Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cartoon Festival Knokke-Heist: Superheroes on the beach - 5 July - 2 Sept 2015

This year, the 54th cartoon festival of Knokke-Heist invites you from July 5 until Sept 2 to the wondrous universe of Superheroes. Saturday July 4 was the opening of the festival and lots of Superheroes were present indeed. The opening was disturbed by an incident on the street in front of the press tent. We witnessed an intervention by Superman himself...who save a kidnapped girl.

Since the cartoon exhibition moved to an agreeable 900 m² cartoon pavilion at the Knokke beach, no efforts were too great to make cartoons more attractive for a broader public. For that reason, the festival has expanded its view on cartoons. You can not only enjoy the gag cartoons from the Knokke- Heist Golden Hat Cartoon Contest  and press cartoons of the Press Cartoon Belgium and Press Cartoon Europe Contest, but now you can meet with superhero cartoon characters.

Belgian comic strip heroes Suske & Wiske and Jommeke
 - they certainly can compete with the superheroes from abroad

some superheroes attended the opening for the press...

At first sight I was a bit sceptic, but I was wrong. This was because I am a bit 'old school' concerning cartoons: good cartoons without captions are for me the real stuff. Let's say the kind of cartoons the festival promoted since its start in 1962. It is clear that the exhibition of Press Cartoon Belgium and Europe, together with the cartoons of the Cartoon Festival should give the public a view on the contemporary cartoon scene in Belgium and abroad. On one side, the gag cartoons mostly show us a timeless humor, the editorial cartoons on the other hand express humor and satire on current issues. But when you look good, you'll notice in both genres often the same symbols, caricatures, stereotypes or symbols.

Superman came to Knokke and defeated some bad guys...

The Superhero theme for the Cartoon Festival is quite cool and I'm sure it will be very successful. The organizers hope that last year's number of visitor's (more than 83.000) will be exceeded. Superheroes are very attractive to children, they adore them, and weren't we all children before? My friend Haswel Kunyenje told me some time ago when we wanted to set up a cartoon project in his country Malawi, the children over there are very fond of Superheroes like Spider-Man or Superman.  Children all over the world are the same: they adore Superheroes.
I was taken by surprise by the creative set-up of the exhibition with its integration and combination of superhero cartoons. Curator Christophe Floré and his team have done a great job and produced a magnificent exhibition for young and old. The idea to reproduce a batmobile (The Tumbler) and position it in front of the cartoon pavilion shows the creativity of the exhibition team. Believe me, this is will be one of the finest attractions on the Belgian coast this summer. Who wouldn't have a picture of his children or himself sitting in that mobile? (and it produces an appropriate sound!)

Back to the exhibition. The journey starts with the legendary ancient Greeks and the Trojan Horse (superheroes are of all times, starting with Achilles and Odysseus)  and ends with a glimpse of the heroes' future. You walk into a dark alley, where the American Comic heroes protect you from all calamities. Find out in the lab why heroes are so exceptional. Prins Boerke, by the hand of Pieter De Poortere, tells you how it was to be a hero in the Middle Ages. Our Belgian family comic heroes bring us closer to home but often also in exotic places. More than 440 humorous and adventurous cartoons can be admired.

Entering the exhibition you'll notice a superhero poem. "Cartoons and poetry fit together and have some similarities: they are often published on the same page in a newspaper, they are to the point, and both art forms have a big brother: poems have literature, cartoons have comic strips" says curator Christophe.

curator Christophe Floré

Starting with the ancient Greeks

For the Marvel and DC Comics section (Batman, The Hulk, The Avengers...) , the makers of the exhibition consulted the people of! (a Belgian website dedicated to comics, games, superhero stuff...). They would be sure that every detail was all right. Comic adepts are not amused when you write the name of their heroes wrong. An example: you always write Spider-Man with hyphen!  I met the people of Brainfreeze and they are quite cool. I like people with a passion.

The exhibition does not forget our own Belgian superheroes Jommeke and Suske and Wiske. We know them of their beloved comic strips, but this time they are into cartoons... In other rooms we notice some other ingredients for a good hero's story: weapons and gadgets, a weird adversary and the fight between good and evil. "The battle is not only fought between superhero and villain, but every superhero fights against himself and evil forces in his own  mind. We let the visitor think and let him make a choice between the bad and the evil", says the curator.

A good example of this is the Star Wars Saga and Anakin versus Luke Skywalker. Some scenes out of the movie are reproduced in Lego. Villains are imprisoned in a safe and in a lab we can see how gadgets are developed. There is even a time machine to go to back to the Middle Ages, where cartoonist Pieter De Poortere  shows his creature  Boerke in a parody of King Arthur and the Knights of The Round Table...

In his introduction to the exhibition, council member Jan Morbee emphasised the importance of superheroes for children. For that reason, different activities for children are available: hero cards, a hero game, a photo booth and superhero workshops. Very remarkable are the many smart Lego scenes in the exhibition that show superheros in action. Lego Certified Professional Dirk Denoyelle and the Lego club did a great job. An good example of the use of Lego is a recontruction in Lego of the ancient Greek Minotaur labyrinth. In the labyrinth you spot the Minotaur, but also Pac-Man. This refers to the evolution of archetypes through the ages, until they pop up in modern game culture.

Jan Morbee

cartoon by Lectrr and Steve

cartoon by Charlotte Dumortier

cartoon by Joris Snaet

cartoon by Erwin Vanmol

Mr Karel Anthierens, founder of Press Cartoon Belgian and Europe told us about the nominees of the 2014 contest, of which the cartoons are shown in the exhibition. His dream is to once have a Press Cartoon World.
Karel Anthierens
This year, Marec was the winner of Press Cartoon Belgium:

winning cartoon by Marec
All this may not let us forget that there was the prize winner's ceremony of the Golden Hat, the oldest cartoon contest in the world in which participated 651 cartoonists form 74 countries.

You can see the winners here.

The organizers succeeded to build a very attractive and interesting cartoon exhibition for young and old.

I hope that by entering the Superhero exhibition all those visitors won't forget to enter the other two parts of the exhibition. Let them discover the cartoons of all those other Superheroes armed with only pencil and paper and who aren't that famous: the cartoonists who publish their cartoons in the press (sometimes with risk for their own lives) and the other gag cartoonists, real Superheroes, that with their Super Powers make us smile. Humor is one of the greatest Super Powers of mankind.

PS: And do you know who's my Superhero, besides all those cartoonists? That's Bicycle Repair Man of course...

Learn more:
prize winners cartoon contest
Press Cartoon Europe
Press Cartoon Belgium

The cartoonists in the Superhero exhibition are:

Eva Mouton
Charlotte Dumortier
Pieter De Poortere
Erwin Vanmol
Joris Snaet
Steve Michels
Dieter Van der Ougstraete


Anonymous said...

Dear Jan,

I would like to learn more about the German (?) cartoonist, Val Valentine, who had his own comic strip ("Sign of the Times") and a long career in gag cartooning, as seen in the magazines Easyriders, Hustler, Omni, Saturday Review and several others.

His cartoons were published as early as the early 1960s and as late as the mid-1990s. I am not sure if he is still alive though.

He was living in Münsingen, Germany according to the address on this letter:

He also signed his cartoons under the pseudonym "Scotty".

Many thanks if you can help me.

Anonymous Gag Cartoon Fan

Jan Oplinus said...

Hello "Anonymous",
I'll inform about this cartoonist. I don't know him and I couldn't find anything in some cartoon encyclopaedias.
I'll keep in touch.


ps: please let me know who you are, it's nicer if one knows a little bit more of each other ( )