As a little boy, Jef Nys is completely captivated by the first full-colour animated feature film ever. After seeing Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, he grabs a pencil and starts drawing the characters... The film left such an impression on him that, years later, when he is studying at the art academy, he is still dreaming of a career in animation.
In 1945, Nys wins a drawing contest of the Flemish satirical magazine ’t Pallieterke with an original design drawing of a bank note and is offered the position of illustrator and (political) cartoonist.
He is still a member of the ’t Pallieterke editorial staff when he starts working on his own projects.
In 1952, he creates ‘De lotgevallen van Jef Neus’ (The adventures of Jeff Nose) for Gazet van Antwerpen and two years later, ‘De lotgevallen van Amadeus en Seppeke’ (The adventures of Amadeus and Joseph) for Het Handelsblad van Antwerpen. This comic book series is the predecessor to ‘De belevenissen van Jommeke’ (The adventures of Jeremy). Many of the characters and titles would later be rewritten or changed so they would fit in in the Jeremy universe.
When ’t Pallieterke starts to sail a radical Flemish course, Nys leaves the ship to become an independent co-worker of Kerkelijk Leven. In order to address more and younger readers, the paper asks Nys to supply a weekly children’s page. From 30 October 1955 onwards, his chubby five-year-old character named Jommeke (Jeremy) appears in Kerkelijk Leven in a weekly gag strip. The children’s page is a huge success and Jeremy rapidly gains popularity.
The next three years, the fair-haired comic book hero will liven up the pages of the paper. By the end of the 1950’s, Jef Nys is working for the newspaper Het Volk. In De jacht op een voetbal (The hunt for a football), Nys introduces Jeremy to the readers of the paper. His comic book hero is a couple of years older, which allows him to go on real adventures. Suspense, action and a surprising plot: Jeremy’s first adventure is a hit. In no time, his comic book hero wins the hearts of the Flemish readers. During his years with Het Volk, Jef Nys also draws a series of true-life stories for the paper’s supplement ’t Kapoentje.
Around the same time, Nys – who is still very fond of the Walt Disney films – introduces Jeremy to a party of dwarfs, amongst whom the bizarre duo Langteen and Schommelbuik (Longtoe and Rockabelly). The new characters are well received by the readers and Nys decides to create a new comic book series about the two dwarfs.
By the end of the 1960’s, Nys hires a team to help him write new scenarios and draw the comic books. He sets the bar high: the drawings have to be perfect, each and every single one of them.
Since 1998, Philippe Delzenne and Gerd Van Loock write and draw Jeremy’s adventures. Nys’ daughter Agnes does the colouring of the pages. Jef Nys followed the adventures of his brainchild until he passed away in 2009.
His last request was that the comic book series would be continued after his death. Nys drew up a charter outlining the conditions the drawings and scenarios must meet. The tone of the stories has to remain positive and neutral.
For the next 70 years after his death, the adventures of Jeremy may never be linked to alcohol consumption, sex, violence or political parties. In short, Nys wanted to preserve the tradition and spirit of the adventures of Jeremy.