The Adventures of Nero

The Adventures of Nero
The Adventures of Nero.png
Adhemar, Nero, and Madam Pheip during the traditional waffle feast which concludes every story.
Author(s)Marc Sleen
Current status/scheduleDiscontinued
Launch dateOctober 1, 1947
End date2002
Syndicate(s)Uitgeverij Het Volk, Standaard Uitgeverij
Genre(s)Humor comics, Satire, Fantasy, Adventure

The Adventures of Nero or Nero was a Belgian comic strip drawn by Marc Sleen and the name of its main character. The original title ranged from De Avonturen van Detectief Van Zwam in 1947 to De Avonturen van Nero en zijn Hoed in 1950, and finally De Avonturen van Nero & Co from 1951.[1] It ran in continuous syndication until 2002. From 1947 until 1993 it was all drawn by Sleen himself. From 1992 until 2002 Dirk Stallaert took over the drawing while Sleen kept inventing the stories.

Together with Suske en Wiske and Jommeke, "Nero" is regarded as the Big Three of Flemish comics. The stories were noted for their satirical content, with references to politicians and celebrities of the day. With Nero, Marc Sleen holds the world record of issues of a comic book series title drawn by the same author. He drew The Adventures of Nero singlehandedly from 1947 to 1992 without any assistance from other artists. This feat is even more remarkable considering he also drew other comic strip series from 1947 to 1965.


The series debuted in the newspaper De Nieuwe Gids in the autumn of 1947 and was written and drawn by Marc Sleen from the start. Originally the central character was Detective Van Zwam, but halfway through the first story Het Geheim van Matsuoka ("The Secret of Matsuoka") (1947), Van Zwam meets a man who has drunk from a serum that makes people go insane and thinks he is the Roman emperor Nero. The character was also dressed in a toga with some laurel leaves behind his ears. Near the end of the story the character regained his senses and revealed his real name was "Schoonpaard" (in reprints this was changed to "Heiremans", in both cases inside joke references to colleagues of Sleen).[2] The character proved popular and remained a friend of Van Zwam in the next stories, though everyone kept referring to him as "Nero" rather than by his real name. After nine stories, the series was renamed after "Nero" and Van Zwam became a side character instead.[3]

In 1950 Sleen left De Nieuwe Gids and joined the newspaper Het Volk. During the 1940s, 1950s and 1960 The Adventures of Nero was popular enough to rival Willy Vandersteen's Suske en Wiske which was published in De Standaard. In 1965 Sleen joined De Standaard too, following a legal dispute with his publishers. The first 53 "Nero" stories, which were published in black-and-white, remained property of Uitgeverij Het Volk. From Het Bobobeeldje ("The Bobo Statue") (1965) on all new Nero stories were published in De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad, after which they were released as colour albums.[1]

Sleen continued drawing Nero for many decades. Only in 1992 did he finally hire an assistant, Dirk Stallaert, to do the drawing for him, because his eyesight had become too poor. Stallaert was promoted as Sleen's successor but in 2002 he decided to leave the series in favour of work at Vandersteen's studio.[4] Sleen then terminated the series for good. Stallaert still draws "Nero"-related publicity images and merchandise.

The early stories had a random length, often around 240 strips, while the latter ones (from 1965 on) had a length of 32 pages of 4 strips each. Every day, two strips appeared in the newspaper.


