Jim Lont, by Erik Vandemeulebroucke
'Jim Lont'.

Erik Vandemeulebroucke was a Belgian comic artist, cartoonist and advertising illustrator. Together with his brother Ignaas, he made the humorous spy comic 'Jim Lont' (1965-1969). In the early 1970s, he was active for Karel Verschuere's 'Tom Berry' production and produced comics for Rolf Kauka in Germany. For decades, Vandemeulebroucke was house cartoonist of the newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen, best remembered for his annual illustrations of the Tour de France. His gag comic 'Dobberman en Van Geyt' (1973-1975), scripted by Wim Tocquet, ran in De Antwerpse Post. Later in his career, Vandemeulebroucke founded the silkscreen printing firm Breughel Screen/Breughel International (1977-2019), that stood out for its sticker production. He signed his work with only his first name, Erik. He should not be confused with the French artist André Joly, who also used Erik as his pen name.

Early life
Erik Vandemeulebroucke was born in 1942 in Sint Denijs, West Flanders, and raised in the Antwerp district Borgerhout. He was one of five children of the Belgian sculptor Marcel Vandemeulebroucke, known for his restorations of monumental Gothic buildings. As a child, the boy enjoyed reading Robbedoes magazine, as well as drawing his own comics. After his Humanities studies at a Jesuit school in Borgerhout, he took an art course at the Institut Saint-Luc in Brussels. Among his graphic influences were Morris, Albert Uderzo, Peyo and André Franquin.


'Kobus Koek', from Kerkelijk Leven.

Kerkelijk Leven
In 1959, at age 17, Vandemeulebroucke published his first drawings in the parish paper Kerkelijk Leven (nowadays called Kerk en Leven), replacing Jef Nys. Besides illustrations - such as the church drawings in the edition headers of each specific parish - he also made his first comic story for this Catholic magazine. 'Smokkelaars, of Belevenissen van Tist Knuppels en Cesar' (7 February- 25 December 1960) was an adventure comic about two friends solving a smuggling affair. The script was written by Vandemeulebroucke's eldest brother Ignaas. About a year later, Vandemeulebroucke also drew the pantomime comic 'Kobus Koek' (29 April- 9 December 1962) for Kerk en Leven.

Early illustrations and comics
From early 1963 until early 1964, Vandemeulebroucke fulfilled his military service with the Belgian Air Force in Tongeren. Because of his drawing talent, he was assigned to the Welfare division, that provided cultural entertainment for soldiers working in the nearby NATO base. Among his jobs was making illustrations for the bi-monthly magazine Info-Flits. During the same period, he was hired as an illustrator De IJsbereider, a monthly trade journal for the ice cream industry. Back in civilian life, Erik became a revisor and occasional illustrator for the printing firm Govaerts in Deurne. He did the lay-outs for Sodipa, a monthly magazine for personnel of the Antwerp municipality. After winning a contest, Vandemeulebroucke saw two of his gag strips with the characters 'Kol & Knopke' published in the children's weekly 't Kapoentje (in May and June 1965). Also in May, his gag comic 'Cyriel en Cesar' ran in newspaper Het Volk.

Jim Lont by Erik Vandemeulebroucke
'Jim Lont'. The Native Americans are singing a bastardized version of the opening bars of Le Marseillaise, the French national anthem. 

Jim Lont
After two years of working for Govaerts, Vandemeulebroucke announced he wanted to leave the company and become a comic artist. Govaerts offered to print his first comic book in collaboration with the publishing house Hacha. The result was the first adventure of 'Jim Lont, Geheimagent 0.02' (1965), a secret agent obviously inspired by James Bond. While the artist signed his work with simply "Erik", his brother Ignaas joined in as scriptwriter again, working under the pen name "Ivan". From 2 May 1966  until 9 September 1969, 'Jim Lont' was a regular comic series in the newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen, where Ignaas had his dayjob. The brothers signed their work with the collective pseudonym "Iwan". By then, Erik was working part-time for Govaerts, drawing his comic strips in the afternoon. Between 1967 and 1969, eleven further 'Jim Lont' books were published by De Vlijt. One story, 'Appolont', only became available in 1982 in the 'Magnum' collector's series of De Dageraad. In 1996, publishing company Bonte released a 13th title, while episodes 14 and 15 were released in 2013-2014 by Brabant Strip in their 'Fenix' Collection.


