Cover of Stripschrift, by Gleever

Gerard Leever, also known under his pseudonym Gleever, is one of the Netherlands' most recognizable authors of humorous children's comics. He has worked for magazines like Eppo, Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad, Donald Duck, Taptoe, Tina, Troskompas, Suske en Wiske Weekblad, Jetix Magazine and Dolfje Weerwolfje, creating many series. Generations of Taptoe readers grew up with his iconic 'Oktoknopie' (1985-2009), a gag strip about a young boy and his sentient toy. Since 2001 he is responsible for the most popular feature in the girls' magazine Tina, about the twin sisters 'Suus & Sas'. His appealing creations earned him the nickname "Godfather of Dutch children's comics". At the same time Gleever holds historical significance for being - together with Peter Pontiac - one of the first Dutchmen to draw autobiographical comics, in his case through his diary: 'Gleever's Dagboek'. 

Superhobo, by Gleever

Early life and career
Born in Naarden in 1960, Gerard Leever already knew he wanted to become a comic artist when he was nine years old. Together with his brother Johan he visited many Dutch artists in the hope of obtaining some of their original artwork. At age 14 he saw his comic strip 'Daan Doffer' (1974) published in a paper for pigeon fanciers. Later that decade he worked in comics shop Wammes in Bussum, where he met the legendary Flip Fermin, who was the brother of the owner. Fermin gave him his first lessons in drawing comics. Early Gleever artwork appeared in Har van Fulpen's comic magazine Speedo (#2, 1977), on the cover of Kees Kousemaker's Lambiek Bulletin (#7, 1978) and in the Wammes fanzine De Snavel. Fermin wrote him a script with the superhero character 'Superhobo' (1979), but the story remained unfinished. Leever revived the character in 2000 for his contribution to the "Pincet" series of mini comics by De Plaatjesmaker. He redrew and completed the original story for publication in the Funny Farm magazine Razzafrazz in 2005. Besides Fermin, arists like Albert Uderzo, Daan Jippes and Wilbert Plijnaar became major influences on Leever's work, as was Preston Blair's guidebook 'Cartoon Animation'.

Gleever's Dagboek
'Gleevers Dagboek' installment featuring Flip Fermin.

Gleever's Dagboek
After school, he fulfilled his military service in Germany, during which he kept a drawn diary - the first version of his famous 'Gleever's Dagboek'. Leever continued this series of autobiographical strips in the comics news magazines Striprofiel (1981-1988), Stripschrift (1988-2006) and Stripnieuws (2006-). While for the earliest installments Leever actively engaged in activities out of his comfort zone to have something to report about, like spending the night in a Salvation Army shelter, the episodes quickly became more personal. The diary gives an openhearted look in the professional life of a comic artist, and his struggles with clients and colleagues. But also his family life, childhood and personal insecurities are covered; all colored with an absurd exaggeration or melancholic nod. A first book collection was published by Striprofiel editor Maarten J. de Meulder in 1996. A second collection served as the 2012 "Comic Book Gift". In later years, new episodes, as well as newly colored older ones, have appeared in Razzafrazz and Eppo. 'Gleevers Dagboek' was the first comics diary in the Netherlands. The genre was picked up in the 1990s by a new wave of female authors like Barbara Stok and Maaike Hartjes, who generally get the credit for introducing this type of comics in The Netherlands. The lack of recognition has always bugged Leever, but it did give him new material for future installments...

'Mysteries', Gleevers Dagboek installment from 1992.

In 1981 and 1982, he was assigned by comic magazine Eppo to illustrate the puzzles page. He later helped Uco Egmond with the inking of the 'Eppo' gag comic, while he also drew some pages on his own in 1983-1984. Eppo #20 of 1982 ran the short story 'Dennis de Wonderhond', for which Leever drew the dog characters and provided the inking. Peter de Wit drew the humans and co-wrote the script with Hanco Kolk, marking the debut of their writing partnership. Gleever also illustrated Eppo's mail page for several years, until he was replaced by Hein de Kort in 1985.

