Zoo a baby panda is born. In the center German chancellor Angela Merkel is congratulated for her immigration policy. An unidentified woman holds a book with the letter "L". Slaughtering animals without anesthesia was banned in Belgium, while mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus weren't protected. At the right terrorist explosions at the Brussels airport and Maalbeek make one fugitive terrorist bump his luggage carrier against a statue of a beer glass, referencing Belgian beer culture being named Unesco World Heritage. The Galaxy 7 smartphone also had to be taken off the market because of overheating problems. Pope Francis bans women priests "forever", while an unidentified deer mounts a rhino and an unidentified man with a hammer walks away. A majority of British people votes to leave the European Union, while military patrols are introduced in Antwerp to combat "terrorist threats". The Walloon government also vetoes the CETA economic treaty between Canada and the European Union. A polar bear is seated on a melting pole. Holiday character Zwarte Piet is forced to drop the blackface tradition under increasing politically correct pressure. Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature, while the Optima Bank goes bankrupt.

A few times in his career Kim's work was victim of censorship. In 1996, De Morgen refused a cartoon in which a father had anal sex with his daughter, under the caption "Father had his own methods to heal the generation gap". The drawing happened to coincide with the scandal surrounding pedosexual child murderer Marc Dutroux. The TV debate show 'Polspoel & Desmet' once refused to show a Kim cartoon about the theme "street safety". It showed a girl being gang raped in the street "but safely with a condom". In a case of ultimate irony, one of Kim's cartoons was refused from an exhibition in Antwerp about censored cartoons. With regard to censorship, Kim was also one of the Belgian cartoonists interviewed for Roel Daenen's book 'Het Is Maar Om Te Lachen. Hoe Cartoonisten De Wereld Veranderen' (Polis, 2016), published in the light of the 2015 terrorist attack at Charlie-Hebdo's headquarters.

Kim's book 'Esther Verkest Deel 3 - Van de Hak op de Tak' won the 2006 Stripschapspenning ("Stripschap Badge") for "'Best Adventure and/or Entertainment Comic". In 2007, he won the Bronzen Adhemar, the most prestigious Belgian comic award. In 2020, Duchateau received the second prize during the Press Cartoon Belgium Festival in Knokke-Heist for one of his BRUZZ cartoons. The drawing shows the Ministry of Migration using an image of genocidal Belgian king Leopold II to scare off potential immigrants.

Cartoon by Kim Duchateau
2016 cartoon about the Brexit, featuring the Knights Who Say "Ni" from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail', which amused John Cleese.

In 2015, Duchateau was one of the six Flemish artists to draw a comic book starring Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' for S.O.S. Children's Villages, based on a story by a celebrity. Duchateau made the episode 'Vredeskruid' with crime novelist Pieter Aspe. The other artists involved were Ilah, Charel Cambré, Jan Bosschaert, Ivan Adriaenssens and Kris Martens. In 2016, Kim and Dutch artist Hanco Kolk joined forces to make 'De Man van Nu', a modernized version of Romeo and Juliet in two time dimensions, published by De Harmonie/Balloon. The same year, Duchateau and Belgian humorist Urbanus collaborated on an exclusive two-page comic strip for the magazine Stripglossy. Kim Duchateau is a member of the collective and website The Cartoonist, founded by Marec, where Belgian cartoonists make their archived and new work available to the public.

Reboots of classic Flemish comics
In 2017, Duchateau had the honor of making a completely new 'Nero' story, to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the legendary Belgian newspaper comic by Marc Sleen. First serialized in Knack from 12 July 2017 on, Kim drew his homage story 'De Zeven Vloeken' ("The Seven Curses", 2017) completely in his own style. It referenced several classic 'Nero' stories, but also current events at the time of its publication. Duchateau wasn't the first cartoonist to try his hand at Sleen's creation, though. 'De Zeven Vloeken' was preceded by Willy Vandersteen and Eduard De Rop's fill-in episode 'De Geschiedenis van Sleenovia' (1965) and Willy Linthout 's parody 'De Zeven van Zeveneken' (1982). In 2022, Duchateau scripted another 'Nero' homage story, 'De Hemeltergers' (2022), drawn by Dirk Stallaert.

After his one-shot episode in 2015, Kim also continued his involvement with 'Suske en Wiske'. Since 2020, Duchateau is the scriptwriter for the relaunch of 'Suske en Wiske Junior'. The comic series about the childhood adventures of the classic characters previously appeared under the titles 'Klein Suske en Wiske' and 'Junior Suske en Wiske' between 2002 and 2015. Drawn by Charel Cambré, the new series debuted with no less than three new issues appearing throughout 2020.

Nero by Kim Duchateau
'Nero', 'De Zeven Vloeken'. 

