Cartoon by Joke, appearing in the 1966 edition of the Cartoonale contest cartoon book.

Joke was a Belgian editorial cartoonist, who flourished in the 1960s and 1970s. He was known for his provocative, left-wing progressive political-social satire. In 1970 and 1971, he collaborated with painter Willem Dolphyn on the humorous comic book series 'Jan Zonder Vrees', based on the Flemish folklore character of the same name. Due to his early death at age 47, Joke's promising career was abruptly cut short.

Early life and career
Joke was born in 1934 in Bruges, in the coastal province West Flanders, as Jo Lagrillière. He studied in Antwerp, where he decided to stay because he enjoyed the atmosphere. Later he moved again, this time to Hoboken, a town outside Antwerp. Among his graphic influences were Saul Steinberg, Tomi Ungerer and André François.

Cover for Joke's cartoon album 'Déjà-vu'.

Early in his career, Joke designed advertising art for Martini. On the side, he drew cartoons for the newspaper De Standaard, which were also reprinted abroad in magazines like Pardon, Time Magazine and Playboy. His cartoons have a progressive, left-wing, anarchic spirit, typical for the 1960s and 1970s. They poke fun at religion, capitalism, racism, colonialism, the Vietnam War, prudence, sexism, and modern life in general. He signed his work with the pseudonym "Joke", which is a girl's name in Dutch (pronounced "yōkə"), but also has a double entendre as the English word "joke", hinting at his humorous side.

Joke found fellow spirits in people like Gal (Gerard Alsteens), Picha and hugOKÉ, all cartoonists who published in De Nieuwe. In an email to Lambiek's Comiclopedia of 20 October 2021, Gal remembered Joke as "the last hippie and a great gentleman at the same time, a soft, subtle, discrete, empathic person." Gal remembered that Joke was such as pacifist, that one time when Joke was stabbed in the street by a lunatic, the cartoonist simply forgave his aggressor.

Jan Zonder Vrees #3 - 'Gunars Goudstuk' (1971), inking and backgrounds by Joke.

Jan Zonder Vrees
Together with the painter Willem Dolphyn, Jo Lagrillière worked on a comic book series about 'Jan Zonder Vrees' (1970-1971), a character from Flemish folklore, popularized by the 1910 children's book written by Constant de Kinder. The stories are set in 15th-century Flanders, where Jan is depicted as a fearless strongman, who happens to have the same nickname as the historical Bourgondian duke John I, AKA John the Fearless. At the time, Willem Dolphyn illustrated children's novels by Karel Verleyen about Jan Zonder Vrees, published by L. Op De Beek. He was therefore a natural choice to launch a comic strip about the brave folkloric hero. Nevertheless, he wasn't the first artist to do so. Earlier comic adaptations of 'Jan Zonder Vrees' were made by Jan Waterschoot (1940s) and Roderyck (early 1960s). For their 1970s take on 'Jan Zonder Vrees', Dolphyn and Joke worked in a steady collaboration, with Dolphyn drawing the characters and Joke doing the inking and background art.

While Waterschoot and Roderyck made serious adaptations of the 'Jan Zonder Vrees' novels, the Dolphyn-Lagrillière version was more humorous and playful, presenting the main stars Jan Zonder Vrees and his good friend Dokus as a comical duo. The first two stories, 'De Gestolen Neus' (1970) and 'De Vliegende Brandstichters' (1971), were scripted by Ever Hulst (pen name of E. Verhulst). The third and final comic story, 'Gunnars Goudstuk' (1971), was written by Karel Verleyen - author of several original 'Jan Zonder Vrees' novels, but also a comic scriptwriter for Hurey, Jean-Pol, Rony Heirman and Jan Hoet. 'Gunnars Goudstuk' is by far the most outlandish story in the comic series, bringing the medieval Flemings all the way to pre-Columbian America, where they meet Native Americans.

From 21 April 1970 until 1971, Dolphyn and Lagrillière's 'Jan Zonder Vrees' comics were serialized in the newspapers Het Laatste Nieuws and De Nieuwe Gazet. In 1970 and 1971, three book collections were published; in Flanders by De Nederlandse Boekhandel in Antwerp and in the Netherlands by De Zuid-Hollandse Uitgevers Maatschappij in The Hague. After creating his comic adventures, Willem Dolphyn continued to illustrate several 'Jan Zonder Vrees' novels for publisher L. Opdebeek.

The 'Jan Zonder Vrees' comics were serialized in Het Laatste Nieuws and De Nieuwe Gazet from 21 April 1970 on and collected in three books. In Flanders they were published by De Nederlandse Boekhandel in Antwerp, while in the Netherlands they were published by De Zuid-Hollandse Uitgevers Maatschappij in The Hague. For the book publications, the artists used playful anagrams of their names, W. Dollière and J. Lagryphin.

The Beatles, as seen by Joke (1968).

TV career
Joke was interviewed in the documentary 'Humoresk' (1961), alongside other humorous cartoonists such as Bob de Moor, hugOKÉ, Pil, Ploeg, Marc Sleen and Willy Vandersteen. He was also featured in Benoît Lamy's documentary about cartoons and comics, 'Cartoon Circus' (1972). In this film he appeared alongside Siné, Roland Topor, Cabu, Jean-Marc Reiser, François Cavanna, Professeur Choron, Gal, Georges Wolinski, Willem and Jules Feiffer.

Cartoon by Joke, appearing in the 1976 edition of the Davidsfonds Cartoonbook.

Joke won the Public Award at the World Cartoonale in Knokke-Heist twice, in 1966 and 1968.

In 1982, Joke unexpectedly passed away at age 47. Only two days earlier he had phoned his former colleague Gal (Gerard Alsteens) for a final chat. However, in an email to Lambiek's Comiclopedia, Gal recollected that during this final conversation, Joke at no point said anything about the fact that he was a death's door. Gal later understood that Joke had died from cancer. After his passing, Gal wrote an "In Memoriam", published in issue #21 of the satirical magazine De Zwijger (June 1982). That same year, a compilation of Joke's cartoons was released under the title 'Huldeboek aan Jo Lagrillière' (Pink Editions & Productions, Antwerp, 1982). His widow made the selection, while Gal contributed a special tribute cartoon.

Because of his early death, Joke's work has unfortunately faded into obscurity. His wife Netty Vangheel (1948) survived him and enjoys some notability as a theatre and TV actress.

Series and books by Joke you can order today:


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