Studio Arnhem
Gerard Leever joined the comic artists group Studio Arnhem from July 1982 until late 1985. It was in this inspirational environment that he fully developed himself into a professional comic artist, while also meeting his future wife and colorist Wilma Leenders. The other studio members were Hanco Kolk, Aloys Oosterwijk, René Meulenbroek, Ben Jansen and Evert Geradts. An early Gleever production at the studio was a comic strip for the OnderwijsWijzer, a supplement about education for several regional newspapers in 1983. As inker, he participated in the collective comic strip about the photographer 'Otto Raaf' (1983), of which one story ('Concert voor Carras') was serialized in the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool from 3 January until 26 March 1983. Leever inked the pencilled characters by Oosterwijk, while the backgrounds were drawn by Ben Jansen and René Meulenbroek. The story was provided by non-studio member Ger Apeldoorn. In 1984 Leever also self-published a comic book with fantasy creatures called 'De Knuffels'.

'Ernst Vrolijk & Dick Hout'- 'Kookpotten en Klappen' (Robbedoes #2418, 1984).

Ernst Vrolijk & Dick Hout
With Kolk and Meulenbroek, he made 'Ernst Vrolijk en Dick Hout' for Robbedoes, the Flemish equivalent of Spirou, which had opened several of its pages to Dutch and Flemish authors at the time. The series debuted in issue #2430 (8 November 1984) and featured short humorous stories about a two-man employment agency who took all kinds of bizarre assignments. Ernst Vrolijk is the blackhaired one and generally straight, timid and unsure. His name is a pun on the contrast between Dutch words "ernst" ("seriousness") and "vrolijk" ("happy"). Dick Hout is the bald one who always takes the initiative, though often puts them in more risk than they could foresee. His name is a pun on the word "dik hout" ("big wood") and the expression "van dik hout zaagt men planken" (used in situations where things are taken care of in an efficient but crude manner). Although a studio effort, 'Ernst Vrolijk & Dick Hout' had a clear separation of each individual task. Kolk wrote the stories, while Gleever provided the artwork for the characters and René Uilenbroek de backgrounds. In total four stories were produced, but only three appeared in Robbedoes. 

De Vloek van Bangebroek by Gleever

De Vloek van Bangebroek
Robbedoes also published Leever's first solo comic series, 'De Vloek van Bangebroek' (1984-1985). Originally based on a concept for a newspaper comic by René Meulenbroek, Gerard Leever took it to his own hand and developed it into a funny gag strip about a village inhabited by vampires, monsters and zombies. By 2008 and 2009 Gleever made new episodes of 'De Vloek van Bangebroek' for Jetix Magazine. The series appeared in book format as 'Mon Ami le Monstre' (French) and 'The Curse of Yellowville' (English) in the educational Leesleeuw collection of the publishing house Zwijsen in 2008. Two album collections were published by Strip2000 in 2014.

Return to Oberon
When Robbedoes' Dutch section was cancelled, Gerard Leever's prominence at the publishing house Oberon rose. First of all, he and scriptwriter Jan van Die launched 'Kanaal 13' (1985-1986) in Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd, a series of two-page stories about a fictional TV channel and its quest for higher ratings. One album collection appeared at Van Die's own Divo label in 1987. Gleever illustrated the magazine's mail section and provided original cover illustrations starring the magazine's foreign characters. He most notably made cover drawings for the Dutch album publications of the originally British creations 'Billie Bunter' ('Billie Turf') and 'Bessie Bunter' ('Bessie Turf') in the period 1985-1987. In 1986 he furthermore succeeded Mark de Jonge as the illustrator of the jokes page in Donald Duck weekly. It was one of the few editoral non-Disney pages in the magazine. Leever illustrated the section until 1996, when Kees de Boer took over.

Oktoknopie by Gleever

1985 was a productive year for Gerard Leever, as he also created one of the most defining characters of his career for Malmberg's school magazine Taptoe. On 15 September 1985 he began his famous gag comic 'Oktoknopie', about a boy, Jopie, who owns a sentient octopus toy named Oktoknopie. Oktoknopie has magic powers. When he and Jopie are alone he grows until he is much bigger than him. He then fulfills Jopie's wishes through crazy inventions, such as a time machine. In most episodes other people seem unaware that the doll is alive. In other episodes he changes reality to such a degree that even Jopie's parents, teachers and friends seem to realize something. Interestingly enough 'Oktoknopie' debuted only a few months before on 18 November 1985 a similar newspaper comic about a boy and his sentient doll appeared in the USA: Bill Watterson's 'Calvin and Hobbes'. 'Oktoknopie' appeared on the back page of Taptoe for years, until the school magazine underwent a drastic restyling in 2009. From 2010 on, reprints of 'Oktoknopie' have appeared in the Dutch Nickelodeon Magazine for a while, and the comic was also published in Spanish as 'Oktavio' in National Geographic Kids (2010). Malmberg and later Silvester have collected 'Oktoknopie' in a seven albums between 2000 and 2016. In 2000 the series won the Award for Best Dutch Children's Book during the Dutch Stripdagen. 

Het Felix Flux Museum, by Gleever
Het Felix Flux Museum - 'De Roep van het Masker' (1990).

Het Felix Flux Museum
In the second half of the 1980s most of Gerard Leever's regular work for Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd had come to an end. He decided it was time to embark upon a "real" comic. He teamed up with his friend Kees de Boer to write an adventure series loosely inspired by the 'Indiana Jones' movie franchise. The concept starred the employees of an ethnological museum who roam the world in search of ancient artefacts. Gleever made the artwork, and Wilma Leenders provided the effective coloring. The project had been two-and-a-half years in the making when 'De Roep van het Masker' (1990) finally began serialization. By then, the weekly Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd had been transformed into the bi-weekly Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad, and was no longer published by Oberon but by Big Balloon. Two more serials followed: 'De Maya-codex' (1992) and 'De Jum van de Ararat' (1994). The first two stories were published in book format by Big Balloon. Silvester picked up in the early 2000s and collected the entire series in three albums. The series was also published in Finnish and Norwegian. Despite critical praise, the authors had to cancel the series by lack of time and prepublication possibilities.

Leever and De Boer also collaborated on 'Junior Reporter' for Junior, the children's publication of the Red Cross (1989-1990). Leever still regularly works at De Boer's Funny Farm Studio, located in the old offices of Studio Arnhem.

Dik van Dieren by Gerard Leever
'Dik van Dieren en zo'.

Dik van Dieren en Zo
When 'Felix Flux' was cancelled, Gleever went to Suske en Wiske Weekblad to write and draw 'Dik van Dieren en Zo' (1995-2003), a comic about a former lab assistant who starts his own "solutions agency" with a group of freed lab animals. This comic debuted in issue #20 (April 1995) and ran until the cancellation of the magazine in 2003. Silvester released one album collection in 2003. It was reprinted along with the publication of a second album by by Strip2000 in 2012. Spin-offs to the series have appeared in the children's magazines of publisher Zwijsen in the second half of the 2000s. 'Pim, Pam en Pluis' (2007-2008) appeared in Roetsj!, and focused on a boy, a girl and a mouse from the original series. 'Zoo op Zolder' (2009) ran briefly in Paul van Loon's Dolfje Weerwolfje Magazine.

Gemengd Dubbel 
In 1996, he and Jan van Die started a strip, 'Gemengd Dubbel' (1996-2005), in the TV guide Troskompas. The series revolves around a multicultural family. Father Anton is a white man married to a black woman, Rosita. Together they have a white teenage daughter, Rox, and a black ten-year old son, Reggi. The family dog is named Animo. 

Gemengd Dubbel by Gleever
'Gemengd Dubbel'.

Suus & Sas
Gerard Leever began his long and successful collaboration with the girls' magazine Tina in 2001. Editor-in-chief Ingrid Kluvers was in search of a new gag series that could eventually replace the iconic 'Noortje' by Jan Steeman and Patty Klein, as artist Steeman was reaching his retirement age. Gleever's proposal for a gag strip starring teenage twin sisters came at the right time. The characters 'Suus & Sas' were introduced in a short story in Tina #26 of 2001, and the first official gag series started a couple of weeks later, in issue #29. Initially bi-weekly, 'Suus & Sas' became a weekly presence in Tina in 2006, and since 2012 Leever also makes longer stories about the teenagers every five weeks. The series eventually replaced 'Noortje' on the back cover. Books of 'Suus en Sas' have been published by Sanoma, Strip 2000 and Uitgeverij L.

Suus en Sas, by Gleever
'Suus en Sas'.

The author's own teenage daughters served as the direct inspiration for Suus (longer hair) and Sas (shorter hair). Therefore Tina's readership could easily recognize themselves in the twin's dealings with boys (especially Suus endless crush on the "fries hunk" from the snack bar), their annoying brother Max and a host of even more annoying teachers. Other episodes are set on the soccer field, the library (where the girls always get kicked out because of their corny puns on writers' names) or in the tent of the clairvoyant Madame Zizal. Between 2011 and 2014 the illustrated editorial section 'Lief Sasboek' (2011) offered a peek in Sas' diary. By the time the author's own daughters had grown into adults, the comic's universe offered enough starting points for new gag variations or new storylines. Still his personal life can serve as inspiration. When Leever's first grandchild was born in 2018, Suus and Sas immediately became the babysitters of their new nephew Sam in the comic. Colleagues and writers such as Patty Klein, Jan Steeman, Nanda Roep and Carry Slee have made guest appearances, while Leever's colleague and friend Mars Gremmen served as the inspiration for the bird watcher Marcella.

Suus & Sas from Tina #30, 2019. Gleever's grandson Sam has become a regular side-character. Also appearing is "aunt" Kelly, the comics version of the author's daughter, who originally was one of the original inspirations for 'Suus & Sas'!

Within no time 'Suus & Sas' won over the hearts of Tina's readership, and their comic remains the magazine's most popular feature to this day. The author can count on long rows of fans waiting for a personal drawing at the annual Tina Festival in amusement parc Duinrell. The series heralded in a new period in Tina magazine's long existence, where funny but relatable humor comics gradually replaced the melodramatic and realistically drawn short stories and serials of the past. In its wake, other characters with a strong, personal connection to their creators's own lives were introduced, most notably 'Roos' (2007) by Jan Vriends and 'Lotta' (2019) by Marloes de Vries.

Other activities in the 2000s
While Leever's long-running features 'Gemengd Dubbel' and 'Oktoknopie' were cancelled during this period, several new but shorter-lived projects saw the light during the 2000s. For Paul Teng, he scripted a series of short stories related to Native Americans for Tina, namely 'Een goede ruil' (2003), 'Bizon' (2004) and 'Foto's aan de wand' (2006). In 2006, Gerard Leever and writer Patty Klein created the gag comic 'Ria en Rinus' (2006-2008) for the 50+ magazine Camé . Leever and Klein have additionally made a series of strips about public transport, called 'Dré en Gré in 't OV' (2007-2008). These strips were published in the door-to-door papers in the Gelderland region. In 2008 and 2009 he made new stories of 'De Vloek van Bangebroek' for Jetix Magazine, while reprints of both 'Oktoknopie' (2010) and 'Dik van Dieren en zo' (2015) appeared in Nickelodeon Magazine. On the side, Leever designed some mascots for commercial clients, such as the Jeroen Boschschool in Arnhem, Strip2000, Look-O-Look candy and the security company F.E.S. Management.

De Yeti's by Gleever
'De Yeti's'.

Comics for Zwijsen
A new recurring client during this period was the educational publishing house Zwijsen. Gleever first of all revived his 'Dik van Dieren' concept for the short-lived series 'Pim, Pam en Pluis' (2007-2008) in Roetsj! and 'Zoo op Zolder' (2009) in Dolfje Weerwolfje Magazine. He also contributed several booklets to Leesleeuw, a book collection aimed at language teaching. 'De Vloek van Bangebroek' was revived in the installments 'Mon Ami le Monstre' (French, 2008) and 'The Curse of Yellowville' (English, 2008), while he created several "Abominable Snowmen" for the book 'Phil, Polly and the Yeti's' (2009). The characters returned in Dolfje Weerwolfje Magazine under the title 'De Yeti's' (2009-2012). In that same magazine, Gleever subsequently wrote and drew 'WeerWolfWezen' (2013), featuring characters from Paul van Loon's original 'Dolfje Weerwolfje' book series. In 2009 Zwijsen and broadcasting organisation NOS launched Jeugdjournaal Magazine, a print monthly related to the Dutch children's TV news. Gleever was present with the adventures of the space traveler 'Ben Benieuwd' (2009-2011), whom he had first introduced in a short story in an Okki holiday book in 2000. The character returned in a new adventure called 'Ben Benieuwd en de ruimtelus', which was published directly in album format by Zwijsen in December 2018.

Gerard Leever and his characters.

Graphic contributions
In 2012 Gerard Leever contributed five strips to 'Bommel en de Bovenbazen', a new redrawn rendition by several Dutch artists of Marten Toonder's classic 'Tom Poes' story 'De Bovenbazen'. In 2016, he was one of the six Dutch artists to draw a comic book starring Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' for S.O.S. Children's Villages, based on a story by a Dutch celebrity. Leever made the story 'De Pientere Pop' with columnist Aaf Brandt Corstius. The other artists involved with the project were Eric Heuvel, Michiel de Jong, Hanco Kolk, Romano Molenaar and Gerben Valkema. For the Dutch StripGlossy, he has made crime noir comic stories inspired by EC Comics and Will Eisner's 'The Spirit' since 2014, as well as a new 'Ernst Vrolijk' story with René Meulenbroek (issue #4, March 2017). He paid tribute to André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' in the homage album 'Gefeliciflaterd!' (2017), and to Martin Lodewijk's secret agent 'Agent 327' in the short story 'Dossier Dark Webb' for Eppo #12 of 2018 (script in cooperation with Kees de Boer). In 2020 he joined 75 Dutch & Flemish comic artists to make a graphic contribution to the free collective comic book 'Striphelden versus Corona' (Oogachtend, Uitgeverij L, 2020). The book is intended to support comics stores who had to close their doors for two months during the lockdown at the height of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. 

Wilma Leenders
In an overview of Gerard Leever's impressive comics oeuvre, the role of his wife and colorist Wilma Leenders should not be overlooked. A former student of fashion design, she forms an essential part of Gerard Leever's comics production since their first meeting in 1983. Besides coloring all his pages, she of course also has a prominent role in his diary comics. Wilma has established herself as one of the leading comic colorists of the Netherlands. She has colored many comics in the magazines Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd and Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad, and is since many years the colorist of the front and back cover of Donald Duck weekly. Many comics by Hanco Kolk and Peter de Wit were treated with her coloring skills, including 'Gilles de Geus', 'De Familie Fortuin' and 'S1ngle'. She was also the regular colorist of Aloys Oosterwijk's 'Willems Wereld', Charel Cambré's 'Amoras' and 'Jan, Jans en de Kinderen' by Studio Jan Kruis.

Gleever's Dagboek

Gerard and Wilma's offspring have followed in their parents' footsteps. The twins Kelly and Lonneke (1987) as well as son Daan (1993) are all colorists of Disney comics for the Dutch Donald Duck weekly. Lonneke also colors for Tina ('Noortje', 'Karlijn, Catootje en de Ouders'), and is furthermore a master in paper cut-outs. Kelly is also active as a costume designer, while Daan is the bass and saxophone player in the band De Raad van Toezicht, of which the first album was released in 2017. In 2020, Gerard Leever started working with his son-in-law Mathys van der Harst on comic scripts with the Disney characters 'The Big Bad Wolf' and 'Jose Carioca' for Donald Duck, by request of editor Bas Schuddeboom. They expanded the Big Bad Wolf universe by developing a subseries centered around the forest school, where his evil nephew Izzy becomes a classmate of his son, Li'l Wolf. Since then, Leever and Van der Harst have also written many stories with the Duck characters, both for the Donald Duck weekly and the monthly Katrien Duck. For the weekly's 2022 backcovers, Leever and Van der Harst wrote gags with Donald Duck and his family, which were illustrated by either Tim Artz or Henrieke Goorhuis, and then colored by Wilma Leenders. In mid-2022, Leever and Van der Harst also began submitting gags for the 'Eppo' comic, which appears on the backpage of comic magazine Eppo (art by Aart Cornelissen).

In 1996 Leever received the Stripschapspenning for 'Gleever's Dagboek'. He has furthermore received this badge for book collections of 'Oktoknopie' (2000), 'Dik van Dieren en zo' (2004), 'Suus & Sas' (2009) and 'Pim, Pam & Pluis' (2013). During the Stripdagen in Houten, on 2 October 2006, he was awarded the Stripschap Prize for his entire oeuvre. Wilma Leenders was awarded the Stripschap Prize for Special Merits during the Stripdagen in Breda, on 16-17 October 1993, for her achievements as a colorist. In 2016 Gerard Leever was prominently featured in the memorial book, special Stripnieuws issue and exposition celebrating the 35th anniversary of Studio Arnhem.

Gerard Leever signing at the 2012 Tina Day in Duinrell.

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