'Jan Heibel'.

Hugo De Reymaeker was a Belgian comic artist, mostly active in the 1960s and 1970s. Publishing under the pseudonyms Hurey, Hugo and Fonske, he is best remembered for his humorous medieval adventure series 'De Fratsen van Jan Heibel' ("The Antics of Jan Heibel", 1967-1973). Hurey had a close association with Marc Sleen, for whom he inked and occasionally ghosted several of his gag comics in the 1960s. In 1961, Hurey also redrew Sleen's first 'Nero' stories from 1947-1948 in a more modern look. Between 1965 and 1967, he also drew Sleen's titleless version of kids gang gag comic 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' in Pats. He was then bought over by rival magazine 't Kapoentje to draw the official 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' ("The Cheerful Rascals"), which he did between 1967 and 1976. Additionally, Hurey combined characters from both 'Jan Heibel' and his version of 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' for the spin-off comic 'Ketje & Co' (1967-1975). Hurey then served as assistant for the comic artists Jean-Pol and Berck before leaving the Belgian comic industry and moving to Martinique.


Hurey's 'De Lustige Kapoentjes', from 't Kapoentje.

Early years
Hugo De Reymaeker was born in 1937 in Tervuren. His father was a civil servant in Schaarbeek, who made paintings in his spare time. Hugo's sister became a nun, who also made drawings for the Vatican. Between 1948 and 1955, Hugo was a student at the seminary of Hoogstraten, where he received an award for painting. Under parental pressure, he then studied at the University of Leuven. In 1957, Hurey spent one year at the St. Lucas Art Institute in Schaarbeek, where he received his degree in drawing. Around this time, he also illustrated a children's book for publisher Lannoo in Tielt, 'Prinses Clementina' (1963), written by Jules Leroy and Lieve Simoens.

Animation career
De Reymaeker began his artistic career in animation. Between 1959 and 1960, he worked at the Belvision studios, under direction of Ray Goossens. This subdivision of publishing house Lombard was established by Karel van Milleghem and Raymond Leblanc to make animated shorts based on comic series from Tintin magazine. Naturally, Hergé's 'Tintin' was the main project. Hurey worked on the TV series 'Les Aventures de Tintin d'après Hergé' (1957-1964). The series featured limited animation and often drastically altered storylines, which Hergé strongly disliked. Nevertheless, Belvision's animated series was globally succesful and increased Tintin's worldwide popularity. At Belvision, De Reymaeker also met his future wife, one of the team's colorists.

Anakronis by Hurey
'Anakronis', comic strip for Kuifje, signed Fonske.

Tintin
Through his connection with Belvision, De Reymaeker published his first comics and illustrations in Tintin magazine and its Dutch language edition Kuifje, using the pseudonyms Hugo and Fonske from 1961 on. Between 1962 and 1966, he illustrated columns about Belgian history ('Petites Histoires de Belgique'), written by priest and historian Jean Schoonjans. The cartoonist also livened up the sports columns 'Tintin Sports' and 'Allo, Allo, Ici Luc Varenne', the latter written by the sports journalist Luc Varenne. In 1963, the magazine also devoted a weekly page to music fans. Illustrated by Hugo and written by jazz journalist and concert organizer Jean-Marie Peterken, the column was originally titled 'Tintin Jazz'. After a few episodes, the editors realized pop music might appeal more to their young audience, so the feature was rebooted as 'Tintin Teen-agers'. Hurey additionally illustrated columns about aviation ('Tintin Aviation'), ships ('Tintin Marine'), the pen pal page and various stand-alone educational articles.


'Professor Twist' (Kuifje #40, 1962).

As Fonske, he created 'Professor Twist'/'Professeur Twist' (1962-1963) with scriptwriter Jacques Acar, as part of Tintin's slapstick humor "TV Comic" section. "Fonske" also drew the stand-alone adventure comics serial of 'Didi-Soda', 'Het Atoomeiland'/'L'Île Atomique' (issues #29-43, 1962), written by Yves Duval. Under the pen name Hugo, he drew several short-lived comics features, again scripted by Acar. These included the adventure serial 'Pietertje en de Gouden Sleutel'/'Joly et La Clef Mystérieuse' ("Peter and the Magic Key", issues #7-21, 1963), two short pirate stories about 'Janmaat de Piraat'/'Mathurin le Pirate' (issue #46 and 51 of 1963), and several irregular appearing short stories with 'Klus Karwei'/'Céleste Pion' (1964-1966), about a man who tries his luck in all sorts of professions. For this latter feature, Hurey was aided by Jean-Pol, his assistant from January 1965 on.

