Dutch comics

Dutch comics
Earliest publications 1858 on
Languages Dutch
Related articles
Franco-Belgian comics
European comics

Dutch comics are comics made in the Netherlands. In Dutch the most common designation for the whole art form is "strip", while the word "comic" is used for the (usually) soft cover American style comic book format, usually containing translated US superhero material. This use of the English word for that format could cause confusion in English language texts.

Since the Netherlands share the same language with Flanders several Belgian comics and Franco-Belgian comics have also been published there.


Earliest examples

Dutch comics, like many European comics, have their prototypical forerunners in the form of medieval manuscripts, which often used sequential pictures accompanied by text, or sometimes even used speech balloons for captions.[1] The "mannekesprenten" ("little men drawings") are also an early forerunner, usually depicting the lives of Christian saints or fables.[1] In the 19th century several Dutch political cartoonists made use of sequential pictures, caricatures and humoristic situations that can be seen as the predecessors of comics. In 1858 the Swiss comic strip Monsieur Cryptogame by Rodolphe Töpffer was translated in Dutch by J.J.A. Gouverneur as Meester Prikkebeen (Mister Prick-a-leg) and was a huge success in the Netherlands. It was published in the text comics format, with written text published underneath the pictures. This type of comics would remain the dominant form in the Netherlands until deep in the 1960s, because Dutch moral guardians felt that these comics at least motivated children to actually read written sentences instead of merely looking at the pictures. While translations of comic strips remained popular no actual Dutch comics artists emerged until the late 19th century. One of the earliest artists to be considered a comic artist was Jan Linse. He drew several humoristic scenes in sequential form and wrote the text beneath the pictures.[1] Another pioneer was Daniël Hoeksema, who drew a spin-off series inspired by Monsieur Cryptogame called De Neef van Prikkebeen (1909) (Prikkebeen's Cousin)[1][2] However, most Dutch comics during the 1880s, 1890s, 1900s and 1910s were satirical illustrations and cartoons about Dutch politics and society or moralistic stories for the youth.[3]


The first proper Dutch comic strips were published after World War One. Many Dutch newspapers and magazines now imported translations of popular American, British and French comics, such as The Katzenjammer Kids (translated as Jongens van Stavast [4]), Rupert Bear (translated as Bruintje Beer), Perry and the Rinkydinks (translated as Sjors), Mickey Mouse (translated as Mikkie Muis [5]) and Billy Bimbo and Peter Porker (translated as Jopie Slim and Dikkie Bigmans) which were all immediate successes. As a result, Dutch newspapers started hiring Dutch artists to create comic strips of their own. Among the most notable were Yoebje en Achmed ("Yoebje and Achmed") (1919) and Tripje en Liezebertha (1923) by Henk Backer,[6]Bulletje en Boonestaak ("Bulletje and Boonestaak") (1922-1937) by George van Raemdonck and Snuffelgraag en Knagelijntje by Gerrit Th. Rotman and Arie Pleysier. Of all these comics Bulletje en Boonestaak had the most success in translations: it was translated into German (1924) and French (1926). At the same time it also caused outrage among moral guardians because of anti-authoritian behaviour, frequent nudity, violence and gross-out humor, such as vomiting.[4] Backer's Tripje and Liezebertha was popular enough to inspire a lot of merchandising.[4]

The early example of a Dutch comics magazine was Kleuterblaadje (Toddler Magazine) published in 1915 and had a weekly comic strip, often translations and even plagiarism from foreign language magazines. Many children's magazines began to devote one or more of their page to comics, but the first actual full-fledged Dutch comics magazine was published in 1922: Het Dubbeltje. It only lasted two-and-a-half years, but other more successful ones followed in its wake, such as Doe Mee (1936-1942) (1946-1949), Olijk en Vrolijk (1937-1941) [7]

