Merho of De Kiekeboes called it quits after 164 albums
Robert Merhottein, known by his pseudonym Merho, has turned 75. The scriptwriter and illustrator of De Kiekeboes, the best-selling Flemish comic series in 2023, thinks it is time to retire.
On 24 October 1948, a man was born in Antwerp's Seefhoek district who thought he was destined to be a comedian. In the end, he became a cartoonist. Not a comedian by profession, then, but comedian enough to make readers laugh at his first gag strips, Comi & Dacske from 1964 and Zoz and Zef from 1965. Both appeared as albums, now sought-after collectors' items. After studying Applied Graphics at the Sint-Lucas Institute in Brussels, from 1970 he was able to join Studio Vandersteen, best known for that other topper, Suske en Wiske. Mainly as an inker and illustrator of backgrounds. Merho designed the characters Kiekeboe and Balthazar, together with and for his older brother, theatre maker and puppeteer Walter Merhottein. In 1976, he left the studio and in 1977, the newspapers Het Laatste Nieuws/De Nieuwe Gazet published for the first time the stripfeuilleton with which he would make a name for himself in Flanders: Kiekeboe - renamed De Kiekeboes in 2010. The albums of the series were not long in coming. He introduced the characters Kiekeboe and Balthazar in his new brainchild.
So what does De Kiekeboes owe its huge success to? Surely to its familiarity. An average Flemish family where main characters father Marcel and mother Charlotte each have an ordinary office job and experience all kinds of strange and fantastic adventures with daughter Fanny and son Konstantinopel. With frequent references to current themes. Initially children were the target audience, then rather adults as Fanny emerged as a tough and erotic murderess in bolder stories with exciting plots. Furthermore, divorces, homosexuals, transgenders, coloured characters, headscarves, female mayors ... Merho very consciously and long ago broke a lance for innovation at the rhythm of evolution in our society. The Kiekeboes were honoured with multiple adaptations for film, television, theatre and radio, a postage stamp, hot air balloon, statues and comic book walls.
But 46 years and 30 million copies sold later, Merho called it quits. After album No. 164, The Season Finale, he has finally put down the drawing pen. To Standaard Publishing to decide the fate of his Doorsnee family. The biros, on the other hand, he still wants to hold on tightly. He has already received several calls from publishers after saying he would love to write a thriller. Robert Merhottein, know that we are looking forward to your next pen stroke.
Photo: © Creative Commons