One interesting oddity among the short stories drawn by Hugo De Reymaeker was the one written by Guy Mortier, who would gain fame as chief editor of Humo magazine. In the early 1960s, Mortier still wanted to become a comic writer. He submitted a script to Spirou magazine, but the editors turned it down. In Tintin, it was accepted and published in issue #22 (31 May 1966) of both the French-language and Dutch-language version. However, the editors had translated the text into French first ('Boum! Boum! Boum! (Récit Guerrier)'), and then had it translated back to Dutch for the Flemish edition ('Boem-Boem-Boem! Een krijgsverslag'). Because of this, most of the puns from Mortier's original script were lost in the double translation. In an interview with Geert De Weyer in newspaper De Morgen (31 January 2007), Mortier explained the experience angered him so much that he left the comic industry for good. Though he added: "I do recall [the story] was illustrated brilliantly, but don't ask me by who?"


De Avonturen van Lancelot - 'De Gouden Salamander' (Ons Volkske #16, 1965).

Ons Volkske
Some of Hurey's Tintin work also appeared on Ons Volkske, a Flemish low-budget comic magazine produced as a joint venture between publishers Lombard and De Standaard. Ons Volkske also ran new material by Fonske/Hugo, including the adventure serials 'De Avonturen van Gerarke' (scripted by Ker De Val and/or Valeer, 1962, 1964) and 'De Nieuwe Avonturen van Lancelot' (1965), a rare realistic comic by Hurey. He also drew a few short-lived gag comics, such as 'Pim en Bol' (1963) and 'De Avonturen van Hippo en Theo' (scripted by Jacques Acar, 1964-1967).


'De Brammetjes'.

Pats
On 5 September 1962, newpaper publisher De Standaard launched a new children's comic magazine: Pats (AKA De Patskrant). Hugo/Fonske was present from the very first issue, again mostly in cooperation with scriptwriter Jacques Acar. They made four adventures with 'Bert en Betty' (1962-1965) and a handful of gags with 'De Streken van Hippoliet' (1965) and 'Mieleke' (1965). With scriptwriter Carl Ley (pen name of Karel Verleyen), he created three adventure serials with 'Ray Blent' (1962-1963, 1965) and two of 'De Brammetjes' (1966-1967). Three stories of 'Bert en Betty' were later reworked into episodes of Hurey's 'Ketje & Co' series.

Marc Sleen
Somewhere around 1960, Hurey also began working with Marc Sleen, creator of the iconic Flemish newspaper comic 'Nero'. Sleen was notorious for drawing all his daily and weekly series on his own. But between September 1959 and May 1963, Hurey inked some of Sleen's 'Doris Dobbel' gags. This humor comic about a butcher ran in the independent proprietors' magazine De Middenstand since 1950. When Sleen quit the series in 1965, Hurey continued it on his own until February 1967. During the early 1960s, Hurey also inked Sleen's other gag comics 'Piet Fluwijn en Bolleke', 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' and presumably 'Oktaaf Keunink'. It has been confirmed that especially in the later period, Hurey ghosted some gags too.



Original ending of 'Het Geheim van Matsuoka' by Marc Sleen (1948), and the redrawn version by Hurey (1961).

Between 1 August and 30 November 1961, Sleen took a rare three month vacation. During his absence, Het Volk ran a reprint of the second 'Nero' story, 'Het B-Gevaar', originally published in 1948. However, this classic adventure was completely redrawn by Hurey. His version was also published in book format. Even though they were not serialized in the papers, the first and third episode, 'Het Geheim van Matsuoka' (original from 1947-1948) and 'Het Zeespook' (1948), were also redrawn for album publications. During the 1960s, it became a trend among Belgian comic artists to redraw their early stories in a more professional, updated graphic style. Up until then, only Hergé's studio had done this with the older 'Tintin' stories. His assistants modernized the graphic style, removed certain scenes and added others. In Flanders, Willy Vandersteen ('Suske en Wiske') and Jef Nys ('Jommeke') followed, but Sleen and Hurey were first. Hurey's updated 'Nero' only had a new graphic look. The plot and even the dated references from the 1940s were kept intact. Hurey simply redrew each panel, but kept the lay-out the same. One notable change was the ending of 'Het Geheim van Matsuoka' (1947). In the original, Nero was portrayed with "two rascals". Since the 1959 episode 'De Zoon van Nero', however, Nero only had one child, Adhemar, so the offspring from the debut story were turned into cousins. Hurey also redrew their faces so they didn't resemble Nero any longer.

