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Comic Strip: Nero
The cast members having their traditional waffle dinner along side their creator.

"Nero" is one of the iconic Flemish comic strips, along with Suske en Wiske, Jommeke, Piet Pienter en Bert Bibber and De Kiekeboes. One of the all time Print Long Runners "Nero" was published in newspapers from 1947 until 2002. Author Marc Sleen (1922) drew the comic singlehandedly from 1947 until 2002, while working on dozens of other comic strip series until 1965 (!), which in 1992 won him a mention in the Guinness World Records book. Because of his failing eyesight Sleen hired an assistant, Dirk Stallaert, who was meant to be his successor. Stallaert drew "Nero" for ten years, but in 2002 Stallaert made public that he wanted to work for Suske en Wiske instead. Sleen then decided to quit his comic strip series all together, after 55 years of continuous publication.

Nero's characters are:
  • Nero: A fat, bald man with two hairs on his head. He prefers to stay home and read his newspaper. Generally he only goes on an adventure when his friends are in danger or if there's a treasure hunt abound.
  • Madam Nero: Nero's wife.
  • Adhemar: Nero's Child Prodigy baby son, who is a teacher at Oxford and Cambridge. He frequently invents all sorts of machines and rockets.
  • Meneer Pheip: A fat, dim-witted self-important man who speaks in a jambled mix between Dutch and French.
  • Madam Pheip: Meneer Pheip's dominant wife. She smokes pipe, hence her surname. Also note that Meneer Pheip adopted her name, rather than the other way around.
  • Clo-Clo Pheip: Meneer and Madam Pheip's son. He has the same moustache as his father, despite being only five years old. He is a typical naïve and whiny child whose screams deafen everyone who hears him.
  • Petoetje: Madam and Meneer Pheip's adopted son. He's a very intelligent Papua New Guinean black boy.
  • Petatje: Madam and Meneer Pheip's adopted daughter. She's an orphan.
  • Abraham Tuizentfloot: A little man who dresses like a pirate and is completly mad. He claims to be a real pirate and always attacks people with his sword. Still, Nero and the others see him as a friend.
  • Detective Van Zwam: A Sherlock Holmes style genius detective.
  • Jan Spier: A French fries seller with Super Strength.
  • Kapitein Oliepul: A sea captain who is always near whenever the characters are at sea or on a deserted island somewhere.
  • Ricardo: A Napolitan maffiosi and Nero's archenemy.

"Nero" started off as a children's comic, but gradually changed into a series for adults. While other comic book series aim for timelessness "Nero" took full advantage of its status as a newspaper comic. References and shout-outs to current events were often integrated in the plot. Instead of removing these jokes in the album version, like Suske en Wiske did, "Nero" kept all of them intact, even though many of them, as Time Marches On, became less comprehensible to modern day readers. Because author Marc Sleen was originally a political cartoonist he regularly gave real life celebrities of the day a cameo in his stories.

The stories were always whipped out on deadline, which caused many strange stories full of weird plot changes and continuity mistakes. Still "Nero" is still held in high regard for its ironic and anarchic comedy, unpredictable plot developments, wacky characters and Sleen's highly personal vision.


This series provides example of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: In "De Spekschieter" Amedee uses bacon as ammo. (This is a pun of the Flemish expression "met spek schieten" ("shooting with bacon"), meaning that someone's attacks have no effect.)
  • Abnormal Limb Rotation Range: In “De Hoed van Geeraard De Duivel” Nero has bicycled on a kick scooter for so long that one of his legs is longer than the other.
  • Accentuate the Negative: The left wing radicals in “De Straal van Oemtata” are against everything.
  • Action Mom: Madam Pheip.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal:
    • Petoetje en Petatje
    • The albums “Kouwe Kwibus”, “Toffe Theo”, “De Matras van Madras”, “De Kat van Katmandu”, “Het Bobobeeldje”, “Patati Patata”, “De Gele Gorilla”, “De Rosse Rupsen”, “De Blauwe Blommebloem”, “De Groene Gravin”, “Papa Papoea”, “De Bom van Boema”, “Kiwi de Kiwi”, “De Bibberballon”, …
  • Adolf Hitlarious: Hides inside an igloo (“De Man Met Het Gouden Hoofd”) and on a deserted island (“Het Knalgele Koffertje”).
  • Adventures In The Bible: In “De Ark van Nero” Nero builds an Ark and eventually ends up in Paradise, where Madam Pheip eats from the Apple despite being warned by Adam. Just as in the Bible they end up in misery, but eventually Nero goes to Hell to sort things out with Satan.
  • Afraid of Blood: The royal executioner in "Prinses Lovely" and "De Mosterd van Abraham" is afraid of blood.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Adhemar calls his dad teergeliefde vader (sweetly beloved father)
  • Alien Invasion: Happens in “De Vierkante Mannen” and “De Zwarte Voeten”
  • All Just a Dream: Happens to Nero in “De Ark van Nero”, briefly in “Het Vredesoffensief van Nero” ,.. Sometimes it is left to the imagination of the viewer, like in “De Groene Patreel”, where Nero travels to a medieval country and returns without any evidence whether it all happened for real or not?
  • Animal Stereotypes
  • Animal Wrongs Group: Nero and his friends often combat evil poachers or lament over the death of certain wild animals.
  • And I Must Scream: In “De Wortelschieters” everyone going on land on the island barefeet will be injected with a serum that turns them into trees. As it later turns out a man called Krempap occasionally visits the island to cut down these trees!
  • Animorphism: Happens frequently (“Operatie Koekoek”, “Mama Kali”, "De Kat van Katmandu", “Allemaal Beestjes”)
  • Anti-Hero: Nero
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Adhemar, who shruggs off every absurd or magical event with the words: "It's scientifically impossible."
  • Arch-Enemy: In the first three albums it was Matsuoka. As the series went on Nero's major nemesis became Ricardo, the Napolitan gangster.
  • The Ark: Nero builds one in the album "The Ark Of Nero", but it turns out it was It Was All A Dream.