The 1930s saw P. Koenen's "De Lotgevallen van Pijpje Drop" ("The Adventures of Pijpje Drop" (1930), "Flipje" (1935) by Harmsen van der Beek and Gijsje Goochem by Jac Grosman. In 1932 Frans Piët also created a newspaper comic strip called Wo-Wang en Simmy, which was a predecessor to his more successful series Sjors en Sjimmie (1938). Piët based his character Sjors directly on Perry from Martin Branner's Perry and the Rinkydinks.[7] Sjors also inspired a comics magazine of his own in 1936. Another influential Dutch comics artist who made his debut in 1934 was Marten Toonder. He created a comic strip called "Thijs IJs", which was a substitute for Rupert Bear after the newspaper lost the publication rights.[8] By far the most popular Dutch comic strip of this era was Flippie Flink (1933) by Louis Raemaekers and Clinge Doorenbos. A stage adaptation was produced, with the actor playing the part of Flippie greeting hundreds of children in the streets.[8]

World War II

The German occupation in 1940 prevented further Anglo-American imports and led initially to a greater production of native material. Nazi censorship and paper shortage worked to the detriment of the comics field. At the same the embargo against American and British comic strips also meant that Dutch comics artists received more chances to publish their own material, even if it meant becoming a member of the Kulturkammer. The most notable Dutch comic strips to debut during the Nazi occupation were Alfred Mazure's Dick Bos (1942) [9] and Marten Toonder's influential Tom Poes (Tom Puss) (1941).[10] Willy Smith and Herman Looman's Tijs Wijs de Torenwachter (1940-1942) and Wim Meuldijk's Sneeuwvlok de Eskimo (1942-1944) were popular enough at the time to be adapted into stage plays, but are completely forgotten today.[11]

After 1945

After the liberation the publication of comics boomed, with many successful series being published in newspapers, such as Pieter Kuhn's Kapitein Rob (1946-1966), Hans G. Kresse's Eric de Noorman (1946-1964), Phiny Dick's Olle Kapoen (1946-1954), Marten Toonder's Kappie (1945-1972), Panda (1946-1991) and Koning Hollewijn (1954-1971), Godfried Bomans and Carol Voges's De Avonturen van Pa Pinkelman (1946-1952), Jean Dulieu's Paulus de Boskabouter (Paulus the woodgnome), Henk Sprenger's Kick Wilstra (1949-...), Bob van den Born's Professor Pi (1955-1965), Willy Lohmann's Kraaienhove (1962-1972), Peter van Straaten's Vader & Zoon (1968-1987).[12][13][14] The most successful and productive Dutch comics studio were the Toonder Studios, created by Marten Toonder, who both made comics as well as animated cartoons. They also launched the short-lived comics magazine Tom Poes Weekblad (Tom Puss Weekly) (1947-1951).[15]

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s moral guardians highly discouraged young people reading comics, because they felt it was a bad influence on them. Many magazines and newspapers went across their censorship and moral objections by publishing their series in a text comics format. This allowed children to at least read some sentences and could guid them to "real literature".[16]


Late 1948 turned out to be a seminal moment in time for the Dutch comic world when Dutch Minister of Education Theo Rutten had his letter published in the October 25, 1948 issue of the newspaper Het Parool, directly addressing educational institutions and local government bodies, advocating the prohibition of comics. He stated, "These booklets, which contain a series of illustrations with accompanying text, are generally sensational in character, without any other value. It is not possible to proceed in a legal manner against printers, publishers or distributors of these novels, nor can anything be achieved by not making paper available to them, since this for those publications necessary paper, is available on the free market," further implying that it became the civil duty of parents, teachers and civil servants, including policemen, to confiscate and destroy comic books wherever they found them,[17] or as he had put it, "If you would like to point out, unnecessarily perhaps, to your school personnel that it is desirable to ensure that the students do not bring the graphic novels into school or distribute them to their their comrades.(...) Where the circumstances make this desirable, the students are to be pointed out the very superficial nature of this literature, and the numerous books that are more worthy of their attention."[18] Less than a month later, a 16-year-old girl was murdered in a bizarre manner on November 19 in the small town of Enkhuizen by her 15-year old boyfriend, who had tied her down to railroad tracks where she was killed by a passing train. The police subsequently uncovered that both had been readers of comic books of the kind that were in concordance with Rutten's definition.[18] A moral outcry ensued, causing comic-book burnings to occur around the country with all comic publications being suspended and public libraries removing and destroying any comic books they might have had in their collections. On the occasion, and in an effort to outdo other contemporary media statements of indignation, libraries went even as far as coining comic books in a public statement, "an atrocious sickness of the times, ready for suicide of the soul in its despondency".[18] It nearly destroyed the comic phenomenon in the Netherlands, which had only just begun recovering from the war years. The only exceptions were made for a small number of "healthy" comic productions from the Toonder Studios, which included the by then considered literary comic strip Tom Poes.[19] It should be noted that reactions to the incident were not state-sanctioned initiatives, but rather spontaneous, popular responses.

