David Balfour, by Jacques Laudy
'David Balfour'.

Jacques Laudy was a Belgian comic artist and painter, and one of the original artists of Tintin magazine, together with Hergé, Edgar P. Jacobs and Paul Cuvelier. Laudy is, however, somewhat of an unsung hero. Many of his comics were one-shots published in magazines and never received an album release during their original run. His only real series with album availability was the historical comic strip 'Hassan & Kaddour' (1948-1962). Laudy also left the comic industry after only 20 years, which makes him less well known than other artists of Hergé's "School of Brussels". Yet his work is interesting because his more classic background gave him a different, more experimental approach to making comics. 

Tintin cover by J. LaudyTintin cover by J. Laudy

Early life and career
He was born in 1907 in Schaerbeek, Brussels, into an artistic family. His father was the Dutch-born painter Jean Laudy (1877-1956), who was especially known for painting the Belgian royal family. His mother, Hélène Dumoulin, made watercolor landscape paintings. The family lived in Woluwe Saint-Lambert/ St. Pieters-Woluwe, where Hergé also spent a large part of his life. Laudy got his classical training in fine arts in Brussels, where one of his teachers was the painter and muralist Constant Montald. Among his main graphic influences were classical illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Anton Pieck, and the painters Louis Buisseret and Alfred Moitroux. 

While studying at the Brussels Academy from the age of 14, he became friends with Jacques van Melkebeke and Edgar Pierre Jacobs, two artists whose careers became linked to Laudy's in the decades to come. The three friends shared a passion for antique weaponry, and regularly made portraits of each other. Laudy and Van Melkebeke also stood model for Jacobs' famous comic characters Francis Blake and Philip Mortimer, respectively.

Hassan et Kadour, by Jacques Laudy
'Hassan et Kaddour'.

Interest in Scotland
Largely inspired by the stories of Sir Walter Scott, Laudy developed a keen interest in Scotland during the late 1920s and especially the fabrication of bagpipes. He paid regular visits to the Edinburgh-based bagpipe manifacturer Andrew Ross, and fabricated and personally restored over 200 instruments in his lifetime. It may not come as a surprise that Scotland was a regular setting for Laudy's later comic stories. There were plans to collect the many sketches and watercolor paintings he made of Edinburgh in a book called 'Les Rues d'Edimbourg' in 1984, but this project was never finished. As an inside joke, Willy Vandersteen later gave Laudy a cameo in his 'Suske en Wiske' album 'Het Spaanse Spook' (1948) as the bagpipe player whose bagpipe is shot away by cannon and magically still keeps playing music.

Gust le Flibustier, by Jacques Laudy
'Gust le Flibustier'.

Early comics
Laudy began his career in comics and illustration at the age of 33. His early illustrations appeared in 1940 in Pro Juventute, the magazine of Pro Juventute, the foundation for the common good of the youth, established by 1938 by baron and philanthropist Louis-Jean Empain. He was one of the regular illustrators of covers, short stories and tales for the French and Flemish editions of Bravo! magazine in 1940. He also introduced Jacobs to editor Jean Dratz, and was thus instrumental in his friend's debut in comics. Laudy eventually ventured into comic strips himself with the humorous features 'Les Aventures de Bimelabom et Chibiche' (1944-1946) and 'Gust le Flibustier' (1946-1948). After the Liberation, Laudy made appearances in the Flemish magazine ABC ('Trotsart de moedige ridder' in 1944-1945) and in Le Petit Monde, to which his Bravo! colleagues Jacobs and Willy Vandersteen also contributed work. Laudy furthermore made the comics story 'Buonamico' for Grand Coeur, as well as illustrations and the stop-comic 'Pietje Bovenkast' for Graphica. Some of his work around this time was signed "Al. Jingle".

Les Quatre Fils Aymond by J. Laudy
'Les Quatre Fils Aymond' (Dutch edition 'De legende der vier Heemskinderen' in Kuifje #4, 1947).

