Lo Hartog van Banda

Lo Hartog van Banda was one of The Netherlands' most prolific scriptwriters, both for comics and children's TV series. He was one of the closest co-workers of Marten Toonder, especially on the 'Tom Poes' comic. He has furthermore worked for most Dutch comic magazines of the 1960s and 1970s, and was also the first Dutch writer to add philosophical elements in his comics plots. Banda also regularly added occult and magical elements to his stories.

Early life and career
Born in 1916 in The Hague as Lodewijk Hartog van Banda, he worked as a journalist before attending the Art Academy, where one of his teachers was Paul Citroen. He cancelled his studies and headed for the Dutch Indies (nowadays Indonesia) shortly after his mother's death. Twenty years old, Banda found employment with the newspaper Deli Courant on Sumatra as copywriter and advertisement illustrator. He was wrongfully accused of anti-English, anti-colonial and communist sentiments, and imprisoned shortly after the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940. The young artist spent his six years in prison in the Dutch Indies and in the Fort Nieuw-Amsterdam in Suriname. He returned to the Netherlands after the Liberation, in August 1946. He got an office job with the Ministry of Finance, while writing stories in his spare time. After quitting his day job, Banda started working on a boys' book called 'De Wonderlijke Lamp van Professor Halowits', which he got published by Uitgeverij West-Friesland in 1948. He published four issues of the science fiction adventure magazine Fantasie en Wetenschap with his pal Ben Abas in 1948-1949. He subsequently wrote naughty stories for Cheerio! magazine, and adventure serials for the magazines of De Geïllustreerde Pers. 

De wonderlijke lamp
'De Wonderlijke Lamp van Professor Halowits', Lo Hartog van Banda's children's book from 1948.

Toonder Studios
His first comic script was 'Fabulus de klokkendokter', which appeared in a journal of watchmakers in 1949. By then, Hartog van Banda already had a job with the Dutch-Indies Insurance Company NILLMIJ, while studying actuarial mathematics from 1949 to 1952. Upon graduation, he dropped his job and found employment with the Marten Toonder Studios. Banda had already applied for Toonder in 1948, but was rejected. A couple of years later he put his desire into threat. He wrote to Toonder that he had a comic strip of his own, 'Baron van Tast', which he would present to the editors of Algemeen Handelsblad as a replacement of the Toonder Studio's least popular production, 'Olle Kapoen'. His daring plan worked, and Hartog van Banda was hired as a scriptwriter in 1952. The 'Baron van Tast' strip with artwork by Ben Abas was rejected however, but the plot was reused for a 1960s 'Baron Bluff' story, drawn by Jan van Wensveen.

'Fabulus de Klokkendokter', Hartog van Banda's first comic script. The artist is unknown. Maybe Ben Abas or Banda himself?

Lo Hartog van Banda quickly became one of the main scriptwriters for the factory and participated in most of the running productions. He was also a tutor for other scriptwriters like Eiso Toonder and Harry van den Eerenbeemt. He was one of the few employees who could write balloon comics and became a regular scriptwriter for the weekly 'Tom Poes' comics for Donald Duck and Wereldkroniek, drawn by Wim Lensen and Frits Godhelp. For the story 'Het Ding X 13' he created the character of Professor Zbigniew Prlwytzkofsky, who later also made his appearance in the newspaper comic. Hartog van Banda also made important contributions to the 'Tom Poes en heer Bommel' newspaper strips. He and Marten Toonder plotted the stories, after which Toonder wrote everything down and had artists like Ben van 't Klooster and Ben van Voorn provide the artwork. It was during this period that the daily strip evolved from a children's comic into a text strip with literary qualities. Banda declared that he approached his scriptwriting work as a game of chess: "Tom Puss is a white bishop, who'd go for his goal in a direct line, and never change colors. Bommel on the other hand is a knight, who'd jump from black to white throughout the events."

De Bovenbazen
Lo Hartog van Banda had a big role in the plot of the classic Tom Puss story 'De Bovenbazen' (art by Dick Matena, 1964), in which Bommel is confronted with the upper stock exchange circles.

Banda wrote the full scripts of Toonder's other major newspaper strip, 'Panda', which were drawn by artists like Ben van Voorn, Harry Hargreaves and Dick Matena. He initially wrote both the English balloon version for the Evening News, and the ammended text comic version for the Dutch newspapers. He tried to apply typical British elements in his texts, such as the use of understatements, and made more complicated intrigues in which the villain Joris Goedbloed got a more prominent role. He was also instrumental in the development of 'Koning Hollewijn', a parody of Dutch politics in a fictional kingdom, which appeared in De Telegraaf from 1954. To give some counterweight to Toonder's rather philosophical main character, Banda created the more unconventional secretary Wiebeline Wip. Several stories of the strip about tugboat captain 'Kappie' were also (co-)written by Lo Hartog van Banda, and drawn by Joop Hillenius and Jan van Haasteren.

Hollewijn by Lo Hartog van Banda
Lo Hartog van Banda created the character of Wiebeline Wip for the Koning Hollewijn comic ('Koning Hollewijn en de Zoekgeraakte Rechten', art by Toonder Studio's).

