He started under a false name 'Wil' to write for a local newspaper during the occupation in the second world war. All Americans comic strips were banned by the Nazi's so they were happy that a Belgian artist was willing to take the job. However, life quickly became too dangerous and Willy was forced to stop. In 1936 Willy was hired to draw comic books like Sinbad and Lancelot. With the experience he had gathered he thought of his own comic book Suske & Wiske which he got published by Standaard Uitgeverij in 1945. This comic book series became a huge hit and still spans to this day.
Because there was so much work with his comic books he decided to start his own studio 'Studio Vandersteen'. He drew his comic books alone but he quickly got overwhelmed by his own succes so he had to hire people to do inking, coloring and lettering. In 1974 he gave the reigns of the comic book Suske & Wiske to Paul Geerts who continued his work.
Willy was born as the son of a sculpter so he was born into an artistic family. His talent for drawing and fantasy stories were noticeable as a young child as he wrote plays for his friends to act out and drew on the sidewalks. His teachers often told him that the only thing he was good at was drawing and writing essays but he could never earn his money that way. But obviously Willy proved them wrong. As he helped his father he took night classes at the academy for fine arts.