1974 Antwerp proverb poster, used as a jigsaw puzzle.

Other work for Gazet van Antwerpen
Due to a change of management at Gazet van Antwerpen, 'Jim Lont' came to an end in this newspaper in 1969. The new editor began running comic stories by Marcel Steurbaut as well, cutting Vandemeulebroucke's production schedule in half, which Vandemeulebroucke saw as a breach of contract. However, he continued to work for the paper throughout the 1970s and 1980s, particularly as the house cartoonist of Gazet van Antwerpen's sports section. He made weekly drawings for the (inter)national football season and for fifteen years, he was especially notable during the month of July, when he drew cartoons about the Tour de France cycling contest. Other Flemish comic artists who once drew daily Tour de France cartoons were Marc Sleen, Willy Vandersteen, Morris and Buth. Vandemeulebroucke also made stickers to promote Gazet van Antwerpen and its slogan "U kunt ze geen dag missen..." ("You won't be able to skip it one day...").

Proverbs and sayings
Another notable feature for Gazet van Antwerpen by Vandemeulebroucke were his drawings based on proverbs and sayings. Between 1974 and 1976, he provided the newspaper with three large-format posters, visualizing Antwerp sayings, street names and nicknames of regional towns. His 1974 poster of Antwerp sayings was later also released as a jigsaw puzzle. Between 1989 and 1994, Erik illustrated contests about local proverbs and sports sayings. Every day, a Vandemeulebroucke cartoon appeared in the paper, visualizing a well-known proverb, saying or other riddle. Especially the proverb contest proved so popular, that for years, Flemish elementary schools used his drawings to teach pupils proverbs. Some of these drawings were also included as illustrations in crossword puzzle books. With these remarkable cartoons, Vandemeulebroucke also carried on a long-running Flemish tradition, since painters like Frans Hogenberg and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, as well as cartoonists like Jef Nys, have all visualized Dutch-language proverbs and sayings before him.

Pichelsteiner, by Erik Vandemeulebroucke
'Pichelsteiner' (Primo #3, 1972).

Studio Verschuere
With 'Jim Lont' coming to an end, Vandemeulebroucke was looking for other opportunities to produce comics. In 1970, he spent six months working with Karel Verschuere's studio. Shortly before that, Verschuere had left his position at Willy Vandersteen's studio to establish his own comic production for the German market. Setting up his own shop, he took with him three other Vandersteen protégés, Eduard De Rop, Karel Boumans and Frans Anthonis, and the team was joined by Vandemeulebroucke. Competing directly with Vandersteen's story production for the German Bastei Verlag, Verschuere signed a deal with publisher Pabel Verlag. Working in tandem with inker De Rop, Vandemeulebroucke pencilled episodes of the humorous western comic 'Tom Berry', as well as the realistic comic 'Die Abenteuer von Jimmy Carter und Adlerfeder' (no connection to the future U.S. President). The latter also ran in the Flemish magazine De Post as 'Arendsklauw'. However, Verschuere's employees waited in vain for their payments. Soon the artists left, forcing  Verschuere to disband his studio.

Studio Vandemeulebroucke
While his experience at Studio Verschuere was disappointing, it inspired Vandemeulebroucke to establish his own studio and sign a business deal with another German publisher, the Munich-based Rolf Kauka. At the time, Kauka was the most succesful comic producer in Germany. Between 1971 and 1973, Studio Vandemeulebroucke operated from Berchem, near Antwerp, and produced exclusive comics for Kauka. To assist in the production, he hired Stan Sluyts, André Donders and Guido De Vogel, who was later replaced by Hugo De Sterk. For Kauka's Primo magazine, Vandemeulebroucke personally drew the Stone Age comic 'Die Pichelsteiner', while his co-workers were mostly involved in drawing episodes of the western comic 'Tom und Klein Biberherz' and the funny animal series 'Fix und Foxi' for the weekly children's magazine Fix und Foxi. In an interview with Brabant Strip Magazine, Vandemeulebroucke explained the exchange rates tumbled, leaving him with lower wages. As a result, he had to give up his deal with Kauka. However, historically there was no downfall of the Deutsche Mark compared to the Belgian Franc during this period, leaving the real reason for the end of his Kauka deal open for discussion.

Felix en de Marsman, by Erik Vandemeulebroucke
'Felix en de Marsman'.

