William van Cutsem was born in Anderlecht near Brussels in 1935. After his military service in 1955–1956, he studied for four years at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Originally from Flanders, he worked most of his life in France, and moved later to Santander in Spain.
William Vance started drawing for the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Tintin in 1962. After drawing complete real-life stories of four pages for a few years, he started work on his first series,
Howard Flynn, written by Yves Duval. Three albums followed, before he created other short-lived series such as the Western
Roderik. His first success followed with the series about secret agent Bruno Brazil, written by Tintin's editor-in-chief Greg, as one of the comics that started the revival and repositioning of Tintin as a more adult-oriented magazine.
From 1967 on, he continued the stories of Bob Morane in Femmes d'aujourd'hui, a magazine aimed at adult women. This science fiction series, based on the novels by Henri Vernes, was started by Dino Attanasio and continued by Gerald Forton before Vance took over and made it a success. Between 1969 and 1979, 18 albums with his artwork were published. A few years later, the series moved to Tintin as well, and Vance was succeeded by his brother-in-law, Felicisimo Coria.
Vance meanwhile started two new series,
Ramiro, with stories set in medieval Spain, and from 1976 onwards,
Bruce J. Hawker, his personal favourite, starring a lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
His final breakthrough and largest commercial success came in 1984, when writer Jean Van Hamme proposed a new series, XIII. First serialised in Spirou magazine, this series of contemporary adventures with action, violence, and complicated intrigues, let Vance draw upon his talent for realistic drawings, action scenes and exotic settings. By 2007, he had drawn 18 albums in the series, which sold more than 14 million copies in more than 20 countries, and was twice adapted into a TV series. The series was coloured by his wife Petra Coria, with whom he lived in Santander, Spain.
In 2010, Vance announced his retirement due to Parkinson's disease. He died of the disease on 14 May 2018.