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. Since 1990, he is best known for his satirical gag comics about Belgian politicians. He has been praised for his witty commentary and recognizable portrayals and 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, a town in the north of the province Antwerp. At the early age of nine, he developed his own comic series, called 'Dave de Cowboy'. Contrary to most hobby cartoonists of his age, he had the patience and perseverance to make no less than 14 comic book albums about this character. As a child, he grew up reader the classic Belgian comics by Hergé, Willy Vandersteen, Marc Sleen, Jef Nys, Pom, Morris and André Franquin. Among his later graphic influences are Charles M. Schulz's 'Peanuts' strip, Robert Crumb, Joe Matt, Georges WolinskiJean-Marc ReiserRoland ToporWillem and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix', as well as the magazines Hara-Kiri/Charlie-Hebdo and Pilote. At age 17, Meynen managed to get one of his comics published in the amateur section 'Plant 'n Knol' of the comic weekly Robbedoes (the Dutch-language version of Spirou). It appeared in issue #1897 (22 August 1974). As a teenager, he saw his comic strip 'De Stenen Cirkel' (1976) published in a Flemish scouting magazine. In 1978, he had a summer job drawing backgrounds for Merho's comic series 'De Kiekeboes', more specifically the episode 'Kiekeboe in Carré', which is set in Amsterdam. A year later, Erik Meynen had some of his first comic stories published in the Dutch alternative comic magazines Gummi.


'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!" 

Pjotr & Meynen
Erik Meynen got his artistic education at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent, where he studied Animation under Raoul Servais. At the academy, he also met fellow student Piet de Rycker, AKA Pjotr, with whom he had an extensive collaboration during his early career. While Meynen was responsible for writing the scripts, Pjotr did the artwork, after which Meynen helped out with the lettering and applying the halftone screens. One of their first joint creations was the gag strip 'Pietje' (1979-1980), which appeared in the magazines Knack and TV Express. Publisher De Dageraad then collected the gags in book format in its Magnum collection. The "Pjotr & Meynen" duo also experimented with photo gag comics, such as 'Erik Meynen en de Zeynen' in Knack and their biting satirical 'Protter & Zweynen' photo novellas for Jan Bucquoy's comic magazine Spetters. For Robbedoes - the Flemish version of Spirou which at that point opened its pages to Dutch-language creators - Pjotr & Meynen created the comic feature 'Tommy Gun & Marion Lee' (1981-1984), a stylishly drawn crime comic about a gentleman-thief and his reporter girlfriend/rival. In 1983, Magic Strip released a 'Tommy Gun & Marion Lee' book collection. In the same fashion, Pjotr & Meynen created the one-shot comic album 'De Terugkeer van Roxane' (1982), an espionage story starring a news reporter and a fashion designer. It was first published in French by Magic Strip ('Le Retour de Roxane', 1982) and then in Dutch by Paul Rijperman (1983).

Going solo
Even though Pjotr and Meynen were heralded in as prominent representatives of a new wave in Flemish comics, they eventually parted ways. Erik Meynen took a four-year hiatus from comics, during which he worked as a cartoonist and illustrator for Flair magazine. By the time he returned to the comics medium, he entered into new collaborations. Together with Gert Dooreman and Kamagurka, he created 'Toon Typhoon' (1987), an absurd meta-humor feature for Humo magazine. In 1989, Meynen also illustrated a few stories for Kamagurka's comic series 'Lava'. 

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). 

