From top to below: Wiske, Suske, Aunt Sidonia, Lambik and Jerom.
Suske en Wiske (Spike and Suzy in English) is a long-running (since 1945) Flemish comic book series. It was created by Willy Vandersteen (1913-1990), and since his death, a dedicated team of writers and artists have continued publishing new stories. From the 1940s until the 1960s, the series was very popular in Belgium and the Netherlands thanks to the funny, engaging and suspenseful stories. Several books from this era have become classics, especially the stories Vandersteen drew for the youth magazine "Tintin". The series' popularity also caused other Flemish newspapers to start their own comic strips, hence the creation of Nero, Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber and Jommeke.The series started with a young girl named Louise (nicknamed "Wiske"), who lived with her brother Rikki and their aunt Sidonia. After their first adventure in the land of Chocowakije, Rikki vanished from the series, and Wiske was instead joined by the young boy Franciscus Antigoon of Amoras (nicknamed "Suske"), who was adopted into her family.Other characters include:
Professor Barabas: Intelligent, but Absent-Minded Professor whose inventions often steer the plot, especially his time machine.
Schanulleke: Wiske's rag doll, who magically comes to life in a few issues.
Sus Antigoon: Suske's ancestor, an Off The Wagon ghost powered by alcohol.
Arthur: Lambik's long lost twin, who, thanks to the sap of a plant, can fly.
Krimson: The main villain.
Many stories are inspired by fantasy elements and folkloric tales, but a lot of albums are also time travel or world travel stories. From the very start, "Suske and Wiske" had a strong moralistic undertone, which increased over the years.A So Bad, It's Good live-action film, De Duistere Diamant, was made in 2004. A stage musical also toured in Flanders and the Netherlands in the 1990s.
Added Alliterative Appeal: One of the series' most iconic traits. A lot of "Suske and Wiske" titles have alliterative titles. Interestingly, this became prominent only after Vandersteen's influence on the comic started to fade. Most classic stories avert it completely. After Vandersteen retired, nearly every story got an alliterative title. These days it's being downplayed somewhat.
Alien Invasion: The aliens in "De Gezanten Van Mars", "De Stervende Ster", "De Wolkeneters" (The envoys of Mars, The Dying Star, The Cloud-Eaters)
All Just a Dream: A hypnotist sends Suske, Wiske and Lambik into a dream adventure in "De Tartaarse Helm" (The Tartan Helmet) and they get so caught up in the adventure that they eventually forget that they are dreaming.
A chair comes alive in "De Geverniste Zeerovers" (The Varnished Pirates).
Living trees in "De Koning Drinkt" (The King Drinks)
Playing cards come alive in "De Kaartendans" (The Dance of cards)
Objects come alive in "De Sputterende Spuiter" (The Sputtering Gusher)
Characters from paintings come alive in "Het Spaanse Spook", "De Raap van Rubens", "De Dulle Griet", "Het Rijmende Paard" (The Spanish Ghost, The Apprentice of Rubens, The Warrior Waif, The Rhyming Horse)
Art Evolution: The oldest albums were very crudely drawn. When Vandersteen wanted to publish "Suske en Wiske" in Hergé's magazine "Tintin" he was asked to change his style completely because it was simply too ugly. Vandersteen agreed. Later many of his earlier work was completely redrawn, although some stories were kept in the style they were originally created in.
Art Initiates Life: Characters from paintings are brought alive in "De Dulle Griet", "Het Rijmende Paard", "De Raap van Rubens". (The Warrior Waif, The Rhyming Horse, The Apprentice of Rubens)
Artistic License - Paleontology: Every time the characters travel to the Stone Age ("Wattman", "De Groene Splinter"note The Green Shard, "De Malle Mergpijp"note The Silly Marrowbone, "De Slimme Slapjanus" note The smart Weakling,...) cavemen and dinosaurs live together in the same time period.
