De Molenaar by Wim Hanssen
'1984: het Gelijk van George Orwell?' (1983)

Wim Hanssen was an artist affiliated with Ger van Wulften's Amsterdam-based publishing imprint Espee in the early 1980s. He made a comic book version of Bredero's 'De Molenaar' (Espee, 1983) and drew one of the two comic stories based on George Orwell's '1984' in '1984: het Gelijk van George Orwell?' (1983), before turning to fine arts.

Early life
Wim Hanssen was born in 1959 in Neer, a small parish in Limburg, the Netherlands. Already drawing as a child, he attended the Graphic School in Eindhoven, and began his career making illustrations and designs for the Dutch yellow pages ('Gouden Gids'), advertisements and record covers. At age 19, he moved to Amsterdam, where he joined a new wave of alternative comic artists gathered around the local publisher Ger van Wulften and his Espee imprint. This included such creators as Paul Bodoni, Eric Schreurs, Hein de Kort, Aart Clerkx and the duos Prutswerk (Gerrit de Jager & Wim Stevenhagen) and Windig & De Jong.

'De Pinbal Zender' (1981). 

Career in comics
However, Hanssen's first solo comic book was self-published. In November 1981, he released 'De Pinbal Zender', the first and only installment in his series 'De Avonturen van Kits & Rik'. A mix between the crudeness of underground comix and the elegant designs of Yves Chaland, the comic was a hastily improvised story of two plodding artists who find a pinball with a powerful transmitter, allowing them to control every cabel network in town. Hanssen's art subsequently appeared in collective Espee projects like the 1983-1984 school notebook ('De Onwijze Schoolagenda 1983/84') and the 1982 holiday book of Prutswerk's 'De Familie Doorzon'. By 1983, his graphic style had settled into a clean stylization with a strong sense for lay-out. This was showcased in his newspaper comic 'De Molenaar', a raunchy adaptation of the 17th-century farce 'De Meulenaer' by playwright Bredero. Between March and May 1983 it was serialized in the socialist newspaper De Waarheid, and then published in pocket book format by Espee.

De Molenaar by Wim Hanssen
'De Molenaar' (1983).

Hanssen's biggest claim to fame in terms of comics was however his contribution to '1984: het Gelijk van George Orwell?' (1983). In 1948, George Orwell wrote his magnum opus '1984', a science fiction novel warning of a future where people are under constant government surveillance, propaganda and brainwashing. Orwell passed away in 1950, but his book became a globally translated bestseller and is widely considered one of the great literary works of the twentieth century. When the year 1984 finally arrived, the media spent a lot of time comparing and contrasting the book and the year. A new film adaptation was released in theaters and various articles and essays discussed how many of Orwell's predictions had come true. Reprints of '1984' were popular too, one of them illustrated by Peter Vos. Riding on the wave of this media attention, the scientific research organization TNO Delft commissioned a graphic novel to present their theories about future developments in an audience-friendly way. The end result, Espee's '1984: het Gelijk van George Orwell?', is not an adaptation of '1984', but two short stories inspired by it. The first one was written and drawn by Eric Schreurs, the second by Wim Hanssen. In Hanssen's story, George Orwell is teleported to the year 1984, where he encounters the social and cultural developments himself. The story only gave Hanssen's interpretation of Orwell's sentiments, but also reflected his own experiences after moving from a countryside town to the Dutch capital.

Later life
Wim Hanssen also designed the fiberglass sculpture for the 1982 Dick Bosch Prize, which was awarded to Rudolf Kahl in the Amsterdam pop temple Paradiso. From the mid 1980s on, Wim Hanssen focused on fine arts, making paintings and silkscreens. He passed away in 2004 at the age of 45.

Wim Hanssen in the early 1980s.

Series and books by Wim Hanssen you can order today:


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