De schaduw van Verhofstadt by Erik Meynen
Cartoon depicting Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt who was often stereotyped for his optimistic nature. In this cartoon he is confronted by his more cynical, nihilistic and fatalistic shadow. 

Erik Meynen is a Belgian political cartoonist, comic writer and artist. He is best known for his satirical gag comics about Belgian politicians, which became a full-time career from 1990 on. He has been praised for his witty commentary and recognizable portrayals. Several real-life politicians have declared themselves fans of his work. Earlier in his career, Meynen also made 'Van Rossem' (1990-1991), a celebrity comic about eccentric and controversial stock market guru Jean-Pierre Van Rossem. Meynen is additionally a productive scriptwriter. He wrote episodes for Dirk Stallaert's riddle comic 'Pakkeman & Poulet' (2006-2010) and in the 2000s he co-scripted several 'Suske en Wiske' stories for Studio Vandersteen

Comic from Gummi by Erik Meynen
'De palavers omtrent Kazimir Karton en Viktor Vlakgom' (Gummi #22, 1979).

Early life and career
Erik Meynen was born in 1957 in Kapellen. When he was 9, he drew his first comic series, 'Dave de Cowboy'. Contrary to most children of his age he had the patience and perseverance to make 14 comic book albums about this character. Meynen studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent. He mostly grew up with Belgian comic artists like Hergé, Willy Vandersteen, Marc Sleen, Jef Nys, Pom, Morris and André Franquin as graphical inspirations. Other graphic influences are Charles M. Schulz's 'Peanuts', Hara-Kiri/Charlie-Hebdo, Pilote, Robert Crumb, Joe Matt, Georges WolinskiJean-Marc ReiserRoland ToporWillem and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix'. At age 17 Meynen managed to get one of his comics published in the weekly amateur section 'Plant 'n Knol' of comic magazine Robbedoes (the Dutch-language version of Spirou). It ran in issue #1897 (22 August 1974). 

'Erik Meynen en de Zeynen', featuring Meynen saddened by the fact that his handpuppets don't visit him more often, because "sometimes I really feel lonely and one can't always talk to himself!" 

Early comics
In 1978 Meynen had a summer job drawing backgrounds for Merho's comic series 'De Kiekeboes', more specifically the album 'Kiekeboe in Carré', which is set in Amsterdam. A year later Meynen made his debut as cartoonist in Knack. Together with scriptwriter Pjotr (Piet de Rycker) he drew a photo gag comic named 'Erik Meynen en de Zeynen', in which he played himself. Karin van den Berghe was occasionally credited as co-scriptwriter. Meynen and Pjotr remained collaborators and co-created the gag comic 'Pietje' (1980). They also made the cult comic series 'Tommy Gun & Marion Lee' (1980), which appeared in publications like Robbedoes and was collected in a book by Magic Strip in 1983. Their 'De Terugkeer van Roxane', was published in book format by Paul Rijperman the same year. Both men also made a photo comic for Jan Bucquoy's comic magazine Spetters, using the pen names "Protter & Zweynen". In 1989 Meynen illustrated a few stories by Kamagurka, which appeared in the comic series 'Lava'. Together with Gert Dooreman he created 'Tom Typhoon' (1988), which was published in Humo.

Inspecteur Bob by Erik Meynen
'Inspecteur Bob' featuring Bob trying to get himself out of a sticky situation in the presence of Belgian king Baudouin/ Boudewijn, who in 1990 refused to personally sign the law legalizing abortion. From 'Brief aan een postzegel' (1990). 

Inspecteur Bob 
In 1988 Meynen met Belgian cult novelist Herman Brusselmans, who'd become one of his best friends and most vocal admirers. Together they made a detective parody series, 'Inspecteur Bob Lost Het Bijna Op' (1988), written in Brusselmans' characteristic vulgar-ironic style. It was published in Panorama/De Post. One episode, where the assertive inspector meets Belgian king Boudewijn/ Baudouin, also livened up Johan Anthierens' anti-royalist book 'Brief Aan Een Postzegel' (1990). The same book also featured graphic contributions by Gal, Quirit, Peter De Roy, Jan Bosschaert, Zak, Benoît and Jan De Maesschalk. Another collaborative effort with Brusselmans and Geert Clarisse was the didactic album 'Een Bos op Zoek naar Bomen' (1988). This book was published in celebration of the European Year of Living Environment. Based on an idea by Gi Boucher and Johan Verschueren, Brusselmans and Gert Dooreman also scripted 'Meneer Sinnemans Grijpt Zijn Kans' (1989), illustrated by both Meynen as well as Dooreman. 

Jean-Pierre van Rossem
Jean-Pierre van Rossem - 'De Poenpakker'. The quote 'Geen gezeik, iedereen rijk!' is a reference to the Van Kooten en De Bie characters Jacobse & Van Es. 