  • Art Evolution: The oldest albums were very crudely drawn. Later Sleen’s style became better, if yet still very loose, simple and full of continuity mistakes. In 1992 he hired an assistant, Dirk Stallaert, because his eyesight was getting poor. Stallaert added a lot more detail, perspective and perfect anatomy to the characters.
  • Art Initiates Life: In “De Ring van Balderic” Nero is able to bring statues to life.
  • Artistic License - Biology:
    • Petatje stretches a villain's neck in "De Negen Peperbollen" until it's as long as a swan's.
    • In "Het Lodderhoofd" Nero's head is shot off. It is treated like a ball and stuck back on his body with glue.
    • In "De Kolbak van How" Meneer Pheip is able to roll up his nose.
    • In "De Hond van Pavlov" the villains' nose is bitten off by a dog and accidentally stuck back on upside down.
    • Despite being an animal lover, Sleen often used animal stereotypes in his comic strip, such as penguins living on the North Pole and eagles abducting children.
  • Artistic License - Engineering: Every machine or vehicle in this comic strip wouldn't work in Real Life.
  • Artistic License - Geography: Sometimes the characters visit fictional countries.
    • In "De Clo-Clo Clan" the Earth's axle has to be smeared with oil to keep it turning.
  • Artistic License - Physics and Artistic License - Astronomy: Whenever Nero travels into space he never needs a space suit. He is able to breathe normally and doesn't float, even when walking on a planet's surface.
  • Ascended Extra: Nero, who was just a secondary character in the first story, but quickly became so popular that he became the series' protagonist.
  • Audience Participation: In “De X-Bom” Nero and his friends are locked in jail and ask the audience to sent them letters to plead them to get them out of jail.
    • All the stories were published in a newspaper first, so occasionally characters will abruptly be giving new year’s wishes to the readers.
  • Author Appeal: Sleen is a huge animal lover and thus many species are frequently showcased in his stories. Especially African fauna because he went on safari to the continent every year.
    • As a former newspaper caricaturist Sleen also enjoyed giving celebrities of his day a cameo in his stories and make references to stuff that was in the news in those days.
  • Author Avatar: Characters often ask Marc Sleen to help them out of a sticky situation.
  • Author Tract: Sleen often provided environmental messages in his stories, especially to protect the animals.
  • Back from the Dead: Especially during the final years of the comic strip many characters in the franchise that supposedly died decades ago made a reappearance for sake of nostalgia. In "De Drie Wrekers" for instance two of Nero's arch villains, Matsuoka and Ricardo, make a comeback despite Matsuoka being eaten by a giant northern pike in "Het Zeespook" and Ricardo falling in a vulcano in "De Gelukbrenger".
    • Van Zwam is presumably shot dead in "De Gouden Patatten". All the characters protest against Marc Sleen and decide to go on strike. He is eventually resurrected back to life.
  • Badass Beard: Abraham Tuizentfloot.
  • Badass Moustache: Clo-Clo, since he is actually a child. Also expect caricatures of celebrities to turn up, since Sleen enjoys drawing those.
    • Musician Amadeus Moderato whose moustache is shaped like a musical note.
    • Captain Oliepul, who has a brush moustache.
  • Bag of Holding: Nero's high hat in "De Hoed van Geeraard de Duivel".
  • Bags of Letters: When Nero, Madam Pheip, Petoetje and Petatje are in jail in “De X-Bom” people send them bags of letters to ask the police office for their release.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Whenever the characters get lost in the desert and faint they will be rescued by bedouins passing by.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Happens in De Juweleneter. It turns out to be Petoetje en Petatje playing a prank.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Ivan in “Ivan De Verschrikkelijke” who is a handsome caricature of Paul Newman.
  • Big Bad: Ricardo
    • Nero frequently encounters real big bad strong guys who have to be defeated by Jan Spier (“De Batavieren”, “De Wortelschieters”, “De Vliegende Slof”, …)
  • Big Friendly Dog: There's one in "Pol De Pijpegeest".
  • Big Eater: Characters really stuff themselves when they are eating waffles.
    • Animal characters in "Arthur De Vetvogel", “De Grote Loebas”, “De Draak van Halfzeven”,…
  • Big Friendly Dog: Petoetje and Petatje’s dog in “Pol de Pijpegeest”.
  • Bilingual Bonus
    • Sometimes real snippets of Japanese, Russian, French or Swahili are spoken by characters.
    • Meneer Pheip often uses French expressions.
  • Billions of Buttons: Adhemar's computers have them.
  • Boring, but Practical: Meneer Peerdezaag in "Het Gouden Hart" is very boring, but generally a nice man.
  • The Boxing Episode: Nero fights Joe Louis in “De Erfenis van Nero” to obtain his uncle's fortune.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall
  • Break-Out Character: Originally the series centered around Detective Van Zwam, but Nero turned out to be so popular that he became the star of the series.
  • Brick Joke: A guy holding a sign with “The End Is Near” walks around in the album “De Bende van Lamu” until Nero finally gets fed up and asks him what end is near? It turns out to be the end of the story.
    • In “De Draak van Halfzeven” a guy continuously bothers Nero with buckets of sand and asks him if he needs any? After a while it turns out that he stole an amount of money that Nero lost by hiding it inside the buckets.
  • Bullet Proof: In “De Ijzeren Kolonel” bullets simply bounce of the Colonel’s military uniform.
  • Butt Monkey: Usually Nero or Meneer Pheip.
  • The Cameo: Sleen was originally a political cartoonist before he started making comics. So he still could't resist to give many famous celebrities or politicians of his day a cameo in Nero’s adventures. Even when their appearance is completely random.
  • Captured by Cannibals: Happens in "Moea-Papoea", "Het Zevende Spuitje", "De Daverende Pitteleer",...
  • Catch Phrase
    • "Als het hier nog lang gaat duren zal het rap gedaan zijn." - Nero
    • “Het is wetenschappelijk niet verantwoord." - Adhemar
    • "Ten… Aha… Aanval" – Abraham Tuizentfloot
  • Chased by Angry Natives: Happened often in the early albums.
  • Child Prodigy: Adhemar who was a Brainy Baby, Petoetje and the boy in “Wonderboy”
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Jef Pedal, originally a main cast member, simply disappeared from the series. He returned one time in "De Gouden Patatten" when it seemed that Detective Van Zwam was about to die.