In "Het Rijmende Paard" (The Rhyming Horse) Jerom flies into another comic strip by Vandersteen, namely the more realistically drawn "Karl May".
"De Rode Ridder" (The Red Knight), the title character in a more realistically drawn comic strip of Vandersteen, passes by in the album "Wattman".
Another Vandersteen character, the dog Bessy, makes a cameo in "De Zwarte Zwaan". (The Black Swan)
Marcel Kiekeboe of De Kiekeboes has a cameo appearance in "De Speelgoedspiegel" (The Toy Mirror)
Snowy from "Tintin" passes by in "De Kleurenkladder" (The Colour Mess)and Lambik sadly notes: "Poor animal. It's just as if I recognize you from somewhere, but I don't know from where. You've lost your owner too, huh?" (Hergé has died a few years before the publication of this album).
At the end of "The Krimson Crisis" the characters from the comic strip Nero make a cameo appearance.
Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Jerom singlehandedly defeats an entire army of (relatively) intelligent apes in "De Tamtamkloppers" (The Tamtam Knockers) and is later found by his friends on top of one of the piles. He informs them that "the fight was so monotonously easy that he fell asleep while fighting".
Author Existence Failure: Creator Willy Vandersteen died in 1990, but the comic strip is still continued to this day by other contributors.
He was actually Put on a Bus, but the flimsy reason for his disappearance was only mentioned in the preview panel that traditionally appears a day or two before the actual story begins serialisation. However, since these panels were never included in the paperbacks until much, much later, Rikki seems to just disappear for no reason when you read the series now.
Cliff Hanger: Since "Suske and Wiske" was published in newspapers Vandersteen often made use of cliff hangers at the end of each episode to keep his readers in suspense until the next day. He was so good at this that readers even read the comics section first before moving on to the other articles.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Whenever Suske seems to have some success with other girls Wiske is instantly jealous.
Cloud Cuckoolander: Mr. Van Zwollem is completely mad and is aided by his daughter Anne-Marie.
Comic Book Time: The characters never age, although Suske and Wiske were originally a lot younger, almost toddlers with babylegs. Depending on the Writer, their estimated age would range from early teens to young adults.
Contemporary Caveman: Jerom was originally a frozen villain from the Stone Age, but later became part of the cast. In many of the early albums he was always dressed as a caveman. Later he changed his outfit and became more civilized, in a rare example of Character Development for a main cast member.
Conveniently an Orphan: Wiske has no parents and is raised by her aunt, Sidonia. Suske too is an orphan and is adopted by Sidonia. Vandersteen often told interviewers that he gave Suske and Wiske an aunt because real parents would never allow them to go on adventure. Indeed, Suske and Wiske never go to school, though they'd sometimes mention homework.
Cultural Translation: The comic strip is made in Flanders, but also hugely popular in the Netherlands. Unfortunately many concessions had to be made: since the 1960s the characters speak standard Dutch and use the Dutch airline KLM to travel instead of the Belgian one. Very specific references to Flanders were removed and replaced by more general references to Dutch society and culture. Like many tropes for this series, however, it's Depending on the Writer.
One particular concession was the naming of Schanulleke, who originally was named Schalulleke, a snigger-worthy name at best in Dutch.
Darker and Edgier: The new spin-off/reboot series. The first album entitled Amoras features partial nudity, swearing, blood, substance abuse and a mature theme. The series is written als a multi-album story. So far, critics like it. But old time fans expecting the milder tone of the original series will be in for a very unpleasant surprise.
The new series was actually announced to the press as an obituary for Wiske, making it very clear that she dies in the first album. In fact, her death scene is the first album's front cover.
Deus Exit Machina: To make the stories a bit more exciting: Jerom has so far been poisoned, drugged, cursed, put asleep, sent on vacation, working a new job, etc. to keep his power away from solving the plot too quickly.