Graphic contributions
In 2005, Kim Duchateau was one of many artists who worked on the crossover 'De Kiekeboes' album, 'Bij Fanny op Schoot' (Standaard Uitgeverij, 2005), in which Esther Verkest appears alongside Merho's character Fanny Kiekeboe. Duchateau paid homage to Pom in the collective tribute album 'Kroepie en Boelie Boemboem. Avontuur In De 21ste Eeuw' (Nouga, 2010). He was one of many Belgian cartoonists to make special cartoons and comics for Gilles Dal’s book "België, et cetera" (Van Halewyck, 2016), a funny look at the history of Belgium. He also paid tribute to Marc Sleen in 'Marc Sleen 90. Liber Amicorum' (Standaard Uitgeverij, 2012), a book that celebrated Sleen's 90th anniversary. Duchateau honored André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' in the collective homage album 'Gefeliciflaterd!' (Dupuis, 2017), and Merho in the homage book 'Hoor Je Het Ook Eens Van Een Ander' (Standaard Uitgeverij, 2018).

In 2017, Kim Duchateau was one of the first artists chosen for a series of four-page stories with Martin Lodewijk's 'Agent 327' in Eppo magazine. Because new stories had not been coming for a while, Dutch comic artists were asked to provide their own "classic" stories with the secret agent character. Kim's story was written by Ger Apeldoorn. Like all artists, he drew a cover as well. In 2020, Kim joined 75 Dutch & Flemish comic artists to make a graphic contribution to the free collective comic book ‘Striphelden versus Corona’ (Oogachtend, Uitgeverij L, 2020). The book is intended to support comics stores who had to close their doors for two months during the lockdown at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cover illustration for Eppo issue #13 of 2017, featuring Kim's 'Agent 327' tribute.

Book illustrations
In 2007, Oogachtend published 'Er Was Geenszins', an absurd fairy tale book aimed at an adult audience, for which Duchateau provided drawings to short stories written by Herman Brusselmans, Urbanus, Kees van Kooten, Renske de Greef, Hugo Matthysen, Kamagurka, Vitalski, pdw (Patrick De Witte), Jan De Smet, Christophe Vekeman, Stijn Meuris, Hanco Kolk, Bernard Dewulf, Chris Van Camp, Steve, Ilah and Bart Schoofs. Duchateau also illustrated the cover of Jan Smet's 'Duizend Bommen en Castraten' (Vrijdag, 2021), a book about censorship in Belgian comics.

Radio and TV appearances
Kim Duchateau's cartoons have been made available on the websites of the Flemish public TV channel VRT and its commercial rival VTM. Between 2001 and 2006, he was a contributor to the political debate show 'Polspoel & Desmet' on VTM, hosted by journalists Gui Polspoel and Yves Desmet. In every episode, he improvised satirical drawings, shown to viewers at the end of the broadcast. Duchateau also hosted the surreal radio show 'Dwalmacat' on fm Brussel, worked for Radio Scorpio and played in weird sketches on Event-TV.

Musical career
Because of his love for alternative music, Duchateau also plays in several experimental bands, such as the Lama Home Band, Blutch, Isthmus in Irk, Intige Taluure, Kim Kangaroo (AKA Kim Kangman) and the Schoofsduchateautrio, where he performs with Bart Schoofs. The album cover of the Philtman & Kangaroo record 'Velvet Coma Hotel' (2011) was designed by Sarah Yu Zeebroek, daughter of cartoonist Kamagurka. Together with his nephew Dirk Swartenbroekx (best known as the musician Buscemi), Duchateau formed the band Les Chiens Comiques.

Legacy and influence
Kim Duchateau is an influence on Lae Schäfer and Katrien Van Schuylenbergh. Belgian cartoonist Zak named Kim "his spiritual heir" and hailed him for distinguishing himself from his rivals. In 2016, the United Kingdom voted whether they wanted to stay in the European Union, or not. When a slight majority voted for the Brexit, Kim drew a cartoon referencing a famous scene from 'Monty Python & The Holy Grail' (1975), featuring the Knights Who Say "No" (rather than "Ni"). To his surprise and pride, Monty Python member John Cleese shared the cartoon on his personal Twitter account a few days later.

On 7 August 2021 a comic mural designed by Duchateau was inaugurated in the Grote Goddaard street in Antwerp. The drawing pays homage to Antwerp's cultural-historical history.

Esther Verkest by Kim Duchateau
Cartoon depicting four possible people who'd like to stick their hand inside Kim's character Esther Verkest's bra. The first one is Jos Ghysen, a Flemish radio host who in 2012 was accused of having sexually harrassed his secretary in the 1970s. The second Walter Capiau, a former Flemish radio and TV host, who in the same year confessed molesting boy scouts in the 1960s. The third person is N-VA politician Pol Van Den Driessche who in 2010 was also accused of sexual intimidation. The final caption of potential bra grabbers reads "Jullie allemaal" ("All of you").

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