Figaro by Steve van Bael
Figaro - 'Het Masker van de Wereld' (2008).

Steve Van Bael is a Belgian comic artist. He is best known for his secret agent comic series 'Figaro' (2008-2010) and the sexy female journalist 'Iris' (since 2013). Van Bael also created the political satire gag comics 'De Aarschotse Romeintjes' and 'Ergerlijk Eliootje' (2014) and various celebrity comics based on Flemish media stars and TV shows, like 'De Planckaerts' (2002-2003), 'Marc Coucke' (2016), 'Baba Yega' (2018) and 'Nachtwacht' (2019). Between 2003, 2006-2008 and again since 2019 he assists on Merho's 'De Kiekeboes'. 

Early life
Born in 1978 in Aarschot, Steve Van Bael completed his high school in 1997, and he was honored for his many contributions to the school's newspaper. The same year, he was contacted by a comic artist to do a promotional comic for a comic festival in Diest. He joined the Stripgilde, an organization of comic authors. He took drawing courses in Mechelen from Marc Daniels and Rik Dewulf. Van Bael draws his inspiration from Flemish classics like 'De Kiekeboes' by Merho, 'Jommeke' by Jef Nys, and the Walloon crime/detective series 'Gil Jourdan' by Maurice Tillieux and 'Soda' by Gazzotti and Tome.

Studio Max: Stam en Pilou / De Planckaerts
In 2002, Van Bael joined Dewulf in Studio Max!, where he worked on the inking of 'Stam en Pilou' (1999) and 'De Planckaerts' (2004-2005), alongside co-inker Jos Vanspauwen. Stam and Pilou are the mascots of a philately collecting club. This boy and girl are often featured in gags where they are pitted against their grandfather Fons, who used to be a postman, but now spends his time collecting stamps. The series originally appeared exclusively in the official magazine of De Post, but was so popular that they appeared in book format too. 'De Planckaerts' was a comic strip based on the reality TV series of the same name, centering around Belgian cyclist Eddy Planckaert and his family. 

Assistance work
Van Bael also assisted Merho on 'Kiekeboe' (nowadays 'De Kiekeboes') in 2003, and was an allround artist on the series from 2006 to 2008. He returned as Merho's assistant in July 2019. Steve Van Bael is also an assistant inker on Charel Cambré's satirical celebrity comic 'Filip en Mathilde'.

Link by Steve Van Bael
'Link' #2 - 'In Hart En Nieren'.

Link / Figaro
In 2003, Van Bael started his own detective series, 'Link'. The comic was published in the papers Het Belang van Limburg and Gazet van Antwerpen, and was collected in two albums by Dupuis. He launched his comic about secret agent 'Figaro' at Standaard Uitgeverij in 2008. Five albums of this series with several James Bond references were published until 2010. New books are published by Saga since 2014.

'Iris' (2011) is perhaps Van Bael's most beloved comic strip among fans. The voluptuous female journalist is based on a real-life attractive woman, but Van Bael has thus far refused to reveal her identity. The comic strip ran in men's magazines like Menzo, Clint, P-Magazine and Ché. Despite her popularity, Van Bael was only able to publish a first comic book about her in 2016.

Educational comics
Van Bael made a couple of educational comic books with Jan Kragt in commission of Eureducation, such as 'De 9 levens van Van Bommel (2012), 'Brandgevaar' (2013), 'Vechten voor vrede' (2014).

Ergelijk Eliootje by Steve Van Bael
'Ergerlijk Eliootje' ('Horrible Little Elio'). The gag depicts Elio Di Rupo and party colleague Joëlle Milquet, who was then known as the head of the Parti Socialiste (PS). Di Rupo is shown being rejected by Milquet, which causes him to swear: "I never want a girlfriend again". This is a nod to Di Rupo's sexual orientation, since he was the first homosexual Belgian Prime Minister, and to Milquet's nickname "Madame Non", which she received after her firm resistance against constitutional reform.

Ergerlijk Eliootje and other political comics
Van Bael publishes the gag comic 'De Aarschotse Romeintjes' in the official magazine of the village Aarschot, which caricatures local politicians, among them major André Peeters. In March 2014 Van Bael created a satirical gag comic, 'Ergerlijk Eliootje', based on then Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, who was also head of the Walloon socialist party PS. It depicts the fictious youth of Di Rupo. The comic was their answer to Falzar and Marco Paulo's similar political gag comic, 'Bad Bartje', which satirized Flemish politician Bart De Wever of the Flemish-nationalistic and separatist party N-VA and also depicted him as a child. Originally, 'Ergerlijk Eliootje' was signed with the pseudonym Spiritius, as the artist preferred staying anonymous. The scriptwriter nicknamed himself Leon. Many recognized Van Bael's graphical style, though Van Bael himself denied the rumors, claiming he "knew the actual artist well". When a signed election poster for the political party ROSSEM featuring Di Rupo on a paper plane surfaced, the mystery was finally solved. Van Bael had to admit he was the series' artist, but was insistant that he didn't draw the first few installments, which were made by a friend who preferred to stay out of the spotlight. The series was terminated when Di Rupo resigned as Prime Minister in the fall of 2014.

'Baba Yega'.

Celebrity comics (2)
In 2016 Van Bael and scriptwriter Leon returned to satire with a celebrity comic book about Flemish businessman and chairman of the Belgian association football teams KV Oostende and Anderlecht, Marc Coucke. This was no easy task for Van Bael, since he happened to be more of an Anderlecht supporter than KV Oostende. Thirty supporters of KV Oostende also received a cameo in the series after winning a special contest organized on Facebook. In 2017 Van Bael signed a deal with the local restaurant Brasserie Gempemolen in Sint-Joris-Winge, for whom he creates a monthly gag comic which is printed in their menu cards. The owner, Hans Meus, receives a cameo in each gag. A new celebrity comic by Van Bael saw light in 2018, when he created a comic book series about the mysterious Belgian dance group Baba Yega who won the TV talent show 'Belgium's Got Talent' and managed to make it to the final of the German equivalent 'Das Supertalent'. The plot of the comic book, 'De Orde van S.N.O.T.' (2018) is based on the similarly titled movie about the band. In line with the group's pantomime stage performance their comic book equivalents also perform without any dialogue. In 2019 Van Bael and scriptwriter Peter van Gucht created the celebrity comic 'Nachtwacht', based on the children's TV series of the same name, broadcast on Ketnet. 

Graphic contributions
Van Bael paid tribute to Pom in the collective tribute album 'Kroepie en Boelie Boemboem. Avontuur In De 21ste Eeuw' (2010). He was one of several artists to make a comic strip for the booklet 'Building Bridges in Europe’ (2012), published by the European Association of National Builders’ Merchants Associations and Manufacturers (UFEMAT). He also paid homage to Merho's 'De Kiekeboes' in the collective tribute album 'Vier door Derden' (Standaard Uitgeverij, 2022). 

Iris by Steve van Bael

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