    • Nero had two sons in “Het Geheim van Matsuoka” and one son in “Het Rattenkasteel”, but they were never mentioned again. In “De Zoon van Nero” his official firstborn, Adhemar, was introduced.
  • Cliff Hanger: Since "Nero" was published in newspapers Sleen often made use of cliffhangers.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl:
    • Petatje in “Doe De Petoe” when Petoetje is accompanied with a young girl named Fifi
    • Madam Nero runs away from home in “De Blauwe Mannen” when she hears that her husband Nero likes French singer Sylvie Vartan.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander:
    • Abraham Tuizentfloot, a dwarf who thinks he is a pirate and dresses as one too.
    • Nero becomes mad in “De Draak van Halfzeven”, where he thinks he is Napoleon. The villain in that story, Halfzeven is also completely mad.
    • Meneer Pheip becomes mad in “De Gouden Kabouter” and thinks he is a woodpecker, an eagle and an owl. In “De Dolle Vloot” he thinks he is Napoleon as well.
    • The comic strip in itself is notorious for featuring many odd or completely insane characters.
  • Coconut Meets Cranium: Whenever Nero is on an exotic or deserted island with palm trees, this joke is bound to happen, including De Paprikanen.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Dr. Ratsjenko wants to remove Nero and Van Zwam’s brain in “Het Rattenkasteel” to implant them inside the head of a rat.
  • Cool Hat: Tuizentfloot's pirate hat and Nero's magical high hat.
  • Comedic Hero: Nero
  • Comic Book Time: The characters never age.
  • Contemporary Caveman: Nero discovers an ancient Gaul inside a jar in "De Nerobloemen". He has trouble adapting to modern life.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Petatje is an orphan, but adopted by Madam Pheip
  • Covered in Kisses: When characters return from a holiday they will be embraced, especially when they bring back a fortune.
  • Crapsack World: Many people turn out to be frauds or unconcerned about the well-being of others.
  • Crossing the Desert: Happens in “De Erfenis van Nero”, “De Hoorn des Overvloeds”, “Het Groene Vuur”, “De Bende van De Zwarte Kous”, “Het Zevende Spuitje”, “De Groene Slapjanus”, “De Wallabieten”, “De Blauwe Mannen”,…
  • Crossover : Characters from Sleen’s other series occasionally have cameos.
  • Creator Breakdown: Sleen often drew himself as the exhausted slave of his own creations.
  • Creator Cameo: Sleen often gave himself a cameo in the stories. Sometimes brief, other times as a real character.
  • Criminal Doppelgänger:
    • In “De Rode Keizer” there’s confusion between the real Emperor Nero and Nero himself
    • A lookalike of Nero creates confusion and trouble in “De Driedubbelgestreepte”.
    • In “Het Geheim van Bakkendoen” a good and an Evil Twin brother cause confusion.
    • In “De Verschrikkelijke Tweeling” two dwarf brothers, Manu the good one and Panu the evil one cause a lot of confusion.
    • A good and evil twin brother also appear in “De Krabbekokers”.
    • A good and evil twin brother appear again in “Baringo”.
  • Cruella to Animals: Sleen was an animal lover, so his characters often come to defense when villains threaten animals.
    • Still, occasionally animals are wounded or killed by the protagonists themselves. In "De Erfenis van Nero" Nero shoots a rhinoceros to gain his uncle's heritage. In “De Kat van Katmandu” Tuizentfloot kills a tiger who attacked them. In “De Oliespuiter” Nero is attacked by an ice bear and hits him with an axe in the head, yet the bear survives this.
  • Cultural Translation: The series is very Flemish, with lots of references to Belgian politics, geography and culture. Several titles have been translated into French, German and English, but outside Flanders it is only known in Wallony and The Netherlands.
  • Dark Comedy
  • Deal with the Devil: The Devil often tries to persuade Nero to sell his soul to him.
  • Defector from Commie Land: Since the strip was made during the height of the Cold War villains often come from these kind of countries.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The first 53 albums of "Nero" were published in black-and-white, due to reasons of economy. The 163 albums after that were published in color. Sleen never made any attempt to colorize his black-and-white stories and reintegrate them into the series like The Adventures of Tintin did, for example.
  • Delivery Stork: Clo-Clo is brought to Meneer and Madam Pheip by a stork who can be seen leaving their house as the other characters visit them.
  • Deserted Island: Characters strand on deserted islands.
  • Deus ex Machina: Kapitein Oliepul, who often manages to sail by whenever characters are lost at sea. Jan Spier too is also often brought in to help our heroes.
  • Do Not Call Me Paul: The donkey of Sinterklaas insists he is a horse!
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Nero often ends up in Hell, as the albums "De Hoed van Geeraard de Duivel", "De Paarse Futen", "De Terugkeer van Geeraard de Duivel", "De Held der Helden",... prove. It always turns out to be All Just a Dream.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: An often used tactic.
  • Drop-In Character: Nero is often bothered by Abraham Tuizentfloot, Clo-Clo or Meneer and Madam Pheip, whenever he tries to stay home to read his paper.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Originally Detective Van Zwam was the main character. Nero was actually just a buffoon whose name was “Heiremans”, named after a colleague of Sleen and merely thought he was Emperor Nero. Apart from that Nero’s original 1947 appearance was very different from the character we know now. His nose hung more down and he was completely bald. His famous haircut would only appear after a few albums.
    • Detective Van Zwam was much fatter in the early albums.
    • Petoetje had a potbelly in the early albums. Despite being adopted by Madam Pheip from Papua New Guinea she kept dressing him like a native for a long time.
    • The traditional waffle feast which concludes every album only started in the color albums. Not in the black-and-white albums.
  • Ear Trumpet: One of the old council members in “De Orde van de Wellustige Wezel” has an ear trumpet.
  • Easy Amnesia: Characters frequently lose their memory. It happens to Nero in "De Draak van Halfzeven" and "De Verdorven Stad". Petoetje temporarily suffers from it too in "De Granaatslikker".
  • Eat the Bomb: Nero swallows a hand grenade in “De Granaatslikker”.
