Eddy Paape was one of the classic Belgian artists of realistic comics in the second half of the 20th century. He has worked for many of the leading magazines of the time, and was one of the few that made the transition from Spirou to its competitor Tintin. Among the many series he worked on are 'Jean Valhardi', 'Marc Dacier' and 'Luc Orient'. Besides a productive career spanning from the 1940s through the 1990s, he was also a teacher of a new generation of artists at the Saint-Luc Institute in Brussels. Like his contemporary Victor Hubinon, Paape was mostly influenced by American newspaper comic artists like Milton Caniff and George Wunder. Other influences were Hubinon himself, Sirius and the Italian artists Kurt Caesar and Walter Molino.
Édouard Paape was born in Grivegnée, a suburb of the Walloon industrial city Liège. He showed an early talent for the arts, but he didn't care much for comics in his youth. His parents took great care of his cultural upbringing however, taking him to theaters, stage shows and movies. In fact, the young Paape's first artistic efforts were with the Brussels-based children's theater company Les Lutins de Lutti, with which he also toured along the Belgian coast. The economic malaise of the 1930s forced him to focus on a "real" job however, and in 1935 he enrolled at the Saint-Luc Art Institute in Brussels. He learned how to draw, paint, draw for advertisements, and make leaded lights and even lace. Paape found a keen interest in the art of animation, and even made a short film as a study project with his friend Jacques Eggermont, called 'Peinture animée'.
He had to put his further career on hold when World War II broke out in May 1940. Paape went south by bicycle to stay ahead of the German advance. He supported himself by selling paintings in the towns and villages he crossed. When he reached the French demarcation line in Toulouse, he turned around and cycled back home. Back in Liège, he found employment with Paul Nagant's animation studio C.B.A. (Compagnie Belged'Actualités), where he returned to making short black-and-white films with Jacques Eggermont under the joint pen name "Jackeddy". A fire burned down the studio and injured Paape. After he had recovered and married his nurse from the hospital, he joined Nagant and Eggermont in the revived C.B.A. studio in Brussels. He became Chief of Animation, and hired the young and promising artists André Franquin, Georges Salmon and Morris. When Eggermont left, he was replaced by a young Pierre Culliford, who would become known as Peyo, the creator of the Smurfs. The artists worked in a steady collaboration, restoring older C.B.A. productions, and creating the short 'Il était une fois...' (1945). The studio, with its limited production and low impact, would have remained unnoticed in history, if it hadn't launched the careers of four of the most important European comic artists in the post-war period.
When Nagant's studio closed its doors in the summer of 1945, Paape found employment in a puppet workshop. Franquin and Morris eventually introduced him to Dupuis, the publisher of magazines like Spirou, Le Moustique and Bonnes Soirées. The former C.B.A. employees formed a studio in the center of Brussels, where Paape became a productive illustrator for the women's weekly Les Bonnes Soirées. One his other early jobs was assisting Jijé on the ink wash drawings of the monumental comic about the life of Jesus Christ, 'Emmanuel' (1946). Eddy Paape later moved to Marcinelle, the homebase of his publisher. A quick and loyal draughtsman, he became an allround illustrator for the publisher's magazines. From text stories to covers and from cartoons to caricatures, Paape was asked for all kinds of rush jobs. He was handed Jijé's comic series about 'Jean Valhardi', a detective with an insurance company, in that same year. Paape's run on the comic debuted in Spirou magazine with the story 'Les Rubens' in 1946, but the first story he had drawn ('Sur le Rail') was published in the legendary Spirou Almanach 1947, an annual that presented the new team to the readers. It also contained Franquin's first 'Spirou et Fantasio' story, and the debut of 'Lucky Luke' by Morris.
With 'Jean Valhardi', the young and unexperienced Paape was handed one of Spirou's fan favorite heros. He made his first stories from scripts by Jean Doisy, the character's creator and Spirou's war-time chief editor. Despite popular belief, Paape was never a pupil of Jijé like Morris and Franquin, and he declared that he wasn't even that much influenced by the veteran artist. Largely unfamiliar with the comics genre, Paape looked at the American comics that appeared in the newspapers, and at the work of Italian artists like Kurt Caesar and Walter Molino. He applied a "rough" Italian drawing style and made heavy use of shading and silhouettes. When Doisy left in early 1948, Paape improvised the weekly pages of the serial, sometimes with assistance of Georges Troisfontaines (presumably) and Yvan Delporte. It were his first and only efforts as a comics writer. By 1949, Delporte became the regular writer of the 'Valhardi' series. Paape worked with the debuting writer on three stories, until 1950. Paape made his most memorable 'Valhardi' stories in cooperation with Jean-Michel Charlier. Valhardi's young sidekick Jacquot was replaced by the clumsy photographer Arsène, and the stories took a shift to more hard-boiled detective stories with science fiction and Cold War elements. 'Jean Valhardi contre le monstre' (1951), 'Le Rayon de la mort' (1952) and 'La Machine à conquérir le Monde' (1953) were also published in book format by Dupuis. In addition, Paape provided the illustrations for most of Jean Doisy's text stories with 'Jean Valhardi', in the editor's own collection of weekly pulp novels L'Hebdomadaire des Grands Récits (1948-1950).
