I Love Paris by Maarten Vande Wiele
'I Love Paris'.

Maarten Vande Wiele is a Belgian comic artist who works in colorful, highly stylized linework, inspired by fashion design. Recurring themes in his work are the dark side of glamour, for instance in his graphic novels 'I Love Paris' (2009),  'I Hate Paris' (2009) and 'Zeep' (2017). He also gained fame with the Guy De Maupassant comics adaptation 'Monsieur Bermutier' (2014) and 'ABBA Zoekt Frida' (2016), a graphic novel about an ABBA cover band. Van de Wiele's comics have been translated in English, French, German, Italian and Danish. 

Early life and influences
Maarten Vande Wiele was born in 1977 in Ghent. From a young age, he was fascinated by glitter and glamour. His mother watched soap operas religiously, but felt they were inappropriate for her son. Vande Wiele, however, enjoyed 'Dynasty' and 'Melrose Place', since he liked the stylish fashions and confident women at the top. At an older age, he enjoyed it more on a campy level. Stories about bitchy but elegant career women remained a guilty pleasure and recurring theme in his comics. He prefers making stories about strong female characters, since there are already enough comics about heroic males. Yet in interviews, he confessed that he actually enjoys drawing architecture more than people. Other pet peeves of Vande Wiele are Barbie dolls, the 'James Bond' franchise and horror stories, for instance from EC Comics' 'The Vault of Horror' series. Among his graphic influences are Matto, Kirsten Ulve, Seth, Hanco Kolk, Peter De Wit, Gemma Correll, Bastien Vivès, Charles Burns, Daniel ClowesGuy Delisle, Dupuy and Berberian.

Vande Wiele studied Animation at the University College Ghent, but soon switched to Photography. In 2002, he graduated with a master degree in Decorative Arts. Almost a decade later, in 2011, he obtained an additional certificate as library assistant. The same year, he taught at the Art Academy of Wetteren for two semesters. 

Best Girlfriends Forever, by Maarten Vande Wiele
'Best Girlfriends Forever 2000'.

Early comics
Vande Wiele's earliest comics appeared in specialized magazines or small press collections, starting with a photo comic based on the TV series 'Dynasty'. After publishing some comics in the magazines Beeldstorm and Zozolala, he caught the attention of Dutch comic legends Hanco Kolk and Peter De Wit, who asked him to contribute a story to their Pincet series of mini comics. The end result was a short comic story, 'Glamourissimo' (De Plaatjesmaker, 2000), tackling the decadent life of high society ladies. In collaboration with Sebastiaan Van Doninck, he subsequently made the comic book 'Screamqueen From The Grave' (self-published, 2001). In the Incognito Collection, Vande Wiele published 'Best Girlfriends Forever 2000' (2004), a comic spoofing the TV series 'Charlie's Angels'. This was followed by a collection of short stories called 'Strip Noir' (Bries, 2005), which were also translated in French. 

With Stefan Nieuwenhuis as scriptwriter, Vande Wiele made the psychedelic comic series 'Dr. Carnacki' (Bries, 2005-2006), which covers three volumes. The story was based on William Hope Hodgson's thriller 'The Whistling Room' and revolves around a female detective with paranormal gifts. Vande Wiele was additionally present in the Dutch girls' magazine Flo', published by Malmberg, with a comic about a space girl trio, 'Galaktika' (2005-2008), which was first scripted by Herman Roozen and then by Mars Gremmen.

Strip Noir by Maarten Vande Wiele
'Strip Noir'.

I Love Paris/I Hate Paris
Vande Wiele achieved his critical and commercial breakthrough with the 'Paris' diptych, consisting of the volumes 'I Love Paris' (Oogachtend, 2008) and 'I Hate Paris' (Oogachtend, 2009). The late 2000s were a golden age for bad reality TV shows and young celebrities involved in sensational scandals. At the same time, several "tell all" books came out, uncovering the darker side of the fashion industry. Vande Wiele noticed that none of these topics were covered in comics. Many graphic novels dealt with deadly serious and heavy-handed subjects, like politics, traumas or autobiographical tales. As much as he liked these stories, he longed for a simple, fun graphic novel with more campy themes. Two main inspirations were Jacqueline Susann's novel 'Valley of the Dolls' (1966) and Erika Raven 's graphic novel 'Het Kreng' (2004). Although Raven had retired from the comic industry, she agreed to write the script for 'I Love Paris', but declined to write a sequel. The follow-up, 'I Hate Paris', was therefore written by Peter Moerenhout. 

The 'Paris' duology is the culmination of themes Vande Wiele had already covered in previous short comics, like 'Glamourissimo' and 'Best Girlfriends Forever 2000', only now expanded into a full-length book. It delves deep into his love-hate relationship with the hollow, yet morbidly attractive world of fashion. A self-described "graphic trash novel", the books center on three young women, Hope, Faith and Chastity, who want to make it in the Parisian jet-set. Hope wants to become a fashion model, Faith a pop star and Chastity simply wants to intermingle with the rich and famous. To achieve their goals, they go to the limit, regardless of other people's feelings. Sex, drugs, gossip, plastic surgery, cat fights, success and failure are the sensational ingredients. There are also several references to 'The Devil Wears Prada', 'Sex and the City', 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and other glitz & glamour pop culture media. Vande Wiele deliberately gave his cover illustrations a seductive pink color, in sharp contrast with the dark satire found inside. 

