'Red Rider' #2.

Stedho is a Belgian comics artist who gained initial notability with comic book adaptations of Marc De Bel's popular children novels, among them 'De Kriegels' (2006-2008), based on De Bel's popular children's book 'De Zusjes Kriegel'. In the 2010s he became the artist of 'Red Rider' (2017), a modernized reboot of Willy Vandersteen's 'De Rode Ridder' series which turned the medieval knight into a rough motor biker.

Early life and collaboration with Marc de Bel
Steven Dhondt was born in 1974 in Huise. As a child he already read the familiar Belgian comics, with a particular love for Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske', 'De Rode Ridder', and Jef Nys' 'Jommeke'. His comics career took off when he was just nine years old. Dhondt was a pupil in the class of Marc de Bel, an elementary school teacher who had a rather eccentric approach. He rarely gave his pupils homework, because he felt it helped them pay more attention in class, rather than get stressed out or overworked. Every Friday afternoon he told his pupils stories, most of which he improvised on the spot. One such story was 'De Knikkerdiamanten' ('The Marble Diamonds'). Nine year old Stedho liked this tale so much that he started illustrating it. De Bel was impressed with the boy's gift for drawing and invited him to turn it into a comic book. De Bel helped Stedho out with the lay-outs and introduced him to the work of comics legends like Moebius and François Boucq. The boy had never heard of these artists before, but they left a huge impression on him.

The finished book, 'De Knikkerdiamanten' (1985), took six months to complete. A thousand copies were printed and all sold out. Stedho and De Bel also created another comic book together: 'De Schat van de Clown' ('The Clown's Treasure', 1986). It gave De Bel a sign that there was an audience for his stories. He got a professional publishing deal and made writing children's novels a full-time career. In the second half of the 1980s De Bel's books became incredible bestsellers which turned him into a local celebrity. Today he is still one of the most recognizable, popular and bestselling Flemish children's book authors. While De Bel's books are illustrated, he asked the service of more professional artists to liven up the pages, such as Tine Vercruysse, H. van Straaten and the man who became practically his home illustrator: Jan Bosschaert. In 2006 'De Knikkerdiamanten' was adapted into a theatrical musical by Guy Didelez and Fernand Bernauw.


'Het Ei van Oom Trotter'.

Getekend, Marc de Bel
Meanwhile Dhondt studied architecture at the University of Ghent, but felt this direction didn't provide him with enough creative satisfaction. In 2002 he was contacted by Standaard Uitgeverij with the question whether he would be interested in making more comic book adaptations of some of Marc De Bel's most popular children's books? By then, Ivan Adriaenssens was already working on adaptations of De Bel's stories about the fluffy forest creatures 'Boeboeks' (2001-2006) with the artist Michael Vincent. With more graphical experience, Stedho made four spin-off books about the smaller Boeboeks 'Pit en Puf' (2002-2004) in cooperation with Adriaenssens, who did the adaptation, lay-outs and lettering. More adaptations by Stedho and Adriaenssens followed in the collection 'Getekend, Marc de Bel' (2004-2006), respectively 'De Zusjes Kriegel' (2004), 'Het Ei van Oom Trotter' (2004), 'De formule van tante Kriegel' (2005), 'Blinker en de Bakfietsbioscoop' (2005) and 'Operatie Kriegel' (2006).

De Kriegels by Stedho
'De Kriegels' (P@per #3).

De Kriegels
'De Kriegels' (2006-2008) were popular enough to receive their own comics series. Seven more albums with the mischievous group of triplet sisters were made by Stedho and Adrianssens. In 2005 the Kriegel sisters were also featured as special guests in the crossover album 'Bij Fanny op Schoot' (2005) by Merho, where Fanny from 'De Kiekeboes' invites comics characters from different franchises in her talk show. All the original creators of these series were involved to personally draw their characters. Unfortunately De Bel's comic book adaptations were cancelled because Standaard Uitgeverij didn't promote the series enough. Stedho and Adriaensens also felt frustrated since they didn't receive credit on the book cover because of royalty credits. This led the general audience to erroneously believe that De Bel was the author and illustrator of the comics.


