L'Aventure des Belges by Louis Hache
The dictatorship of Napoleon, from L'Aventure des Belges

Louis Haché was a mid- to late 20th-century Belgian comics artist and illustrator, about whom not much is known. He is best remembered for his educational comics which specialized in history. The artist was active for the Belgian magazine Tintin and drew in a highly realistic style.

Haché's comics career started in the 1950s. Together with scriptwriter Greg he drew the 'Bob Francval et Djinn' (1958) series for the magazine Ima, L'Ami des Jeunes, which was published in Paris from 1955 to 1958. The stories centered around Bob Francval, who was a special agent working for Interpol, and a young Hindu boy named Djinn. While not very succesful and forgotten today, the series was published in the Dutch magazine Sjors as well. 'Bob Francval et Djinn' also proved to be a testing ground for Greg's later police comic series 'Bernard Prince' (1966), published in Tintin and drawn by Hermann. He recycled most of the original concept and narratives, down to the fact that Prince was also a police inspector with a young Hindu sidekick named Djinn.

Bob Francval by Louis Hache
Bob Francval et Djinn

During the 1950s and 1960s Haché drew several one-shot historical comics for Tintin magazine. These were not only created for educational purposes, but also as a direct rival to Octave Joly's 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul' in Spirou magazine, which also told stories about historical events in comic book form. Just like other authors of educational-historical comics in Tintin, like Fred and Liliane Funcken, the majority of these comics were never published in album format. Among Haché's titles were 'Deux Hommes Dans La Brousse' (1956, scripted by Pollart), 'Ainsi mourut Humphrey Nicholls' (1956, scripted by G. Page), 'L' Albatros' (1956, scripted by Yves Duval), 'Les Aigles du Romaoro' (1956, with Pollart), 'Victoire sur l'impossible' (1956), 'L'Ordre règne á Topola' (1956, with Duval), 'Victoire sur le Cervin' (1956), 'Le Gentlement du Pôle' (1957) and two stories exclusively printed in the Tintin editions for the market in France: 'Les Égouts de Stredlitz' (1965) and 'Le Venin de la Colère' (1966), both scripted by Yves Duval.

In 1957 Haché illustrated an ambitious comic book scripted by Georges H. Dumont: 'L'Aventure des Belges'. The comic tells the chronological history of Belgium from the earliest Celtic settings to the late 1950s. In 1979 it was reprinted in an updated version to coincide with the upcoming 150th anniversary of Belgium's independence in 1980. 'L'Aventure des Belges' was also published in a Dutch translation as 'België in Beeld'. The work addresses several key points in Belgian history. Most topics are told in one page each, apart from the lifestories of each individual Belgian king. All five of them up to that point receive two full pages, with the exception of Baudouin, whose reign was still on-going at the time and therefore not as comprehensive as his predecessors. Two other topics which receive more attention and pages than others are the history of the Belgian independence and the colony Congo.

L'Aventure des Belges by Louis Hache
The death of King Leopold II of Belgium, from L'Aventure des Belges

'L'Aventure des Belges' is a very serious work. It's literally an illustration of an essay about Belgium's history, divided per topic and time period. It could be described as a text comic, with the difference that the text doesn't appear beneath the images but in rectangular blocks within the illustrations. All drawings are drawn realistically, without any speech balloons, onomatopeia or graphic indications of movement, giving it an overall static impression. When Dutch comics authors Thom Roep and Co Loerakker read it they were motivated to make their own comic book adaptation of - in their case - the history of the Netherlands: 'Van Nul tot Nu' (1982). Though they deliberately tried to make their version a bit more engaging by using an actual narrative with characters, more dynamic art work and above all a lighter, more comedic tone. In an interview Roep said he felt 'L'Aventure des Belges' was well-intended, but just too dry in its writing and too static in terms of drawings.

L'Aventure des Belges by Louis Hache
The murder of John the Fearless (the Duke of Burgundy) in 1419, from L'Aventure des Belges

Nevertheless, 'L'Aventure des Belges' is historically significant for being the first comic book to tell the history of Belgium. The only comparable predecessor was the book collection ' 's Lands Glorie' (1949-1961), written by Professor J. Schoonjans and illustrated by J-L. Huene, which was published by the Maatschappij Historia N.V. But this was more a collection of stand-alone colour illustrations which had to be collected through trading cards and put into a book to follow an actual chronological narrative. 'L'Aventure des Belges' paved the way for similar 'national history comic books', such as 'Bruxelles Babel. Chronique illustré de Bruxelles' (1979) by Jean-Louis Lejeune and M. Georis, 'De Geschiedenis van Vlaanderen' (1985) by Hugo Leyers, 'Brussel in Beeldekens' (2009) by René Bergmans, Jan Bosschaert, Tom Bouden, Jeff Broeckx, Charel Cambré, Ross Cappaert, Kurt Cassauwers, Ivan Claeys, Reinhart Croon, Pieter De Poortere, Luk Bey, Lode Devroe, Rik De Wulf, Steven Dupré, Lectrr, Hec Leemans, Merho, Randall Casaer, Ben Seys, Wim Swerts, Sascha Van Laeken, Patrick van Oppen, Jos Vanspauwen, Marc Verhaegen, Els Verlaak and Peter Willems, and 'De Vaderlandsche Geschiedenis' (2013) by Kamagurka and Herr Seele, starring their character Cowboy Henk. However, all these versions were deliberately humoristic in nature.

Belgie in beeld by Louis Haché
Julius Caesar and his legions, from 'L'Aventure des Belges

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