'Ronin', from Chad in Amsterdam #3 (art by Lorenzo Milito).

Chad Bilyeu is a writer, art director and photographer, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. He lives and works in Amsterdam, and has captured his experiences with the Dutch way of life in the autobiographical comic book series 'Chad in Amsterdam' (2018- ).

Early life
Born in 1975 in the East Cleveland suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, Chad Malik Bilyeu inherited his mother's last name. The Bilyeu lineage stemmed from Long Island, New York; his parents had moved to Cleveland in the 1970s and divorced shortly after he was born. Chad spent a large part of his childhood in the Cleveland Heights suburb, enjoying a multicultural upbringing with much diversity and social activities. His spare time was filled with drawing, playing with action figures and devouring comic books. In the editorial blurb in the first issue of 'Chad in Amsterdam', Bilyeu wrote he was fortunate enough to grow up in a time period that brought forth comic series like Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore's 'Watchmen', Frank Miller's 'The Dark Knight Returns' and Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz's 'Elektra: Assassin'. Later in life he went back to all the (underground) comics and graphic novels he had missed out on, of which especially Harvey Pekar's 'American Splendor' series and the autobiographical comics of Joe Matt became an influence.

Chad showed no particular patience for the educational system, but was on the other hand quite self-taught. His interests varied from comics, hiphop music, socializing, photography and esoteric subjects. He also developed a strong urge to travel, while continuing his education at Cleveland State University and then, through the National Student Exchange program, at Howard University in Washington, DC. He stayed in DC and had jobs as audio/video technician at both George Mason University and Georgetown University. His travels regularly led him to Amsterdam, and the Dutch capital quickly became one of his favorite locations. He moved there in 2009, ironically to do American Studies at the University of Amsterdam. He dropped out after about a year, and has since returned to continuous self-study. He earned a living by working as an event organizer of art shows and nightlife parties, DJ, IT technician, social media strategist and the manager of the music cassette label Bullshit Night Records.

'The Dutch Inquisition, part 1', from Chad in Amsterdam #1 (art by Jared Boggess).

Chad in Amsterdam
Even though he came to Amsterdam to study his own country from abroad, Bilyeu instead proved a sharp observer of the Dutch identity and mentality. He captured his observations in writing, photography and an endless stream of Twitter posts. Inspired by Harvey Pekar's 'American Splendor' series, he decided to chronicle his Amsterdam experiences in comic stories. With financial backing of the local Art Fund, the first issue of 'Chad in Amsterdam' was released in the spring of 2018 under Bilyeu's Bistro Books imprint. The second followed in the autumn and the third in the spring of 2019. The fourth and fifth issues appeared shortly after each other, in October and November 2020.

Most issues were festively presented at comics shop Lambiek, where Chad is part of the regular entourage. Like Pekar, Bilyeu stuck to writing, while assembling a cast of international artists to illustrate his stories. He mostly contacts them through social media; the only requirement being they have either lived in or visited Amsterdam. So far, Jared Boggess, Boyane, Denis Galocha, Iva Spasojević (EKS Graphics), Eryc Why, DroL, Bernie Mireault, Lorenzo Milito, Juliette de Wit, Lera Ryanzanceva, Rachelle Meyer, Dany Modesto Rodriguez, Lae Schäfer, Merel Barends and 'American Splendor' alumnus Gary Dumm have contributed story art. Kim Demåne, Dotsy, Denis Galocha, Lera Ryanzanceva, Pepijn Schermer, Will Robson, Margreet de Heer and Chad himself have made front and back cover illustrations.

'De vier visspecialisten', from Chad in Amsterdam #3 (art by Gary Dumm).

Chad's stories will certainly appeal to expats, but can equally be enjoyed by other Amsterdam residents. Reclaiming a confiscated bike from the bicycle depot, overheard conversations between tourists and prostitutes and the Dutch habit of eating soused herring shall be recognizable to anyone who frequently visits the Dutch capital. Each story actually happened, and has the author in the starring role. Chad not only shares his personal experiences with Dutch directness and liberalism, especially in the recurring feature 'The Dutch Inquisition', but has also taken the time to research the historical background of the local cuisine, buildings and customs. The fourth issue contained more personal stories about the author's own cultural background, while the fifth explored the historical origins and racial stereotyping of the annual Sinterklaas festivities in the Netherlands.

Since 2021, Chad Bilyeu is also affiliated with the Amsterdam Public Library, the OBA. He has curated the comics department of the OBA's Oosterdok division, mixing genres from superheros and manga to autobiographical graphic novels in the so-called  Megillah Comic Collection ("megillah" is Hebrew for "long and detailed story"). In November 2021, the OBA also funded Bilyeu's 'Megillah Anthology', containing work by a host of international comic artists, including Iva Spasojevic, Eryc Why, James the Stanton, Maia Matches, E.S. Glenn, Bernie Mireault and Larie Cook. Eschewing theme in favor of format, the six artists were given eight pages to do whatever they please "in respect to good taste and good manners". In March 2023, Chad's Bistro Books and the OBA hosted the 'Megillah Sunday Funnies' exposition, showcasing comic pages in the tradition of the classic American Sunday comics, made by 35 international creators. The pages were also collected in a free tabloid-sized newspaper.

On 3 April 2023, Chad Bilyeu won an Award of Excellence at the MoCCA indie comics & cartoon festival in Manhattan, New York City for his 'Chad in Amsterdam' series.

While not fully mastering the Dutch language, Chad Bilyeu has proven to fully embrace his new homebase. In an interview with Peter van Brummelen published in newspaper Het Parool on 21 May 2018, he stated: "I am an American in the Netherlands, but I do feel like an "Amsterdammer."

'The Dutch Inquisition, part 2', from Chad in Amsterdam #2 (art by DroL).


Series and books by Chad Bilyeu you can order today:


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