Disappeared Dad: In "De Tamtamkloppers" it turns out Lambik's father has been lost for years, somewhere in Africa. So he and his friends decide to go searching for him.
Dreaming of Times Gone By: used on purpose in "De Schat van Beersel". After being trapped in the dungeons of an old castle by the villains, Priem, the same hypnotist that was responsible for the adventure in "De Tartaarse Helm", uses his power of hypnosis to make Lambik, Suske and Wiske dream of the castles glory days in medieval times so they can learn more of the secret passages and thus a way to escape the dungeon.
Dream Stealer: The entire concept of the album "De Dromendiefstal" ("The Dream Theft").
In the first album, "Rikki en Wiske in Chocowakije" Wiske is teamed up with a much older brother, Rikki. Vandersteen abandoned this character after only one album because he felt that Wiske needed a companion of her own age.
Suske and Wiske are five year olds with chubby baby legs in the early albums. In later albums they could be ten to eleven years old, teenagers or perhaps even twenty-something, Depending on the Writer.
Jerom was in a villain in his debut album "De Dolle Musketiers" (The Mad Musketeers). He also wore cave men clothing for several albums after his debut and only gradually, over the course of many albums, would start wearing modern suits.
In "Het Eiland Amoras" (Amoras Island) Professor Barabas originally was very fat and had a stuttering problem. Vandersteen cured him from this speech impediment because parents complained that their children started copying this behaviour.
Also in "Het Eiland Amoras", Suske had a Berserk Button in the form of the Battle Cry 'Antigoon Vooruit'. Saying this in his presence was a perfect way to turn him from a mild mannered boy into The Berserker.
Easily Forgiven: Villains usually repent or are forgiven by the protagonists.
Executive Meddling: The very first "Suske & Wiske" album "Rikki & Wiske in Chocowakije" ("Rikki & Wiske in Chocovakia") didn't feature Suske at all. Wiske was paired with her older brother, Rikki, who resembled Tintin. Yet originally Rikki was to be named "Suske", but Vandersteen's publisher had changed the character's name in "Rikki" without consulting him about the action. Vandersteen got his revenge, though. He sent Rikki away at the start of the next album "Op Het Eiland Amoras" and then Wiske met a boy of her own age named Suske.
Exploding Closet: Wiske is Genre Savvy (or perhaps just knows the habits of the people she lives with): before opening a medicine cabinet, she places a basin before it and stands back, as the contents falls out of it.
Eye Pop: Lambik's eyes do this in the Suske en Wiske album "De Dolle Musketiers" (The Mad Musketeers) when he first sees Jerom.
Eyes Always Shut: Jerom. He informs us in De Sissende Sampan that he does this because his eyelids are too heavy and he prefers peeping through them all the time.
Lambik was originally just a dumb, but good-natured buffoon. Later he became a vain and egotistical buffoon who sometimes has moments of pure genius.
Jerom was originally an uncivilized caveman. Later he started dressing and behaving more like a 20th century everyman with superpowers.
Tante Sidonia's neverending man hunt only became a defining trait of her character in later albums.
Wiske's jealousy towards Suske and other girls who fall for his charms only became more prominent in later albums.
Krimson originally did not need to take pills frequently to overcome his nervous breakdowns, and did not have his butler Achiel as his right-hand-man.
The early albums were very Flemish, with references to typical 1940s and 1950s catholic Flanders. Later the stories became more oriented to the Dutch market to the point that the characters even flew with the Dutch airline KLM and used standard Dutch expressions and references.
Game Show Appearance: Lambik enters a TV game show competition in "De Speelgoedzaaier" (The Toy Sower) and accidentally wins the first price.
George Lucas Altered Version: Many early Suske & Wiske albums of the 1940s and 1950s have been redrawn, updated and too dated references have been removed to appeal to modern audiences. The original unaltered stories are still available, but only in a special album series.
