Nero by draughtsman Marc Sleen (real name Marcel Honore Nestor Neels, born on December 30, 1922) gives a perfect overview of political and social life after World War II. Sleen started as a draughtsman of political caricatures. In 1947 he started with his first adventure stories in the paper `De Nieuwe Gids'. His first story was called `Het geheim van Matsuoka' (The secret of Matsuoka). The main figure was detective Van Zwam. But from the fourth album on Nero took the leading part. He was first called Heiremans but under the influence of the Matsuoka-beer he thought he was emperor Nero. Since then the name stayed Nero. Now, in 1995, more than 180 albums are published! You find the atmosphere of the comics in the who's who of the comic.
Nero is what we call `a daily paper phenomenon'. He is impulsive, kind-hearted, romantic and sentimental. He has he hero-complex and he visited every country in the world. He is not smart enough to take advantage of his own absurdity but he helps everywhere and everybody but most of all himself. Nero has many acute attacks of self-knowledge and that worry him. In contrast with his son who loves Rimski-Korsakoff and Moussorski, he loves Petula Clark and Brigit Bardot. His credo: you have to laugh before you're happy, otherwise it's possible you die without laughing. He always says: I wish I was a vulcano. Then I could sit still and smoke and everybody would say : Look, he's working again!!
Lawful wife of Nero. She loves bying hats. She cries a lot but her tears are of low salt content. Her only, but by far out her greatest speciality, is baking waffles.
The only son of Nero. Genius. He did speak and smoked pipes in his first day of life! When he was three years old he taught at the university of Cambridge and Oxford. He has invented many rockets and a flying slipper. Adhemar was first Minister of Rachepour but he resigned to go and help his father (like always). He invented all sorts of medicines without any disease that matched them. His credo is: The world is divided in two sorts of people. Those who perform something and those who take the credits for it. Try to belong to the first category, there's less competition.
Looks always as bright and stimulating as a constitution. He has been mayor of a small town, called Moerbeke. Mister Pheip has lots of money, you even may say that he is stinking rich. Money, he says, is the sixth organ of sense, without it you can't use the other five like they should. He is presumptuous with authority. He never says `I leave', but always `Je suis chemin'. He always thinks long before he says something, but the absurdities he then produces are enormous. He also was the first streaker in a comic (De groene slapjanus).
Symphatic, healthy and candid. She's the type of woman that we call the absolute majority. She's the foster mother of Petoetje and Petatje. She smokes pipes like a locomotive but only the brand `Fleur de Matras' (Flower of a mattress). She can cough loudly in church when she wears a new hat. She has a little speech impedance: she has to stop talking every ten minutes to take a breath.
First names: Abraham Oscar. The most even-tempered man that ever lived: he's always raving mad. He's an admiral in thoughts, hijacker of profession. The best spoilsport. Shouldn't be lose. Sees an enemy in everyone. Short-tempered in the highest degree. His battle-cry: Ten ... aha ... aanval (At ... aha ... tack). His credo: Those who seems to be idiots, usually are but half of those who doesn't seem to be idiots are all the same.
Claude Pheip, son of big Pheip. Born with a moustache. He owns the biggest gullet of Western Europe. He loves to be carried on the hands or on the shoulders. Conceited but always prepared to escape. He was an infant progidy, but stayed a child when the progidy had gone away.
Petoetje and Petatje
Inseparable friends. Racism is unknown to them. Petoetje was discovered by Nero and brought back from the island Moea-Papoea in the South Pacific. There Petoetje was the son of a chief who weights about 150 kilograms. He spent his early years between the man-eaters. Petatje was adopted as an orphan by madame Pheip. Both Petoetje and Petatje love adventures but they still have to study a lot (so Nero and the others always tell them). Their credo: Don't do too many stupidities when you're young, later on when you're grown up, you'll have plenty of time for that.
He is the captain of the ship "His Majesty Pull". He sails all the seas to find fresh air. With a certain punctuality he always arrives on those places where Nero drops into the sea with one of Adhemars rockets or where Nero is shipwhrecked. His credo: I just want to be a solid and very reliable "Deus ex machina" for Marc Sleen.
Last and only descendant of Jan Breydel (a famous historical figure in Belgium). He has an enormous power. He can lift up elephants with one hand. Owner of severall stalls of chips and an island in the South Pacific. He was first married with Minoetje, but years later Marc Sleen made a mistake and wrote that he was married to Isabelle (who really was the wife of Jef Pedal in the first albums). Jan Spier appears in the comic only now and then.
In De Nieuwe Gids (1947-1950)
In Het Volk (1951-1965)
In De Standaard (1965- ...)