Collaboration with Herman Brusselmans
In 1988, Erik Meynen became friends with the Belgian cult novelist Herman Brusselmans. For Panorama magazine, they created the detective parody series 'Inspecteur Bob Lost Het Bijna Op' (1988), written in Brusselmans' characteristic vulgar-ironic style and drawn by Meynen. One episode, in which the assertive inspector meets the Belgian king Baudouin, also livened up Johan Anthierens' anti-royalist book 'Brief Aan Een Postzegel' (1990). The same book also featured graphic contributions by Gal (Gerard Alsteens), Quirit, Peter De Roy, Jan Bosschaert, Zak, Benoît and Jan De Maesschalk. Also in the late 1980s, Meynen and Brusselmans collaborated on a couple of commercial comic projects, for instance 'Een Bos op Zoek naar Bomen' (1988), an educational comic album published on the occasion of the European Year of Living Environment. for this comic, Meynen was assisted on the artwork by Geert Clarisse. Together with Gert Dooreman, Meynen illustrated 'Meneer Sinnemans Grijpt Zijn Kans' (1989), a Brusselmans-scripted comic story for a promotional brochure about the Belgian Pay TV subscription service Filmnet. Meynen and Brusselmans made a graphic contribution to the book 'Brief Aan Een Postzegel' (1990) by Johan Anthierens.

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
Meynen's first notable comic series was 'Van Rossem', based on the real-life Belgian economic guru and millionaire Jean-Pierre Van Rossem (1945-2018). At the turn of the 1980s into the 1990s, Van Rossem had become a media sensation. He owed his wealth to a "water tight system" that could predict the stock market changes. He enjoyed showing off his wealth by buying a yacht, dozens of Ferraris and literally throwing money bills around. At the same time, Van Rossem 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. Loving to be in the center of attention, the self-declared genius arrogantly boasted about his personal life and insulted everyone he disliked. Thanks to his eccentricity, Jean-Pierre Van Rossem in many ways already bore resemblance to a cartoon character. In 1990, the Flemish cartoonist Marc Sleen gave him cameos in his 'Nero' episodes 'De Man van Europa' and 'Nerorock'.

Expanding upon this idea, Meynen asked Van Rossem permission to make him the subject of a celebrity comic series. At the time, Van Rossem was already jailed for fiscal fraud, but he accepted the offer. The imprisoned criminal had a considerable input in the scripts, but allowed Meynen to portray him as an obese, egotistical and loud-mouthed bully. The plots have him face off against policemen, politicians, judges, criminals, nuns and various Flemish media celebrities. The 'Van Rossem' series was serialized in Panorama/ De Post magazines, after which publisher Loempia released two book collections, 'De Poenpakker' (1991) and 'De Schat van de Arme Klavers' (1992). However, despite Van Rossem's media fame, the comics were no commercial hit. 

A couple of years later, Erik Meynen illustrated the cover of Van Rossem's book 'Hoe Word Ik Stinkend Rijk' (Jef Meert Uitgeverij, 1993), in which the eccentric businessman gives advice on how to get rich. The book used panels from the 'Van Rossem' comics as extra illustrations. In one chapter, Van Rossem discussed investing in rare comic books as another way to get rich!  

Cartoon by Erik Meynen
Gag comic, published in Het Laatste Nieuws on 12 November 2013, 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. Meeting the wishes of his editors and still make comics, Meynen portrayed cartoony renditions of real-life politicians in his gag comics, varying in length from three panels to two pages. It helped him get picked up by more magazines and papers, including De Morgen, Het Laatste Nieuws and, since 20 February 2014, Knack.  

In his satirical comics, Meynen focuses exclusively on Belgian politics. At all times, his work keeps a light-hearted tone. Topical events are referenced, but are kept understandable to the average person in the street. Meynen refuses to do any deeper research, allowing him to focus more on humorous ideas. Many episodes have running gags, puns, anthropomorphic characters and wacky slapstick. Politicians are reduced to cartoony 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 appeared as a monosyllabic idiot who punched everyone in sight. One of the cartoonist's recurring 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 in real-life, the 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 they enjoyed 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

Usually, Meynen compiles his best gags after a government term is finished, resulting in books like '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). Since 2002, Meynen's cartoons have also been featured in the weekly Flemish political debate and talk show 'Villa Politica', often adapted into one-minute animated shorts. 