'I Love Paris' and 'I Hate Paris' were bestsellers and received good reviews. The books were also translated in English (by Knockabout Press), French (by Casterman), German (by Carlsen), Italian (by Comma 22) and Danish (by Cobolt). 

I Hate Paris by Maarten Vande Wiele
'I Hate Paris'.

Monsieur Bermutier / Madame Catherine
In 2014, Vande Wiele published 'Monsieur Bermutier' (Malpertuis, 2014), an adaptation of five stories from the novel 'Le Horla' by 19th century French novelist Guy de Maupassant. All five tales are murder mysteries, investigated by magistrate Mr. Bermutier. Six years later, Vande Wiele adapted another story from 'Le Horla' into comic format: 'Madame Catherine' (Oogachtend, 2020). The story centers on a French lady who moves from Paris to a large manor in the countryside. Battling with insomnia, she is haunted by nightmares and suspects something supernatural is going on in the house. 'Monsieur Bermutier' and 'Madame Catherine' have also been bundled in one book and were released in French translation by Casterman. 

ABBA Zoekt Frida
Vande Wiele's next project, 'ABBA Zoekt Frida' (2016), was inspired by a visit to the Gentse Feesten festival, where he saw a performance of the ABBA tribute band Abba Gold. It gave him the idea to make a graphic novel about the members of a fictional ABBA cover band, The Honey Honeys, who suddenly hit it big. However, the "winner doesn't take it all", because the musicians' private lives gradually start to mirror the decline of the real ABBA band members. 'ABBA Zoekt Frida' was also translated in French by Casterman as 'ABBA Cherche Frida'.

Monsieur Bermutier by Maarten Vande Wiele
'Monsieur Bermutier'.

In 2017, Vande Wiele published 'Zeep' (Oogachtend, 2017), a tongue-in-cheek homage to soap operas. The story is set in 1986, in New York City, where the innocent secretary Barbra meets Kenneth Castelson, a wealthy businessman whom she considers the man of his dreams. But she is curious about his ex, Rachella Kabuki, who died 10 years ago in mysterious circumstances, rumored to have been murder. Barbra finds it strange that Kenneth never wants to talk about his former wife and tries to discover the truth. Vande Wiele included every possible soap opera cliché in his narrative, from cat fights, wedding dramas to characters who, after a long absence, suddenly return out of nowhere. He also put a lot of effort in writing melodramatic dialogues and stretched out scenes that deliberately come across as filler. The artist additionally included references to the 'Barbie' toy franchise, down to the names of various characters. In 2019, Vande Wiele published a sequel, 'Zeep 2'. 

Vandewiele's 'Bungalow' (2022) is a loose adaptation of Edith Wharton's classic novel 'The Age of Innocence'. Instead of the 1870s, he sets the narrative in 1950s Hollywood. A Hollywood star, Newland Archer, is engaged to a sexy starlet, May Welland. However, when teen idol George Manson arrives in L.A., he causes havoc, since he had an open relationship with a man. Archer, who is a closeted gay man, becomes intrigued with George and eventually they become a couple. However, in the 1950s, homosexuality was a social taboo, which could destroy Newland's film career, bringing him into utter despair. The spark for the book was born after Vande Wiele saw the film 'Call Me by Your Name', which moved him deeply. He also based his story on real-life Hollywood actors who had to conceal their homosexuality, like Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift and Tab Hunter, and often married women to keep up a charade. 

Graphic contributions
Vande Wiele photographed the sleeve of 'My Cruel Joke...' (1998), a single by Belgian band Soulwax. In 2008, he made a contribution to 'Het Hoofd van de Kunstenaar' (Jan Cunen, 2008), a series of short comics scripted by Pieter Van Oudheusden and drawn by different artists. In 2010, Vande Wiele made a graphic contribution to the collective comic book 'Jommekes Bij De Vleet' (Ballon, 2010), a homage to Jef Nys. He was one of several artists to make a comic strip for the booklet 'Building Bridges in Europe’ (Artbook UFEMAT, 2012), published by the European Association of National Builders' Merchants Associations and Manufacturers (UFEMAT). In 2017, he illustrated the short story 'Mantel' by Pierre Bokma for an issue of the Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland. In that same year, Vande Wiele also paid tribute to André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' in the collective homage album 'Gefeliciflaterd!' (Dupuis, 2017). As an illustrator, Vande Wiele works for the magazines Ché, Menzo, Nina and Flair, and has illustrated covers for Vrij Nederland, Zozolala, Stripschrift and ZIZO. 

In 2018, Vande Wiele's 'Octopussy' won the Plastieken Plunk for "Best Comics Short Story". 

Abba zoekt Frida by Maarten Vande Wiele
'Abba Zoekt Frida'.


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