Cartoon of the Rotterdam harbour.

Frans Le Roux is a Dutch cartoonist, illustrator and comics artist from the Groningen area. His main body of work has been in the service of government agencies, magazines or other commercial clients, but he is also the co-creator and scriptwriter of the educational comics series 'Arin en het volk van de Hunebedbouwers' (2000-2010, art by Roelof Wijtsma). Le Roux is best known for his large crowd cartoons in city settings, a specialty that came to blossom in the 'Cities of the World' jigsaw puzzles he has been developing for Ravensburger since 2014. Besides being a cartoonist, he has been involved in several other comics-related projects, most notably the TV course 'Strip & Cartoon Tekenen' (Teleac, 1993) and the now defunct Stripmuseum Groningen.


Commercial drawing for a construction company.

Early life
Le Roux was born in 1949 in Groningen. Fascinated by comics since his early childhood, he sold his first comic strips to a local newspaper at the age of 15. He later attended the local Academie Minerva, where he studied Graphic Design from 1967 to 1972. His professional life took off in this profession. During the early stages of his career he designed many posters and flyers for the Groningen pop scene, including announcements for performances by Herman Brood and The Ramones. By 1980 he settled as a freelance comics artist, illustrator and cartoonist. He currently resides in Zuidwolde, a town to the north east of Groningen.

Commercial artist
Among Le Roux' clients are educational publishers, youth magazines, trade journals, TV guides and regional newspapers, as well as cultural institutions, non-profit organizations and the (local) government. He has furthermore made animated shorts for TV stations. Le Roux' commercial artwork is generally for communicative or educational purposes, but often maintains a touch of humor. Especially his complex but clear overview drawings have been requested by many institutions and government agencies.


'Bril en het Olie Monopolie' (recolored version).

Comics projects
By the late 1970s Le Roux presented one of his projects to the comics magazine Eppo. He spent 2,5 years developing 'Bril en het Olie Monopolie', but the comic was never published. By the time it was finished, Eppo didn't dare to launch new series because of the declining comic book market. The comic has remained shelved, but was recolored in recent years by Carola van Veen for a planned book publication. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he made about 200 episodes of the puzzle strip 'Cor Typ's Crypstrip' for the VPRO Gids with writer and puzzle maker Henk Jongebloed. Each episode contained a hidden crossword. Le Roux self-published a compilation booklet, which is for sale on his website. Another comics character created by Le Roux is the dog 'Snuffel'. His gags appeared in the free environmental newspaper Plons Radio, which was distributed to primary schools in the Groningen region between 1993 and 1996. A comics/activity book starring the character was published by Quintus in 1998. His comic strip 'Max Millinx Memories' appeared in the late 1990s in the Millinx Money Magazine, a local newspaper for the Millinx neighborhood in Rotterdam Charlois. Among Le Roux' many commercial comics were a juridical info comic/cartoon for VARA TV Magazine, and the comic strip 'Soetie' for Max Havelaar coffee.

Arin
One of the most notable comics projects by Frans Le Roux is the educational series 'Arin en het volk van de Hunebedbouwers' (2000-2010), which is set in the Lower Countries during the later Stone Age (Neolithic). It was an initiative of Hein Klompmaker, the director of the archeological museum in the village Borger, the Hunebed Centre. Klompmaker had written a story about the builders of the so-called "hunebeds" (ancient tombs known in English as "dolmen") in the province of Drenthe, and originally asked Jan Kruis to turn it into a comic. Kruis directed him to his friend Frans Le Roux, who took the job. While Klompmaker desired a Dutch version of 'Astérix', Le Roux decided to take a realistic approach instead. He figured that the readers would not have the historical knowledge to fully appreciate a humorous series set in this time period. Therefore Roelof Wijtsma was brought in as the artist. Le Roux scripted 'Arin' with the help of Klompmaker's archeological knowledge, resulting in a series that aimed at "historical plausibility". When the first album was published by Edu'Actief in 2000, it was accompanied by an exposition in the Hunebed Centre and a teaching package for schools. Within comics circles, 'Arin' was praised for its entertaining story, and for not being a dry history lesson or spiced-up fantasy tale. Four more albums appeared until 2010.


One of Le Roux' drawings of Groningen's St. Martin's Tower.

