Sep 27, 2016

Suske en Wiske: Beefcake and Adventure in Flemish Comics

Suske en Wiske, aka Spike and Suzy, Bob and Bobette, Finn and Fifi, Ze y Maria, Willy and Wanda, and so on, are a pair of adventurers in a long-running comic strip created by Willy Vandersteen in 1945.  There have been 300+ albums to date, plus spin-offs.

For many years they appeared in Tintin Magazine, and comparisons with the Tintin strip are inevitable.

1. Tintin was originally published in French, Suske en Wiske in Flemish.

2. Tintin has a talking dog, Milou (Snowy).  Wiske has a doll, Schanulleke (Muffin), which doesn't talk, unless she is brought to life.

3. Tintin is a young adult, so he travels alone, or with Captain Haddock, a co-adventurer rather than a guardian. Suske and Wiske are in late childhood or early adolescence, so they require adult supervision on their travels:

Wiske's Aunt Sidonia
The befuddled scientist Professor Barabas
The portly comic relief character Ambrose
Muscular superheroic caveman Jethro.

4. Tintin's adventures are mainly naturalistic, with occasionally a bit of science fiction.  Suske and Wiske run the gamut of mystical, paranormal, fantasy, and science fiction.  They travel back in time to ancient Egypt or the Viking era.  They stop a war on the far side of the moon.  They interact with ghosts, dragons, wizards, and fairies.

5. Both Tintin and Suske en Wiske all but eliminate hetero-romance.  Suske and Wiske are platonic friends, and the adults rarely go out on dates or express romantic interest.

6. Tintin has a strong gay subtext, a romance in all but the name between Tintin and Captain Haddock.  I haven't found one in the Suske en Wiske albums that I've read.

But there's lots of beefcake, of a cartoonish sort.

7. Both Tintin and Suske en Wiske have been translated into many languages.  Suske en Wiske is particularly assiduous at translations into Dutch dialects: Brabantian, Dreents, Fries, Groning, Kalmhouts, Limburgish, Tweants.

Admit it: You didn't know there were so many dialects of Dutch.  Actually, there are 18, if you include Afrikaans and Flemish.

8. Both have achieved popularity in media other than comics.  Suske and Wiske have appeared in several movies, with Suske played by David Verbeek, Niels Destadsbader, Joeri Busschots (left), and Guilhermo Appolonio (top photo).  There have been television programs, stage musicals, and video games.

Cosplay is popular.

There are statues of the characters in Antwerp and Middelkerke, and a wall mural in Brussels. They have their own museum in Kalmthout.

9. Tintin has stayed the same age for 60 years, but Suske and Wiske have grown up.

 In 2013, Charel Cambre introduced a spin-off, Amoras, with adult Suske and Wiske going into the future to avert a catastrophe in the present.  Suske pairs up with a girl named Jerusalem.

The adult Suske is a handsome, muscular action hero, but he encounters semi-naked girls and has a hetero-romance.

You get something, you lose something.

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