Tomaat, by Charles Guthrie
From: 'Op een Beetgare Eergisteren'.

Charles Guthrie is an American cartoonist, illustrator and comic creator, living and working in the Netherlands. After his start in the Dutch small press scene of the 1990s, he has been a contributor to mainstream publications like Meiden Magazine, for which he draws the comic feature 'Mikkie & Samira' (2007- ). His personal comics appear in cultural magazines like Schokkend Nieuws and Zone 5300, and are an offbeat variation on classic American horror comics, having absurd plots and weird characters such as Tomaat, a man with a tomato for a head.


Early life and influences
Charles E. Guthrie was born in 1971 in Falls Creek, a borough in the Jefferson and Clearfield counties of Pennsylvania. He grew up reading American superhero comics, but also Mad Magazine. During his childhood, he enjoyed reading and copying 'Plastic Man', 'Super Boy', 'Batman', 'The Phantom' and the creations of Jack Davis, Bill Elder and Wallace Wood. In high school, he wanted a more realistic approach, and picked up painting. It wasn't until later in life that Guthrie discovered the classic EC horror comic books of the 1950s, as well as the Clear Line work of European creators like Hergé. Later inspirations for his own work were Daniel Clowes, and Belgian absurdists like Kamagurka and Herr Seele with their 'Cowboy Henk' comic.

During French class in high school, fifteen-year old Charles Guthrie got an assignment to exchange letters with overseas pen pals. This got him in contact with Martha Koopmans, a girl from the Dutch city of Leeuwarden, Frisia. Their friendship lasted, and in 1991, Guthrie moved to the Netherlands, where  the two got married. Since then, Leeuwarden has been his permanent homebase. While having daytime jobs in a green grocery and the catering industry, he continued to paint portraits, still lifes and landscapes.

'Dr. Jim Experimenteert' (Incognito #15, December 1998).

Small press
In 1994, Guthrie had some of his illustrations published in the Dutch sci-fi fanzine Holland SF. In that same year, he contributed his first comic stories to Iris, a small press magazine from Nijmegen. Between 1998 and 2004, he was contributing to the Dutch indie comics scene more regularly. He was present in Robin Schouten's Incognito magazine with several horror, erotic and humorous comics. He subsequently appeared in Gr'nn, De Stripper, Impuls and the Frisian Mudhoen fanzine, while trying his hand at different techniques, styles and characters. In 2001, he self-published his teen superhero parody comic book 'TienerMeid'. For the Incognito imprint, he then created 'Memoria' (2002), a wordless comic book scripted by Danny Koningstein about a woman who is confronted with all sorts of memories after returning to her hometown.

During the early 2000s, Guthrie and his wife Martha were also actively involved with the Dutch comics website StripSter, editing the weekly comics section with work by new talent. As an editor, Guthrie teamed up with StripSter regulars like Erik Wielaert, Albo Helm, Robbert Damen and Stephan Brusche to compile 'Lustre' (2004), an anthology comic book project with stories about life and death. Charles Guthrie has additionally contributed to the Margreet de Heer-edited anthology comic books 'Sprookjes in Strookjes' (2006) and 'Strips in Stereo - Bootleg' (2006).

'Mikkie en Samira'

Turning professional
Since 2005, Guthrie has been working as an illustrator and cartoonist on a professional base. Among his clients have been the publishing houses Zwijsen and Noordhoff, the child care communication agency Bureau Méteau, the regional newspaper De Leeuwarder Courant and children's magazines like Tam Tam, Okki and Taptoe. Since 2007, he works for the girls monthly Meiden Magazine, drawing the comic feature about best friends 'Mikkie en Samira'. Most of the scripts are written by Jan Vijver, and at times he comes up with a plot in collaboration with his wife Martha.

One of Charles Guthrie's first commercial comic book assignments was the 2001 booklet 'Fire Safety - Kan Een Vuurvliegje Brand Voorkomen' in commission of Siemens Building Technologies. In 2011, he teamed up with Mudhoen's Richard Bos to explore a tragic story from Leeuwarden history for the comic book 'Het Tubetje van Cath', published by the local history society Aed Levwerd.


In addition to mainstream work, Guthrie has made his mark with his personal comic stories, characterized by offbeat characters, absurd humor and a retro graphical style. Outlets for these creations have been his own website/weblog and the cultural magazines Schokkend Nieuws (since 2011) and Zone 5300. Guthrie's characters - often created in collaboration with his wife - are either 1950s style well-coifed women and pipe-smoking men, or creations with more distorted physiques. His signature character is Tomaat, a man (sometimes a woman) with a tomato head, whose gag strips have appeared online and in the magazines Vice and Schokkend Nieuws. Other creations are only heads with legs, or people with surreal character traits, varying from a man with a molten chin who infects the staff of a tie factory with his ailment to a murderous mop. Guthrie enjoys giving them remarkable names, such as Cardinal Casio, Pillowhead Klaas, Ginger Infinity and Homofoon Harry.

'Op Een Beetgare Eergisteren'. 

Narratively, Guthrie takes inspiration from early US horror comics, particularly those from EC Comics with their surprise twists. Guthrie's plots are however far more surreal and weird, comparable to the Flemish absurdism tradition. As an American, the cartoonist often takes inspiration from weird words in the Dutch language, for instance "dijkgraaf", the phrase for the chairman of a water board. This inspired the story of 'Dijkgraaf Dick', about an athletic man whose moustache can detect water leaks in the dikes. The man then drinks the leaking water, helping him grow to enormous proportions, although the sharp points of the water drops can sting his brain and cause headaches.

'Dijkgraaf Dick'.

In 2013 and 2018, Guthrie self-published selections from his personal comic creations in the limited edition books 'Professor Bakeliet's Ontbijt Theater - Sukkels' and 'SUKkELS met een grote k!'. Guthrie additionally provided artwork for a story in René Leisink's crime mystery anthoogy series 'Amorfati' (2015), and his work was also present in the English-language anthology Scratches #2 (2018), edited by Joost Swarte. Charles Guthrie had to wait until his early fifties before seeing his first official book release with a professional publishing house. In March 2023, the Haarlem-publisher Sherpa inaugurated its new Zone 5300 imprint with the Guthrie story collection 'Op een Beetgare Eergisteren' ("On an Al Dente Day Before Yesterday"), containing both older stories and new material. Guthrie's book appeared in tandem with the equally absurdist 'De Familie Die Te Veel Wist' by Berend J. Vonk.

For his weblog, Charles Guthrie occasionally creates biographical cartoons for fictional characters.

Even though Charles Guthrie has mainly operated in the fringes of the Dutch comics scene, his work has been praised by his peers for its originality and general weirdness. In 2016, his art was featured prominently in the underground comix exhibition 'Underground in beeld - Van Pontiac tot Guthrie', held during the Haarlem Comics Festival.

comic art by Charles Guthrie
Charles Guthrie photographed in 2016 by Robin Schouten with a selection of his favorite comics. (Photo © Robin Schouten).

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