Jonas en de wonderwinkel
Gommaar Timmermans, better known as GoT, was a Flemish comics artist who was particularly notable between the 1960s and 1990s. He drew children's comics like 'Fideel, de Fluwelen Ridder' (1962-1973) and 'Jonas en de Wonderwinkel', but gradually aimed for a more adult, intellectual audience. His best known works from this later part of his career were 'De Nieuwe Ark' (1972), 'Iamboree' (1972-1982) and 'Weber' (1972-1982). All were notable for their cultivated language, philosophical themes and lack of "easy" punchlines.
He was born in 1930 in Lier as the son of famous Flemish novelist Felix Timmermans, whois best remembered for his novel 'Pallieter' (1916). Felix Timmermans occasionally drew little vignettes to illustrate his novels, inspired by Flemish comics magazines. While these were nothing more than stand-alone doodles they still sparked his son's own interest in drawing. As a child Timmermans read various comics, but to him his main graphic influences always remained Walt Kelly's 'Pogo', Johnny Hart's 'B.C.' and George Herriman's 'Krazy Kat'. Timmermans studied interior design at the Hoger Instituut voor Bouwkunde and Stedebouw in Antwerp and graduated in this field, despite never doing anything with his diploma. He also studied advertising and ceramics at the Antwerp Academy. Thanks to his father's artistic circle of friends and colleagues Timmermans got to know Karel van Milleghem, who was the chief editor of Ons Volkske and Kuifje. At the age of 18 he was able to publish his first work in these magazines, albeit as a writer rather than a visual artist. Between 1950 and 1955 he wrote humorous text stories, which were mostly illustrated by Bob de Moor and his older sister Tonet, while for two were illustrated by Rik or Jacques Laudy. Timmermans' writing job was born out of financial need. He had just bought a jeep, originally used during the Ardennes offensive (1944-1945), and was in desperate need for extra cash. Between 1955 and 1957 he worked as a designer at Esso.
After his marriage in 1957, Timmermans moved to Ostend. He worked at publishing company Desclée De Brouwer in Bruges, but since the company was threatened by bankruptcy he decided to quit his job. He moved back to Lier in 1961. Timmermans debuted as a cartoonist in 1958, publishing in Flash using the pseudonym "GoT". The name used the first two letters of his first name, combined with the first letter of his surname. When asked why he made the final 't' a capital letter Timmermans replied: "All last names are written with a capital letter, is it not?" His first gag comic was published in De Bond and ran, untitled, from 1961 until 1964. Gaston Durnez, journalist at De Standaard, asked him to write a children's comic for their new juvenile supplement De Patskrant, based on Karel Weyler's popular puppet theater 'Pats'. His first comic strip, 'Fideel, de Fluwelen Ridder' (1962-1973), debuted in Pats' first issue in September 1962. He also illustrated the joke section 'Pietje Pennenwip', for whom Cyriel Verleyen wrote the jokes. This would be his longest continuous assignment, as it debuted in 1965 and only ended in 1996.
Despite a good payment GoT felt dissatisfied with being a children's cartoonist. Gradually he changed the tone of 'Fideel' into something more eccentric and nonsensical. He made similar comics in this vein, such as as 'De Nonsensikale Tweehoofdige Gevlekte Filodendron' (1965-1971), 'Arabella, de Geleerde Slak' (1971-1972) and 'Pepijn' (1974). By 1974 the editors of De Patskrant decided to remove his comics because they became far too complex for the target audience. 'Fideel' continued in De Standaard instead until 1976, but as a four-panel comic rather than an entire page.
Fideel de fluwelen ridder
The only one that remained was 'Jonas en de Wonderwinkel', despite the fact that this was still far from being an ordinary children's comic. The plot revolved around a young boy who couldn't remember that Columbus discovered America. Thanks to a chestnut he was able to memorize certain events in the year 1492. While visiting a "magical" store he loses his chestnut. Joined by the store owner and his rabbit Gabriël, Jonas sails in a bath tub to the cellar, where he arrives in the 15th century through a time portal and actually meets Columbus in person. The surreal comic was adapted for television as the children's TV series 'Jonas en de Wonderwinkel' (1979) for the Flemish public channel B.R.T. GoT made all the designs, but the actual animation was provided by Pen Film, with collaboration by Raoul Servais. In order to appeal to the young viewers both tone and story were simplified a bit. Ugo Prinsen did the narration, while Stijn Peeters, Denise De Weerdt, Jef Burm, Maurits Goossens, Jackie Morel, François Bernard, Bob Van der Veken, Door Van Boeckel, Emmy Leemans, Alex Wilequet, David Davidse, Ward De Ravet, Jos Verbist, Karel Vingerhoets and Walter Cornelis appeared as voice actors. The story was also published in book form.
GoT was also present in De Zondagmorgen with the stop-comic 'Sylvester Beukenoot' (1963) and 'Gabriël Gagman' (1966), a parody of Bob Kane's 'Batman'. In Rosita (nowadays Libelle) readers could enjoy his 'Het Zondagskasteel' (1969), 'De Kip, De Keizer en de Tsaar' (1970) and 'De Grote Ballonreeks' (1971). 'De Kip, De Keizer en de Tsaar' was published as a children's book in 1973. The story dealt with a chicken who gets recruited in Napoleon's army as he tries to conquer Russia. In 1972 GoT joined the Flemish opinion magazine De Nieuwe, where Gal was his colleague. He received complete creative freedom and thus made a very philosophical comic named 'De Nieuwe Ark' (1972). The storylines revolved around a modern version of Noah and his arc. He and his animal passengers are frightenend "something might happen" and thus set sail to seek an island where they might be safe. A year later GoT also found his own spot in Knack, where he published the intellectual gag comics 'Iamboree' (1972-1982) and 'Weber' (1972-1982). 'Iamboree' was set in Antiquity. The characters often disscussed existential questions, math and scientific problems and future inventions. 'Weber' revolved around Weber, a ladybird in a paper hat, and his tortoise friend Arnold. Both comics were notable for their cultivated dialogues and lack of proper punchlines.
Around the same time GoT worked for the monthly Avenue, who published articles that specifically aimed at Dutch readers as well as Flemish readers, but in separate sections. His comic 'De Palavers van Savarin' (1973) naturally appeared on the Flemish pages, but usually only as an irregular page filler. 'De Palavers van Savarin' was set in the real-life café Savarin (which nowadays no longer exists) at the Belgiëlei in Antwerp. The jokes were purely verbal, centering around the bar owner and his clients conversating with one another. In 1977 GoT published the gag comics 'Alfred' (1977-1979) and 'Topaas' (1977) in E-3 Magazine, followed by cartoons for De Bond between 1978 and 1979. In 1980 he even published in Germany, namely the magazine Quick and the Neue Illustrierte. Timmermans wrote and illustrated several children's novels too, including two books in the series 'De Stotterende Koekoek' (1972). In 1975 he published 'Professor Pilaster's Grote Ballonvaart'. His children's books have been translated in English, French and German.
In 1982 Timmermans suffered a heart attack. When he recovered he took a calmer approach and spent more time on writing again. From 1983 on he had a weekly column in Knack in which he wrote funny little stories. He quit his older comics series and only drew two new series, namely 'Frons' (1982) for De Zwijger and 'Doel 13' (1986-1991), which appeared in Intermedair. In 1999 he retired. Public attention returned when his work was exhibited in Lier between late 2010 and early 2011. The exhibitors issued a catalogue compiling the best of his work called 'Het werk van Got' (2010), published by the Gildeheren van Lier.