Holle Pinkel, by Andries Brandt
Holle Pinkel

Andries Brandt was a Dutch comics writer and occasionally also an artist. He was one of the most prolific scriptwriters for the Toonder Studio's from 1955 to 1973, participating in nearly all of the company's productions. Brandt also developed new creations for Toonder, such as 'Holle Pinkel' (1960-1963), 'Horre, Harm en Hella' (1968-1971) and 'Aafje Anders' (1971-1973). During the 1970s and 1980s he mostly worked for the comics magazines of the publishing house Oberon, creating 'Tina en Debbie' (1974-1984) for girls' magazine Tina and the soccer comic 'Roel Dijkstra' (1975-1981) for Eppo. His stories have a strong predilection for absurd and occult themes. Brandt's importance for the Dutch comics industry has however been overshadowed by the posthumous revelations of his World War II activities, when he served in one of the cruellest divisions of the Waffen SS.

Ton Kooreman, Andries Brandt and Ank de Boer at the Toonder Studio's in 1958, by Thé Tjong-Khing

Born in Haarlem in 1918, Andries Brandt worked at a bank after leaving school. This didn't last long, and he held a variety of jobs until 1938, when he joined the army. He served as a reserve officer candidate in the 2-5 Border Battalion of the Dutch army from August 1938 until May 1940. He spent the largest part of the war at home with his mother. The regional employment office of Haarlem sent him to work as an office clerk in the Mauser Werke factory in Obendorf, Germany, in May 1943. He held this job until Autumn 1944, then joined the SS on 1 November 1944, and received an officer's training in Hoogeveen and at the SS Jagdverband Nord/West in Neustrelitz. He was at the front near the German-Polish border for two weeks, was wounded by grenade shrapnels and nursed back to health by an elderly Russian lady. He returned to the Netherlands with the Kommando Zeppelin, also known as the Kommando Steinbach, in April 1945. Commanding officer was Andries Pieters (1916-1952), and the group's main task was to arrest and question Dutch resistance workers in the occupied zone. The group had forged German orders however, and operated autonomously in Brummen and Loosdrecht during the final war month. The Kommando Steinbach goes down in history as one of the cruellest SS divisions in the Netherlands; the descriptions of their torture methods are spine-chilling. Sicherheidsdienst chief in the Netherlands Willy Lages even ordered the arrest of Pieters for his insubordination on 2 May 1945. Andries Pieters was the final Dutchman to receive the death penalty in the Netherlands; his execution took place on 21 March 1952.

Andries Brandt has claimed he was a mere bystander in the excesses of the renegade group, and that he served in the technical division. Stijn Wiegerinck's book 'Het Commando Pieters' (Aspect, 2014) mentions no participation of Brandt in the tortures, and attributes the main atrocities to Pieters and SS-Sturmmann Wilhelm van de Loo (1909-1981). Brandt left the group's base in Loosdrecht in early May 1945, shortly after Adolf Hitler's death. He returned to his parental house, where his mother personally cut out the SS blood group tattoo from his arm. He remained in hiding, but turned himself in in September 1947. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment, and was subsequently put to forced labour in the Limburg mines. While he worked there Brandt took a course in drawing at the Famous Artists School. By the 1950s, there was a great demand for comics. Despite his lack of experience and his dubious background, Brandt was hired as a comics artist by the Marten Toonder Studios in Amsterdam in 1955. His official reading of the war years was that he had fled the Mauser Werke factory in 1944, spent the rest of the war in hiding and worked at the mines voluntarily. Marten Toonder was however largely aware of Brandt's background, but felt the man had served his time and deserved a new chance.

Holle Pinkel en Luie Labberdas by Andries Brandt
First appearance of Holle Pinkel (Leeuwarder Courant, 15 September 1960)

Brandt was quickly involved in practically all productions, either as a writer or as an illustrator. Brandt was regularly asked to sketch layouts, over which other artists could draw the final image. Stripschrift issue 77 (1975) mentions that he spent his first half year at the studio drawing the 'Koning Hollewijn' strip. With no specific credits known, he has subsequently contributed to the other Toonder series 'Tom Poes', 'Panda', and 'Kappie', but also to 'Olle Kapoen', 'Student Tijloos' (drawn by Gerrit Stapel), 'Joris Valckenier' (by Gerrit Stapel) and 'Marion' (by Jan Wesseling). Since his name doesn't appear in the general historiography of most of these comics, one can assume that Brandt participated in the plotting or provided assistance in the artwork. The 'Tom Poes' newspaper stories 'De Gezichtenhandel' (1961), 'Het Ontstoffen' (1961), 'De Wezelkennis' (1961), 'Het Boze Oog' (1961) and 'Het Huilen van Urgje' (1962) were possibly made with participation from Brandt. He provided the main plot for 'Heer Bommel en de Trullenhoedster' (1966) as well, although the final story was completely reworked by Marten Toonder.

