Bella Dons, by Klaas Groot
'Bella Dons' in Fabeltjeskrant #34.

Klaas Groot was a Dutch cartoonist and comic artist who is basically known for one comic strip. The adventures of the little girl 'Bella Dons' (1967-1968, 1970, 1982) ran in newspapers Het Vrije Volk and Het Parool, as well as the magazine Fabeltjeskrant.

Early life and career
Groot was born in Amsterdam in 1942. He obviously showed an early talent for cartooning, because at age 15 he already had drawings published in the VARA Radio guide and in the socialist newspaper Het Vrije Volk. While still a teenager, he became an apprentice draughtsman at the Toonder Studio's, approximately in the period 1960-1962. He also remained a regular contributor to Het Vrije Volk for several years, initially with drawings in the youth section Perspectief. The dry comedy and absurdism of his early cartoons eventually made place for drawings with more social commentary. A reader from Moordrecht went into a huff about the "sadism" in Groot's cartoons, according to an angry letter in the paper on 17 July 1961. The paper replied that the eighteen-year old cartoonist simply spoofed the youth culture of the time and populated his drawings with (grotesque) rowdys, while occasionally permitting himself some wordplay. One of the denounced drawings shows a chopped off hand with the caption: "And then I asked: May I have your daughter's hand?"

Groot's response to the angry letter about his cartoons. "So you're that little kid who keeps poking fun at us in Perspectief?" (Het Vrije Volk, 17 July 1961).

Bella Dons
In early 1962 Groot had to fulfill his military service. He eventually returned to the pages of Het Vrije Volk with cartoons in the 'Hutsel' section, but also with the balloon comic strip 'Bella Dons' (1967-1968). Bella is a bold and uninhibited little girl, who ends up in all kinds of magical adventures because of her curiosity. The black-and-white drawings with much cross-hatching reveal influences from Willy LohmannDick Vlottes, Piet Wijn and Marten Toonder's 'Tom Poes'. The first story debuted on 28 December 1967 and featured an evil scientist and living snowmen. In the four subsequent stories the girl encounters gnomes, ghosts, aliens and characters from Greek mythology. 'Bella Dons' came to an end after five episodes on 30 September 1968, as Het Vrije Volk moved from Amsterdam to Rotterdam.

Het Vrije Volk, 19 January 1968.

Two new 'Bella Dons' stories appeared in 1970 in Fabeltjeskrant, the magazine based on Leen Valkenier's famous puppet TV show for children. This time, the drawings were symplified and in color. The character was revived once again in 1982, when Groot drew two stories for newspaper Het Parool. These were however reworked and redrawn versions of the second and fourth story from Het Vrije Volk. The new 'Bella Dons' unfortunately failed to captivate an audience, and made her final appearance on 31 December 1982.

Het Vrije Volk, 31 May 1968.

Further work
Klaas Groot was furthermore a cartoonist for newspaper Het Parool and a magazine called Sigma Contact. He was also a cartoonist for De Volkskrant, before Stefan Verwey became the paper's regular cartoonist. In the 1970s he worked as a comic letterer for the magazines Donald Duck and Eppo through Richard Pakker's studio. On his website, Dutch art historian and publicist Huub Mous remembers that Klaas Groot additionally was a saxophone player, who for a while played with the pop group Zen, famous for their 1968 hit 'Hair'. In an e-mail to Lambiek, former Studio Pakker colleague Antoine-Leon Witsel however recalled that Groot rather played the guitar instead of saxophone.

Klaas Groot in 1982 (Het Parool, 28 September 1982).

Series and books by Klaas Groot in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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