'Ooievarken'.

Personal comics
In 2005 Stedho created his first genuine solo comic book, 'Ooievarken' (Bee Dee, 2006). This experimental pantomime comic centers around four characters who all live separately from one another. One is a stork, another a space pilot, yet another a young woman who lives on a farm in the desert and the final character a mysterious animal which resembles an aardvark. Installments of the comic first appeared in INK and on the Pulp de Luxe portal. Other personal comics experiments by Stedho were published in the early issues of P@per, the comics supplement of Brabant Strip Magazine. With the French scriptwriter David Boriau, he made the short story 'Au Nom d'Azane' (2006) for the French heroic fantasy comics magazine Lanfeust Mag. It was his first publication on the French market. Years later, Dhondt and Boriau worked together again on the manga-inspired trilogy 'Obscurcia'. It is a symbolic coming of age story about the twelve year old boy Alex, who has to save his sister's spirit from the land of nightmares, Obscurcia. This fantasy series was originally intended to be released by Casterman in 2015, but the publisher backed out. It was eventually published by Delcourt in 2018-2019.


'Obscurcia'.

Red Rider
In 2016-2017, Stedho was part of "The Wolfpack", a creative team at Standaard Uitgeverij assigned to come up with new ideas for spin-offs with Willy Vandersteen's classic creations, following the success of 'Amoras' and 'J.Rom Force of Gold'. The other members were storyrunner Johan De Smedt, film director Vincent Bal, comics colorist and animator Tom Metdepenningen and the Dutch/Flemish comic authors Bruno de Roover, Lectrr, Romano Molenaar, Gerben Valkema and Aimée de Jongh. Eventually, the only project that spawned from the Wolfpack brainstorms was 'Red Rider' (2017), a concept by De Smedt and Lectrr. Stedho was approached to become the artist for this spin-off, which reinvented the classic chivalry comic into a contemporary action comic, comparable to an American superhero title. Lectrr and Stedho's 'Red Rider' had nothing to do with the Middle Ages. The comic strip is set in modern times and transforms Johan the red knight into a biker named Red. Red is a veteran of the 2003 American-Iraq War and drives through the American Midwest on his motor bike to drown away his past.


One of Stedho's 'Jowan de Rode' stories was published in P@per #3, 2006.

'Red Rider' wasn't the first attempt to launch a spin-off of 'De Rode Ridder'. Back in 1990, Ronald Grossey and Marvano had already created one album of 'Red Knight', called 'De Vuurgeest' (1990), which aimed at an adult demographic and was inspired by Frank Miller's 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns'. Back then it met with hostile reception, even from Karel Biddeloo, the author of the traditional 'Rode Ridder' series, who funny enough included a lot of sword & sorcery elements in his work too. Fourteen years later, in 2004, Stedho also proposed a spin-off project about the younger years of 'De Rode Ridder', called 'Jowan de Rode'. The script for a full trilogy was already finished, when lead artist Karel Biddeloo passed away and the project was shelved. When Biddeloo's successor Claus Scholz retired, Stedho was even in the picture to become the new artist for the classic chivalry comic, but this honor eventually went to Fabio Bono.


'Why is a raven on a hoteldesk?' (From: Brussels 2).

Graphical contributions
Stedho has regularly contributed to collective projects. Stedho and Adriaenssens participated as authors in the two educational comic books produced by the Sint-Bernarduscollege school in Oudenaarde as part of a collective project between students and teachers: 'Oudenaarde 1708' (1708) and 'Sint-Bernardus op zoek naar inspiratie' (2010). Stedho's manga-styled picture story 'Kinoko' was featured in the anthology 'Oost West' (Bee Dee, 2009), in which Dutch and Flemish artists gave their impression of the Japanese comics culture. In 2010 Stedho was one of many artists who made a graphic contribution to the book 'Jommekes Bij De Vleet' (2010), which paid homage to 'Jommeke' creator Jef Nys. The same year he and Vanas were among many artists who paid tribute to Pom, creator of 'Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber' in the one-shot albums 'Avontuur in de 21e Eeuw' (2010) - of which the profits went to the Kinderkankerfonds (Child Cancer Foundation) - and 'Op Het Spoor van Pom' (2011). Stedho made a contribution to 'Bruss. Brussels In Shorts' (2011, 2014), two anthology books with short stories set in various locations in Brussels. In the first volume he choose the Oude Graanmarkt to draw a story about a group of beggars and a mysterious black cardboard box. In the second volume he made a parody of Lewis Caroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' set in the Brussels metro. The artist also drew a graphic homage to André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' in 'Guust 60 Jaar: Gefeliciflaterd!' (2017).


