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. Largely because his oeuvre was limited to publications in magazines, as well as the fact that he left the comics industry in the 1960s, Laudy is however often overlooked in the history of Hergé's "Brussels school". Éditions Le Lombard never featured Laudy's work in its album collections, and it wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that smaller publishers released his comics in book format, although with a limited print run.
He was born 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 paintings of landscapes. The family lived in Woluwe Saint-Lambert, where Hergé also spent a large part of his life. Laudy got his classical training in fine arts in Brussels, and one of his teachers was the painter and muralist Constant Montald. 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.
Largely inspired by the stories of Sir Walter Scott, Laudy developed a keen interest in Scotland and especially the fabrication of bagpipes in the late 1920s. He payed regular visits to the Edinburgh-based bagpipe manifacturer Andrew Ross, and fabricated and restored over 200 instruments during his lifetime himself. 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.
Gust le Flibustier
Laudy began his career in comics and illustration at the age of 33. 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".
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). His best-known work is however the series about 'Hassan et Kaddour', a historical series in a "One Thousand and One Nights" setting.
Six stories were published in Tintin until 1962, of which the first two were written by Jacques van Melkebeke under the pen name J. Alexander. 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).
Laudy was additionally present in the Flemish magazine Ons Volkske between 1951 and 1956 with "shadow play" 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'. 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 Jacques van Melkebeke.
Laudy was an artist whose main influences were classical illustrators like Arthur Rackham and Anton Pieck, and the painters Louis Buisseret and Alfred Moitroux. His artistic background led to an unconventional approach of the comics medium, varying from his placement of text balloons to the liberal jumps between eras between his 'Hassan et Kadour' stories. This often led to disputes with Hergé, Tintin's art supervisor, who had a more strict view on comics. This was probably one of the reasons why Laudy left comics altogether in 1962, and devoted the rest of his career to painting and making bagpipes. Among his late work were portrait paintings of Hergé and of the Iranese royal couple.
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 Baudoin I. A large overview exhibition of his work was held in the Belgian Comic Strip Center in 1992. 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.