Franjo, by F.J. Herman

François-Joseph Herman was a Belgian comic artist. He was the first in a long line of assistants to Willy Vandersteen (other than Vandersteen's own wife, who served as his inker in the early days). Between 1949 and 1952 Herman inked, co-wrote and sketched on several of Vandersteen's series, most notably 'Suske en Wiske' ('Spike & Suzy'). He effectively laid the foundations of what would later become Studio Vandersteen. Herman also worked on a few 'Les Belles Histoire d'Oncle Paul' comics for Spirou in 1963. For Feu Sacré he drew the unfinished comic strip 'Le Secret de la Mer' (1949-1950), while Heroïc Albums published the comic story 'Franjo simple vacher' ('Franjo, eenvoudige koejongen', 1955). His early death prevented a possible bigger career. 

Work for Studio Vandersteen
Born in 1931 in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Herman was raised in the French language. He attended the Institut Saint-Luc in Brussels and began his association with Vandersteen in 1949. He inked several stories of 'Suske en Wiske', starting with the final strips of 'De Mottenvanger' up until presumably 'De Sterrenplukkers' (1952). He also contributed to the 'Suske en Wiske' stories for Tintin magazine, as well as other Vandersteen series until early 1952. After Herman's departure, Vandersteen found a replacement in Karel Boumans for the inking of 'Suske en Wiske', and Karel Verschuere as an assistant on his realistic series. It was the unofficial launch of the actual Studio Vandersteen, whose productions would dominate the Flemish comics market in the following decades.

Le Secret de la Mer
Herman also created some comics of his own, which all reveal his assocation with Vandersteen. 'Le Secret de la Mer' (1949-1950) appeared in the obscure Feu Sacré, and showed a remarkable resemblance to the 'Suske en Wiske' story 'Lambiorix' (1949-1950), one of the stories inked by Herman. Herman's 'Le Secret de la Mer' was abruptly ended, possibly through interference by Vandersteen who noticed the plagiarism. For Fernand Cheneval's Heroïc-Albums, he produced the comic story 'Franjo simple vacher' ('Franjo, eenvoudige koejongen', 1955). Although Héroïc generally published complete stories by authors such as Maurice Tillieux, Albert Weinberg and Marcel Moniquet, Herman's 'Franjo' appeared as a serial on the back pages. In 1963 he drew two short stories in the educational series 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul' by Octave Joly for Spirou magazine. François-Joseph Herman lived in Jette, where he had a modest career as a fine artist. He passed away in 1963.

Franjo, by F.J. Herman
Oncle Paul - 'Une Flamande dragon du roi soleil' (Flemish version from Robbedoes #1299, 1963).

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