Jean-Pierre Van Rossem
At the turn of the 1980s into the 1990s, the Belgian economic guru Jean-Pierre Van Rossem had become a millionaire. He owed his wealth to a "water tight system" which could predict the stock market changes. Van Rossem enjoyed showing off his wealth by buying a yacht, dozens of Ferraris and literally throwing money bills around. At the same time he presented himself as a rebel against the system. He went into politics and his populist party actually won him a senator's seat in the Belgian parliament. Van Rossem loved being in the center of attention. The self-declared "genius" arrogantly boasted about his personal life and insulted everybody whom he disliked. In many ways Van Rossem was already somewhat of a comic character. Marc Sleen gave him two cameos in his comic strip 'Nero', namely the stories 'De Man van Europa' and 'Nerorock' (both from 1990). Meynen expanded upon this idea, by developing a celebrity comic series about Van Rossem.

Meynen asked the eccentric businessman for permission to use his likeness. Despite being in jail at the time, Van Rossem personally helped with the scripts. He even showed a gift for self mockery, as Meynen didn't romanticize him. The comic artist depicted Van Rossem as an obese, egotistical and loud-mouthed bully. The plots have him face off against the police, politicians, judges, criminals, nuns and various Flemish media celebrities. The 'Van Rossem' series was prepublished in Panorama/ De Post. Two albums, 'De Poenpakker' (1991) (a nod to the title of a 'Suske en Wiske' album) and 'De Schat van de Arme Klavers' (1992), were published by Loempia. Despite Van Rossem's media fame, the comics barely sold. 

Meynen also illustrated the cover of Van Rossem's book 'Hoe Word Ik Stinkend Rijk' (Jef Meert Uitgeverij, 1993), in which he gives advice on how to get rich. The book used panels from the 'Van Rossem' comics as extra illustrations. In an interesting side note, in one chapter Van Rossem discussed investing in rare comic books as another way to get rich.  

Cartoon by Erik Meynen
Gag comic depicting Belgian politician Bart De Wever and party member/ former TV journalist Siegfried Bracke. De Wever condems the other parties for making people afraid of the confederalist policies of N-VA. When Bracke asks him what their strategy is, De Wever answers: "Scaring people for a second term of Di Rupo's administration!" Bracke then thinks: "I'm afraid it's gonna be a dirty campaign!"

Comics about Belgian politics
Since 1990, Meynen is best known as a political cartoonist. He was pushed into this direction by his house magazine Panorama/De Post (later P-Magazine). Most magazines were far more interested in topical cartoons than straightforward comics. Meynen found a way to obey his editors and still make comics. He simply used real-life politicians as characters in three-panel or one-to two-page gag comics. It helped him get picked up by more magazines and papers, including De Morgen, Het Laatste Nieuws and, since 20 February 2014, Knack. In an ironic twist of events, Meynen is nowadays one of the few Flemish comic artists whose work is printed on a daily/weekly basis. 

Meynen exclusively focuses on Belgian politics. His work keeps a light-hearted tone at all times. Topical events are referenced, though at a minimum level of what the average person in the street might know about them. Meynen refuses to do any deeper research. This allows him to focus more on humorous ideas. Many episodes feature running gags, puns, anthropomorphic characters and wacky slapstick. Politicians are reduced to literal comic book characters, with exaggerated personality traits. Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene's reserved and condescending attitude towards the press led to him being depicted as an arrogant bully. Minister-President of Flanders Luc Van den Brande was downsized as his tiny sidekick, often beaten up by Dehaene. It might not be surprising that Van den Brande was one of the few politicians who actually felt offended by Meynen's cartoons. The idealistic Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt was caricatured as a naïve hayseed. Loud-mouthed and combative politician Jean-Marie Dedecker was portrayed as a monosyllabic idiot who punched everybody in sight. One of the cartoonist's longest-running gags is giving certain politicians a talking animal as advisor. Guy Verhofstadt was aided by a snake, in reference his political strategist Noël Slangen ('slang' means 'snake' in Dutch). Yves Leterme took advice from a goat, since the real-life politician had an actual goat for a pet. Politician Bart de Wever, who once dressed up as a panda for a media stunt, is always followed around by a bamboo-eating panda, spouting Chinese aphorisms. 

While not always flattering to them, many Flemish politicians have said that they enjoy Meynen's cartoons. Among them Bart Somers, Steve Stevaert, Freya Van den Bossche and former prime ministers Jean-Luc Dehaene, Guy Verhofstadt and Yves Leterme. Dehaene felt that Meynen's caricatures "contained more truth than any newspaper article." Leterme named Meynen "the best political commentator of the country." A fellow cartoonist who expressed praise for Meynen's work is Karl Meersman

Meynen compiles his best gags usually after a government term is finished. So far he published the books: 'De Jaren van Dehaene' (1999), 'De Plannen van Verhofstadt' (2003), 'Paniek in de Politiek' (2006), 'De Dagen van Leterme' (2009) and 'Het Lijden van Leterme' (2009). Meynen's cartoons have also been featured in the weekly Flemish political debate and talk show 'Villa Politica' since 2002, often adapted into one-minute animated shorts. 