Considering the upheaval the incident has caused in the Netherlands, it is remarkable that Dutch authorities have refrained from ever passing laws or instituting agencies of the restrictive kind France and Germany had, even though those countries had not experienced comic related incidents of the magnitude the Netherlands had. This was partly due to the fact that the moral panic surrounding the incident subsided rather quickly, as evidenced by the fact that the newspaper De Telegraaf resumed comic publication only weeks after the incident even though that newspaper had had a leading hand in the uprising against the medium at the time[20] , and partly due to the fact, as Rutten himself had already indicated, that the Dutch constitution did not allow for them, contrary to the ones of France and Germany which had allowances embedded for youth publications (see: Seduction of the Innocent). Not only that, but the phenomenon was not entirely without its own supporters, albeit from a freedom of expression point of view, as Dutch literary giant Godfried Bomans had worded at the time in his column of nl:Elseviers Weekblad, "The reading is healthy. The format in which she has been subordinated is merely flawed. This is an aesthetic flaw, not a moral one. By confusing these, we ignore the essence of the art of the novel."[18] Still, while the Dutch comic world never went as far as their US and German counterparts did, i.e. establishing self-censuring institutions, they henceforth chose to err on the side of caution for the time being, until the advent of the magazine nl:Pep in the 1960s.

The 1950s & beyond

In the wake of the 1948 upheaval, the Dutch comic world initially relied predominantly on "healthy" imports, aside from their own Toonder Studios productions, with 1952 marking the introduction of the most popular Dutch comics magazine, when Donald Duck published its first Dutch-language issue.[21] It, in initial conjunction with the Toonder Studios, quickly became a national institution and published, apart from Disney comics, also Toonder Studios comics series such as Piet Wijn's Douwe Dabbert (1975-2001) and Van Nul tot Nu (1982) by Thom Roep and Co Loerakker. Other successful post-war magazines were Sjors (1954-1976) and Pep (1962-1975, cooperating in the early years with both Disney and Toonder Studios, especially featuring productions from H.G. Kresse who had worked for both), both of which later to merge into Eppo (1975-1985) and then be renamed as Eppo Wordt Vervolgd (1985-1988), Sjors en Sjimmie Maandblad (1988-1994), SjoSjii (1994-1998) and Striparazzi (1998-1999). Pep in particular, considering it started from the mid-1960s onward to feature many translated publications originating from the French Pilote magazine, turned out to be an emancipating force for the Dutch comic world, freeing it from the shackles of 1948. It was that magazine (and its successor Eppo) that saw first-time publications of Dutch comic world mainstays, such as Martin Lodewijk's Agent 327 (1967-1985) (2000-....), Peter de Smet's De Generaal (1971-2003), Jan Steeman and Andries Brandt's Roel Dijkstra (1977-1995), Henk Kuijpers's Franka (1978-...) and Hanco Kolk and Peter de Wit's Gilles de Geus (1985-2003).[22][23] In 2009 the magazine was relaunched as Eppo again. Also mentionable was Arend (1955-1956), a translated variant of the contemporary British comic magazine Eagle,[24] and Tina (1967-...), a girls' magazine which published a lot of comics, predominantly from British origin, just like the original Sjors magzine.[25] In the field of adult comics magazines Tante Leny presenteert! (1970-1978), Modern Papier (1971-1972) and De Vrije Balloen (1975-1983) were the most notable.[26] From the 1960s on more American comics were imported, with the Dutch edition of the American Mad Magazine also had a lot of success and ran from 1964 until 1996, with a brief resurrection in 2011-2012.[27]

It's notable that the Netherlands were one of the few European countries to still publish text comics well into the 1960s, when the attitude towards comics began to change. In 1967 a center for comics fans, nl:Het Stripschap, was founded, with their own specialized subject magazine nl:Stripschrift. In 1968 the oldest comics store in the world, Lambiek was founded,[28] with the country receiving its own comics museum in Groningen, "Het Nederlands Stripmuseum", in 2004.