Characters that speak in rhyme are often encountered ("De Koning Drinkt", "Sjeik El Rojenbiet", "De Wolkeneters", "De Tamtamkloppers", "Het Rijmende Paard",...) (The King Drinks, The Cloud-Eaters, The Tamtam Knockers, The Rhyming Horse)
Characters that speak mangled Dutch with French loanwords (usually rich villains, as can be found in "De Zwarte Madam", "De Spokenjagers", "De Klankentapper",...) (The Black Madam, The Ghost Hunters, The Sound Drainer)
Characters who use sdrawkcab... sorry, backwards language ("De IJzeren Schelvis", "De Brullende Berg", "De Begeerde Berg",...) (The Iron Haddock, The Roaring Mountain, The Coveted Mountain)
And Jerom always speak in telegram language.
Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: In "Het Eiland Amoras" (Amoras Island) and "Het Wondere Wolfje" (The Miraculous Wolfy) people only fall when they notice the ladder beneath them has disappeared.
Heel-Face Turn: several one-time villains have done this over the years. And in Amoris op Amoras, even Big Bad Krimson, of all people, undergoes a heel face turn. This one does not stick though, which is quite frustrating if you realize that Lambik almost made a Heroic Sacrifice to help Krimson turn good.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lambik and Jerom both live in the same house, but since this a traditional comic nothing special is ever made of this. Both of them have a soft spot for women.
He Who Must Not Be Seen: A frequent plot device in the earlier, classic albums. Mysterious characters dressed in cloaks, hoods, masks, high collars, veils,... hide their identity for the characters and readers driving the suspense to the Berserk Button.
Hulk Speak: Jerom. And he was created 11 years before the Hulk!
Human Ladder: The titular characters form a human tower on the back cover of every album. The main characters form a human tower on the back cover of every album. They even provide a shout-out to it in the album De Woeste Wespen, where Jerom has to transport everybody as quick as possible and therefore just carries them off in the same pose.
Improbable Hair Style: Wiske's hair is very weird. She wears a ribbon on top of her head, which supposedly keeps her blond hair tied together. Whenever someone unties her ribbon her hair falls down in front of her eyes.
Invisible Holes: Played within "De Texas Rakkers"; Lambik enters a saloon and immediately, gunfire can be heard inside. Jerom then rushes in and askes Lambik if he has been hit. To check if he's okay, Lambik takes a glass of water and references this trope.
A similar gag occurs in the album "De Tamtam Kloppers", where an ape claims they were unable to shoot him, only to take a sip from a jug and to discover his body is full of holes which now sprout water like a fountain.
Japanese Ranguage: Chinese characters in the comics frequently pronounce the 'R' in words as an 'L'.
Jaws Attack Parody: In the story "Het Kregelige Ketje" Manneken Pis falls in the sea and is attacked by a shark mimicking the "Jaws" poster. The animal even adds another wink by saying: "Maybe this will make me eligible for "the film"."
Wiske's doll Schalulleke was renamed into "Schanulleke" with an "n" instead of an "l", because to Flemish people a "schalul" is a dialect expression for an onion, but Dutch people associate the word "lul" as a Bawdy Name for a penis.
Tante Sidonie changed her name into "Sidonia", again to appeal more to the Dutch audience.
In some Dutch translations of the 1950s Jerom was called "Jeroen", because it sounded more Dutch. For matters of consistency they just named him Jerom in all publications.
The album "Het Taterende Testament" was changed into "Het Sprekende Testament", again because "tateren" is Flemish dialect for "spreken" (to speak).
Meanwhile, in the Future: Used whenever time travel with the help of the time machine is used. If the characters spent several days in the past, several days go by in the present as well between their moment of departure and moment of their return.
Missing Episode: The album "De Gekalibreerde Kwibus" was never reprinted in color and doesn't exist in the official series. It is only available in the original black-and-white version in the "Suske And Wiske Classic" series.
Moral Dilemma: Characters often battle with it, but in the end they choose to do the right thing, though some might not agree exactly what 'the right thing' was.