Cover of De Plannen van Verhofstadt, by Erik MeynenPaniek in de politiek

In the 1990s Erik Meynen illustrated some notable covers for the magazine Humo, usually to highlight the annual 'Pop Poll' readers contest. Each December, Humo's readers are invited to elect the "best" or "worst" people, events and/or media of the past 12 months. The winners are then announced a few issues later and honoured or mocked in a special show. As a caricaturist, Meynen was a natural choice. He made both illustrations to promote the contest itself, as well as the end results. One of his most fondly remembered covers was issue #2794 (24 March 1994). It announced the winners by parodying the cover of the 'Tintin' album 'The Cigars Of The Pharaoh' by Hergé. Though instead of mummified bodies, it featured several Dutch and Flemish media celebrities and politicians. And Tintin and Snowy were replaced by Humo's mascots Bert and Bobje (created by Kamagurka). 

Pakkeman & Poulet
As a comic writer, Meynen cooperated with Dirk Stallaert on several comics for Unizo and De Standaard, including 'De Mysterieuze Klant' (2002) and 'De Neuzen van Sniezo' (2003). When asked by De Standaard to make a comic strip about typical Belgian phenomena in the essay 'België Blootgelegd' ('Belgium Exposed', 2003), Meynen and Stallaert made a story about the French fries store of Jan Spier, a character from Marc Sleen's series 'Nero'. The two detectives in this strip, 'Pakkeman & Poulet', proved to be such fun characters that they became a monthly riddle comic, published in the civil servant magazine Fedra from May 2006 until December 2010.

Suske en Wiske
In 2001 Meynen began working for Studio Vandersteen as scriptwriter for their success series 'Suske en Wiske'. It is often believed that he worked on the stories 'De Rebelse Reynaert' (1998) and 'De Koeiencommissie' (1999), because they contained a lot of satirical references to Belgian politics and then current events. In reality 'De Rebelse Reynaert' was written by Paul Geerts and Marc Verhaegen, while Verhaegen worked on 'De Koeiencommissie' alone. Meynen's run on 'Suske en Wiske' only started from the album 'De Europummel' (2001) on, which he co-scripted with Verhaegen. However, the album's chaotic plot (which, despite the title, had little to do with the shift to the monetary unit euro in the first place) was widely panned by fans. Verhaegen didn't enjoy working in team and therefore continued on his own for the next four years. Only when he was fired in 2005 did Meynen return as co-scriptwriter of new 'Suske en Wiske' stories, alongside Peter Van Gucht. The first album Meynen and Van Gucht collaborated on was 'Het Slapende Goud' (2005). Most of his co-written titles appeared in 2005-2006. After a brief hiatus, the only album he collaborated on next was 'Het Machtige Monument' (2008). Meynen also scripted a couple of 'Suske en Wiske' advertising or educational comics.

Graphic contributions
Meynen and Brusselmans made a graphic contribution to 'Brief Aan Een Postzegel' (1990) by Johan Anthierens. Meynen wrote the script for a tribute comic by Erika Raven to François Walthéry, published in the collective homage book 'Natacha. Special 20 Ans' (Marsu Productions, 1990), which celebrated the 20th anniversary of Walthéry's series 'Natacha'. He paid tribute to cartoonist Gal in the book 'Gal: de Overspannen Jaren' (1996). His politician characters Guy Verhofstadt, Jean-Luc Dehaene and Louis Tobback visited the Kiekeboe family in Merho's one-shot album 'Bij Fanny op Schoot' (2005), where Fanny Kiekeboe interviews comic characters from different franchises. Meynen made a graphic contribution to 'Suske en Wiske 60 Jaar!' (2005), which celebrated the 60th anniversary of Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske'. He also paid tribute to Marc Sleen in 'Marc Sleen. Een uitgave van de Bronzen Adhemar Stichting' (1993), 'Marc Sleen 80. De enige echte' (2002) and 'Marc Sleen 90. Liber Amicorum' (2012).  On 28 December 2010, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Kim Duchateau's character Esther Verkest, P-Magazine organized a special, where various artists, including Meynen, drew a graphic tribute. He additionally made a graphic contribution to 'Op het Spoor van Pom' (2011), which paid homage to Pom.

In 1999 Meynen won the Bronzen Adhemar, the official Flemish Community Cultural Prize for Comics. On 27 June 2009, he won second prize at the annual Press Cartoon Belgium contest for a cartoon mocking Prime Minister Yves Leterme and the Belgian-Congolese diplomatic relations. The first prize went to Pierre Kroll, while the third went to Canary Pete

Erik Meynen
Self-portrait. The caption reads: "An editorial cartoonist speaks with expertise." Meynen: "What our country needs are politicians with pig ears, horse teeth, ox lips, haddock eyes, a lice head and a monkey mug!" 

Erik Meynen on

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