Brandt took over the writing of 'Birre Beer' from Eiso Toonder in 1958 and plotted the stories for artist Ton Beek until the end of the strip's run in Algemeen Handelsblad on 28 March 1959. His first major work for the studio was his own creation 'Holle Pinkel'. In the classic Toonder tradition, the main character was an anthropomorphic rabbit who has all kinds of adventures in an animal forest. 'Holle Pinkel' was a balloon comic however, while Toonder's own series were text strips. Brandt initially wrote and pencilled the feature himself, with Ank de Boer doing the inking duties. 'Holle Pinkel' ran in local and regional newspapers like Leeuwarder Courant en Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant from 15 September 1960 until 11 June 1963. During the eleventh story, Piet Wijn took over the artwork. Wijn drew five more stories from scripts by Brandt, and subsequently made a full color page for the Christian weekly De Spiegel all by himself in 1963-1964.

Holle Pinkel en de ijzeren prinses (1962)

Andries Brandt served as head of the Toonder Studio's comics department from 1963 until 1972. In 1965 Marten Toonder moved to Ireland and Bert Kroon became general manager of the company, which relocated to the castle of Nederhorst den Bergh two years later. By 1965 the studio acquired a large order from publisher De Geïllustreerde Pers for weekly back-up stories starring 'Little Hiawatha' and the 'Big Bad Wolf' for their Disney magazine Donald Duck. Brandt and newcomer Patty Klein were the main scriptwriters of these stories. Klein joined Brandt at the studios in 1966 and most of their scripts were joint efforts from then on. The duo added many new elements to the series. The Big Bad Wolf and his Foul Fellows' Club regularly ran into trouble with Miss Schaapkens and her "Brave Damesbond" ("Descent Ladies Union"). The little indian Hiawatha got a dog called Humpie, and his tribe's medicine man got a more prominent role in the stories. Most stories were drawn by Jan Steeman ('Big Bad Wolf') and Jan van Haasteren ('Hiawatha'), but Dick Matena, Bjørn Frank Jensen and Piet Wijn were also involved in the production. Between 1968 and 1970 the team wrote many stories with Hanna-Barbera's 'The Flintstones', 'Yogi Bear' and 'Cave Kids' for the monthly comic book De Flintstones, another publication of De Geïllustreerde Pers.

Andries Brandt furthermore wrote a couple of stories for the 'Tom Poes' balloon comic, which ran in Donald Duck. 'De Tegendeler' (1967) and 'De Rappe Raters' (1968) are known to be his, and he has also further developed Patty Klein's test assignment 'De Woelwater' (1967). Later on, Brandt and Klein plotted 'Tom Poes en de Wiekschieters' (1970), which appeared as a promotional comic for Alete-Molenaar infant nutrition. With artist Jan van Haasteren, they created 'Bartje en Opa' for free local papers from Amsterdam (1967-1970) and The Hague (1970-1971). Klein and Van Haasteren later continued the comic without Brandt for the children's magazine Jippo under the title 'Erik en Opa' (1974-1980). During the final years of the comics department, the Toonder Studios received orders from foreign publishers as well. This resulted in Brandt and Klein plotting stories with Rolf Kauka's 'Fix und Foxi', 'Pauli' and 'Die Pichelsteiner' for Fix und Foxi magazine from Germany, and also many gags with the anthropomorphic cat 'Pelle Svanslös' (a creation of Gösta Knutsson) for Semic Press in Sweden. The team also came up with new series which stranded in the development phase, such as 'Toef de Tiller' (with Jan van Haasteren), 'De Wensvervuller' (Piet Wijn), 'Engel en duivel' (Piet Wijn), 'Otje Otter' (Jan van Haasteren) and 'Wriemelburg' (Leo van Noppen).

First strip of Horre, Harm en Hella, drawn by Juan Escandell (1968)

Brandt's main activities during the late 1960s and early 1970s were however the two newspaper strips he developed through the studios for newspaper De Telegraaf. The first of these was the text comic 'Horre, Harm en Hella' (1968-1971), which became the creation he is associated with the most. The strip stars the social outcast Horre Grim, his daughter Hella and their servant Harm. Their endeavours are within the realms of the mystic and the occult, which makes them regular targets of riots. The first story starts with villagers attacking their mansion with pichforks, torches and sticks, which makes the family move once again. The highly awkward Horre just takes it all good-humouredly, however. The man doesn't see himself as strange; his philosophy is that all other people are strange. The extraordinary comic strip began publication in De Telegraaf on 18 December 1968 and ran for eleven stories until 11 March 1971. The original artist was the Spaniard Juan Escandell, who was hired through a British agency (therefore the authors thought for many years they had worked with a Brit called "S. Candell"). He was replaced by Thé Tjong-Khing at the end of the first story. Jan van Haasteren joined Khing in the second story, and during the third adventure, Georges Mazure assumed the artwork. The initial concept was created by Brandt in cooperation with Klein, but the texts have remained a personal project for Brandt however. Brandt remained the main plotter of the stories throughout the strip's run, but for the later stories Vera Wijman was brought in to write the captions.

