Raymond Bär von Hemmersweil - R.N. Bär in short - is a Dutch comic artist, known for co-creating the popular newspaper comic about dune rabbit 'Wipperoen' (1961-1974) with Jan van Reek. Subtly interlarded with social commentary, the funny animal strip appeared in national newspapers like Algemeen Handelsblad and De Telegraaf, as well as several regional and foreign newspapers.

Early life and career
Raymond Nezaire Bär von Hemmersweil (also written as "Bär van Hemmersweil") was born in 1929 in The Hague. He descends from a family with Swiss roots, originating from the town of Hemmersweil (Hemmerswil) in the Canton of Thurgau. Several of his ancestors were militaries and political functionaries in the Dutch Indies (nowadays Indonesia), at the time a colony of the Netherlands. His great-grandfather was the KNIL officer Raimond Nazaire Bär (1831-1890) and his grandfather a Batavia-born deputy commissioner in the Colonial Department of the Dutch Indies, Raimond Nazaire Guillaume Marie Bär (1861-1909). The latter then became director-chairman of the Surinaamsche Bank in Suriname, another Dutch colony. He was eventually granted permission to change his family name from "Bär" to "Bär von Hemmersweil". The cartoonist Bär's father Johannes Frederik Bär von Hemmersweil (1897-1952) was a journalist born in The Hague, who then settled in Voorschoten, a town north of the city, where the 'Wipperoen' creator also lived for most of his life.

At age fifteen, Raymond Bär struck a lifelong friendship with Jan van Reek, with whom he later created 'Wipperoen'. The two youngsters shared many hobbies, including photography, chemistry experiments, writing and drawing. During the periods they didn't see each other that often, they corresponded, often adding little comic strips with funny texts to their letters. Raymond Bär attended the Art Academy in The Hague, where he studied advertising illustration and photography. He began his career working freelance in the advertising industry, initially in collaboration with a fellow student, the future architect Simon Mari Pruys (1927-1980). In this stage of his working life, Bär did book illustrations, technical photography and advertising work, while in his spare time he played the trumpet in a jazz orchestra. In the mid-1950s, he turned to creating comics. One of his first known productions was the strip 'Pepito' (1956), made for Loek van Delden's Studio AVAN.

Cover illustration for the Wolters-Noordhoff book collection of 'Wipperoen en het Land van Zand' (1970).

In 1961, Van Hemmersweil teamed up with fellow cartoonist Jan van Reek to create the newspaper comic 'Wipperoen'. The feature debuted as a text comic on 1 July 1961 in the national newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad. Since they were both cartoonists, Bär and Van Reek had an equal share in the production. After thinking up the story, they both created the pencil sketches and layouts, after which Bär did the finished art and inking and Van Reek wrote the text captions. The adventures of the anthropomorphic rabbit Wipperoen and his funny animal friends were set in a typically Dutch dune landscape, called de Rustige Duinen ("Quiet Dunes"). There, the characters were confronted with strange creatures and objects. While the early stories were straightforward adventure tales with a slightly moralistic undertone, the authors gradually added more social commentary to the 'Wipperoen' stories, tackling subjects like immigration and environmental issues. For instance, in the episode 'De Winterwortelvoorraad', the dune animals collect carrots to send to territories with famine. In other episodes, strangers who enter the Rustige Duinen are treated with mistrust and hostility.

Wipperoen by Raymond Bär

Von Hemmersweil and Jan van Reek collaborated on 45 'Wipperoen' stories, until health issues forced Van Reek to quit in 1972. By 1967, the comic was picked up by the Swan Features Syndicate, after which its publication network quickly expanded. Besides Algemeen Handelsblad, 'Wipperoen' appeared in about 26 regional newspapers in the Netherlands, and also in Televizier magazine. Abroad, the adventures of the dune rabbit were serialized in Belgium (Het Laatste Nieuws, 't Kapoentje), France (La République du Centre), Spain (Tele Express, Ya), Portugal, the UK and South Africa (Cape Town Argus). In France and Spain, the character was called 'Pompon', and in English his name was 'Whipper'. Dutch book collections of 'Wipperoen' stories were published by Van Goor & Zonen and Wolters Noordhoff.

Wipperoen, by Raymond Bär
'Wipperoen' episode from De Telegraaf.

Wipperoen balloon comic
In 1970, the Algemeen Handelsblad merged with the Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant into NRC Handelsblad. Since the Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant ran Marten Toonder's 'Tom Poes' - another funny animal comic with social satire - the editors of the newly formed newspaper had to decide which feature to keep. Nonetheless, 'Wipperoen' continued in NRC Handelsblad with new adventures until September 1972. Around the same time, the Toonder Studio's were working on a series of animated cartoons with Bär and Van Reek's character. Unfortunately, the material for this production was in 1971 destroyed in a fire in the Nederhorst den Berg castle, where the Studio's were located. The project was then aborted.

Through mediation from the Toonder Studio's, the 'Wipperoen' feature transferred to the newspaper De Telegraaf. Coincidentally, this was around the same time that Jan van Reek was forced to quit because of his declining health. Continuing solo, Raymond Bär provided seven 'Wipperoen' stories to De Telegraaf, for the occasion switching from the traditional text strip format into the balloon comic format. Some of these stories were reworked versions of earlier text comics. The final 'Wipperoen' episode concluded in De Telegraaf on 9 November 1974.

'Pim, Sam en Floep Maken Een Reis Door De Woestijn' (1963).

Other work
Not much is known about Raymond Bär's further illustration work. In 1963, Bär and Van Reek used their same funny animal style to make the illustrations for 'Pim, Sam en Floep Maken Een Reis Door De Woestijn' (Van Goor, 1963), a children's booklet for the primary education, written by Sjouke van der Zee. In 1981, Bär made illustrations for an edition of A.D. Hildebrand's children's book 'Bolke de oudste Beer ter Wereld' (Elsevier, 1981).

Later life
Later in life, Raymond Bär divided his time between living in Voorschoten and France. In 2006, he donated his archives to the Special Collections department of the University of Amsterdam, maintained by Jos van Waterschoot - coincidentally a big 'Wipperoen' fan. The original art of one of his 'Wipperoen' comics was donated to the Stripmuseum Groningen. On 30 September 2006, during the Stripdagen comics festival in Houten, Raymond Bär was awarded the Bulletje & Boonestaakschaal for his contributions to Dutch comics culture. He received the prize simultaneously with Jan van Haasteren, Willy Lohmann and - posthumously - Jan van Reek, all veterans of Dutch comics.

Raymond Bär (left) and Jan van Reek (right) with their characters Snipper and Wipperoen (Algemeen Handelsblad, 27 April 1962).


Series and books by Raymond Bär von Hemmersweil you can order today:


If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.