From our continental correspondent – And yet more goodbyes
With the year only just starting, already a number of beloved names have left the comics stage in Europe.
On January 15 we said goodbye to Jean-Luc Vernal. Vernal was probably best known as writer for a number of successful series of comics in the 1970s and 80s, such as Jugurtha (with artwork by Hermann and Franz) or Ian Kalédine (with Ferry). These were typically series aimed at a more grown-up reader of comics, still serialised in Tintin magazine, but with considerable more violence and nudity. And, one must add, a very acute attention to historic detail. As the editor-in-chief for Tintin from 1979 until 1988, Vernal tried to steer the magazine during dire times, with sales figures for both the magazine and its albums plumetting (Tintin ceased publication in 1988). He left comics in 1995 for a career in journalism. Vernal was 72 years old.
Probably less well-known to the general public, Pascal Garray was one of the members of the studio Peyo who continued the work of the creator of the Smurfs after his death in 1992 . In 1993 Garray contributed to the relaunch of Benoît Brisefer (published as Benny Breakiron in English), the sweet adventures of a little boy who is very (very) strong, except when he has a cold. After seven books in that series, Garay switched to the Smurfs, and worked on 17 albums about the little blue dwarves (which is more than were published during Peyo’s life). With his death on January 17, we lose one of those talents that continuously work in the shadows but also managed to produce an impressive body of work, with reliable, well-drawn and funny books for all ages.
Finally on January 20 the death was announced of Jan Kruis, the Dutch creator of one of the most widely read weekly comic strips in the Netherlands, Jan, Jans en de Kinderen (Jack, Jacky and the Juniors). For more than thirty years Kruis would draw this strip, chronicling the daily life of a typical Dutch family, for Dutch family magazine Libelle, reaching more than a million readers every week. Drawing inspiration from his own life, Kruis held up a mirror to his readers about their worries, hangups and irritations, and made things discussable. In 1999 Kruis retired from comics, selling the rights to his series. In 2009 Kruis won the Marten Toonder award, the highest comics award in the Netherlands. Jan Kruis was 83.