Text comics

A format not unique to the Netherlands but so common there that it got the designation "Hollandse school". Text comics consist of a series of illustrations with a block of text underneath the images telling the story. Famous Dutch series in this format are: Bulletje en Boonestaak, Tom Puss, Oliver B. Bumble, Kapitein Rob, Eric de Noorman, Panda, De Avonturen van Pa Pinkelman and Paulus the woodgnome. These comics were prepublished in newspapers, after which they were collected and made available in small rectangular books, called oblongs, due to their shape.

Picture novels ("Beeldromans")

A format born out of paper scarcity in WW II. The booklets are small (about the size of a box of cigarettes) and have usually one picture on every page. The first, most famous, longest running and last series in this format is Dick Bos, which explains that "Dick Bos boekje (=booklet)" became a synonym for the format. Several of these stories were action-packed detective stories, full with people beating villains up. These comics inspired a media frenzy with people being outraged over the violent content. When the American author Frederick Wertham condemned the bad influence of comics on the youth in his essay Seduction of the Innocent moral guardians in the Netherlands agreed with his theories and began banning comics with violent imagery. On November 19, 1948 a murder of a 16-year-old girl by her 15 year old partner in Enkhuizen caused such a scandal that the media searched and found a scapegoat in "violent" Dutch comics. This effectively meant the end of the genre.[29] The Dutch name of the format has been used as translation for the word "graphic novel" as well.

Comic books

The comic book as format (akin to the US format), for Dutch comics came into being when the picture novels disappeared as a result of the craze against them. It lasted for some time, enjoying its heyday as a (translated) format in the early 1970s the publications of nl:Classics Lectuur being a prime example , but has disappeared since then. Comic books as format are still being read and sold in the Netherlands, but these are predominantly untranslated US imports.


Conceived as format in the world of Belgian comics in the 1930s and introduced in the Netherlands shortly after the war, initially as Flemish imports, most published comics are nowadays published in album format, akin to Franco-Belgian comics, the majority of album titles currently published in the Netherlands actually being translations of the latter. Comics albums came to be considered the equivalents of books from the late 1970s onward when comic albums too started to receive ISBN numbers, their status a decade later reinforced with the acceptance of the hard cover comic album format, the Franco-Belgium album standard, alongside the hitherto Dutch album norm, the soft cover format. Unlike magazines, they have no cover date and are often reprinted. They, when part of a series, also follow a specific chronological order and are thus collectable. It has been observed by European comics studies scholars that Americans originally used the expression "graphic novel" to describe everything that deviated from their standard, 32-page comic book format, meaning that as a format, all European larger-sized, longer comic albums, regardless of their contents, fell under the heading as far as Americans were concerned.[30]

Comic Magazines

Dutch comics magazines use(d) to have a cover of the same paper as the rest of the magazine, they tended to be rather anthology like, with several short stories and/or episodes from long ones. Many of those stories were collected and reprinted in the album format. It is/was rather common for the magazines to contain a mix of Dutch material and imported stories.