Groningen
The city of Groningen forms an important part of Le Roux' oeuvre. Since the mid-1980s Le Roux is famous for his large-format cartoons of the city, in which funny things happen in certain streets or specific hotspots. The first set was made for a calendar, which Le Roux made in cooperation with a local printer. The local Tourist Office was enthusiastic and ordered 6000 copies, which became a popular gift during the 1986 holiday season. Since then, Le Roux' drawings have appeared on billboards, postcards and in the local newspaper Groninger Dagblad as well. A collection of these drawings, accompanied by city sonnets by Driek van Wissen, appeared in the books 'Stad... twee maal twintig tijdsbeelden' (Profiel, 1999) and 'Stad...' (Profiel, 2000). Le Roux has additionally visualized many projects of the local government, including major renovations of the city centre and the local eyecatcher, the Martinitoren (St. Martin's Tower), in the 1990s. Le Roux generally uses what he calls a "roof-gutter perspective", through which he can show all events from above. On some occasions he took it higher up. In April 1996 he spent several hours in the highest crane of the Netherlands (127 meters) to make a drawing of the Grote Markt. He was accompanied and assisted for this ambitious enterprise by his colleagues Jesse van Muylwijck and Jan Kruis.


Groningen's Broerstraat.

Cities of the World
Le Roux eventually broke out of Groningen's city boundaries, and began making similar drawings of other cities too. His most notable work in this genre has been the jigsaw puzzle line 'Cities of the World' for Ravensburger. London, Paris, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Vienna and Amsterdam are among the crowded cities that have been visited and captured by the artist's pen since 2014. Set against a recognizable and highly detailed background, Le Roux fills his crowded streets with funny events and his own interpretations of local events and festivals. With this new occupation, Frans Le Roux has followed in the footsteps of Jan van Haasteren, another comics artist who made the grade with crowded, comical jigsaw puzzles. Other Dutch comics artists who have ventured into the profitable world of puzzle illustrations are Rob Derks, Dick Heins and Uco Egmond.


'Cities of the World - New York'.

Strip & Cartoon Tekenen
Besides his commercial work, Frans Le Roux has played an important role in several other cultural projects related to comics. First of all he was one of the initiators and creators of a docu TV series about comics and cartoon art for the educational broadcasting company Teleac, together with Jesse van Muylwijck and his brother Frits Le Roux. 'Strip & Cartoon Tekenen' ran for eight episodes between 24 January and 18 March 1993, and was hosted by Hanco Kolk and Peter de Wit. Frans Le Roux and Jesse van Muylwijck were the authors (and illustrators) of the accompanying guidebook, in which participants learn the basic tricks of the trade, from how to draw characters, motions and background to creating compositions and writing stories.

Dutch comics museums
Frans Le Roux was furthermore among several Dutch comics artists who were involved in the plans for a museum about Dutch comics in Groningen. His brother Frits Le Roux was the coordinator of the original project group. The project was years in the making, but the Stripmuseum Groningen finally opened its doors in Groningen's Westerhaven district on 21 April 2004. Le Roux served as guest conservator for expositions, most notably the ones about Peter de Wit (2009) and Jan Kruis (2010). It seems only fitting that Le Roux himself had the honour to be the museum's final exhibitor in 2018-2019. In December 2018 he spent several weeks filling the museum's halls with large murals. They were part of an overview exposition of his career, called 'OH?...AHA! met Frans Le Roux', which opened on 21 December of that year. The Stripmuseum Groningen closed its doors for good on 2 March 2019. A large part of its permanent collection was transferred to the new Storyworld museum in the Forum Groningen cultural center.

Together with John Croezen and Andrea Kruis he was also a driving force behind the Jan Kruis Collection, a foundation to preserve the artistic legacy of Jan Kruis, who had passed away in 2017. A museum dedicated to the grandmaster's life and work opened in Orvelte on 22 May 2019.

Recognition
For their dedication to the comics medium, Frans Le Roux and his colleague Jesse van Muylwijck were awarded the Golden Balloon ("Gouden Balloon") at the Delftse Stripdagen in 1996. The same year, on 11-12 October, Le Roux was awarded the Stripschap Prize for Special Merits (nowadays known as the P. Hans Frankfurther Prize) during the Stripdagen for his efforts involving the Nederlands Stripmuseum. He shared the prize with the museum's chairman Marcel Wijn.

www.fleroux.nl

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