  • Escape from the Crazy Place: Nero escapes from the mental institution in “De Ring van Petatje”.
  • Every Episode Ending: Since "Het Groene Vuur" almost every album ends with the characters having a huge party eating waffles. It's even a trademark of the series.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending: Used regularly
    • Subverted in the album “Het Lachvirus” were everyone is plagued by continuous attacks of laughter. Ultimately Adhemar is able to cure everybody, but then everyone starts crying uncontrollably.
  • Evil Laugh
  • Evil Poacher: Typical villains in “De Bibberballon”, “De Blauwe Vinvis”, “Zwoele Charlotte”, “De Wensring”, “De P.P. Safari”, “De Verdwenen Nero”.
  • Evil Twin:
    • In “Het Geheim van Bakkendoen” a good and an evil twin brother cause confusion.
    • In “De Verschrikkelijke Tweeling” two dwarf brothers, Manu the good one and Panu the evil one cause a lot of confusion.
    • A good and evil twin brother also appear in “De Krabbekokers”.
    • A good and evil twin brother appear again in “Baringo”.
  • Explosive Cigar: Nero becomes addicted to them in “De Pijpeplakkers”.
  • Executive Meddling: The album "De Wensring" was meant to be a satire on Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. However, since the president was considered to be a friend of the Belgian government Sleen was forced to draw a beard on Amin's face to make him "unrecognizable". In later albums Sleen Idi Amin appeared again, but this time without a beard, because by then he had fallen out of favor with the Western world.
  • Eyeless Face: Even worse, the man in "De Man Zonder Gezicht" has no eyes, no nose and no mouth.
  • Family Rivalry: There is sometimes rivalry between Nero’s family and The Pheips.
  • Famous Ancestor: The character Jan Spier is the last surviving descendant of Flemish resistance fighter Jan Breydel, who fought in the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The planet Egmont in “De Egmont Planeet” is a metaphor for the Egmont Pact, a treaty between the bi-lingual communities in Belgium.
  • "Far Side" Island: Nero often strands on islands like these, where he meets strange creatures like mermaids or talking monkeys, who always disappear when the Deus ex Machina appears. When he tells them what he saw they refuse to believe him.
  • Fat Comic Relief: Agent Gaston and Papa Papoea are morbidly obese, yet depicted as the laughing stock.
  • Father Neptune: A main character in “Het Zeespook”, “De Ring van Petatje”, “Patati Patata”, “De Kroon van Neptunus”, “De Verloren Zee”,...
    • Captain Oliepul is also somewhat of a tough sea captain.
  • Faux Death: Characters who appeared to be dead frequently make a return decades later: Matsuoka, Ricardo, Pietje de Dood,…
  • Fictional Country: In the albums “De Gele Gorilla”, “De Groene Patreel”, “Prinses Lovely”, “De Mosterd van Abraham”,…
    • Slobobavia in “De Pijpeplakkers”
    • Papland in “De Gouden Vrouw”.
  • Flanderisation:
    • Nero was originally a complete buffoon. He never became an intelligent man, but after a while he became a bit smarter.
    • Adhemar tended to act more like a child his age by walking around in diapers and crying extremely loud whenever he was scared or unable to get what he wanted. Later he started dressing in tuxedo, teacher barets and became more dignified. Clo-Clo later took over a lot of Adhemars childlike behavior.
    • Originally Petoetje was the child genius, but later he became just generally smart.
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: Many stories have some creature or human being not used to modern civilization walk around in the city. They feel uncomfortable in their new surroundings, are discriminated by other people or kidnapped and exploited. Near the end of the story they usually return back to their original environment or decide to stay and adapt after tasting Madam Nero and Madam Pheip's delicious waffles. Examples can be found in "De Vleugeltjes van Xlopotl", "De Nerobloemen", "Kweetniet", ...
    • In De Zwarte Toren Nero visits Brussels and claims its a wonderful capital city, where Flemish people feel at home. As he keeps walking through the city though he starts noticing more and more words in English, French and even Arabic and wonders: Is this still my city? Then a police officer addresses him in Brussels Flemish dialect to move out of the way, to which Nero sighs: Phew!
  • Flower Pot Drop: Nero, Madam Pheip and a crazy Russian use this technique to knock out three guards so they can be Dressing as the Enemy.
  • Flying Broom Stick: The witches in "De Groene Patreel" and "Hela de Heks".
  • Fountain of Youth: The chair in “Het B-Gevaar” is able to makes people younger and older by spinning around
    • The V-Machine in "De V-Machine" does the same thing.
    • As do "De Adhemar Bonbons".
  • French Jerk: Meneer Pheip, who is a Flemish man who speaks French and mangled Dutch. He is not exactly a villain, but he has turned against Nero sometimes and can act like a real asshole sometimes.
  • Fu Manchu: The Japanese villain Matsuoka seems to be modelled after this character, right down to the outfit and the moustache.
  • Funny Animal Anatomy: Sometimes used as Rule of Funny.
  • Gag Nose: Nero, Detective Van Zwam, Meneer and Madam Pheip, Kapitein Oliepul, Abraham Tuizentfloot and Ricardo all have comedically huge noses, which are often a source for comedy. Meneer Pheip, for instance, is able to roll his long, pointy nose up.
  • Game Show Appearance: Nero enters a TV game show competition in "De Witte Parel" and accidentally wins the first price.
  • Gender Bender: Happens in “De X-Bom”, when the heads of Nero, Madam Pheip, Petoetje en Petatje are all changed on other bodies.
  • Genie in a Bottle: Subverted twice:
    • The ghost in “Pol de Pijpegeest” fulfills wishes from inside a pipe, but only his voice can be heard. He never really appears in any visual manner.
    • The ghost fulfilling wishes in “Het Theepotje des Konings” hides inside a royal teapot.
  • The Ghost: Main characters in “Het Zeespook”, “Pol de Pijpegeest”, “De Pax Apostel”, “De Juweleneter”, “Het Kasteel der Zuchten” and “Het Spook uit de Zandstraat”.
  • Giftedly Bad: In “De Z van Zottebie” Nero takes up painting. His work is very amateurish, but two smugglers organize exhibitions about his work so that when customs checks their luggage they only find Nero’s worthless paintings and don’t mind checking the other expensive smuggled paintings.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Petatje’s haircut
  • The Golden Touch: Nero has this problem in “De Hoorn des Overvloeds”.
