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

Luc Lafnet was a Belgian painter and illustrator, and the regular assistant of his close friend Blanche Dumoulin and her husband Robert Velter on their comic strips, among them 'Spirou' (1938). Lafnet used various pseudonyms, among them the pen name Davine. For decades this latter name was believed to be only used by Dumoulin, but later it was discovered that both artists 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 claim even more plausible...

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

Early life and career
Luc Lafnet was born in 1899 in Liège, Belgium. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in his birth city. From 1923 on he was active as an etcher and painter of mainly religious scenes in the Montmartre area of Paris. Lafnet also illustrated books (by Georges Simenon, among other writers) and children's magazines, for which he used a variety of pseudonyms. 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 mysterious Davine
This latter pen name was for many years solely attributed to Blanche Dumoulin's illustration work for the Dupuis magazines Bonnes Soirées, Le Moustique and Spirou, as well as the publisher's various book collections. It is unlikely that Dumoulin drew for European magazines during the first part of the 1930s, since she was a nanny in Sydney, Australia, at the time. The artist behind the name Davine had created a variety of characters during this period, such as 'Ric et Rac', 'Guignol' and 'Pantagruel' for Fillette in 1934. Blanche Dumoulin returned to Europe in 1937 and acted as an agent for Lafnet from then on, while also doing the writing of his comics and perhaps sharing the Davine pen name on some of her own illustration work. However it is almost completely certain that the Davine who drew the comic strips 'Bizouk et Pélik' for Le Journal de Bébé in 1936-1938, 'Moustique Reporter' in Le Bon Point in 1937, and 'Les Aventures de Zizette' in Spirou in 1938-1939 was Lafnet rather than her.

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 Velter on the early 'Spirou' comics during 1938-1939, and did most of the artwork for Velter's 'Bibor et Tribar' strip. His contributions can be recognized through his use of caricatural and grotesque side characters. In the books 'Spirou par Rob-Vel L'Intégrale 1938-1943' and 'La Véritable Histoire de Spirou: 1938-1946' (1975), reprinted in 2013 at the occasion of the magazine's 75th anniversary, the possibility was revealed that it was not Rob-Vel, but Lafnet who drew the very first 'Spirou' page and that the featured painter was a self portrait. Since Velter himself was busy with his weekly 'Toto' and 'Subito' strips, as well as his translation work, it is well possible that he handed over this "commission" from Dupuis to an assistant. Or maybe Velter only drew the main character while Lafnet did the others?

Luc Lafnet had to cancel his work on both strips in March 1939 because of illness. It was around the same period that the signature of Davine disappeared from the illustrated text stories that ran in Spirou at the time. Lafnet died in September of that same year. His pen name Davine lived on in the work of Blanche Dumoulin, who co-signed the 'Spirou' comic while her husband was mobilized in 1940.

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

Series and books by Luc Lafnet in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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