'New Comic Strip Scandal 000' (source: kb.nl)

Rik van Bentum was a Dutch sculptor, graphic artist, illustrator and painter. In 1963 he and cult novelist Jan Cremer drew a pornographic comic strip, 'New Comic Strip Scandal 2000' (1963), based on the Profumo sex scandal. While very obscure, amateuristic and only published in 1965, after Cremer became famous, this particular work could be considered the first Dutch underground comic

Artistic career
Hendrikus Johannes van Bentum was born in 1936 in Amsterdam. As a teenager he was so interested in art that he deliberately skipped school to go to the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam. In 1953 he became a painter of advertisements, combining his job with studying art at the Art Academy of Arnhem. In between he earned extra cash as a deejay and seasonal worker. Among his fellow students were future well known Dutch artists like Mark Brusse, Klaas Gubbels and Jan Cremer. Together with Ted Felen they established their own art movement "Nada", which gained some press notice with their self-organized exhibitions. In the 1960s van Bentum's paintings and sculptures were exhibited in New York City. He underwent influence from the pop art movement and started using more advertising symbols in his work. After 1969 van Bentum returned to Amsterdam where he became a designer of theatrical sets and literary festivities in collaboration with the Rietveld Academy. His name was one of the more unlikely ones to appear among the co-workers of the weekly magazine based on the puppet TV show 'De Fabeltjeskrant' (1969-1970). It is unknown what Van Bentum's contributions were. Perhaps the pop-art style adaptation of Mies Bouhuys' children's book series 'Auto-bas'? Rik van Bentum was married to actress Kitty Courbois from 1968 to 1975. The artist passed away in 1994.

In 1963 Van Bentum and Jan Cremer made a pornographic comic strip together, named 'New Comic Strip Scandal 000'. The story was inspired by the then current sex scandal surrounding British Minister of Defense John Profumo and call girl Christine Keeler. The intrige thickened when Keeler turned out to have a Russian ambassador in her clientèle, raising the possibility that she might have been a spy for the Soviets. Cremer and Van Bentum's strip is set in London. In the first panel a nigh unrecognizable Big Ben is drawn. A woman, "Bloody Mary", takes a shower when a man wants to draw her in the nude. As the story progresses the trial against Profumo and Keeler, including the "original tapes of their conversations between" are visualized, complete with some snapshots of the British Royal Family having sex. Overall the story is filled with sex, violence and random celebrity appearances. But since everything is so crudely drawn and written one can often hardly make sense out of it. Cremer and Van Bentum alternated on drawing the comic's pages. They wanted to produce a very limited print-run of 15 copies, but Cremer later admitted that they made only 4 or 5. By lack of interest the comic strip wasn't officially published until two years later, when Jan Cremer became nationally famous thanks to his cult novel 'Ik, Jan Cremer' (1964). In March-April 1965 some samples of 'New Comic Strip Scandal' appeared in an issue of the literary magazine Ratio, despite the fact that the Profumo Affair was already old news by then. Interestingly enough the magazine printed only samples by Cremer, while Van Bentum's involvement wasn't even mentioned at all.

First Dutch underground comic?
Today 'New Comic Strip Scandal' survives as a curious celebrity comic, comparable to similar amateur works by Dutch media figures like Remco Campert, Herman Brood, IJf Blokker and Wim de Bie. Yet it also holds historical significance. Its political, sexual and gruesomely violent content broke new ground in Dutch comics. Cremer and Van Bentum wanted to provoke readers and succeeded, given that it took two years before this controversial comic found publication. And even then it only appeared in a niche magazine, no mainstream publication. All these elements combined make it the strongest candidate for the title "first Dutch underground comic". Yet in terms of actual impact Robert Olaf Stoop's 'Roza's Lotgevallen' (1966) was a far more significant Dutch underground comic strip. Stoop actually had his own publishing company, Real Free Press, to distribute U.S. and Dutch-language underground comics, helping to popularize the genre in the Netherlands. It's therefore safe to say that Stoop is the real godfather of Dutch underground comics, while Cremer and Van Bentum's comic strip is at least even more underground by being more obscure. 

More about the comic strip on the site of the Royal Dutch Library

Series and books by Rik van Bentum in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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