Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Born in Anderlecht, near Brussels, Belgium, on 8 September 1935, Van Cutsem performed his military service in 1955-56 before studying art for three years at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, graduating with a First in drawing. He worked in advertising before making an impression with his comics in the pages of Journal de Tintin, at first, from 1962, with complete short stories, many of them historicals written by Yves Duval, and then with the character Howard Flynn, a young British naval officer, also written by Duval. The stories were collected in three albums in 1966-69.
In 1965-68, he drew the western strip "Ringo", but it was with his next two strips that he found his biggest success to date. "Bruno Brazil", published in Tintin from 1967, featured the exploits of an elite group of American secret service agents known as the Cayman Commandos, whose hair-raising exploits appeared in a number of short stories before their first full-length serial, "Le requin qui mourut deux fois" ("The Shark who Died Twice"), collected in album form in 1969. Written by Michel (Greg) Regnier under the pen-name Louis Albert, a further eight albums appeared between 1970 and 1977, plus the collection Dossier Bruno Brazil; in 1995, La Lombard published a final volume, La Fin...!??.
Parallel to this, Vance met even greater success as the artist of "Bob Morane". The strip was based on a series of adventure novels by Belgian novelist Henri Vernes (Charles-Henri Dewisme) which ran to over 200 titles. Morane's adventures were adapted into comic strips in the pages of Femmes d'Aujourn'hui, beginning in 1959; they subsequently moved to Pilote, drawn by Gerald Forton who was succeeded by William Vance in 1967. The first series by Vance (Operation "Chevalier Noir") was reprinted as an album by Dargaud in 1969, the first of 18 series — serialised in Pilote and Tintin — that Vance would illustrated over the next decade. In 1979, he left the strip in the hands of his former assistant, his brother-in-law Felicisimo Coria, who continues to draw the strip to this day.
Vance launched a number of new series in the 1970s, "Ramiro", set in medieval Spain, which ran for ten albums, "Roderic", which lasted only two, and "Bruce J. Hawker", another series about a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, which ran to seven volumes.
In 1984, Jean Van Hamme approached him with the idea for "XIII", the violent, contemporary action story of a man who awakes with no memory of his past (it was inspired by Robert Ludlum's 1980 novel, The Bourne Identity). Serialised in Spirou, the series has inspired video games and two television series (one starring Val Kilmer). Set in America, the story follows XIII — named after a tattoo he finds on his collarbone — as he sets about discovering who he is and before long finds himself being hunted by assassins and the FBI and involved in a plot to kill the President.
In 1991, Vance took over the artwork for Jean (Moebius) Giroud's "Marshall Blueberry", but produced only two albums; another brief series was "XHIG-C3 — Le vasisseau rebell", which proved to be a one-off. However, "XIII" continued with increasing success through the 1990s and early 2000s until Vance and Jean Van Hamme brought the series to an end after 19 volumes (one drawn by Jean Giroud), the final volume bringing the story full circle and revealing the true identity of XIII.
In 2005, Vance was awarded the Bronzen Adhemar by the Flemish Ministry of Culture for his work on "Bob Morhane" and "XIII". In October 2009 he was made an Honorary Citizen of the City of Brussels by Mayor Freddy Thielemans. Vance, who suffers from Parkinson's Disease, announced in 2010 that he was retiring from drawing comics.
Examples of artwork by William Vance can be found at the Illustration Art Gallery.