  • The Good Captain: Captain Oliepul, who always happens to be near whenever Nero and his friends are Lost at Sea or stuck on a Deserted Island.
  • Grand Finale: Almost all of the color albums end with a traditional waffle feast.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter:
    • In “De Man Met Het Gouden Hoofd” and “De Rosse Rupsen” one of the characters always repeats the last word of the others’ sentences.
    • In “De Bronnen van Sing Song Li” a salesman speaks Afrikaans
    • Meneer Pheip mangles Dutch and French expressions thru each other in one incomprehensible (but funny) mess.
  • The Great Flood: In "De Ark van Nero" Nero builds an arc like Noah to survive a flood.
  • Grim Reaper: Nero is stalked by the Grim Reaper in “De Ring van Petatje”, “De Dood van Pietje” and “Zilveren Tranen”.
  • Guardian Angel: According to the album “De Held der Helden” Nero has a guardian angel called Angèle.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: In "Het Geheim van Bakkendoen" Nero's upper and lower half of his body disappear at unexpected moments because of a invisibility potion.
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: Some albums directly feature communists as enemies, other albums depict fictional countries obviously modeled after them.
  • Happily Adopted: Petoetje and Petatje are orphans who were both adopted by Madam Pheip
  • Happy End: Many albums end with a traditional waffle dish
  • Harmless Electrocution
  • Harmless Freezing
  • Helping Granny Cross the Street: Nero does this in "Het Wonderwolkje", because he's acting like a scout and has to perform his good deed for today. It turns out that the old lady didn't want to cross the street anyway.
  • Henpecked Husband: Meneer Pheip, who is literally chained to Madam Pheip.
  • Horny Vikings: Nero and his friends dress themselves as Vikings and cross the ocean in "De Nerovingers".
  • House Wife: Madam Nero, Madam Pheip
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Characters in "De Blauwe Toekan", "De Brollebril" and "Het Kwade Oog".
  • I Ate What??:
    • In “Het Geheim van Matsuoka” the evil Japanese Matsuoka brews beer that causes everybody to go crazy.
    • In “De Granaatslikker” Nero sleeps in a minefield and accidentally swallows a grenade that might explode any time soon.
    • In “De Witte Parel” Nero eats a pastry made from the hair of famous soccer players. This causes him to become the best soccer player in the world.
    • In “De Pierrewaaiers” Clo-Clo accidentally swallows a diamond. Tuizentfloot does the same thing in “De Steen van Abraham”.
  • I Come in Peace: Characters trying to create a peaceful world appear in “Het Vredesoffensief van Nero”, “De Indiaanse Neusfluit”, “De A-Straal”, “De Brollebril”, “De Straal van Oemtata”
  • Idea Bulb
  • Identical Stranger: In “De Bronnen van Sing Song Li” and “De Driedubbelgestreepte” an escaped convict shaves himself completely, causing him to look identical to Nero. In “De Nerotiekers” there are even three villains who try this tactic!
  • Implacable Man: Nero drinks a potion in “De Bronnen van Sing Song Li” that causes him to walk forever until he’s back home from China to Belgium!
  • Improbable Hairstyle: Nero is completely bald, but has two thin hairs sticking out of his head, much like the antennas of an insect.
    • Petoetje has a high Afro hair cut, which gives him the unique opportunity to dance while jumping on his head.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The people from “De Wortelschieters” and Slobobavia in “De Pijpeplakkers” all look alike.
  • In Harmony with Nature: "Nero" shows a great love for nature, especially the animal world.
  • Inner Monologue Conversation
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nero
  • Just Woke Up That Way: Nero awakes with a horse head in “De Paardenkop”. No explanation is ever given and at the end of the story it disappears just as mysteriously as it appeared.
  • Kidnapping Bird of Prey: Happens in "De Bende van de Zwarte Kous", "De Lolifanten" and "De Ring van Balderic".
  • Killed Off for Real: Occasionally happens. Sometimes Back from the Dead is used as well too.
  • Kon Tiki Plot: In “Magellan II” Adhemar and Nero built a raft to travel back home. They even name it “Kon Tiki”.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Subverted with Ricardo the maffiosi, who has a huge brawny chin.
  • Last Minute Baby Naming: Both Adhemar and Clo-Clo only get a name after their birth and they both scream until they get these names and no alternatives.
  • Last Name Basis: Nero, Van Zwam
  • Laugh Themselves Sick: “Het Lachvirus”.
  • Lazy Artist: In "De X-Bom" Nero visits his creator, Marc Sleen, who claims he's "very busy". When Nero enters he is just dozing off in his chair while enjoying a beer.
  • Leg Cannon: The captain in the album “De Paprikanen” puts gun powder between his sandwich, eats it, then takes his fake leg off and shoots at anything that moves.
  • Left Hanging: Because the author had to work so fast continuity errors and unresolved plot points were not uncommon in his stories.
  • Life Imitates Art: In “De Grote Geheimzinnigaard” Nero wishes real life drug baron Pablo Escobar to the moon. Coincidentally the criminal was shot by the police later that same year!
  • Limited Wardrobe
  • Literal Metaphor and Visual Pun: In many albums literal expressions are acted out literally.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • Long Neck: In “De Negen Peperbollen” a super strong Petatje stretches the neck of the villain to giraffe length.
  • Loony Fan: In the trilogy De Gelukbrenger, De Verloren Zee and De Wraak van Nganga Nero is stalked by an obsessive fan of his comics, Wolfgang Amadeus Glasnost, who has read every album and finds everything is fantastic. He does have a hidden gift that makes Nero keep him, though: he brings good luck. For instance, if he writes down the lottery numbers it will be automatically a winning combination.
  • Losing Your Head:
    • Nero’s head is shot off in “Het Lodderhoofd”. He has to stick it back with glue, but it keeps rolling off.
    • In "De X-Bom" an explosion causes Nero, Madam Pheip, Petoetje and Petatje to make their heads switch positions on their bodies. After a long search for the necessary ingredients to provide a formula to change their heads again the new explosion changes their heads, but once again incorrect.