Nervous Wreck: Both Tante Sidonia and Krimson often have mental breakdowns. In Sidonia's case her entire body bends over backwards and freezes still while she is shaking. Krimson simply gets mad and has to be fed with pills.
Nightmare Sequence: The album "De Bokkenrijders" starts off with Wiske telling a nightmare she just had and Tante Sidonia explaining it's symbolic meanings. Of course, as the story progresses Wiske's nightmare turns out to she was Dreaming of Things to Come.
Ninja Prop: Jerom uses a thought balloon as an actual balloon in "De Tamtamkloppers". (The Tamtam Knockers)
Not Blood Siblings: Suske and Wiske are two orphans adopted by Tante Sidonia and therefore not brother and sister. Still, since Sidonia does raise them as siblings and their backstory is hardly ever brought up, it's not surprising many readers who are not familiar with the series history and have not read "Het Eiland Amoras" (the album in which Suske makes his debut) get the impression that they are brother and sister. This sometimes lead to confusing and disturbing scenes, especially when Wiske shows jealousy towards Suske's success with other girls.
Old Maid: Tante Sidonia, still trying to find a husband after all those years.
Out of Order: "Suske & Wiske" is unique in the sense that the official available color albums don't start with number one, but with number 67! The 66 albums before that were all in black-and-white and aren't available anymore (except in a different series, the "Suske and Wiske Classics" where their original chronological order is respected.) However these older black-and-white stories were colorized and in some cases redrawn and then republished in the official available color series. Yet no effort was made to keep these titles chronological. Older and newer titles follow each other up in one big confusing mess.
Even the original releases were occasionally out-of-order from their newspaper serialization, creating at least one major continuity issue: "De Sprietatoom," the story in which Lambik is introduced, was released after "De Vliegende Aap" where the title character is Lambik's brother.
People Jars: People are shrunk and put into glass jars in "De Sprietatoom" and "De Texasrakkers".(The Lignite Atom, The Texas Rascals)
Playing Cyrano: Lambik does this literally by dressing up as Cyrano in "De Jolige Joffer". (The Jolly Maiden)
Poirot Speak: All foreign characters mix Dutch with loan words from their own language.
Product Placement: Some albums outside the regular series are in fact commercials for a certain product. Most of them are limited editions and only of interest to collectors.
At the end of "De Zingende Zwammen" (The Singing Mushrooms) the characters promote the toy "Op-Jerommeke".
Punny Name: Many characters have names that are puns on Flemish dialect expressions.
Put on a Bus: Wiske's brother Rikki, who disappeared afther just one issue and was never mentioned again. It took almost 50 years for the bus to come back and finally reveal Rikki's fate.
Race Against the Clock: In "De Gouden Cirkel" (The Golden Circle) the characters have to travel to various parts of the globe to collect stuff so they can save a very ill Professor Barabas.
The name of the character Suske was inspired by Vandersteen's father, who was named "Sus".
Krimson was based on a man who visited Vandersteens' daughters manège. Since Krimson is the villain in the story Vandersteen was forced to make him less recognizable.
Some of the earlier stories were inspired by direct events in Belgium or the rest of the world, for instance the controversy surrounding king Leopold III's abdication in De Stalen Bloempot. In later stories the references became more subtle and less dated. Though scenes with hippies, something that was more prominent during the 1960s than it is now, are still present in De Poenschepper and Het Ros Bazhaar.
De Sissende Sampan, De Wilde Weldoener and De Gouden Cirkel were all inspired by a journalistic voyage Vandersteen and author Maria Rosseels made to Asia.
In De Kiekeboes album Villa Delfia a master plagiarist thinks up a new idea for comic strip series with a boy, a girl, an aunt, an arrogant baldhead and a strong man (...) we could be on to something!
In the same series Konstantinopel reads a Suske en Wiske story in De anonieme smulpapen, to which Fanny replies: It would be better if you read one of our own stories.
