Marc Sleen (middle) in 1992, with Jan Bucquoy (on the left wearing glasses).
30 December 1922
De Lustige Kapoentjes
Piet Fluwijn en Bolleke
De Ronde van Frankrijk (comic strip)
Marcel Honoree Nestor, Knight Neels (born 30 December 1922), known with his pseudonym Marc Sleen, is a Flemish/Belgian comics artist and cartoonist. He is mostly known for his comic The Adventures of Nero and Co..
Marc Sleen was born as Marcel Neels in Gentbrugge, near Ghent. He studied drawing in Ghent and started after the Second World War to work as a political caricaturist in the Flemish newspaper De Standaard. He also contributed illustrations and short comics for the newspaper and the youth supplement, and made illustrations and his first comics for the magazine Ons Volk.
In October 1947, Marc Sleen started a new series, The adventures of detective Van Zwam in the newspaper De Nieuwe Gids. In the first adventure Detective Van Zwam encounters a fool who thinks he is emperor Nero. After he regains his senses, they continue calling him Nero and slowly he became the star of the series. The name changes accordingly to The adventures of detective Van Zwam and Nero and after nine stories to The adventures of Nero and co.
The series appears for 55 years with a rhythm of two strips every day. This was typical for the Flemish comic tradition, as with Spike and Suzy. Nero became well known for its ironic humour and references to actual events. For instance, in the album, Het Vredesoffensief Van Nero (Nero's Peace Offensive) he visits Joseph Stalin to make him drink an elixir that will make him a pacifist. He succeeds in doing this, but when Nero starts telling Stalin he himself is greater than the Russian dictator Stalin throws him in jail.
Besides Nero Sleen drew many other comic strip series, many of them gag-a-day comics, for magazines like 't Kapoentje and Ons Volkske. Among the most well known were Piet Fluwijn en Bolleke and De Lustige Kapoentjes. Sleen also drew an annual report of the Tour de France from 1947 until 1965, called De Ronde van Frankrijk.
In 1965, Marc Sleen was bought by another newspaper, a change that caused much uproar. Thousands of readers switched from the old newspaper to the new one to be able to follow the comics. After that switch, he dropped all other series and devoted himself solely to Nero.
From 1992 to 2002, he was aided by Dirk Stallaert, a young Flemish comic artist, and at first the intention was to let Stallaert continue the series after Marc Sleen retired. But in the end, Stallaert didn't feel ready to continue it alone, and at the end of 2002, at the age of 80, Marc Sleen ended his career as a comics artist.
Marc Sleen was also known as a traveller and animal friend. He made 35 safaris to Africa between 1961 and 1991, making more than 20 documentaries for the Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroep, mostly for the TV show "Allemaal Beestjes". A few books and records about his safaris appeared as well. Many of his comics featured animals and countries he has visited.
In 1989 Marc Sleen got his name in the Guinness Book of Records for drawing the same comic strip single-handedly without any aid of assistants for over a period of 45 years. This achievement is even more remarkable when one considers he drew even more comic series (most of them daily or weekly) from 1947 until 1965. Sleen's record has since been beaten by Frank Dickens, whose gag-a-day cartoon strip, Bristow, was in syndication by Dickens' himself for more than 51 years, from 1961 to 2012.
Marc Sleen is still a big name in Belgian (Flemish) comics. He is respected and popular with children and even more with adults for his brilliant caricatures, political and social references and ironic humour. He is commonly considered one of the four fathers of the Flemish comics, together with Willy Vandersteen, Bob de Moor and Jef Nys.
In 2005 he was selected as one of the 111 nominees for the title "The Greatest Belgian" (De Grootste Belg) in the Flemish edition. He ended in 48th place.
On June 19, 2009, a museum dedicated to his life and career was opened in Brussels: the Marc Sleen Museum. Both Marc Sleen as well as king Albert II of Belgium were present. The king was a fan of Nero since his youth and both him and Baudouin of Belgium learned Dutch by reading "Nero".
Major comics series
- Piet Fluwijn (1944–1945)
- Piet Fluwijn en Bolleke (1945–1965) (also known as The adventures of a father and his son)
- Pollopof (1946–1952)
- Stropke en Flopke (1946–1950)
- Nero (1947–2002)
- De Ronde van Frankrijk ("the annual Tour de France". (Each year Marc Sleen drew a daily strip about the cycling event) (1947–1964)
- De Lustige Kapoentjes (1950–1965) (continued by other artists including Hurey and Kabou)
- Doris Dobbel (1950–1967)
- Fonske (1951–1960)
- Octaaf Keunink (1952–1965)
- 1974: Prix Saint-Michel for best comical story, Brussels, Belgium
- 1981: Honorary citizen of Hulshout, Belgium
- 1984: Honorary citizen of Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
- 1989: Stamp of Nero issued by the Belgian Post
- 1993: Gouden Adhemar at Strip Turnhout, Belgium
- 1995: Best comic of 1994 by the "Belgische Kamer van stripexperten" (Belgian assembly of comic experts)
- 1997: Knighted (Ridder) by king Albert II of Belgium
- 2005: Honorary citizen of Brussels
- 2011: Honorary citizen of Hoeilaart
- De Weyer, Geert (2005). "Marc Sleen". In België gestript, pp. 160-161. Tielt: Lannoo.
- "Striptekenaar Marc Sleen wordt ereburger van Hoeilaart". De Standaard (in Dutch). 26 May 2011. Retrieved 27 May 2011.
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