When Sleen returned from his holiday, he continued drawing 'Nero' alone up until Dirk Stallaert became his assistant in 1992. No further 'Nero' stories were redrawn by Hurey or any other assistant.


Marc Sleen's titleless 'Lustige Kapoentjes', drawn by Hurey for Pats (1966).

De Lustige Kapoentjes
In 1965, Marc Sleen left the newspaper Het Volk to join De Standaard. Since he owned the rights, he took his characters from 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' and 'Piet Fluwijn en Bolleke' with him to continue their adventures in De Standaard's youth supplement Pats. However, Het Volk owned the names of both features, so all new episodes by Marc Sleen for De Standaard had to remain titleless. This also meant they couldn't be collected in books. Hurey was tasked to continue both titleless features in Pats, aided by his own assistant, Jean-Pol. Hurey's episodes appeared from 28 April 1965 until 4 January 1967.


Titleless 'Piet Fluwijn en Bolleke', drawn by Hurey for Pats (1966). The title panel only has the heads of the characters.

Meanwhile, Het Volk's supplement 't Kapoentje continued 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' under its original title, but with new characters. At first, Jef Nys took the job, but after a few weeks, he simply had his assistants draw gags with his signature character Jommeke. In 1966, Het Volk wanted an all-original kids gang for 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' and bought Hurey away from Pats for draw the feature for 't Kapoentje. After all, he had experience with the format, as he had assisted on Sleen's version for years. He was also promised his own comic in parent newspaper Het Volk, including the necessary promotion. Het Volk demanded he worked for them exclusively, so the transfer marked his definitive departure from Tintin, Ons Volkske and Pats. The titleless versions of 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' and 'Piet Fluwijn en Bolleke' were continued by Jean-Pol until 1974. Hurey's move to Het Volk also ended his professional and personal relationship with Marc Sleen, who instantly terminated the other gag comics Hurey had continued for him. In hindsight, it seems that Sleen had hoped Hurey would one day become his successor. To see him joining a rival newspaper felt like a stab in the back.


Hurey's 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' in 't Kapoentje.

On 18 January 1967, Hurey's version of 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' ("The Cheerful Rascals") debuted in 't Kapoentje. He rebooted the characters in his own style. The new boys were named Ketje, Oscar and Proske. The girl character became a teenager named Poes. The police officer was renamed Firmin and the villainous youngster Jakke. Hurey drew the series for almost nine years. Like all comics in 't Kapoentje, 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' also ran in French as 'Les Petit Lurons' in Le Petit Luron, a supplement of the Walloon magazine Samedi. In 1976, he passed the pencil to Karel Boumans, a.k.a  Kabou who was in turn succeeded by an artist known simply as Jo from 1985 until the series' end in 1989. 't Kapoentje collected Hurey's version of 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' in book format between 1967 and 1974. In 2020, Het Vlaams Stripcentrum (Flemish Comics Center) added another Hurey collection, with a cover illustration by Tom Bouden.


De Fratsen van Jan Heibel - 'Mortadella'.

De Fratsen van Jan Heibel
Hurey's best known feature in Het Volk was 'De Fratsen van Jan Heibel' (1967-1973), an adventure series set in the 14th century. Jan is a brawny but not so bright butcher. His name is a pun on Jan Breydel, a Flemish folklore hero who in 1302 fought during the Battle of the Golden Spurs. Heibel's sidekick, Piet Koning, is a pun on Breydel's good friend Pieter De Coninck. 'Jan Heibel' first appeared as one-page gag comics, but later as longer adventure serials, where the main character was accompanied by his son Dagobert. Het Volk released seven official album collections between 1967 and 1973. Four stories were made exclusively for annual holiday books. In 2005, Brabant Strip collected these in a limited edition.


Ketje en Co - 'De X-bom'.

Ketje en Co
In 1967, Hurey launched a spin-off of both 'Jan Heibel' and 'De Lustige Kapoentjes', titled 'Ketje & Co'. Initially focusing on Ketje, one of the Kapoentje boys, the author later teamed him up with Jan Heibel, through time travel, in the second album, 'Het Duivelstuig'. After three stories, the series was retitled 'Heibel en Ketje'. From the ninth album on, it appeared again as 'De Avonturen van Ketje'. Several stories first appeared in the budget comic magazine Ohee. As a side note, the 15th album, 'De X-Bom' (1971), shares its title with a classic 1955 'Nero' album. In total, 20 albums were published between 1966 and 1971. While 'Ketje & Co' ran in the papers, both 'Jan Heibel' and 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' continued as separate series in alternate continuities.