De Post
In 1968 and 1969, Vandemeulebroucke also made comics for the weekly opinion magazine De Post. First in line was the serial 'Lamerika: Het Ei van Columbus' (1968-1969), an attempt to adapt the history of America in humorous comic format, written by the teacher Adolf Van Cauter under the pen name "Plinius". Because the Catholic editors of De Post wanted elements like the Inquisition left out, the project stranded after only one episode. Another series was the gag comic 'Felix en de Marsman' (1969), about a robot mistakenly created by the main computer of a bank. 

For the monthly Free Press International in Brussels, Vandemeulebroucke drew the comic strip 'Olaf De Teutridder' (1968-1969), also scripted by Van Cauter, but this serial remained unfinished, probably because the magazine ended.  

Dobberman & Van Geyt
Between 17 October 1973 and 30 April 1975, Vandemeulebroucke contributed the gag comic 'Dobberman en Van Geyt' to the weekly Antwerp advertising paper De Antwerpse Post. The adventures of these two bumbling policemen were written by Wim Tocquet (1925-2006), a local comedian and pub owner. Dobberman is a short-sized and short-tempered officer, while Van Geyt is a tall, dry-witted character. The duo was clearly inspired by the American TV comedy show 'Car 54, Where Are You?'. With all their stories set in Antwerp, the Dobberman and Van Geyt gags have an enjoyable regional flavor. In 2013, all episodes were compiled in book format by Peter Bonte.

Advertising art
From the 1970s on, Vandemeulebroucke made a lot of advertising art. For the discount shop chain N.V. Oranjehuis, he made the 1973 'Bertje' comic book, of which the panels had to be collected as stickers. In 1974, he drew the comic booklet 'De Bokkesprongen van Berreke Bluf', promoting the local cycling race of the Royal Sportingclub Wilrijk. In 2013, this particular book received a limited re-release by Brabant Strip. Vandemeulebroucke also created promotional illustrations for INZA milk, the stores Ratio and Aldi and the shopping center De Kern in Wilrijk. For the Belgian division of the Danish transport and logistics group Gondrand, located in Bornem, Vandemeulebroucke designed 16 stickers. Each visualized a country that Gondrand delivers its products too. Around the same period, Vandemeulebroucke's cards visualizing dishes and house rules appeared in bars and restaurants throughout Flanders. His beer coasters with drawings of proverbs in Antwerp dialect promoted both the newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen and the brewery De Coninck. Some of these drawings have been used in puzzle books too.


Stickers by Breughel Screen for local entrepeneurs.

Breughel International
In late 1976, Vandemeulebroucke founded his own printing firm, Breughel Screen PVBA, in Antwerp. The brand name references painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder, but was actually named after its original address in the Antwerp Breughelstraat. Specializing in sticker design and production, Vandemeulebroucke attracted clients throughout Flanders and the Brussels region. With print runs varying from 1 to 10,000, Erik's stickers promoted local brands, bars and other initiatives. Important assignments during the 1980s were his designs of so-called QSL cards for radio amateurs. For decades, Vandemeulebroucke served as his company's business manager, but also as main designer of stickers, postcards and promotional art. In 1996, the firm continued under the name Breughel International BVBA, based in Wilrijk. At the age of 65, in 2007, Erik Vandemeulebroucke retired, leaving the company to his son Iwan, who ran Breughel International until the company was dissolved in 2019.


QSL card designed by Breughel Screen.

Later years and death
Later in life, Vandemeulebroucke made a James Bond-themed cartoon for the compilation book 'Striptekenaars Contra James Bond' (Cartoon Collector, 2003). In 2019, Vandemeulebroucke and his wife were injured in a car accident, leaving the artist with severe back pains and unable to draw. By 2022, his health had further deteriorated due to a hip fracture and COVID-19 infection. Erik Vandemeulebroucke passed away in 2022 at the age of 79.

Books about Erik Vandemeulebroucke
For those interested in Vandemeulebroucke's life and career, the two-volume book series 'Uit De Archieven van Erik' (Hauwaerts, 2015-2015), is highly recommended. Erik Vandemeulebroucke's life and art was also the subject of articles by Marc De Lint for Brabant Strip Magazine (#196, 2013) and De Getekende Reep Magazine (#2, 2020).


Self-portrait (1965).

Series and books by Erik Vandemeulebroucke you can order today:

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