Aafje Anders arrives in Amsterdam (1971), artwork by Jan van Haasteren

By 1971 De Telegraaf demanded something more light-hearted. Out were the unusual Horre, Harm and Hella, in came the cheeky girl Aafje Anders. Her adventures are set in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam, which makes them instantly recognizable. It also gave Brandt the chance to mix current-affairs into his stories. Aafje is however different than regular girls. Like her name suggests ("anders" means "different"), her solutions and methods are out-of-the-box, while her nature is rather recalcitrant. She seems to fall from one adventure into the other, but luckily her inventive grandfather is always nearby to help her out. Jan van Haasteren was the original artist of the feature, which began in De Telegraaf on 20 March 1971. He didn't feel at ease with the semi-realistic drawing style however, and was replaced by the Brit Robert Hamilton in the fifth story. Toonder staffer Richard Klokkers took care of the backgrounds in the Hamilton stories. The tenth and final adventure came to an end on 17 April 1973. Both 'Horre, Harm en Hella' and 'Aafje Anders' have been published in book format in the collection 'Uit de Toonder Studio's' by Arboris and Het Stripschap during the 1980s. An earlier book with the first 'Horre, Harm en Hella' stories was published by Tango in 1974.

Professor A.B.C. Breinbreier, with art by Carry Brugman

Andries Brandt had left his staff function with the Toonder Studio's in 1972, and began working as a freelance writer from his farmhouse in Acquoy, a town near Geldermalsen. The comics division of the studio was closed down in the following year, leaving only the staffers Richard Klokkers, Frits Godhelp and later Jaap Lamberton to take care of the remaining work. Brandt and Klein took their ongoing German assignment for Kauka with them, but mostly went their separate ways. Both became prominent writers for the magazines published by Oberon, the comics division of the VNU publishing group. One of Brandt's first project was taking over 'Joris Jofel' (1972-1974) from scriptwriter Ruud Ringers. The main character is a boy who suffers from "griezelitis" ("shiveritis"), which restrains him in getting the creeps. Brandt and artist Carry Brugman made three more stories with the characters, and then continued their collaboration with two adventures of 19th century genious 'Professor Breinbreier' and his less capable assistant D.E.F. Grutjes (1974-1975).

Andries Brandt was also a regular writer for girls' magazine Tina. His first creation were the contemporary adventures of 'Winny de Wilde' (1973-1974) with Jaap Vermeij. Then came the melodramatic stories of 'Jennifer Scott' (1973-1975), which are set in rural Oregon during the period of the American pioneers, and drawn by Piet Wijn. The title character is an upper middle class girl, who flees from her evil aunt and tries to find her father, who is wrongfully accused of robbing a bank. Brandt worked with Robert Hamilton again on the everyday adventures of 'Kitty' (1974-1975), although the third story also delved into occult territory. Later creations for Tina include the adventures of 'Stewardess Paula' (1976-1981) with art by Jesus Redondo, and independent stories like 'Carla - Koningin van de nacht' (1982, art by Ron Lumsden), 'Anja - De wraak van Zavel' (1982-1983, art by Carlos Freixas) and 'Winny en de wonderoliebollen' (1983, art by Trini Tinturé).

Tina en Debbie - Mode, Maskers en Misdaad (Tina #26, 1982), artwork by Purita Campos

He was also responsible for the magazine's new title comic. Tina was originally a translation of the British magazine Princess Tina. Between 1968 and 1973 it ran an ongoing story called 'Tina's eigen verhaal', which was of British origin and had artwork by Bill Baker. By 1974, the local production of stories blossomed and the editors felt they needed a title hero whom the Dutch readers could relate to. Andries Brandt's 'Tina en Debbie' made its debut in issue 36 of 1974, and would remain the main series until 2010. Tina was a model, while her friend Debbie was a fashion designer. This provided the writer with enough material to set off the two girls on adventures all over the world. The artwork was done by Purita Campos, who had also worked for the British magazine, and was responsible for Tina's painted covers. Andries Brandt wrote the stories until shortly before his death in 1985. Patty Klein scripted one episode in 1985, after which editor Marjolein Winkel took over, while a couple of stories were written by Klein's sister Conny Möricke in between. By 1998 former editor-in-chief Kitty Smit assumed the writing duties, often in collaboration with Lucienne van Ek. These stories appeared under a variety of pseudonyms inlucing Kian-Sú, Karin Fytts, Lucy Kettenini, Frank Titsy and Hannie Smitman. In 2008 Edmond Ripoll replaced Campos as the artist. The series came to an end in 2010 when the editors decided to focus on a younger demography. Over the course of 2013 a completely new and more modern Tina designed by Jan Vriends was introduced.