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

Humo
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 media of the past 12 months. The winners are then announced a couple of issues later and honored or mocked in a special show. As a caricaturist, Meynen made illustrations to promote the contest itself, as well as the end results. One of his most fondly remembered covers was for 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. Tintin and Snowy were replaced by Humo's mascots Bert and Bobje (created by Kamagurka). 


Cover for Humo #issue 2794 (24 March 1994). It spoofs Hergé's 'Tintin' story 'The Cigars of the Paraoh', acknowledging this by mummifying Tintin as "Plagiarism of the Year". In the foreground we see Kamagurka's characters Bert en his dog Bobje, while on the left pillar Herr Seele's Cowboy Henk is depicted. All three are Humo mascots. On the floor we notice Pop Poll medaillons. The mummified bodies are all winners of that year's contest. From left to right we recognize the "Man of the Year" (Belgian king Baudouin, who passed away on 31 August 1993), "Worst TV personality" ('Wheel of Fortune' presenter Walter Capiau), "Best Foreign TV Personality" (Dutch comedian and presenter Paul de Leeuw), "Dickhead of the Year" (Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene) and "Best TV Personality" (TV host Mark Uytterhoeven - who presented the talk show 'Morgen Maandag' alongside his mynah bird Walter).

Pakkeman & Poulet
In the 2000s, Meynen also returned to writing comic scripts for others. With Dirk Stallaert, he created the comic books 'De Mysterieuze Klant' (2002) and 'De Neuzen van Sniezo' (2003) in commission of Unizo, the Belgian association of entrepreneurs. When asked by publisher De Standaard to make a comic strip about typical Belgian phenomena for 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 newspaper comic 'Nero'. The two detectives in this strip, 'Pakkeman & Poulet', proved to be such fun characters that they returned in a monthly riddle comic, published in the civil servant magazine Fedra from May 2006 until December 2010.

Suske en Wiske
In 2001, Erik Meynen began working for Studio Vandersteen as scriptwriter for their success series 'Suske en Wiske'. Because of their many satirical references to Belgian politics and current affairs, it is often misconceived that Meynen's involvement in the series started with the stories 'De Rebelse Reynaert' (1998) and 'De Koeiencommissie' (1999). Instead, 'De Rebelse Reynaert' was written by Paul Geerts and Marc Verhaegen, while Verhaegen made 'De Koeiencommissie' on his own. In reality, Meynen's run on 'Suske en Wiske' began with the album 'De Europummel' (2001), scripted in collaboration with Verhaegen. However, the album was widely panned by fans because of its chaotic plot, that, despite of what the title suggests, had little to do with the shift to the monetary unit euro in the first place. Also, lead artist Verhaegen didn't enjoy working in team and therefore continued on his own for the next four years. Only after Verhaegen's discharge in 2005, Meynen returned as co-scriptwriter for new 'Suske en Wiske' stories, working together with the new writer-artist team of Peter Van Gucht and Luc Morjaeu. The first new album with Meynen's participation was 'Het Slapende Goud' (2005), followed by about a dozen others in the period 2005-2006. Meynen also scripted a couple of 'Suske en Wiske' stories for advertising or educational purposes.


Sequence from 'De Nachtwachtbrigade' (2006), a 'Suske & Wiske' story co-scripted by Erik Meynen (art by Luc Morjaeu).

Graphic contributions
For the collective homage book 'Natacha. Special 20 Ans' (Marsu Productions, 1990) celebrating the 20th anniversary of François Walthéry's comic series 'Natacha', Erik Meynen scripted a tribute story that was illustrated by Erika Raven. He also appeared in the book 'Gal: de Overspannen Jaren' (Epo, 1996) with a tribute to the cartoonist Gal (Gerard Alsteens). His cartoon versions of the politicians 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), celebrating 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 produced a special issue, for which various artists, including Meynen, made a graphic tribute. Erik Meynen additionally contributed to 'Op het Spoor van Pom' (2011), which paid homage to the cartoonist Pom.

Recognition
In 1999, Meynen was awarded 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 with 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 presscartoon.com

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