Jommeke is one of my favourite comic books from when I was a child. It’s a typically Flemish comic book and it has been unsuccessfully translated into other languages a few times. But the humour or style seems to be too specific to our Belgian culture and it hasn’t really taken of elsewhere.
Jommeke was first published back in 1955, through various newspapers, and it was one of the few best-selling comic strips in Flanders! It can be characterised as a humouristic children’s adventure series, written and drawn by Jef Nys. He was one of the most famous Flemish comic book artists and Jommeke is his most famous work. He received many awards for his work on Jommeke, which spanned 250 issues. However, Jommeke did not die with him. In his will, he had it drawn up that Jommeke can be drawn by a number of his followers, with only one rule: “no violence, no weapons, no sex and no drugs.” In June 2020, the 300th issue was released.
For this blog post, I’m reviewing issue 15: Het Staartendorp first published in 1963. It’s one of my absolute favourites!
It’s a classic story that involves most of the main players. It all starts with Pekkie, the black poodle of Filiberke, has his tail cut off by accident. The two of them rush over to Jommeke, who is playing with their twin friends Annemieke & Rozemieke. The girls take care of the dog, while the boys figure out what to do next. They decide to go to Professor Gobelijn, a very smart but absent-minded professor who often manages to help them out with out-of-the-box solutions. They want his help to get Pekkie’s tail back.
As the cover art and the name of the comic already allude to: it’s not only Pekkie’s tail that the professor manages to grow. And hilarity ensues.
What stands out in this comic? It is a children’s book and it was published periodically in newspapers, so there are a few moral lessons. The professor explains human evolution (that our tailbone means we used to probably have tails) and why there is no gravity in space. It’s also rife with generalisations and cliches: the people who are always on the go get a kangaroo tail, the snobs end up with peacock feathers, moms get monkey’s tails to help with the children, women get their tails coloured and coiffed, … And it even ends with a fun wordplay: