Robur by Flip Fermin
'Robur' page from Okki/Jippo Winterboek.

Flip Fermin may not be a household name within the realm of Dutch underground comix. Yet he was nevertheless an enigmatic character within the Amsterdam comic scene of the 1970s and 1980s. A promising artist, his talents unfortunately never came to bloom. He only published a couple of stories within his lifetime, which mostly starred the anthropomorphic birds 'Robur & Pennekamp'.

Life and work for Tante Leny Presenteert
Philippe Fermin was born in 1947 in Amsterdam. After his education at the Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam, Fermin came in contact with the artists Joost Swarte and Peter Pontiac of the alternative comic magazine Tante Leny Presenteert (which was edited by Evert Geradts). He published one story in Tante Leny ('Honeyman H' with Hans Berclouw in issue #21) and was editor of the comics news magazine Inkt, which lasted for seven issues (0 through 6) between 1974 and 1976. The magazine gave a complete bibliography of the 1960s music magazines Aloha and Hitweek, and published the original version of the rejected "Donald Duck as Milkman" story by Carl Barks. The magazine also printed articles about George McManus, Calvo, US comic books and Winsor McCay and featured artwork by Ever Meulen, Joost Swarte, Piet Schreuders, Aart Clerkx and Peter Pontiac.

Honeyman H by Flip Fermin
'Honeyman H'.

Robur & Pennekamp / Other comics
Although Fermin was obviously influenced by the underground comix movement, the few stories he created appeared in children's magazines. Among them were wo pages starring the anthropomorphic birds 'Robur & Pennekamp' for Mickey Maandblad (issue #7 in 1977), a story with the same characters in Winterboek Okki/Jippo 1976-1977, and a crossover story of 23 pages with Joost Swarte's characters 'Katoen & Pinbal' for Jippo (1976-1977). His comic story 'Die Vagabunden' was published in the local newspaper Bussumse Courant on 8 December 1977, and further work by Fermin appeared in Lambiek Bulletin, Furore and SOD. He regularly drew unpublished advertisements for (and with!) his friend Olaf Stoop, owner of the Real Free Press.

Die Vagabunden, by Flip Fermin
'Die Vagabunden'. 

Fermin felt associated with "poètes maudits" - artists who lived in the fringes of society - such as poets J. Slauerhoff, Arthur Rimbaud and Charles Baudelaire, novelist Charles Bukowski, country musician Hank Williams and jazz musician Chet Baker. Among his main artistic influences were American proto-underground artists like George Herriman and Basil Wolverton, as well as the underground art of Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton, and Franco-Belgian Clear Line authors like Hergé and Edgar Pierre Jacobs.

Lambiek Bulletin
Cover for Lambiek Bulletin #3 (1975).

Fermin's talent was also reflected in the many letters and cards he sent to his friends. He used techniques like pen and ink, watercolours and gouache, and his work was characterized by a large sense of perfection. He also used the pen names Kadierung Heinz, Framing Hank, Dr. Friedrich Axel and Phileas Spleeno.

Robur en Pennekamp
1985 New Year card by Flip Fermin.

Mentor role and comics promotion
Despite his small oeuvre, Fermin and his striking personality have left a lasting impression on many people in the comic industry. He was a salesman in Kees Kousemaker's comics shop Lambiek in Amsterdam in the early 1970s, where his infectuous enthusiasm about certain books captivated many. Apart from his affiliation with the Dutch underground comix scene, Fermin was friends with Pep editor Jan de Rooij and Donald Duck's Thom Roep, who have  praised him for his ingenious use of language. Fermin was elemental in the debut of Windig & De Jong at the publishing house Oberon, and he also guided the young Gerard Leever in his first steps as a comic artist in his sister Jet's comics shop in Bussum.

Selfportrait, by Flip Fermin

Final years and death
Together with Peter Pontiac, Filip Fermin supplied the lettering for the Yiddish edition of Will Eisner's graphic novel 'A Contract With God', published as 'An Opmakh mit Got' by Éditions Lambiek in 1983. He continued to work as a letterer with Peter Pontiac on other projects later in his life. Philippe Robert Daniel Manta Fermin passed away on 25 January 1994 after having suffered from liver disease.

Posthumous events
Two years after Filip Fermin's death, an exhibition of his work was held in Gallery Karass in Haarlem. A collection of Fermin's comic stories was published by Fake Booij for this occasion. Fermin's death was featured in an intense segment of Peter Pontiac's posthumous released graphic novel 'Styx' (2016), which dealt with Pontiac's own liver disease and upcoming death.

Peter Pontiac and Flip Fermin
Peter Pontiac and Flip Fermin at the opening of the Peter Pontiac exposition at Gallery Lambiek on 27 November 1987.

Series and books by Flip Fermin you can order today:


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