'Boy'.

Illustrator
In 2015 Stedho illustrated the cover of Geert De Weyer's comprehensive book 'België Gestript' (2015), about the history of Belgian comics. It features various Belgian comics characters gathering around a huge crater in the shape of Belgium. Steven Dhondt is furthermore the illustrator of several funny picture books by Johan Struyck. 'Boy' (Oogachtend, 2016) features a trip through Brussels by a little boy with a vivid imagination. 'Een Broer?!' (Oogachtend, 2016) is about a girl who tries to imagine what that strange being is doing in her pregnant mother's belly, while 'Babyboem' (Oogachtend, 2018) shows a woman flying away when her tummy becomes as round as a balloon.


Stedho's cover illustration for 'België Gestript'. Inside the Belgium-shaped crater we recognize the famous villains Anatool (Jef Nys' 'Jommeke'), Zorglub (André Franquin's 'Spirou'), Gargamel (Peyo's 'The Smurfs'), Krimson (Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske'), Olrik (E.P. Jacobs' 'Blake and Mortimer') and Joe Dalton (Morris' 'Lucky Luke'). From left to right at the top of the page one notices Largo Winch (Philippe Francq, Jean Van Hamme), Le Chat (Philippe Geluck), Kid Paddle (Midam), Kari Lente and her cat Titus (Bob Mau), Alix from 'Les Innommables' (Yann and Didier Conrad), Cubitus (Dupa), Boerke (Pieter De Poortere), XIII (William Vance and Jean Van Hamme), Le Scrameustache (Gos), Thorgal (Jean Van Hamme, Rosinski), Pirlouit (Peyo), Natacha (François Walthéry), Le Grand Schtroumpf, aka Big Papa Smurf, and Le Schtroumpfette, aka Smurfette (Peyo), Lambik (Willy Vandersteen), Chlorophylle (Raymond Macherot), Boule (Jean Roba), Marsupilami (André Franquin), Biebel and Freddie the Yucca plant (Marc Legendre), Madam Pheip's pipe and Nero holding a waffle plate (Marc Sleen), Blondin & Cirage (Jijé) and Bessy (Willy Vandersteen and Karel Verschuere). From the lower left to the lower right we spot Soda (Philippe Tome and Bruno Gazzotti), Ric Hochet (André-Paul Duchâteau and Tibet), Benoît Brisefer (Peyo), Cowboy Henk (Kamagurka and Herr Seele), Bill the dog (Jean Roba), Tif et Tondu (Fernand Dineur and Will), Blutch and Sergeant Chesterfield (Raoul Cauvin, Louis Salvérius and Willy Lambill), Urbanus (Willy Linthout, Urbanus), De Rode Ridder (Willy Vandersteen, Karel Verschuere), Jaguar (Jean Dufaux, Jan Bosschaert), Jojo (André Geerts), Gaston Lagaffe and his Gaffophone (André Franquin), Kiekeboe (Merho), Yoko Tsuno (Roger Leloup), a piece of red-and-white referring to the moon rocket from Hergé's 'Tintin' series, Les Krostons (Paul Deliège), Spirou (Rob-Vel, Jijé, André Franquin), Lucky Luke (Morris), Wiske and her doll Schanulleke (Willy Vandersteen), Blake and Mortimer (Edgar P. Jacobs), Jommeke (Jef Nys) and Buck Danny (Jean-Michel Charlier and Victor Hubinon). 

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