The Adventures of Nero is a humorous adventure comic strip about Nero, an unemployed man who describes himself as "newspaper appearance" and prefers reading his newspaper on his sofa. He and his wife, named "Madam Nero" ("Madam Nero") by everyone, have one son, Adhemar, who is a child prodigy. Nero has an eccentric group of friends, who often help him out or force him to set out on an adventure. Many stories display a love for nature and the animal world, which mirrors the creator's own frequent safari trips. Since the album Het Groene Vuur ("The Green Fire") (1965) nearly all "Nero" albums end with a traditional waffle feast, where Madam Nero and Madam Pheip bake waffles for the entire cast.[3]

With two strips published a day, six days a week, the comic strip followed daily news events quite closely and often made references to real life news events. In the story De IJzeren Kolonel ("The Iron Colonel") (1956), for instance, the then-current Suez Crisis and Hungarian Uprising are incorporated into the plot. The series also had cameos by several Belgian and internationally famous politicians, such as Paul-Henri Spaak, Achiel Van Acker, Paul Vanden Boeynants, Wilfried Martens, Jean-Pierre Van Rossem, Jean-Luc Dehaene, Jozef Stalin, Mobutu, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Hirohito, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, Idi Amin, Khomeini , Margaret Thatcher and Saddam Hussein. Media celebrities, such as The Beatles, Pablo Escobar, Urbanus, Paul Newman and Frank Zappa were also frequently caricatured. Sleen also gave himself cameos in several stories.[5] Very exceptional was the fact that all these jokes about past politics were not removed when the newspaper episodes were published in album format. This is the major reason why "Nero" provides readers with an overview of almost 60 years of post-war history in Belgium.

Since Sleen worked without assistance for the majority of his career, he kept his drawing style simple and efficient. He had no time for elaborate detailed drawings and as a result many of his stories are filled to the brim with continuity errors or off-model drawing mistakes. Contrary to other comics, many readers accept this as part of "Nero"'s charm.[3] Only when Dirk Stallaert took over the drawings did the art work become more technically detailed, with more attention towards space and perspective.

Main characters[]

During its 55-year course, a lot of regular characters joined the original duo of Nero and Van Zwam.

Popularity and influence[]

During its heyday Nero was the second most popular Flemish comic strip, after Suske en Wiske. The albums sold well, also because they were a lot cheaper than their main rival. From the late 1940s until the early 1960s all the stories were published on cheap paper and often smelt of fresh ink. During the 1960s Jef Nys' Jommeke overshadowed Nero's sales among children.[6]

Attempts have been made to translate Nero to the Dutch, British, French, German and South African market. Except for in Wallonia and the Netherlands, the translated versions of Nero never caught on.[3] Sleen has very rarely used his characters for merchandising or other commercializations.

Nero was very influential for the development of comics in Flanders. Its loose drawing style and story lines replete with folly were an inspiration for Urbanus, Biebel, Cowboy Henk, among others. Dutch artists like Martin Lodewijk (Agent 327) and René Windig and Eric De Jong ("Heinz") are also notable fans.[6]

In popular culture[]

The Flemish comics prize Bronzen Adhemar is named and sculpted after the character Adhemar. In Turnhout, where the award ceremony is traditionally held, a huge statue of Adhemar can be seen in the Warande park since June 15, 1991. It was created by Frank-Ivo Van Damme.[7]

Several characters from the series also have their own statues. Nero has a bronze statue in Hoeilaart, sculpted by Luc Cauwenberghs, which was erected in 1994 in front of the old tram station.[8] In the series this building is Nero's house since the story De Verschrikkelijke Tweeling ("The Horrible Twin") (1992). The station has been redecorated as a "Nero"-themed café. Nero has another statue in front of the casino in Middelkerke.[9] Meneer Pheip has a statue in the Statiestraat in Moerbeke-Waas, the village of which he supposedly is the major. It was sculpted by Guy Du Cheyne on August 24, 2012.[10] In the Dorpsstraat in Wuustwezel sculptor Gilbert Uitdenhouwen made a statue of Abraham Tuizentfloot, which was revealed in 2000.[11]

The organisation "Nero-Harmonie" in Hoeilaart and a mountain bike route have been named after "Nero".[12]

In 1984 composer Johan De Smet, conductor Vincent D'Hondt and director Arne Sierens chose upon the "Nero" story Het Rattenkasteel ("The Rats' Castle") (1947) for an opera adaptation.[13][14] It premiered as Het Rattenkasteel.

