Gustave Verbeck was born in Nagasaki, Japan. He was the fourth child of Dutch/Belgian missionary Guido Verbeck, who became headmaster of a school in Tokyo that later became Japan's Imperial University. Verbeck grew up in Japan, but left to study art in Paris. He started his cartooning and illustration career working for several European newspapers. Drawn towards the Cabaret du Chat Noir, Gustave Verbeck designed a shadow-play titled 'Le Malin Kangourou', and in 1893/1894, he created several illustrations for the newspaper Le Chat Noir.
Around 1900, Gustave Verbeck moved to the United States, where an immigration officer misspelled his name as "Verbeek". While the cartoonist used both names to sign his work, he most commonly went by "Verbeck" while his children chose to use the "Verbeek" spelling. Verbeck did illustration work for McClure's, Harper's, American Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post, before joining the staff of the New York Herald. There he created three weirdly novel comics: 'The Upside Downs of Lady Lovekins and Old Man Muffaroo' (1903-1905), which still remains unequaled, 'Terrors of the Tiny Tads' (1905) and 'The Loony Lyrics of Lulu' (1910), about the monster-hunt of a crazy professor and his niece, Lulu.
Gustave Verbeck's most important work is the 'Upside Downs' series, which is ingeniously created to constitute a twelve-panel story in six panels: after six panels, the reader turns the page upside down to see the other half of the tale. The storyline, often bizarre and edged with dark humor, hardly seems to suffer from the rigid form Verbeck imposed on it; the strip retains a fresh and surprising element, even for modern-day readers. This experimental "upside-down" style, which was also used by Peter Newell in his 1890s strip 'Topsys and Turvies', has never been imitated.
In the 1920s Verbeck left the comic world to fully concentrate on engraving and painting. Gustave Verbeck died in 1937, at the age of 70.