Paape had furthermore assisted Victor Hubinon on the artwork of most of his comics in the late 1940s and 1950s. He cooperated on Hubinon and Charlier's epic war story 'Tarawa, Atoll Sanglant' (Le Moustique, 1948-1949), the inking of the 'Buck Danny' episode 'Attaque en Birmanie' (Spirou, 1950) and the boats in the comics biography of French privateer Robert Surcouf (Spirou, 1949-1952). He also assisted on the comics biography Hubinon made with writer Octave Joly about British explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley (1953), and in Hubinon and Charlier's 'Tiger Joe' comic for La Libre Junior (1950-1953). Later on, he did inking chores and fill-ins on Hubinon's pirate comic 'Barbe Rouge' in Pilote, most notably the stories 'Le Vaisseau Fantôme' (1963), 'L'Île de l'Homme Mort' (1963) and 'Le Pirate sans Visage' (1966). He also drew several pages of the 'Buck Danny' episode 'Les Voleurs de Satellites' (1962-1963) when Hubinon was ill.
From the early 1950s, Paape worked mostly through the World Presse agency of Georges Troisfontaines, which provided Spirou with most of its realistic comics. Paape's inking style, inspired by the American artist George Wunder, became the norm with this agency. His most notable contribution was co-creating the educational series of short stories 'Les Belles Histoires de l'Oncle Paul' with Jean-Michel Charlier, although the looks of the main character were created by Hubinon. The series had a formulaic and somewhat corny approach. Uncle Paul was a storyteller who'd always interrupt his nephews during an argument. After overhearing the nature of their argument he'd tell a story about a historical character who once faced a similar problem or challenge. Afterwards the boys would typically reconcile and Paul then delivered a moralistic message to the readers. Paape and Charlier made most of the initial installments in 1951, but soon Dino Attanasio, René Follet, Jean Graton, MiTacq, Fred Funcken and many starting artists assumed most of the artwork until the early 1980s. Octave Joly became feature's most productive writer, and Paape continued to draw an occasional story until 1966. Two stories were drawn in cooperation with Jean Roba under the joint pen name "Robeddy" in 1958.
In 1952, Paape also created Spirou's educational game page 'Le Coin des Dégourdis', starring the boyscouts Geai and Mowgli. Charles Jadoul took on most of the writing from 1960 (under the pen name Cary Page), while Paape made the illustrations until 1963. The feature ran until 1965, in its final years with artwork by Duncan, Anjo or Jean-Luc Beghin. Paape was also responsible for most installments of 'Le Coin des Petits Curieux' (1952-1958), an illustrated page with information about wildlife, history and more educational subjects. Other regular artists for this feature were MiTacq and Charlie Delhauteur. The third educational feature that Paape illustrated was 'Questionnez... le fureteur vous répondra' by Jean-Claude Pasquiez. The section answered reader's questions about technological and scientific subjects. Paape made the illustrations in the period 1959-1963, and here as well, Duncan and Jean-Luc Beghin succeeded him between 1963 and 1965.
Together with Jean-Michel Charlier, he made a short and one long story with the detective 'André Lefort' (1956) for Risque-Tout, World Presse's companion magazine to Spirou. He made a comics biography of Winston Churchill for Spirou with Octave Joly in 1958, but it wasn't until the launch of 'Marc Dacier' (1958-1967) that jack-of-all-trades Paape finally tried his hand at a series of his own. Written by Jean-Michel Charlier, the series tells the adventures of a young and globetrotting reporter. The character's looks were based on a mutual acquaintance of Paape and Charlier who had hitchhiked around the world with little money.
The stories have typical Charlier plots, full of exciting intrigues, betrayal, action and the occasional slapstick humor. What makes 'Marc Dacier' remarkable is that in most of Charlier's comics, the protagonist gets a rather clownesque sidekick for comic relief. Paape and Charlier's reporter provides most of the comedy himself, especially in the scenes with his boss. Over the course of 13 episodes, Paape dropped most of his influences from Hubinon, and developed his own more loose and baroque drawing style. This soured his relationship with his rather paternalistic publisher, who preferred a style more close the "School of Marcinelle". Another reason for the upcoming rupture was the Dupuis' refusal to promote the only moderately successful 'Marc Dacier' albums.