Current status

Nowadays the Dutch market is fragmented: there are always imports, the small press circuit, the reprints, the online comics and Donald Duck and whatever is the latest rage for kids. With the several of the 1960s-1980s great names still active, the art form remains alive and kicking, with kicking merely to be understood as being engaged in politics and society in a rather outspoken way, though comics of this kind are currently predominantly reliant on the small press circuit for their publication.[31]

Yet, it should be noted that as art form, the comic phenomenon in the Netherlands was never able to fully escape from under the long shadow the 1948 incident had cast (see Hanco Kolk's below quoted 2016 remark) even though the specifics of said incident, both cause and fall-out, are all but forgotten by contemporaries. It therefore has neither achieved the revered status of "Le Neuvième Art", the medium has in its southern neighbors Belgium and France, nor has it been accorded the formal recognition as such by cultural authorities the creations of Marten Toonder and Joost Swarte excepted (both men have received royal knighthoods), albeit as (illustrated) literature only instead as comic. Exemplary of this was the television series Wordt Vervolgd (not affiliated in any way with the 1980s-1990s graphic novel magazine of the same title), which ran from 1983 through 1993 on Dutch television. Intended by its conceivers (which included Dutch comic scholar Kees de Bree) to become a serious, mature program on comics, it was quickly whittled down by the network that aired it into a children's program, changing the focus from comics to cartoons. Also, the Stripmuseum conceived as Holland's answer to Brussels' prestigious Belgisch Centrum voor het Beeldverhaal already ran into trouble in 2014, threatened with bankruptcy and closure, date of closure already fixed on May 1, 2014.[32] The Stripmuseum has never come close to the visitor numbers its Belgian counterpart achieved (less than 50,000 and dwindling[33] v.s. a steady 200,000 annually[34]). The museum's demise was temporarily averted for three years with eleventh-hour emergency funding from local authorities, though the museum had to move to smaller premises.[35] Additionally, after the 1970s-1980s boom years, the number of both comic magazines as well as comic book outlets started to dwindle noticeably from 2000 onward[36] seriously curtailing the development of, and publication opportunities for, Dutch comic talent as comic creators Hanco Kolk and nl:Jean-Marc van Tol warned for in an urgent open letter, published in the newspaper NRC Handelsblad of September 27, 2008 , though socio-economic factors were mostly in play for that trend, the 2007-2011 Great Recession becoming the most obvious one.[37]

Despite the reluctance of cultural authorities to become engaged with comics, the letter from Kolk and van Tol did initiate some action from a latter-day successor of Theo Rutten, Minister of Education and Culture Ronald Plasterk, when he appointed comic scholar and journalist Gert Jan Pos as the "stripintendant" (=comic intermediary) for his ministry in 2009, with a relative modest budget to advance the medium as a cultural phenomenon.[38] A somewhat half-hearted attempt and with the country in the throes of a severe economic recession, it was from the start intended as a two-year temporary measure only, though Pos (in conjuncture with Kolk) did manage in the window of time allotted to him to get the Netherlands its first and only "Comic Design" learning course[39] at the "ArtEz" art academy in the city of Zwolle (though it has remained a modest affair compared to the prestigious "Beeldverhaal" course[40] of the Belgian "Hogeschool Sint-Lukas Brussel"), but failing at the same time to change the attitudes of other agencies and institutions that concerned themselves with the advancement of printed media, unable to get "comics" on their agendas, most notably that of Holland's most important book organization "Collectieve Propaganda van het Nederlandse Boek". By 2012 all state support had ceased; "The government is a fickle partner," Pos sighed after he was let go from the ministry, with Kolk, indirectly referring to the 1948 incident, adding, "The comic had already in the 1950s been the ugly duckling [in the cultural landscape]. It has always remained so," contrasting it to the radically different situation in France and Belgium where the medium receives ample and continuous support from their respective cultural authorities.[31] In 2016, NRC, the same newspaper that had published Kolk's and van Tol's letter eight years previously, took stock of the situation in the Dutch comic world and found the authors' then assessment validated by concluding, especially in comparison with the comic scene in southern neighbor Belgium, that the Dutch comic world had indeed become barren, to an extent only kept afloat by veteran mainstays such as Peter Pontiac and Dick Matena.[31] The career of Matena in this respect was illustrative for the downturn the Dutch comic world had experienced after the 1990s; had he been an influential and innovative creator in the field of Dutch graphic novels in the 1980s-1990s, by 2000 he had all but abandoned his own creations, instead, and despite receiving acclaim for them, concentrating on pouring the biographies of historical figures from the worlds of art and literature, as well as works of Dutch literature into the comic format.[41]

