The Adventures of Nero

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For other uses of Nero, see Nero (disambiguation)

The Adventures of Nero or Nero is a Flemish comic strip drawn by Marc Sleen and the name of its main character. The original title ranged from De Avonturen van Detectief Van Zwam in 1947 to De Avonturen van Nero en zijn Hoed in 1950, and finally De Avonturen van Nero & Co from 1951.[1]

Origin[edit]

Nero is a Dutch language comic strip which appeared in Flemish newspapers between 1947 and 2002. Originally called The adventures of Detective Van Zwam, it quickly changed its name to The adventures of Nero after a character met by Van Zwam in the first adventure who was locked in an asylum and thought he was emperor Nero. He came quickly to his senses, but the name stuck.

Nero is one of the quintessential Flemish newspaper comics, together with Spike and Suzy. With two strips published a day, six days a week, the comic followed the daily news events quite closely and often incorporates puns and real life events. References to news events or cameos of Belgian and internationally famous politicians like Jozef Stalin, Richard Nixon, Idi Amin, Khomeini occurred frequently. The drawing style was initially very amateurish but got polished quickly.

Following a legal dispute with his publishers in 1965, Sleen took his increasingly popular series to publisher De Standaard, who offered the strip evolve to be printed in colours.[1]

Main characters[edit]

During its 55 year course, a lot of regular characters have joined the original duo Nero and Van Zwam.

  • Nero is the central figure. Essentially good hearted, he can also be a selfish, lazy man, who does not know how to keep his money and always gets himself into trouble. Nero is one of the very few anti-hero's to lead a comic strip.
  • His wife (often called Madam Nero, or in some stories Bea) stays mainly at home and tries to keep a semblance of a household while her husband is off to some far corner of the earth. If the need arises, she knows how to defend herself.
  • Van Zwam is a private detective. Driving a Porsche 911 (which seems to crash at least once every comic), he is always extremely fast at the place of the crime, and can make the most brilliant deductions out of the smallest clues (often a cigarette stub).
  • Adhemar is the genius son of Nero. He is only a few years old, but has received numerous Nobel prizes and Ph.D.'s. His major hobby is the building of Rockets, called Adhemar I, II, ... These as well tend to crash somewhere in every story, but are a major means to get to the exotic countries where the stories often happen.
  • Mister Pheip is the bourgeois friend of Nero. As an old fashioned Flemish new rich, he thinks it is fitting that he speaks some poor kind of French instead of Dutch (a reference to the language battle between Flanders and Wallonia).
  • Madam Pheip is his wife. She is a pipe smoking bully, loyal to her kids, herself, her husband, and her friends (in that order). When necessary, she can make a smoke curtain with her pipe.
  • Petatje is the adopted daughter of the Pheips. Her father and mother died when she was very young. Initially, she was adopted by Nero, but soon got to live with the Pheips.
  • Petoetje is their adoptive son. He is actually the son of a Papoea king, and is extremely bright. Petoetje and Petatje get treated like children (which they are, around 10 years old) by their parents, even though they act more mature most of the time.
  • Clo-Clo is the younger son of the Pheips. His main characteristic is wearing a large moustache as a toddler. He weeps for the smallest reason.
  • Tuizentfloot is "the last pirate still alive", or that's what he thinks, anyway. Weaponed with a dagger or sometimes a cannon, he is very easily irritated and chases everyone around. He can come up in a story at any given time and it can never be predicted what he might do next.
  • Captain Oliepul is the captain of the tugboat named 'His Majesty Pull'. He is a good friend of Nero, and saved him many times. He's Marc Sleen's "deus ex machina": whenever characters seem to be drowning, at the very last moment captain Oliepul coïncidentally passes by and saves them just in time.
  • Jan Spier is an extremely strong guy, who is said to be the last descendant of Jan Breydel. His name means "muscle" in Dutch. He makes a living selling French fries. He has been gone for many years in the middle part of the series, but readers convinced Sleen to let Jan Spier reappear. During the run of the series, he was married to at least two different women, Minoetje and Isabella. No divorce or other explanation was ever shown.
  • Officer Gaston was the last character to become a regular in the comic, and he appeared very late, in 1995, twenty years after the birth of Clo-Clo (at that point the last regular to be added to the cast). Gaston is fat, not too bright, and at times incredibly incompetent. However, somehow he manages to save Nero a few times.
  • Nero's worst enemies are the Maltese (see: De Spekschieter) bandit Ricardo and a devil, called Geraard de Duivel (Gerard the Devil, called after a medieval building in Ghent).

Stories[edit]

The early stories had a random length, often around 240 strips, while the latter ones (from 1965 on) had a length of 32 pages of each 4 strips. Every day, two strips appeared in the newspaper.

While the stories have some continuity, with recurring characters and things that happen in one story having a consequence in the next one, they are on the whole separate, finished stories, not a continuing saga.

Almost all stories start and finish in Flanders, but many take the characters in between all around the world and mostly to Africa. Marc Sleen was a passionate wildlife lover and made many documentaries and books about the fauna of Africa, and this love can be found in his comics as well. The end of the comic always has a "wafelenbak", a dinner with Belgian waffles, with all the protagonists joined around the table.

Guinness Book of World Records[edit]

  • Marc Sleen holds with Nero the world record of issues of a comic book series title drawn by the same author. He drew "The Adventures of Nero" singlehandedly from 1947 to 1992 without any assistance of other artists. This feat is even more remarkable, considering he also drew other comic strip series from 1947 to 1965.

Sources[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ a b Lambiek Comiclopedia. "Marc Sleen".