The entire cast of the series was sculpted on a bas-relief in Sint-Niklaas, made by sculptor Paul Dekker in 1988 to commemorate Marc Sleen's appointment as an honorary citizen of the city.[15]

In the Belgian Comic Strip Center in Brussels the permanent exhibition pays homage to the pioneers of Belgian comics, among them Marc Sleen. In the room dedicated to his work everything is designed to look like Nero's cosy home, complete with a tower of Belgian waffles and champagne nearby.[16]

Nero is among the many Belgian comics characters to have, facetiously, a Brussels street named after them. The Rue de la Fourche/ Greepstraat has a commemorative plaque with the name Rue Néron/ Nerostraat placed under the actual street sign.[17]

In 1995 a wall was dedicated to "Nero" at the Sint-Goriksplein/Place Saint-Géry in Brussels,[18] where it is part of the Brussels' Comic Book Route. Between 1996 and 2011 Hasselt also had a wall. In 2014 a wall was dedicated to "Nero" in the Kloosterstraat in Antwerp, depicting a scene from the album "De Oliespuiter" ("The Oil Injector").[19] depicting Nero, Petoetje and Petatje.[19][20]

The Marc Sleen Museum in the Zandstraat in Brussels is dedicated to Sleen and his creations. It was opened in 2009.[21] The museum organizes a special tourists' route in Brussels, based on several locations that appeared in "Nero" comic book albums, including the Black Tower, Palais de Justice, Kapellekerk, The Sablon, Brussels Central Station, the Grand-Place and Manneken Pis. One has to make an appointment, though.[22][23]

Nero, the dog of the character Carmen Waterslaeghers in the successful Flemish TV sitcom FC De Kampioenen, was named after Nero. In one of the episodes Carmen is thinking of a name for her dog and coincidentally sees the daily "Nero" comic in the newspaper.


  1. ^ a b Lambiek Comiclopedia. "Marc Sleen".
  2. ^ Sleen, Marc, Het Geheim van Matsuoka, Uitgeverij Het Volk, 1947.
  3. ^ a b c d AUWERA, Fernand, en SMET, Jan, Marc Sleen, Uitgeverij Edicon/Standaard Uitgeverij, Antwerpen, 1985.
  4. ^ "Dirk Stallaert".
  5. ^ "60 Jaar Nero". Archived from the original on 2011-08-24. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  6. ^ a b Marc Sleen: een uitgave van de Bronzen Adhemar Stichting, v.z.w., Turnhout, 1993.
  7. ^ [1][permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Nero | Gemeente Hoeilaart". 16 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Standbeeld van Nero terug op de Zeedijk".
  10. ^ "Meneer Pheip".
  11. ^ Kathleen Brughmans. "Stripfiguur Tuizentfloot uit Nero krijgt standbeeld in Wuust... - Gazet van Antwerpen". Gazet van Antwerpen.
  12. ^ "Nero-standbeeld in Hoeilaart nu in het brons". Gazet van Antwerpen.
  13. ^ "De Smet Johan (1956) | Matrix". Archived from the original on 2015-12-10. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  14. ^ "Power of Mechanical Watch". Archived from the original on 2015-12-10. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  15. ^ "Paul Dekker - de Wafelenbak". Archived from the original on 2016-11-10. Retrieved 2015-10-29.
  16. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-11-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. ^ "eBru | Bruxelles Capitale de la Bande Dessinée (BD) - Noms de rue".
  18. ^ [2][permanent dead link]
  19. ^ a b "DPG Media Privacy Gate".
  20. ^ "Stripmuren in Antwerpen - Comic murals in Antwerp".
  21. ^ Marc Sleen heeft eigen museum in Zandstraat, De, 19-06-2009
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-07-14. Retrieved 2016-04-09.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ "Brussel krijgt Nerowandeling". 5 October 2011.


External links[]

Media related to Nero (Flemish Comics) at Wikimedia Commons