In this light, Dutch television has made amends for Wordt Vervolgd by on occasion broadcasting mature documentaries on Dutch comic creators such as Peter Pontiac (VPRO, January 8, 2003[42] and Avrotros, June 1, 2014[43]), Dick Matena (NPO, November 13, 2014[44]) and Martin Lodewijk (NTR, April 23, 2015[45]), though the number of these are still in no comparison with the numbers as aired in France and Belgium.[31] There was even a second Dutch comic museum in the making, which opened its doors on September 3, 2016 as "Museum Strips!" in the city of Rotterdam with Rotterdam native Martin Lodewijk presiding the opening ceremony.[46]

Famous series and artists


  1. 1 2 3 4 https://www.lambiek.net/dutchcomics/1800.htm
  2. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1900.htm
  3. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1850.htm
  4. 1 2 3 https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1920krantestrip.htm
  5. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1930disney.htm
  6. https://www.lambiek.net/dutchcomics/1920.htm
  7. 1 2 https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1930tijdschriften.htm
  8. 1 2 https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1930krantestrip.htm
  9. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1945nbeeldromans.htm
  10. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1940krantestrip.htm
  11. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1940krantestrip.htm
  12. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1945krantenstrip.htm
  13. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1950krantestrip.htm
  14. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1960krantestrip.htm
  15. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1945toonderstudio.htm
  16. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1945krantenstrip.htm
  17. dbnl.org
  18. 1 2 3 4 dickbos.info
  19. lambiek.net
  20. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1945nbeeldromans.htm
  21. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1950tijdschriften.htm
  22. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1960tijdschriften.htm
  23. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1970tijdschriften.htm
  24. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1950tijdschriften.htm
  25. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1960tijdschriften.htm
  26. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1970tijdschriften.htm
  27. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1960import.htm
  28. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1960waardering.htm
  29. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/1945nbeeldromans.htm
  30. Geeraerts, K. (2011), Wat is een graphic novel?, p. 25
  31. 1 2 3 4 Ron Rijghard: "Nederlandse strip beleeft schrale jaren", NRC, June 2, 2016
  32. http://www.boekendingen.nl/wp-nieuws/?p=18154
  33. http://www.rtvnoord.nl/nieuws/144258/Groninger-musea-goed-bezocht-in-2014
  34. "About Us—In Short". Brussels, Belgium: Belgian Comic Strip Center. Retrieved 4 July 2011.
  35. http://nos.nl/artikel/642003-stripmuseum-groningen-blijft-open.html
  36. In their letter, the authors mentioned a number of around 80 specialized comic stores still in existence in the country at the time, but also mentioned that other outlets such as supermarkets and general bookstores were in the process of removing comics from their assortments, save for a handful of blockbuster staples such as Asterix and Suske en Wiske. Yet, comic website Stripspeciaalzaak.be has observed the number of Dutch comic stores to have dwindled to around two dozen by 2016, though it should be noted that the slack has in recent years been somewhat taken up by specialized web stores.
  37. Hanco Kolk & Jean-Marc van Tol: "Red de Nederlandse strips", NRC, September 27, 2008; "De Nederlandse stripmarkt - Tussen vertwijfeling en hoop", nl:Stripschrift, issue 397, February 2009
  38. "Gert Jan Pos wordt stripintendant", De Volkskrant, April 14, 2009
  39. https://www.artez.nl/opleidingen/comic-design
  40. http://www.luca-arts.be/beeldverhaal
  41. https://www.lambiek.net/aanvang/matena.htm
  42. VPRO-documentary "Peter Pontiac" in the cultural series 'Het Uur van de Wolf'
  43. Avrotros-documentary "Graphic Novel - Peter Pontiac" in the cultural series 'Kunstuur', the same broadcaster that had aired Wordt Vervolgd.
  44. NPO-documentary "Dick is boos" in the cultural series 'Het Uur van de Wolf'
  45. NTR-documentary "Martin Lodewijk en de laatste pagina" in the cultural series 'Het Uur van de Wolf'
  46. https://stripjournaal.com/2016/09/01/stripmuseum-rotterdam-dit-weekend-open/

External links

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