'De Lustige Kapoentjes', 1985. 

Jo is a Belgian cartoonist, who started as one of the house cartoonists of Top, a magazine for teenagers published by Averbode. After that, he was the sixth and final artist of the long-running gag comic 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' in the children's magazine 't Kapoentje, drawing the feature between 1985 and 1989. Not much is known about the cartoonist's identity or current whereabouts, except that his full name is almost certainly Jo Coppens. In the late 1970s, he possibly also had a couple of strips published in Robbedoes, which were signed with "Jittoku".

De Lustige Kapoentjes
Since 1947, 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' was the flagship of 't Kapoentje, the weekly children's supplement of newspaper Het Volk. Originally created by Bob De Moor by request of editor Marc Sleen, the gag series revolved around a group of children, a meddling police officer and a sneaky, villainous youngster. In 1985, the latest artist, Karel Boumans, quit the series after nine years. He passed the pencil to an artist who signed with simply "Jo", and drew in a loose, sketchy style. Like his predecessors, he kept the feature's format, but redesigned the characters and renamed some of them.

However, at this point, 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' was already past its popularity, and only ran in 't Kapoentje as filler. Contrary to all previous versions, Jo's incarnation wasn't even collected in comic book format. Still, he continued 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' for four years. In 1989, 't Kapoentje was renamed to De Jommekeskrant, after Het Volk's hit comic series 'Jommeke' by Jef Nys. This also marked the end for 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' after 40 years. Though in 2011, Tom Bouden rebooted the series both in the comics news magazine Brabant Strip Magazine and in book format.

The artist who signed with Jo, is possibly also the person who drew some two-page filler stories for Robbedoes in 1979. The two stories, 'Planeet Aarde' (issue #2127, 18 January 1979) and 'Guustine' (issue #2128, 25 January 1978), appeared in black-and-white and were not featured in the French-language edition Spirou, making them likely Flemish substitutes for advertisements or editorial pages from the French edition. They were made in the same style as Jo's 'Lustige Kapoentjes', but signed with "Jittoku".

'Guustine', issue #2128, Robbedoes, 25 January 1979. 

Despite active research by both Tom Bouden and the now-defunct Brabant Strip Magazine, the identity of Jo remains a mystery. The results of their inconclusive search were chronicled in issue #186 of the magazine. Reader Gert Goovaerts mentioned he knew a Jo who, in the early 1980s, was a cartoonist for the Averbode teenagers' periodical Top Magazine. He described Jo as a bearded man with a rough hairdo, who also contributed to 'Het Schildpadplein', a late 1970s show on the Flemish public TV channel BRT (nowadays VRT), hosted by Zaki and Nadine De Sloovere. Through Dirk Musschoot, the final chief editor of 't Kapoentje, the researchers obtained a list of past contributors to the newspaper supplement. It revealed that Jo's full name was Jo Coppens, who in the 1980s lived in Neerijse, a town near Huldenberg. Copies of "Top - Magazine voor Tieners" reveal that artwork by their house cartoonist Jo is indeed the same Jo who drew the Kapoentje comics. The name Jo Coppens is mentioned in the publisher's imprint alongside that of another cartoonist who signed with only his first name, Wouter Peeters.

The Brabant Strip Magazine researchers moved on to contact every Jo or Jozef Coppens in Flanders, but each denied being the cartoonist. They also discovered a Jozef Coppens who indeed worked for the Catholic publisher Averbode, making him the most likely candidate with Gert Goovaerts' clues in mind. However, this Jo Coppens was a priest who compiled biblical guidebooks and was dead since 1981, making his involvement with 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' nor Top Magazine impossible. Picking up the search in 2021, the Comiclopedia editors searched the Dutch newspaper archives at Delpher.nl, finding a Jo Coppens who worked with the Belgian vocal duo Nicole & Hugo on the Flemish TV show 'De Triangelclub' (1979-1981). IMDB reveals this was a (stage) actor born in 1936, who also appeared on 'Het Schildpadplein'. Information provided by members of the Facebook group Stripknip proved this was also not the cartoonist. This makes the two leads offered by Gert Goovaerts come to a dead end. Any clues on the true identity of the still mysterious Jo are more than welcome!

Cover illustration for Top magazine (7 December 1984).


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