Pili-Pili
Additionally, Hurey drew a comic series about a Native American boy for Het Volk, named 'Pili-Pili' (1973-1974). Pili-Pili is small, but feisty. He is able to do extraordinary things when agitated. He is friends with Pacha the eagle and a nameless bear in Stars 'n' Stripes pants. Later, a buffalo with glasses was added to the cast.


Pili-Pili.

Leaving Het Volk
Although Hurey's albums enjoyed decent sales, he gradually felt in a rut. He was paid the same salary every month, regardless of how much he sold. On top of that, the cartoonist became highly agitated about Belgian politics and the economic crisis. Many friends and relatives remember how he often started to rant about whatever irked him. In an extensive article published in Brabant Strip Magazine #120 in 2004, Jean-Pol recalled that Hurey once got so angry about the news that he cut the TV's electrical chord, causing a short circuit! His temper also got a hold of him during a game of chess. Jean-Pol didn't take the game all too seriously, causing Hurey to toss the chess board into the stove. His nihilism and anger also seeped into his comics, with Jan Heibel becoming a soapbox for the cartoonist's opinions. In the story 'Koning Schaak' (1974), the medieval kingdom is struck by inflation, while a French landlord puts all the tax payers' money in his own pocket. The tale ends with Jan Heibel ranting about all things wrong with mankind. Both Jan and the king conclude that people will never change for the better. On that depressing note, the story ends. Editors weren't too pleased with such cynical political commentary in an entertaining children's comic. In the same article, Hurey's son remembered the time a representative of Het Volk visited his father at home. A huge argument broke out and Hurey literally threw the man outside. In 1976, Hurey left the paper. It remains an open question whether he left on his own terms or was fired. Either way, it doesn't seem that Het Volk shed a tear about it.


Ending of the 'Jan Heibel episode 'Koning Schaak'.

Later work (1978-1983)
After his departure from Het Volk, Hurey was disillusioned. His son recalled that he tried to make a living as a painter. He even managed to organize a couple of exhibitions in Southern France and London. In November 1978, he returned as the house cartoonist for the Brussels advertising paper Gagzette, using the pseudonym Amaie, based on the Flemish dialect phrase for amazement, "Amai!". He made illustrations, but also two gag comic series, 'Pitche' and 'Pomme et Poire'. 'Pitche' starred a tall young man with red sideburns in a Brussels setting, and had dialogues in city slang. 'Pomme et Poire' featured the unlikely wordplay interactions between an apple and a pear. Hurey additionally illustrated the heading of several columns. Unfortunately, Gagzette folded after only three issues, leaving much of Hurey's stock episodes unpublished. In his anger, he destroyed them all.


'Pitche'.

Much of Hurey's work from the late 1970s and early 1980s is clouded in mystery. Rik De Reymaeker confirmed to Brabant Strip Magazine that his father once drew for a German Disney comic magazine. In the early 1980s, Hurey inked episodes of both Jean-Pol's 'Kramikske' and Berck's 'Sammy'. He had asked both Jean-Pol and Berck to keep his contributions uncredited, leaving the two cartoonists unaware they shared an assistant. At a certain point, Berck had a hunch what was going on, since Hurey often missed his deadlines. A phone call to Jean-Pol confirmed his suspicions. It cost Hurey both his jobs.


'Pomme et Poire', from Gagzette.

Retirement, final years and death
By 1983, Hurey's father died. Fed up with the comic industry, Hurey decided to move to Fort-de-France, Martinique, mostly because painter Paul Gauguin used to live and work on this French island in the Caribbean. As a source of income, Hurey made reproductions of famous paintings. For a local museum, he made 120 drawings about the pre-Columbian era. The artist additionally designed stained glass windows, some of which can still be seen in the city theater. In 1986, he even made a comic book for Editions Désormeaux about the history of the Antilles: 'Histoire des Antilles Guyane par l'Image'. Hurey lived on Martinique until his death in 2001. Much of his original artwork is lost today, because it was either kept in humid locations or destroyed in anger fits. Some drawings were even thrown into the Caribbean Sea!

A selection of Hurey's early work was compiled by Tom Bouden and published in the limited edition 'Uit De Archieven van Hugo De Reymaeker, Hurey' (Uitgeverij Hauwaerts, 2015).


Hurey is introduced to the readers of 't Kapoentje on 18 January 1967.

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