Life and work

Marc SleenMarc Sleen, whose real name is Marcel Honoré Nestor Neels, was born on the 30th of December in Gentbrugge (Belgium). Three months later, the Neels family moved to the town of Sint-Niklaas. His parents were fairly well-to-do. They ran an inn with four billiard tables and a few conference rooms. Every Sunday Marc Sleen took drawing lessons at the local Art Academy in Sint-Niklaas. Later, he enrolled at the St. Luke Institute in Ghent. From a very early age he loved to draw, and there was no stopping him. He even scribbled on the walls and on his father's hat. At the death of Marc Neels' father, the entire family moved back to their original hometown, Gentbrugge. Living conditions were miserable after the move from Sint-Niklaas: they couldn't afford to let Marc continue his studies, so he was bound to go to word. His brother Nestor arranged him a job at the Arbeidsambt, to keep him from being sent to Germany. Because his brother Roger was active in the Underground, Marc Sleen was arrested by the German police and submitted to a rough interrogation. After being incarcerated in a prison in Ghent called De Nieuwe Wandeling (“The New Promenade”), he was sent to a concentration camp in Beverlo, where he was finally liberated by the English troops. This painful episode caused him nightmares for years.

Oktaaf KeuninkStill in 1945, he was hired by the Catholic daily paper De Nieuwe Standaard as a political cartoonist. In 1946, the paper changed its name to De Nieuwe Gids and set up Rue des Sables. Marc Sleen very quickly began to create comic strips, the first of which was a series full of gags De avonturen van Neus. On 10th of June 1945 he starts De avonturen van Tom en Tony, soon followed up by Stropke en Flopke in Ons Volkske. He also ventures to drawing speechless gagstrips: Pollopof (1946), Joke-Poke (1950) and Doris Dobbel (1950). Between 1952 and 1965 Sleen produced Oktaaf Keunink. This naive office employee is a born loser, wholly dominated by his wife. From Oktaaf Keunink about 600 gags and five albums were published. De lustige kapoentjes was one of the most popular series in Flanders. From 1950 till 1965 Sleen was succesfully in charge of the weekly installments. De lustige kapoentjes, of which 10 albums were published in Het Volk, clearly aimed at a young readership. Equally popular was Piet Fluwijn en Bolleke, of which also 10 albums were released between 1957 and 1965. Father-son relations are at the heart of this series for children. The dad is a pushover, and often the victim of his little darling's naughty pranks.

Marc SleenSleen’s most successful comic is evidently The adventures of Nibbs. Nero (Flemish for Nibbs) first appeared in 1947 in the first album of a series named to detective Van Zwam, when Van Zwam winds up in a madhouse. When the detective asks: "who are you" to someone wearing a laurel wreath as a crown, the answer is: “I am Nero, Emperor of Rome.” Readers liked the madman so much that he was promoted to be the main character: Nero became the hero. In total Sleen would produce more than 200 Nibbs-stories, without any assistance. In fact, he was cited in the Guinness Book of Records as the author of the longest comic strip drawn by a single author. For the most recent episodes Sleen was assisted by Dirk Stallaert.

Marc Sleen et le Roi Albert IIMarc Sleen received several prizes for his work as a comic strip artist. In 1993 he was awarded a “Golden Halyard” for his entire career. It was his own Halyard (Adhemar), Nibbs’s brilliant son, who gave his name to this prestigious biannual award attributed by the Turnhout Comic Strip Festival! He was also honoured with the prestigious Prix Saint-Michel (1974) and the price for the best album of the Chambre Belge des Experts en BD for the How-trilogy in 1994. In 1999 Marc Sleen was knighted by King Albert II. He was the first Flemish comic strip author to earn this distinction.

Marc SleenMarc Sleen is also known as an Africa specialist. He would go to Africa for a safari at least once a year. This helped him to let off steam in his stressful career and at the same time, he could give free rein to his passion for nature and animals. Sleen incorporated his first safari experience into De Kille Man Djaro (the 45th Nibbs story), he wrote a couple of safari-books, he did documentaries on the public television and is an important figure of the World Wide Fund in Belgium.

At 80 years old, Marc Sleen decided to put an end to the Nibbs series. The 217th album called De Zilveren Tranen (literally: “Silver tears”) closed the series.

In 2009 the Marc Sleen Foundation opens in Rue des Sables, where Nibbs first saw the light. The setting counts as a symbolic return home. The Museum has been set up by the Marc Sleen Foundation, that aims to protect the work and memory of Marc Sleen, and endeavours to make his work known to a large public.

De Nerowandeling

Wandel met Marc Sleen
en Nero door Brussel

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de routebeschrijving


Nocturne at the Marc Sleen Museum

27/11/2014 > 27/11/2014

An eventful visit to the Marc Sleen Museum and its temporary exhibition Nerorock. Immerse yourself in the world of Madame Pheip and Jan Spier, and reveal your drawing talent.
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Nero in the Far West

19/03/2013 > 16/06/2013

It is a well-known fact that Marc Sleen loves going on safari but in his work as a comic strip artist he has not restricted his travels to the African continent.
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Stichting Marc Sleen
Zandstraat 33-35
1000 Brussel
Tel.: + 32 (0)2 219 19 80
Fax: + 32 (0)2 219 23 76
Useful info & map
Marc Sleen Foundation

With the support of the Brussels Capital Region