During his tenure with Spirou, Paape had done contributions to other magazines as well. He made several short stories, as well as the story 'Ned Tiger' (script by Charlier, 1962) and the comical feature 'Pathos de Sétungac' (script by Hubinon, 1963-1965), for the children's monthly Record of Bayard Presse. He was also present in Charlier's magazines own magazines Pistolin (1959) and Pilote (1961-1966) with short stories, illustrations and game pages, often under the pseudonyms Péli and Jo Legay. Between 1953 and 1960 he produced dozens of educational stories in the series 'L'Histoire de la Semaine' in the newspaper La Libre Belgique and its supplement La Libre Junior, which he signed Milpatt. Paape remained mostly associated to Spirou until the mid 1960s, when Tintin's editor-in-chief Michel Greg asked him to join his magazine. Paape made his first short stories for Spirou's biggest competitor under the pen name "Forget" in 1965, and made his official debut in 1966. His first contributions were short historical stories in the tradition of 'Oncle Paul', mostly from scripts by Yves Duval.
In 1967 he teamed up with Greg to start his best-known work, the contemporary science fiction series 'Luc Orient'. For Paape it was a welcome change to the heavy-documented historical comics he was used to draw. He could use his imagination and experiment freely with page lay-outs, coloring and backgrounds. The result was a comic that was quite renewing at the time, since its genre was generally considered pulp. The main character was an athletic physicist, who was accompanied by professor Hugo Kala and his secretary Lora in his adventures involving aliens and scientific mysteries.
The first cycle of five stories was set on the planet of Terango, and drew heavily from classic series like Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon' and William Ritt and Clarence Gray's 'Brick Bradford'. Many sci-fi clichés were there, including a dictatorial extraterrestrial constitution, weird and implausible science, damsels in distress and strange creatures. The second cycle of six stories dealt with genetic manipulations, unknown races and other dangers on Earth, and was followed by four albums about the exodus of an entire race. By the early 1980s, Greg was doing business in the USA, and had handed over the writing duties to French movie director Gérard Jourd'hui. The effort wasn't a success, and Paape completed the story 'Roubak - Ultime espoir' (1983) by himself. Another story with Greg followed in 1984 ('Caragal'). In 1990 a collection of older short stories, written by Greg, Jourd'hui and André-Paul Duchâteau, was published and it wasn't until 1994 that Paape and Greg made a new adventure with their hero. By then however, the public deemed the once so innovative Belgian sci-fi series too traditional, and 'Rendez-vous à 20h en enfer...' (1994) remained the last completed album.
At Tintin, Paape also returned to making game pages with 'Voulez–vous jouer avec Toah?' (1969-1970), a feature written by André-Paul Duchâteau. Paape and Greg additionally created the comic series about former para commando 'Tommy Banco'. Initially an abandoned commission of an Italian magazine following the success of 'Luc Orient', the comic story 'Territoire zéro' eventually saw its first publication in Tintin in 1970. Paape made two new installments with writer Jean Roze in 1972 and 1973, and one final one with Jacques Acar in 1975. With André-Paul Duchâteau, Paape made several short stories of the naval series 'Yorik des Tempêtes' in the period 1971-1973. With the same writer, he created the adventure series 'Udolfo' in 1978. The second story (1980) was drawn in cooperation with Paape's former student Andreas Martens. Paape did lay-outs and inks, Andreas the finished pencil art.
In 1978-1979, Paape's art was also present in Michel Deligne's sci-fi review Spatial. Ten years later, he created the Victorian fantasy series 'Les Jardins de la Peur' with scriptwriter Jean Dufaux. The artwork was done in cooperation with Jean-Claude Sohier, and the three stories were published directly in albums by Dargaud (1988-1989) and Les Humanoïdes Associés (1991). Again with Duchâteau, he created the futuristic detective comic 'Carol, Détective'. The series was published in the follow-up of Tintin magazine, Hello Bédé, in 1990 and 1991. Paape and Greg embarked upon a project to restart Hubinon and Charlier's 1950s jungle adventurer 'Tiger Joe', but uncertainties about the rights led to the creation of a new hero, 'Johnny Congo'. Two books were published by Claude Lefrancq Éditeur in 1992 and 1993.
A comic book based on Victor Hugo's 'Les Misérables' was created with Michel Deligne in 1995, to accompany the release of the movie adaptation by Claude Lelouch. Paape's final comics work was the limited edition mini-comic 'Le Porte-Bonheur' at Éditions Salleck in 2001. The story was drawn in a more comical style, and written by Paape's wife, Laurette Beer.
Besides a productive comic artist in his own right, he has also been a tutor to a new generation of authors. He was a teacher in comic art with the Saint-Luc Institute in Brussels from 1969 to 1976, and then at the Saint-Gilles Academy of Fine Arts until 1986. Among the many comic artists and illustrators that have been trained by Paape are Claude Renard, Antoinette Collin, André Beautemps, Daniël Desorgher, Philippe Berthet, Andreas Martens, Antonio Cossu, Dugomier, Bernard Godi, Plantu, Philippe Wurm, Marc Lumer, Baudouin Deville, Serge Ferrand, Alain Mauricet, Bernard Vrancken, Pierre Legein, Olivier Grenson, Marc Vlieger and Alain Sauvage. Renard was Paape's assistant at the Saint-Luc course, and his successor in 1976.
After his retirement, Paape continued to attend comics festivals and signing sessions in France, Belgium and The Netherlands. He passed away on 12 May 2012, at the age of 91.