Tom Wels by Ben Abas
'Tom Wels'.

Ben Abas is an obscure mid-20th century Dutch pulp illustrator and comic artist. He is best remembered for his work on "picture novels" like 'Spot Morton' (1947) and 'Lex Brand' (1947-1955), and his collaborations with Lo Hartog van Banda, such as the sci-fi comic 'Martin Evans' (1955). He spent the rest of his life in Australia.

Picture novels
Not much is known about Ben Abas. Between 1947 and 1955, he worked on several series of small illustrated "picture novels", called "beeldromans" in Dutch. These action-filled comic books appeared in imitation of the successful 'Dick Bos' comic books by Alfred Mazure. Among Abas' early work are the first six 'Spot Morton' books for the Amsterdam-based publisher Periodiek in 1947. He was succeeded on this comic by Georges Mazure. Abas then began the Bell Studio with his father, first in Haarlem and then in Lunteren (1952-1955). His main series for this publishing firm were about the detective 'Lex Brand' (1947-1955, with texts by his brother Leo Abas) and the other about space traveler 'Tom Wels'. The artist also drew two issues of 'Kara Ben Nemsi' (1952) and three of  'Texas Ranger' (1955). Another "beeldroman" published by Bell Studio was 'De Groene Straal' by Dick Vlottes.  Abas drew an average of two monthly "picture novels" from the summer of 1947 until the summer of 1949. The second series of 'Lex Brand' ran from 1952 until 1954. 

Yet from 1948 on, comic books in the Netherlands came under fire from the Dutch government and educators, because they were supposedly a bad example to children and caused "reading laziness". By 1955, the public opinion against comic books was so aggressive that Bell Studio had to cancel its activities. Only in the 1980s were 'Lex Brand' and 'Tom Wels' reprinted by Peter de Vos and H. Bontkes and their Stichting Uitgeverij Beeldromans. 

De Strijd der Gauchos by Ben Abas
'De Strijd der Gaucho's'.

De Strijd der Gaucho's
From July to September 1950, Abas also drew the balloon strip 'De Strijd der Gaucho's' for magazine Okido of Neerlandia in Utrecht. Abas was a friend of scriptwriter Lo Hartog van Banda, with whom he had created four issues of the science fiction magazine Fantasie en Wetenschap in 1948-1949.

Toonder Studios
From 1953 on, Abas was briefly affiliated with the famous Toonder Studios, but his tenure was far from easy. By 1952, Hartog van Banda had approached the studios with a couple of projects. One of them was 'Baron van Tast', with artwork by Abas. The comic was rejected, but the plot reused for the 'Baron Bluff' comic and redrawn by Jan van Wensveen. Abas eventually got the opportunity to work for Toonder's 'Tom Poes' balloon strip in Donald Duck weekly for a short while, after which he teamed up with Hartog van Banda again for the sci-fi comic 'Martin Evans'.

Martin Evans by Ben Abas
'Martin Evans'.

Abas drew most panels of the first 'Martin Evans' story, 'Het Venuskruid', in 1955. It was originally published in Scandinavian newspapers, as well as the Belgian magazine 't Kapoentje. In the Netherlands the story appeared in Echo in 1958. After 100 episodes, Toonder Studios wrote to the affiliated papers that they cancelled the comic, apparently because they were not satisfied with its theme and quality. Abas was allowed to continue on his own, without the studio as intermediary, but was offended by the way he was treated and dropped the comic altogether. Writer Hartog van Banda was unaware of what went on behind the scenes until later. As a result he wasn't amused by Abas sudden and unexplained departure. The former friends never had the chance to work things out, because in September-October 1955 (presumed date), Abas instantly emigrated to Australia. The original 'Martin Evans' story was finished by an unknown studio co-worker. 'Martin Evans' returned in the regional newspaper De Stem three years later, since space travel had gained in popularity after the 1957 Sputnik launch. The original story by Abas was reprinted in 1958 (with the final strips pencilled by Thé Tjong-Khing and inked by Dick Vlottes) and Banda made a second episode, 'De Zero-vaart' with artist Dick Vlottes in 1959. The same year a third and fourth story were plotted by Banda, but scripted by Harry van den Eerenbeemt and drawn by Gerrit Stapel.

Final years, death and legacy
After moving to Australia in 1955, Abas became a drawing teacher in Perth, where he eventually passed away. He also made the illustrations for a series of school books called 'New Living English' by Roy W. Grace, published in Perth in 1974 and 1975. In the Dutch city Almere a street was named after Tom Wels, as part of the 2004 "Comics Heroes" district.

Monsters, by Ben AbasAasgieren, by Ben Abas

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