De doka van Hercules
'De doka van Hercules'.

The collective known as "De Enschedese School" is one of the most obscure side notes in Dutch comics history. In fact, their sole comic book, 'De Doka van Hercules, door W.F. Bernards' (1981) was not even drawn by any of the members, but constructed from panels taken from pulp comic books. It was made in commission of CJP, a Dutch cultural foundation for youngsters, but the board of directors eventually ordered the entire print run destroyed because it shamelessly spoofed W.F. Hermans' classic novel 'De donkere kamer van Damokles'.

Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 20 November 1981.

The core of "De Enschedese School" ("The School of Enschede") consisted of Kees Maas (Eindhoven, 1953), Willem Wisselink, Johan Visser (Gorinchem, 1952) and Frans Oosterhof (Nijverdal, 20 August 1951). The foundations were layed during their education at the AKI Art Academy in Enschede in the first half of the 1970s. Together with fellow students Dingenus van de Vrie and Rose-Marie Gerritsen (Velp, 20 January 1950) and their teacher Geert Voskamp (Hengelo, 17 December 1934), they began their activities in an old school building near the city borders of Enschede in 1975. Although they aimed at a different approach of art, they didn't consider themselves revolutionaries or a movement. The team tried to sell their art in circulation, while maintaining their exclusivity. They sometimes held art manifestations in local supermarkets, but most of their works reached their (modest) audience by mail. They jokingly called it "Modern art by PTT" (referring to the Dutch postal services). Four times a year, the group sent a piece of art to their subscribers, 250 at the top of their popularity. Their first project in January 1977 was a silkscreen presenting 'The downfall of the house Escher' (a pun at Edgar Allan Poe's short story 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher), which the subscribers could send back nine times, after which the print was provided with a dramatic addition. Other projects included an envelope with a stamp featuring mayor Henk Vonhoff, a set of postcards, a tabletop diorama and an "artist's breakfast set". Their productions often balanced between sophisticated kitsch and (self-)parody. Like the group's punk label, De 1000 Idioten Records (later: Idiot Records), which derived its name from the idea that there would be at least a thousand idiots who would buy their products. Idiot Records released albums and singles by Fay Lovsky, Mathilde Santing, Paul Tornado, De Gigantjes and Maas and Wisselink's own musical project Kewi University of Swing, among other artists. Under their imprint De Ark they published books like 'Im Herbst' (1979) by Frans Oosterhof, the art book 'Le Moment Suprême' (1981) and 'Fatale filatelie' (1984) by Roland Sips, as well as their own magazine De Enschedese School (1980-1982).

'De Doka van Hercules' comic strip
By 1981 the four remaining members Maas, Wisselink, Visser and Oosterhof relocated activities to Amsterdam. Around that time their work was picked up by Henri van Loenen, director of CJP, the "Cultural Youth Passport" (Cultureel Jongeren Paspoort). The foundation's goal is to create cultural awareness among youngsters. Van Loenen assigned the "Enschedese School" to make a comic book, which would be sent to the passport owners. The team decided to spoof both literature and hard-boiled pulp comics by combining the two. Members Maas and Wisselink cut panels and sequences from existing war, crime and romance comic books, mainly of Italian origin. They pasted them into a new narrative, with new texts, parodying 'De donkere kamer van Damokles' (1958), a Dutch literary classic by Willem Frederik Hermans. In the original war novel, the main character Henri Osewoudt gets involved in the resistance through the mysterious Dorbeck, who is his spitting image. In the comic book, the names of the main characters are changed to Henk Osseworst (referring to a local raw beef sausage) and Droogbek ("Drymouth"). The comic further follows the story rather faithfully, but adds ironical dialogues and offbeat visual collages in different art styles. A cover was designed by Wisselink and Visser.

De doka van Hercules

'De Doka van Hercules' by "W.F. Bernards" however never reached its target audience. CJP distribution centers in Ermelo and Middelharnis objected against the work, and alerted the board of directors, headed by Han Lammers. The board members deemed a respected cultural foundation shouldn't release such an inferior piece of art, especially one which could offend one of the Netherlands' top novelists. With the exception of 500 already distributed copies, the entire print run was destroyed, much to the chagrin of director Van Loenen and the authors. Luckily for them, Amsterdam-based publisher Ger van Wulften didn't want to see this unique comic destined for oblivion. Still in 1981, he published the book under his Espee imprint, and added newspaper clippings regarding the CJP censorship on the flyleafs.

De doka van Hercules
'De doka van Hercules'

The most fruitful period of "De Enschedese School" was between 1977 and 1985. In Amsterdam, other artists had joined, but different points of view gradually separated the original group. Some members wanted to make "highbrow" art, while others preferred a lighter touch, such as Visser and Wisselink, who left in 1985. The collective officially disbanded in 1997 with an overview exhibition called 'Zelfmoord op verjaardag!' in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In the exhibition's catalogue, some members were critical of their own achievements, especially because they never maintained a steady house style or vision.

Kees Maas continued to operate as an independent graphic artist, sculptor and performer. Johan Visser runs his own advertising agency, while Willem Wisselink has worked as a film director and graphic designer through his own company Mixed Media since 1989. The group's "ideologist" Frans Oosterhof is active as an illustrator, graphic/collage artist and painter. Former member Rose Marie Gerritsen works as a photographer and painter, while Dingenus van de Vrie has been assistant conservator of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Senior member Geert Voskamp was also co-founder of the art group Instituut Houtappel, and has been successful with theater productions.

De doka van Hercules
'De doka van Hercules'.

De Enschedese School in Lambiek's Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis

Series and books by De Enschedese School in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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