    • In "De Man van Europa" people lose their heads while walking around on the Koningsplein in Brussels, because they all look at the hole in the ozonlayer. The situation gets worse when several European politicians visit the place, including Margaret Thatcher.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: Nero often flees modern life to get peace and quiet.
    • In other albums (“De Kille Man Djaro”, Toffe Theo”, “Het Bierkanaal”, “De Paarse Futen”, “Barbarijse Vijgen”, “De Kolokieten”, “De Blauwe Walvis”,…) he himself meets reclusive people or animals on deserted islands or inpenetrable jungles, who simply wish to be left alone.
    • Even Sleen himself often shows himself as someone who suffers from too much work stress and wishes to flee from it all to some far, distant exotic land.
  • Mad Scientist: Dr. Ratsjenko in "Het Rattenkasteel", Libeer in “De Nerovingers”, Dr. Zappa in "Het Beest Zonder Naam".
  • The Mafia: Ricardo is a member of theMafia.
  • Manchild: Nero, who still has a very childish way of looking at the world. For instance: he is the only adult who still writes a letter to Sinterklaas.
    • Abraham Tuizentfloot is also a good example. An adult who dresses like a pirate and has very infantile fixations. Of course, it doesn't help that he's also completely mad.
    • Clo-Clo, who is a five year old child with a full grown moustache.
    • Adhemar, who is a five year old Child Prodigy who behaves more like an adult.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Clo-Clo, Adhemar
  • Mass Hypnosis:
    • In “Het Geheim van Matsuoka” everyone who drinks the Matsuoka beer becomes mad.
    • In “De Brollebril” a man with special glasses hypnotizes everyone to do as he tells them.
    • In “De Nerovingers” a Viking helmet causes everyone to be submissive to the carrier of the helmet. Unless the success goes to the helmet carrier’s head, because then the helmet becomes to heavy and crashes the owner to the ground.
    • Adhemar invents a ray gun in “De A-Straal” that forces everyone to hand over all their financial possessions.
  • Meaningful Name: Madam Pheip, Abraham Tuizentfloot.
  • Meddlesome Patrolman: All the police officers are pain-in-the-asses.
  • Mind-Control Device: A frequent plot element, among others in "Het Geheim van Matsuoka", "De Blauwe Toekan", "De Dolle Dina's", "De Linkadoors", "De A-Straal", "De Brollebril", "De Totentrekkers",...
  • Mistaken Nationality: Matsuoka, who is said to be Chinese, but in "De Drie Wrekers" (1993) (released almost half a century after his last appearance in "Het Zeespook" (1948)) he says he's Japanese.
  • Moral Dilemma: Characters often battle with it, but in the end they choose to do the right thing.
  • Multiple Head Case: The aliens in “De Zwarte Voeten” have at least two heads on top of each other.
  • The Mysterious Island: “De Wortelschieters”
  • Mythology Gag: In some stories characters are seen reading "Nero" comics or other series by Sleen.
    • Detective Van Zwam often complains Nero stole the spotlight from him. (He used to be the series' protagonist, until Nero became more popular.)
    • In "De P.P. Safari" the characters are so enchanted by Marc Sleen's (then recent) book about African safaris that they forget everything around them.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Nero is named after Roman Emperor Nero, which makes it a Names to Run Away From Really Fast too, while Clo-Clo's name is a reference to French singer Claude-François' nickname Clo-Clo.
  • The Napoleon: After a car accident Nero thinks he is Napoleon and dressed as him he returns to Waterloo to fight the battle again. Meneer Pheip also thinks he is Napoleon in “De Dolle Vloot”.
  • Napoleon Delusion: See above.
  • National Stereotypes: Uses them, but also subverts them.
  • Negative Continuity: Since Sleen had to work fast to meet deadlines he worked in a very loose drawing style. This caused a lot of continuity mistakes.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: “De Wraak van Nganga”, “De Hoed van Geeraard de Duivel”, “De Kat van Katmandu”, “Daris Doet Het”, “De Matras van Madras” , Pietje de Dood” feature hungry crocodiles.
  • Never Win the Lottery:
    • Nero wins millions in “Het Lodderhoofd”.
    • In “De Gelukbrenger” Nero is visited by his biggest fan, who turns out to be someone who is able to bring luck. Nero wins the lottery several times thanks to his powers.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Characters have frightening nightmares in “Moea Papoea”, “Beo De Verschrikkelijke”, “De Gouden Vrouw”, “De Ark Van Nero”, “De Paarse Futen”, “Zwoele Charlotte” and “De Draak van Halfzeven”
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Subverted in some cases.
    • Nero visits Joseph Stalin in "Het Vredesoffensief van Nero" and forces him to sniff a product that makes him a pacifist.
    • Fidel Castro orders to let Nero be executed in "Het Wonderwolkje" for claiming that he is more famous than him.
    • In "Brief aan Nasser" Nero has to give Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser a letter in order to fulfill a will and gain his uncle's fortune. Unbeknownst to Nero the letter contains a picture of somebody sticking his tongue out at Nasser, causing the president to order Nero's arrest. Nero escapes, but at the end of the story he receives a written reply from Nasser, in which he drew a similar image.
    • When prime minister Gaston Eyskens is cycling in "Hoed Je Voor Kastar" Nero and company drive him off the road. Eyskens protests: "You cannot cause a government to fall down that easily!"
    • Idi Amin appears in three albums, where he is depicted as a dumb and cruel dicator.
    • Frank Zappa is portrayed as a evil Mad Scientist in "Het Beest Zonder Naam".
    • In "Joske de Wreker" Joske the giant butterfly lifts Khomeini and Khadafi up and drops them into the sea. This action is not shown in the story however, but told to us thru a radio report.
    • In "De Man van Europa" several European politicians literally lose their head when visiting the Royal Place in Brussels, among them Margaret Thatcher and French president François Mitterand. The only ones not affected by the phenomenon are German chancellor Helmut Kohl and king Baudoin of Belgium.
    • Nero drops a cool box on Saddam Hussein 's head in "De Bibberballon" and kicks his behind in "De Gouden Hemelkijker" in order to fulfill a quest.
    • Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar is sent to the moon in "De Grote Geheimzinnigaard".
  • No One Should Survive That: Just take our word for it: this happens ALL the time.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: The children in the strip, Adhemar, Clo-Clo, Petoetje en Petatje never become older. In “De Nerobonbons” an explanation is given why Adhemar is still a baby. He eats special pralines that keep him young. However, why the other children still have the same age isn’t explained.
  • Not Blood Siblings: Petoetje and Petatje
  • No Woman's Land: Slobobavia in "De Pijpeplakkers", where literally no female species exist!
  • Obligatory Swearing: Abraham Tuizentfloot.
  • Off with His Head!: People literally (or almost) lose their heads in the albums “De Man met het Gouden Hoofd”, “De Wallabieten”, “De Daverende Pitteleer”, “De Zwarte Voeten”, “De Rode Keizer”, “De Hoorn des Overvloeds”, “De Ark van Nero”, “De Man van Europa”.
  • Omniglot: Adhemar
  • Only Smart People May Pass: In “De Ijzeren Kolonel” a stone sphinx gives Nero and the colonel a riddle that they need to solve before they will be allowed to take treasure. It’s actually the same famous Riddle of the Sphinx that Oedipus the King solved.
  • Outdated Outfit: Abraham Tuizentfloot, who believes he is a pirate and thus always wears 17th century clothing.
    • Madam Pheip wears a medieval dress in "Het Wonderwolkje".
  • Our Aliens Are Different: “De Kolokieten”, “De Vleugeltjes van Xopotl”, “De Zwarte Voeten”, “De Vierkante Mannen” , “De Planeet Egmont”
  • Our Dragons Are Different:
    • In “De Hoorn des Overvloeds” a large dragon arrives from Hell to ask Nero to give the magical horn back.
    • In “De Draak Of Halfzeven” an enormous dragon devours several of Nero’s friends, but it turns out it is actually a fake one.
  • Overly-Long Scream: The babies Adhemar and Clo-Clo are infamous for screaming so loud and long that workers nearby think its the siren that announces it's time to take a break to eat.
  • Overnight Age-Up: In “De X-Bom” Nero, Madam Pheip, Petoetje and Petatje's heads are changed with each other by an explosion.
  • Pegasus: Appears as a character in De Ring van Petatje.
  • Pintsized Kid: Adhemar and Clo-Clo.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Abraham Tuizentfloot is a literal example. He claims to be a pirate and dresses like one too, but he doesn't own a ship and is even unable to swim.
  • Planet of Steves: Butlers are always named “James”, workers “Jef” and older women are named “Zulma”.
  • Poirot Speak: The character Meneer Pheip mixes Dutch and French words in his language all the time!
  • Police Are Useless: Police officers in this series are incompetent, power mad, interrupt our heroes during chase scenes and arrest the wrong people. The only one able to set them straight is Detective Van Zwam and Agent Gaston, who is dumb, vain, opportunistic, yet efficient.
  • Print Long Runners: The series started in 1947 and until 1992 it was always drawn by the same author. From 1992 to 2002 the series was drawn by an assistant.
  • Punny Name: Many characters have names that are puns on Flemish dialect expressions.
    • “De Kille Man Djaro” (pun on “Mount Kilimanjaro”)
  • Rage Against the Author
  • Race Against the Clock: In "De Erfenis van Nero" the characters have to travel to various parts of the globe and collect stuff before a certain deadline if they want to inherit Nero’s uncle’s fortune.
    • Sleen himself also frequently worked against newspaper deadlines.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Nero takes a heavy dose of a hair growing potion ignoring the advice of its inventor in “De X-Bom” and “De Gladde Figaro”.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot:
    • Several stories have references to political and social events of the day, when the stories were published in the newspapers.
    • Sleen enjoyed going on safari and thus this often became part of the plot.
    • The national Zoo of Antwerp is a frequent location of choice in albums like “Kangoeroe-Eiland”, “Allemaal Beestjes”, “De Ring van Balderic”, “Zwoele Charlotte” and Nero regularly donates animals to the zoo.
    • Sleen also enjoyed giving his newspaper colleagues a cameo in his stories.
    • The house were Nero lives since 1992 is actually Sleen’s house in Hoeilaart.
  • Real Person Cameo: Many politicians or celebrities of the day have cameos in the strip. Sometimes their appearance was a major part of the plot.
    • Flemish author Marnix Gijsen has a cameo as a politician in “Hoed je voor Kastar”.
    • “De Egmont Planeet” is an allusion on the bi-lingual Belgian government treaty, the Egmont Pact (1977)
    • The Suez Crisis and the 1956 Hungarian Uprising are part of the plot of “De I Jzeren Kolonel”.
    • Nero visits Joseph Stalin in “Het Vredesoffensief van Nero” and changes him into a peaceful man. At the end of the story Nero, Stalin and American president Harry S Truman all join dinner until they become drunk.
    • Nero is caught by Fidel Castro in “Het Wonderwolkje” and claims he is almost as famous as him. This angers Castro so much that he orders Nero to be executed by firing squad.
    • In “De Brief aan Nasser” Nero has to deliver a letter to Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
    • Paul Newman is cast as a villain in "Ivan De Verschrikkelijke".
    • Ugandan dictator Idi Amin pays Nero a visit in “De Wensring”, “De Zweefbonbons”, “Daris Doet Het” and “De V-Machine”.
    • Nero singlehandedly defeats the notorious Bende van Nijvel in “De Gouden Patatten”.
    • Frank Zappa is cast as an Evil Professor in “Het Beest Zonder Naam”.
    • Hirohito is visited in “De Kleine Pieterman”.
    • In “De Man van Europa” (1990) many European politicians of the day, including Margaret Thatcher, literally lose their head because they keep watching the hole in the ozone layer above the Koningsplein in Brussel. All except for German chancellor Helmut Kohl and king Boudewijn of Belgium.
    • In “De Kroon van Elisabeth”, “De Steen van Abraham” and “De Kolbak van How” the crown of Queen Elizabeth II is stolen, but later returned to her.