Tintin magazine
In 1946, he was involved in the launch of the Belgian edition of the magazine Tintin. For the magazine's early issues, he made comic adaptations of the medieval tale 'The Four Sons of Aymon' ('Les Quatre Fils Aymon', 1946-1947) and of Walter Scott's book about Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor (1947-1948). 

Rob Roy by J. Laudy
'Rob Roy' (from Kuifje #52, 1947).

Hassan & Kadour
His best-known work is however 'Hassan et Kaddour'. It stars two Arabian scoundrel boys. The original album was set in Ancient Arabia, a setting comparable to 'Arabian Nights'. In later stories the two boys often found themselves in different historical time periods, without any reason. Six stories were serialized in Tintin until 1962. The first two were written by Jacques Van Melkebeke under the pen name J. Alexander. An additional 'Hassan et Kaddour' story called 'Chasseurs de Chimères' appeared in Tremplin in 1960-1961, but it is possible that this story was solo work by Van Melkebeke.

Other comics
In 1952, Laudy interrupted this series to make a comic based on Robert Louis Stevenson's 'David Balfour', from a script by Yves Duval, as well as a couple of short stories. For Tintin, Laudy also made series of advertising comic strips for products like Stephens stylographs and ink (1947), Côte d'Or chocolate ('Monsieur Cotdor', 1949-1951) and Ajax bicycles (1949-1951).

Monsieur Cotdor by J. Laudy
'Monsieur Cotdor' (1950).

Ons Volkske
Laudy was additionally present in the Flemish magazine Ons Volkske between 1951 and 1956 with silhouette characters comic pages, and in the newspaper Le Soir with sporadic historical stories in the period 1956-1965. For Petits Belges/Tremplin, he illustrated episodes from the life of emperor Charles V ('L'Histoire comique de Charles Quint' (1954-55) and comic reworkings of Belgian folk legends (1956-1958). These legends were reprinted in the newspaper La Libre Belgique in 1987 under the title 'Légendes de Belgique'. 

Hassan et Kaddour by Jacques Laudy
The final Hassan & Kaddour story in 1962 was set in Laudy's beloved Scotland.

Retirement from comics
Laudy's artistic background often led to an unconventional approach of the comics medium. He would make his speech balloons rectangular, rather than round, for instance. 'Hassan & Kaddour' also had no permanent setting. The characters appeared in different historical eras and countries each album. Only Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' did the same thing in Tintin magazine, also without providing a proper explanation. This didn't sit well with the ever-dogmatic Hergé, who wanted all comics in Tintin magazine to follow a certain standard and make logical sense. Their frequent disputes were presumably one of the reasons why Laudy left the comic industry by 1962 and devoted the rest of his career to making paintings and bagpipes. He even became a succesful portrait painter, among others of Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi of Persia and his wife. Even his old boss Hergé posed for a portrait once.

Laudy somewhat sank into obscurity the next decades. Since his oeuvre was limited to publications in magazines, most which never received an album release - even at Lombard - he is still often overlooked. Even when smaller publishers started bringing out his comics in book format they still had a limited print run. 

Edgar J
Painting from 'Le Royaume d'Edgar J' depicting several of Laudy's characters, as well as the painters Moitroux and Buisseret.

New appreciation for his comics came in the 1970s, when Laudy was awarded the 1974 Prix Saint-Michel by the city of Brussels for his entire comics oeuvre. In 1991, he was named Knight in the Ordre of Leopold, and then Baron, by King Baudouin I. A large overview exhibition of his work was held in the Belgian Comic Strip Center in 1992.

Death, legacy and influence
Jacques Laudy passed away on 23 July 1993 at the age of 86. Shortly after his death, his semi-autobiographical book, called 'Le Royaume d'Edgar J', was published posthumously. It featured fictionalized descriptions and watercolors of the author's friendships with Van Melkebeke and Jacobs, and his memories of Edinburgh and the Flemish coastal village Klemskerke, which he regularly visited since his childhood. Because of his limited comics work, Laudy has been an influence on just a few younger artists, among which is Laurent Parcellier.

Jacques Laudy
Jacques Laudy in the 1940s.

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