Comic Creator Luc Lafnet

Luc Lafnet

Davine, Lucan, Lafcat, Viset, Lucas O, Pol, Luc, Grim, Jim Black

(22 January 1899, Belgium - 29 September 1939, France)   Belgium

Luc  Lafnet

Bibor et Tribar by Luc Lafnet
'Bibor et Tribar', co-credited to Luc Lafnet (26 May 1938).

Luc Lafnet was a Belgian painter, etcher and illustrator, and the regular assistant of Blanche Dumoulin and her French husband Robert Velter. He worked with the pair on their comics 'Spirou', 'Bibor et Tribar' and 'Les Aventures de Zizette' for the Belgian weekly Spirou, and he presumably also made comics for French magazines as well. Lafnet used various pseudonyms, including Davine. For decades this name was believed to be used only by Dumoulin, but it was later discovered that both Lafnet and Dumoulin signed their work with it. This may even raise the possibility that Spirou's debut comic book page was in fact drawn by Lafnet and not Rob-Vel as the familiar history books claim! A supposed self-portrait on the same page makes the assumption even more plausible... During his lifetime, Luc Lafnet was mostly known for his paintings of religious scenes, while on the side he illustrated erotic BDSM pulps under the name Jim Black.

Early life and career
Lucien Lafnet was born in 1899 in Liège, Belgium. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in his birth city, where the engravers Adrien De Witte and François Maréchal were among his teachers. With his bohemian appearance, Lafnet became was a member of several of Liège's art groups, including Les Hiboux, Le Cénacle and La Caque. He also became close friends with the novelist Georges Simenon. In 1916 he was already awarded the "Médaille du Gouvernement" for his painting work, and in the following year he became second in the "Prix de Rome".

Erotic art for 'Dresseuse d'Hommes' by "Jim Black".

Move to France
From 1922 on Lafnet was active as an etcher, painter and muralist Paris, France. He was later joined there by Simenon. He painted and etched mainly religious scenes, and also made murals for the monastery at Pont l'Abbé d'Arnoult and several churches in the Montmartre district of Paris. He was additionally active as an illustrator, for instance for an edition of Charles De Coster's 'Légendes Flamandes' (which was originally illustrated by Félicien Rops). Lafnet illustrated books (by Georges Simenon, Baudelaire, Marquis de Sade and Théophile Gautier), advertisements and children's magazines.

Erotic art
Contrasting sharply with his religious work, Luc Lafnet had a secret career on the side as an illustrator of erotic pulp stories. As "Jim Black" he illustrated a great many BDSM works, often with Amazonian women thrashing and humiliating men with whips and belts. His etchings for Florence Fulbert's 'Dresseuse d'Hommes' (1931) and Sophia Furrya's 'Les Geôles de Dentelles' (1933) particularly stand out.

Zizette by Luc Lafnet
'Les Aventures de Zizette' (26 May 1938), mostly signed with Davine but this time with "Laf and Dav".

The mysterious Davine
Luc Lafnet has used a variety of pseudonyms during his relatively short career. He signed his advertising work with names like Lucan and Lafcat, his erotic illustrations with Grim, Jim Black, Lucas O, Rich, Pol or Viset, and his comics with Davine. The latter pen name was for many years solely attributed to Blanche Dumoulin for her illustration work in the magazines and books published by Dupuis in Belgium (Bonnes Soirées, Le Moustique, Spirou, etc.). It was recently discovered that the pseudonym might have been used originally by Luc Lafnet, who later became a close friend of Dumoulin and her husband Robert Velter. For one, it is highly unlikely that Dumoulin drew for European magazines during the first part of the 1930s, since at the time she worked as a nanny in Sydney, Australia. During this same period, "Davine" already created a variety of comic characters for children's magazines, such as 'Ric et Rac', 'Guignol' and 'Pantagruel' for Fillette in 1934. It wasn't until 1937 before Blanche Dumoulin returned to Europe. She acted as an agent for Lafnet from then on, while also doing the writing of his comics. Perhaps they began sharing the Davine pen name, with Dumoulin adopting it for her own illustration jobs as well. All in all, it is almost certain that the Davine who drew the comics 'Bizouk et Pélik' (1936-1938) for Le Journal de Bébé, 'Moustique Reporter' (1937) in Le Bon Point, and 'Les Aventures de Zizette' (1938-1939) in Spirou was Luc Lafnet rather than her. Some 1938 episodes of 'Zizette' were however signed by "Laf & Dav", leading to believe that Dumoulin eventually fully adopted the signature.

Spirou by Luc Lafnet? Luc Lafnet
Was the painter from the very first Spirou page a self-portrait?

Assistance of Rob-Vel
Lafnet also assisted Dumoulin's husband Robert Velter on his work for the Belgian magazine Spirou in the period 1938-1939. This not only included the magazine's title comic, but also most of the artwork for Velter's 'Bibor et Tribar' comic. His contributions can be recognized through his caricatural and grotesque side characters. In the books 'Spirou par Rob-Vel L'Intégrale 1938-1943' (2013) and 'La Véritable Histoire de Spirou: 1938-1946' (2013), the Dupuis historians Christelle and Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault even mentioned the possibility that it was not Velter but Lafnet who drew Spirou's very first appearance on the front page of the first issue on 21 April 1938! The featured painter who literally gave life to Spirou with his "eau de vie" showed great similarities to Luc Lafnet and might have been a self-portrait. Since the Frenchman Velter himself was already very busy with his comics for the French press ('Toto', 'Monsieur Subito'), it is possible that he handed over this "Belgian commission" to an assistant. Or maybe Velter only drew the main character while Lafnet did the others? On the other hand, Rob-Vel could also have drawn the painter as Luc Lafnet as a tribute to his friend. Perhaps we shall never know...

Luc Lafnet had to cancel his work on both comics in March 1939 because of illness. Around that same period the signature of Davine disappeared from Le Journal de Spirou's illustrated text stories. Lafnet died in September of that same year in the Parisian suburb Rueil-Malmaison. His pen name Davine lived on for a short while in the work of Blanche Dumoulin, who drew the 'Spirou' comic with the help of J. Van Straelen and some anonymous assistants while her husband was mobilized in 1940. In October of that year she was forced to pass the pencil to Belgian artist Jijé because of wartime postal problems. The signature Davine was not seen again.

Bizouk  et Pélik by Davine
'Bizouk et Pélik', signed Davine (10 March 1938).

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