  • Reference Overdosed: To understand a lot of the jokes, references, throwaway gags, celebrity cameos, political allusions in this comic strip you need a good understanding of the history of the second half of the 20th century in both Belgium as the rest of the world. This is one of the reasons why the older albums have been reissued with some explanations and historical context at the back of each album.
  • Rip Van Winkle: In “Het Rattenkasteel” Nero suffers from narcolepsy.
  • Rock Star: Nero creates his own rock band in the album "Nerorock". He even pronounces it to be a new genre, "Nerorock".
  • Running Gag: Characters sometimes visit Marc Sleen to complain about certain plot elements, but he is always on safari. (In real life Sleen often went on safari)
  • Scenery Porn: Most of Sleen's drawings weren't exactly beautifully detailed art work, but his caricatures of celebrities, drawings of real-life animals and sometimes the backgrounds whenever the characters visited a particular Belgian/Flemish city were very recognizable and full of regional atmosphere. When Dirk Stallaert started drawings the comic strip the artwork became significantly more realistic and real Scenery Porn.
  • Scotland: The album "Mister Nobody”.
  • Shouldn T We Be In School Right Now?: Adhemar is a genius who doesn’t have to go to school: he is in fact a college professor in Oxford and Cambridge. Petoetje and Petatje are often told to go school when they want to join an adventure.
  • Shrouded in Myth: We never find out who the mysterious doctor in “De Linkadoors” and the one in “De Grote Geheimzinnigaard” are. Coincidentally they both wear Ku Klux Klan-like robes, though the former is a villain and the second one is not.
    • Baddevinus’ face in “Het Knalgele Koffertje”.
  • Single-Episode Handicap:
    • In “Het Lodderhoofd” Nero’s head is shot off and he has to glue it back on.
    • In “Het Geheim van Bakkendoen” parts of his body temporarily become invisible.
    • In "De Paardenkop" his head changes into a horsehead without any explanation why or how?
  • Sinterklaas: Regularly appears in the comic strip. Sometimes it's only his donkey (who insists he's a horse).
  • Slapstick: Several moments.
  • Sizeshifter:
    • A serum in “Het Vredesoffensief van Nero” enables the drinker to change to either enormous or tiny size for a limited time.
    • In “De Hoorn des Overvloeds” a magic wand has the same power.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence
    • In “De Vierkante Mannen” en “Okkerdomme” robots are so intelligent that they can be called Deus Est Machina.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: All professors in this comic strip were glasses, except for Adhemar.
  • Spinoff: This comic strip was actually a spinoff of "The Adventures Of Detective Van Zwam". Van Zwam was originally the protagonist, but eventually Nero became the Breakout Character and the series' new hero, while Van Zwam was degraded to a secondary/tertiary character.
  • Spiritual Successor: Urbanus comes close with its anarchic and absurd comedy and very loose drawing style.
  • Strange Eater; In “De Paprikanen” the captain enjoys eating gunpowder. In “De Juweleneter” the butler eats juwelry.
  • Stuff Blowing Up
  • Take That: Mostly general targets, such as "lying politicians", "thieving tax collectors", "tyrannic police officers", “merciless poachers”, “complaining women”, "heartless industrialists" (“De Wraak van Nganga”), drug dealers, gangs, dictators,...
  • Talking Animal: Frequent plot device, most famously Beo the beo in “Beo De Verschrikkelijke” and “De Kleine Pieterman” and “De Kakelende Kaketoe” , Aboe Markoeb the shoebill in "Aboe Markoeb"
  • Tarzan: Nero dresses like him and swings on vines in “De Verdwenen Nero”.
  • Tears of Remorse
  • That Russian Squat Dance: When Nero and his friends are captured by Soviets in "Het Vredesoffensief van Nero" they are forced to perform the Russian squat dance to show whether they are really Russian. They of course get tired soon and the Soviets laugh at them. Nero then asks them if they can do it better, whereupon the entire Soviet Army starts doing the dance. Nero and his friends then push them all on the ground, and escape.
  • Time Machine: In “De Rode Keizer” the cast travels to Ancient Rome with a time machine and meets Emperor Nero.
  • Toilet Humour: Done sometimes
    • In "Kiwi De Kiwi" a kiwi defecates on everybody's head.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Waffles.
  • Trap Door: Used by the villain in “De Pijpeplakkers”.
  • Treasure Island: Plot device in "Kangoeroe-Eiland", "De Kakelende Kaketoe",...
  • Trilogy: Several Nero albums were part of a trilogy, built around one character, plot or location.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: “De Spekschieter”, “De Erfenis van Nero”, “De Ring van Petatje”,...
  • Unintentional Period Piece: The series are an unintended time capsule of Belgian society between 1947 and 2002.
  • Unwanted Harem: In "De Ring van de Moefti" Nero is given a ring by a rich sheik for saving his life. As long as Nero carries the ring the sheik's harem will follow and protect him. Throughout the story Nero tries to get rid of his harem, but to no avail. Finally he manages to take the ring off and give to Meneer Pheip. Then Pheip asks the women to take off their veils. It turns out they are all men!
  • Verbal Tic: Abraham Tuizentfloot always adds "aha" in the middle of his sentences.
  • Vertical Kidnapping: Joske, a giant butterfly in "Joske de Wreker", abducts people by lifting them up in the air.
  • Vine Swing: Done a lot in this comic strip and always accompanied by a shout-out to the Tarzan franchise.
  • Wall Crawl:
    • After injecting herself with a special serum in "Het Zevende Spuitje" Petatje is able to walk upright on the wall.
    • Clo-Clo is also able to do this in "De Muurloper".
  • Weird Al Effect: To this day many Flemings (especially from the older generation) will think of the protagonist from this popular comic book series whenever they hear the name "Nero", instead of the Roman Emperor on which his name was based.
  • What Do You Mean It Was Not Made On Drugs: Certain albums are so mindbogglingly surreal that one wonders whether Sleen was using something?
  • While Rome Burns: Emperor Nero lights Rome on fire in "De Rode Keizer"
  • Wicked Witch: Characters in “De Groene Patreel” and “Hela De Heks”.
  • World's Strongest Man: Jan Spier.
    • Nero becomes strong (but only for a couple of hours) in “De Negen Peperbollen”.
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