Single-Episode Handicap: Wiske is temporarily blind in "De Schone Slaper" (The Sleeping Beau). This happens after other characters question why the should help handicapped people by donating money. Eventually she is cured rather simplistically with a magic spell.
Slapstick: Many moments, usually with Lambik on the receiving end.
Smart Ball: Lambik, who carries the Idiot Ball so often that he might as well be super-glued to it, occasionally has moments of pure brilliance.
Spin-Off: Jerom ("Jerom de Gouden Stuntman"note Jerom the Golden Stuntman), Lambik ("De Grappen van Lambik"note The Jokes of Lambik), Schanulleke ("Schanulleke"), Amoras
Spin-Off Babies: The series "Klein Suske en Wiske"note Little Suske and Wiske''
Squashed Flat: Jerom is squashed flat in "De I Jzeren Schelvis"note The Iron Haddock due to the water pressure.
Story Breaker Power: Jerom has displayed enough Super Strength to beat a dragon over the head with a tank (After which he proceeded to smash the tank using the dragon), hold his breath long enough to make diving equipment obsolete, X-Ray vision, searchlights from his eyes, leaping over mountaintops, Super Speed, and a whole slew of other powers that appeared once or twice. He spends a lot of time being nowhere near the plot just so the other characters can have some trouble.
Super Speed: Jerom can run faster than sound, as demonstrated in "De Knokkersburcht". Lambik once ran so quickly in "De Stalen Bloempot" that he ran past himself!
Take That: Mostly general targets, such as "lying politicians", "thieving tax collectors", "tyrannic police officers", "lazy bureaucratics", "posh noblemen and women", "French-speaking Flemings", lazy and dirty hippies,...
Temporary Blindness: Wiske in "De Schone Slaper"note The Sleeping Beau. She is cured by a magic spell.
That Didn't Happen: At the end of "De Briesende Bruid"note The Raging Bride Tante Sidonia marries, but Willy Vandersteen erases the entire scene and tells the audience that, while he wanted to reward her with the greatest happiness after years of adventures, Sidonia's marriage would mean the end of the series. So the story ends as if nothing ever happened at all, with Sidonia waking up after a beautiful dream.
Time Machine: Professor Barabas' "teletimemachine" is Time Cop-type: the machine does not come with the time traveler, but an operator who stays behind can retrieve the time traveler at any moment, assuming he/she knows where and when the traveller is. This feature is often used for last second rescues.
In earlier albums like "De Koning Drinkt"note The King Drinks, "Lambiorix" and "De Ringelingschat"note The Ringeling Treasure characters also travelled back in time, but in different ways.
Originally De Gezanten van Mars had a joke where Lambik, Suske and Wiske pass past the Moon in space. Lambik then says he is uninterested, because "I already know everything I needed to know about the Moon. Haven't you read "Explorers on the Moon" by Hergé?". The joke was later removed from the regular Red album series, but can still be read in the Blue series.
In De Kleurenkladder Lambik notices Snowy passing by and says: "Poor dog. It's just as if I recognize you from somewhere. You probably lost your master." This joke referenced the fact that only a few years earlier Hergé, creator of Tintin had died.
Tower of Babel: The villains want to build it in "De Stalen Bloempot"note The steel Flowerpot.
"De Straatridder"note The Street Knight and "Don Quixote"
"De Texasrakkers"note The Texas Rascals and "Tales of the Texas Rangers"
"De Kale Kapper"note The Bald Barber and "Samson and Delilah"
William Telling: In "Lambiorix" Tante Sidonia has to aim her longbow (and not a crossbow, as you might think) at the apples on Suske and Wiske's heads. Trying to hit two apples with one arrow is a bit more complex than what William Tell had to accomplish, but she manages to pull it off by aiming at a pillar left from them, which causes the arrow to ricochet to the right splitting both apples in the process.