Stéphane De Becker, also known as Stuf, died of a heart attack the night before last. He was 56. De Becker was a friend and frequent collaborator of Tome & Janry, and worked as the colorists on all their albums from Le réveil du Z (Spirou & Fantasio #37, “The Awakening of the Z”) on. He also drew the series Passe-moi l’ciel (“Pass Me the Heaven”), written by Janry.
De Becker met Tome & Janry at age 15, in the art school Woluwe Saint-Pierre. They become close friends, and worked together on caricatures and cartoons. While Tome & Janry went on to become assistants to Dupa (Cubitus), De Becker continued his art studies and drew comics in a realistic style. Janry commented that De Becker’s style was more “alternative” than theirs, influenced by L’Écho des Savanes and Métal hurlant.
In 1985, De Becker rejoined Tome & Janry, taking over the coloring of Spirou & Fantasio, which had previously been handled by Studio Leonardo. He would go on to color most of their other series, including Le Petit Spirou and Soda. He was the first member of their studio, which would later include Dan and Bruno Gazzotti. The team worked closely together for years, while listening to (and playing) music: Stuf particularly enjoyed blues. He said of this time:
It was very lively. One funny thing was that there were always a bunch of drawings pinned to the wall. As soon as one of us had a silly idea, it ended up as a sketch that we stuck up. I always felt like there was a bit of friendly competition between us. Someone would throw out an idea and everyone would play along. When you work side by side with others continuously, the collaboration becomes easy. You can resolve straight away the problems that crop up. I think that’s really what Tome & Janry were looking for: ongoing interaction. I even got to do one or two background pencils for Spirou & Fantasio when things were busy!
– from the Spirou & Fantasio intégrale vol. 16
De Becker’s harmonious painted colors and increased use of shading contributed a great deal to the visual style of Tome & Janry’s Spirou albums, with the lush tropical and jungle settings of Valley of the Exiles (Spirou & Fantasio #41) and Tough Luck Vito (Spirou & Fantasio #43) particularly memorable. (The latter was informed by paintings made during a research trip with Tome & Janry to Polynesia.)
In 1988 he also began drawing the game feature Les jeux d’enfer (“Hell of a Game”), where three riddles determined the fate of dead souls. Two years later, this evolved into the comic Passe-moi l’ciel (“Pass Me the Heaven”), which is still running in the Journal.
Gone much too soon, Stéphane De Becker will be missed. Our condolences to his family and those who knew him.