Jean van Hamme, artwork by Francis Vallès
'Les Maîtres de l'Orge', artwork by Francis Vallès.

Jean Van Hamme is one of Europe's most prominent comic writers since the 1980s. With such legendary and highly successful titles as 'XIII', 'Largo Winch' and 'Thorgal' to his name, he qualifies as a master in the comics field. A career in writing wasn't his initial focus, however. After obtaining his degree in political economy from the Solvay School of Commerce, he took on a long career as a marketeer and consultant for companies like the United States Steel Corporation and Philips.

Epoxy by Jean Van HammeDomino by Jean van Hamme and André Cheret
'Epoxy' and 'Domino'.

Van Hamme wrote his first comic stories on the side, starting with the erotic and mythological 'Epoxy' for Paul Cuvelier in 1968. Also for Cuvelier, Van Hamme wrote some episodes of 'Corentin'. He was also involved with the adaptation of this series to animated shorts by the Belvision studios. After writing some 'Magellan' stories for Géri in 1969 and 1970, Van Hamme began writing for Tintin magazine on a regular base.

Histoire sans heros by Danny and Jean van HammeArlequin by Van Hamme and Dany
'Histoire Sans Héros' and 'Arlequin'.

It wasn't until 1976 that Van Hamme cancelled his marketing activities and focused solely on writing. His main writing activities of the 1970s include 'Domino' for André Chéret (written at first by Greg), the aviation series 'Michael Logan' for André Beautemps and the one-shot graphic novel 'Histoire Sans Héros' with Dany. Van Hamme and Dany continued their cooperation between 1978 and 1984 with the 'Arlequin' series, and in 1997 with the follow-up of their graphic novel, called 'Vingt Ans Après'. He also developed a novel series based on an unused comics project by him and Greg, starring the young billionaire Largo Winch, starting in 1977.

Thorgal by Jean van Hamme and RosinskiThorgal by Van Hamme and Rosinski

With the creation of 'Thorgal' for Dargaud in 1977, Van Hamme had his first bestseller. Illustrated by Grzegorz Rosinski, 'Thorgal' wasn't a typical historical comic about a group of vikings, but an epic fantasy, with science fiction elements. Van Hamme and Rosinski additionally made the widely praised fantasy story 'Le Grand Pouvoir du Chninkel' for Casterman in 1988.

Chninkel by Rosinski and Van HammeXIII by Vance and Van Hamme
'Le Grand Pouvoir du Chninkel' and 'XIII'. 

Another highlight of Van Hamme's career began in 1983, 'XIII', illustrated by William Vance, and published by Dargaud. With the main theme based on Robert Ludlum's book 'The Bourne Identity', the series is built around a character in search of his true identity. What follows is a series of exciting intrigues, government and military cover-ups, murder attempts and action scenes. At the same time, he produced the political-fiction series 'S.O.S. Bonheur' for Griffo, that was published in the Aire Libre collection of the publishing house Dupuis.

XIII by Van Hamme and GiraudSOS Bonheur by Griffo and Van Hamme
'XIII' and 'S.O.S. Bonheur'.

By 1989, Jean Van Hamme began adapting his 'Largo Winch' novels into comic strips, which resulted in yet another successful comic series, illustrated by Philippe Francq. The success led to a live action television series in the 2000s. Between 1992 and 1999, Van Hamme made 'Les Maîtres de l'Orge' with Francis Vallès, a series of eight books about a dynasty of Belgian brewers. Since 1996, he has been working on new stories with Edgar P. Jacobs' 'Blake et Mortimer', that have been drawn by Ted Benoit, René Sterne and Antoine Aubin.

Largo Winch by Van Hamme and FrancqBlake & Mortimer by Van Hamme and Benoit
'Largo Winch' and 'Blake & Mortimer'.

Other new creations include the one-shot 'Lune de Guerre' with Hermann (Dupuis, 2000), 'Wayne Shelton' with Christian Denayer (Dargaud, 2001-2003 and from 2009) and 'Lady S' with Philippe Aymond (Dupuis, since 2005). Van Hamme's unused script for a TV mini-series was adapted into the comic series 'Rani' by artist Francis Vallès and scriptwriter Alcante (Lombard, since 2009).

Wayne Shelton by Van Hamme and DenayerLady S by Van Hamme and Aymond
'Wayne Shelton' and 'Lady S.' 

By 2007, Van Hamme retired from his series 'XIII' and 'Thorgal', leaving the writing to Yves Sente. He continued to write new stories for 'Largo Winch', 'Lady S' and 'Wayne Shelton', however, and served as an advisor for spin-off series like 'XIII Mystery'. In 2009, he wrote the graphic novel 'Le Télescope' for Dutch artist Paul Teng. In 2005 he made a contribution to 'Suske en Wiske 60 Jaar!' (2005), which paid homage to Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske'. 

In 2009, Jean Van Hamme received the Prix Saint-Michel for his entire oeuvre during the Brussels Comics Festival, and became an honorary citizen of the city in 2011. In that same year, on 29 January 2011, he was named Commandeur des Arts et Lettres at the Angoulême Festival. Van Hamme was knighted on 17 July 2015. Since 15 November 2010, 'XIII' has his own mural in the Rue Philippe de Champagne/ Philippe de Champagne Straat as part of the Brussels' Comic Book Route. On 13 November 2013, a mural honouring 'Thorgal' (part of the same route) was inaugurated at the Place Anneessens / Anneessensplaats in Brussels. 

Largo Winch van Van Hamme and FrancqLe Telescope by Van Hamme and Paul Teng
'Largo Winch' and 'Le Telescope'.

Series and books by Jean Van Hamme you can order today:


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