A close friend and collaborator of Hergé, JacquesVan Melkebeke has been crucial to the development of many Tintin stories. Even if he does not directly write for Hergé, he is permanently debating with him the Adventures of Tintin and he left a clear mark on stories such as The Shooting Star, The Secret of the Unicorn, and The Seven Crystal Balls. A great reader, nourished by a wide range of eclectic cultural references, “Van Melk” proved vital in helping Hergé give more thickness to his stories. However, at the moment when he is working on the script of Explorers on the Moon, which he tries to systematize with the help of Bernard Heuvelmans, Hergé suddenly rejects Van Melkebeke’s version and will break up with him in circumstances that are as saddening as they are rocambolesque.
At the side of Jacobs, Van Melkebeke, aka “our friend Jacques”, occupies a place that is even more important. He will be the model for the famous professor Mortimer (in the Blake & Mortimer series), but more than that he will be the privileged partner of the stories of all Jacobs’s books. He is called the “extremely difficult but always constructive interlocutor”, and his influence on the magical power of books such as The Mystery of the Great Pyramid or The Yellow “M” has been decisive. His work and personality should not be forgotten.
An extremely well documented volume, In the Shadow of the Clear Line aims to reconstruct in a subtle way the great “missing link” in the history of Belgian comics.
This first biography of this “clandestine” of the Franco-Belgian school, a fascinating contribution to the history of comics, is the revised and updated version of a study that first appeared in 2002. The text has been rewritten in detail and many new archival documents have been included in this new version.