Andries Brandt was present in the early issues of De Vrije Balloen (1975), the more adult-oriented and experimental comics magazine initiated by Patty Klein and Jan van Haasteren. The magazine offered full artistic freedom for its contributors. The initiative was largely fueled by the insecurities following the cancellation of the magazines Sjors and Pep, and the limitations of working for children's magazines. The first edition of De Vrije Balloen was published in 1975 and was truly a group effort with no hierarchy. The team indulged in a variety of graphical exercises, saucy stories and other rowdy experiments. Brandt participated with scripts for stories drawn by Robert van der Kroft, Thé Tjong-Khing and Jan van Haasteren, among other people.

He developed new series for Eppo, the comics magazine that originated from the merger between Sjors and Pep in 1975. With Carry Brugman he made the contemporary western 'Burt Becker', which remained unpublished, but was eventually printed in book format in Oberon's black-and-white album series in 1979. More enduring was the soccer comic 'Roel Dijkstra' (1975-1981), which Brandt made with Jan Steeman from the first issue onwards. For the early stories, soccer player Willem van Hanegem was involved as an advisor. Brandt was anything but a soccer fan, and gave Steeman free game to fill the sports sequences himself. The character was initially a talented player with the local club FC Leidrecht, but was turned into an international soccer hero as the stories progressed. Steeman and Brandt made ten stories with the character until 1981, after which new episodes were drawn subsequently by the Brit Keith Watson and the Serb Marinko Lebovic, while Dave Hunt, Jaap Bubenik and Roy Robson (Jacques Post) took care of the scripts. The series was revived in 2016 by Willem Ritstier and Roelof Wijtsma in the relaunched Eppo magazine.

Marten Toonder (left) and Andries Brandt (right) in the 1980s(?)

Andries Brandt passed away from a heart attack in his hometown Acquoy on 15 April 1985, at the age of 67. It wasn't until after his death that most of his friends and co-workers learned from his activities during the war. Several of them have tried to capture his mysterious personality; Patty Klein in her poetry, others in testimonials and interviews. To introduce 'Horre, Harm en Hella' in De Telegraaf in 1968, Marten Toonder wrote: "Andries Brandt is a gifted writer/draftsman, and one of the most fascinating artists I have worked with, although he hides his qualities behind a completely normal appearance: his clothing is more conservative than hip, and his face (...) reveals earnestness and deep thoughts. He speaks his words calmly and deliberately - and in discussions he stands out by his staid silence. At the beginning of our collaboration I was misled by this performance, but gradually it became clear that behind this performance there was a world which puzzled the outsider with riddles. Because of a slight flicker of the eye, a mysterious smile around the corners of the mouth or an inexplicable remark, I soon realized that he was different and that his views were withdrawn from current norms."

Horre, Harm en Hella (De Telegraaf, 9 July 1969), drawn by Jan van Haasteren

In Stripschrift issue 289 (1996), the always outspoken Dick Matena described Brandt as a closed and bitter man, who had a rather sadistic sense of humor. In the Dutch pages of the Comiclopedia, Fred Julsing recalls that he was at first intimidated by Brandt, but that they gradually grew to like each other because they shared the same revolutionary social interests. Klein, Matena and Julsing have however all praised him as a good tutor. One can perhaps find hints of Andries Brandt's uncompromising character in his more personal creations. Horre, Harm and Hella are outsiders, and their state-of-mind and actions are far from the general social norms. De Telegraaf editor-in-chief Henri Goeman Borgesius apparently hated the sadistic overtones, even though the strip can be best described as absurd. Aafje Anders is also a bit of an oddball, with her unconventional character traits.

It is difficult to assess Andries Brandt's work without having his dubious past in mind, but it can't be denied that he has put a tremendous mark on the Dutch comics industry of the 1960s and 1970s. With Patty Klein, he was a pioneer of the local production of Disney stories in the Netherlands. He later did the same for Tina, providing the magazine with a mascot which lasted for over 35 years. As studio chief of the Toonder Studio's, he has trained young talent for many years, while his soccer comic 'Roel Dijkstra' remains a Dutch classic in the genre to this day.

Andries Brandt in the 1970s

Andries Brandt in De Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis

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