Further comics writing
As a true chameleon, he also helped other authors with their series. He wrote the texts and dialogues for newspaper comics like 'Otto van Irtin' by Gerrit Stapel and 'Eric de Noorman' by Hans G. Kresse, as well as the script of the 'Aram van de Eilanden' episode 'De Ondergang van Ur' for Piet Wijn. For De Telegraaf, Hartog van Banda made the plots for text stories with 'Opa en Oma' (1959-1960). The texts were further developed by Geert Elfferich and Jan Moraal, and illustrated by Thé Tjong-Khing. Also with Thé, he made the weekly funny animal children's comic 'Ridder Leo van Zuylenburg' (1959-1961) for Vrije Geluiden, the magazine of broadcasting corporation VPRO. He additionally wrote stories with the Disney characters 'Hiawatha' and 'Big Bad Wolf', which the studios produced for the weekly magazine Donald Duck from the mid-1960s, although Andries Brandt and Patty Klein were the main writers for these productions.

Martin Evans
Banda has developed three newspaper comics of his own for the Toonder Studio's, of which the science fiction serial 'Martin Evans' (1955) was the first. The first story, 'Het Venuskruid', comic ran in a couple of Scandinavian newspapers and in the Flemish magazine 't Kapoentje, and was largely drawn by Ben Abas, with the final four strips by an unknown studio member. The comic returned in the regional newspaper De Stem three years later, since space travel had gained in popularity after the 1957 Sputnik launch. The original story was reprinted (with the final strips pencilled by Thé Tjong-Khing and inked by Dick Vlottes) and Banda made a second episode, 'De Zero-vaart' with artist Dick Vlottes in 1959. The third and fourth story were plotted by Banda, but scripted by Harry van den Eerenbeemt and drawn by Gerrit Stapel, also in 1959.

Het Dagboek van Marion
For a female audience, Banda created the balloon comic 'Het dagboek van Marion', which can be seen as the Dutch answer to Stan Drake's 'The Heart of Juliet Jones'. He applied the diary-format for these strips, which mostly dealt with fashion and were set in frivolous locations like Paris. Drawn by well-known illustrator Jan Wesseling, 'Marion' was initially published in De Telegraaf from 1957 to 1961. Not all eighteen stories were written by Banda; Harry van den Eerenbeemt has also written a couple.

Het Spiegelpaleis
Student Tijloos - 'Het Spiegelpaleis' (art by Thé Tjong Khing).

Student Tijloos
Lo Hartog van Banda's most notable work during his Toonder Studio's period is probably 'Student Tijloos'. Initially an abandoned project that Marten Toonder had developed with Jan Kruis in 1959, Banda made it his own when it was revived and published in Algemeen Dagblad from 1961. He wrote six stories with the romantic student Tijloos, who changed disciplines in every episodes. Most stories were drawn by Gerrit Stapel, but it is the third one, drawn by Thé Tjong-Khing, that is considered a masterpiece. In 'Het Spiegelpaleis', the architecture student Tijloos meets a girl who lives in a mysterious house which influences the personality of its inhabitants. The deeply philosophical storyline was unusual for Dutch comics at the time, and was a forerunner for Banda's later collaborations with Khing.

Conflict with Toonder
The master scriptwriter's tenure with the Toonder Studio's came to an end in September 1965. In December 1964 Banda gave an interview with Jan Godschalk of Haagse Post about the Toonder Studio's. Unbeknowst to Banda the reporter had inside information about the studio's inner workings. The article was highly critical of Toonders' methods, decline in quality and revealed the public secret that most of the work was done by his assistants nowadays, rather than himself.  All these relevations, as well as the general critical tone, were added by the journalist and without Banda's knowledge or consent. The article soured his already flagging relationship with Toonder. Banda had also not accepted Toonder's invitation to emigrate to Ireland with him, and didn't feel much for the job he was offered as studio chief as well. He spent the next fifteen months working in the advertising industry on campaigns for Venz, Andy and Seven-Up through the J. Walter Thompson agency, followed by a short stint with Joop Geesink's Dollywood studios. Meanwhile, he continued to write comic stories with Hanna-Barbera characters for the 'De Flintstones' comic book by De Geïllustreerde Pers.

Iris by Banda and The-Tjong Khing
'Iris', artwork by Thé Tjong-Khing.

Banda's collaboration with Khing continued with the colorful and psychedelic album 'Iris' (1968), which was published by literary publisher De Bezige Bij, and was largely inspired by Guy Peellaert's groundbreaking comics 'Les Aventures de Jodelle' (1966) and 'Pravda, la survireuse' (1967). The story is situated in a futuristic Amsterdam, where amusement, popstar idolation and free sex control everyday life, all orchestrated by a "Dream King". Banda constructed an alternate reality in which people were free to walk around naked, but not without wigs. The typical Amsterdam public urinals function as public "Love ins" and their interior expands in an hallucinative way when one takes a pill. The writer's rather grim vision of the future is however told from a philosophical and non-political point-of-view, and with Thé Tjong-Khing's swinging pop art panels, the book never becomes too dark. The story is not event-driven, but has an emphasis on emotions and interpretations, told from the perspective of lead characters Iris and Mark. Since the reader follows most events through the female protagonist's eyes, the authors chose to name her Iris. With its philosophical and dreamlike undertone and experimental and erotic graphics, 'Iris' is considered the first Dutch graphic novel. Production was a true joint effort and the story was constructed organically. The artist sometimes deviated from Banda's initial vision, after which the writer alternated the story. In true pop art style, almost all characters were based on celebrities, most notably Iris who borrowed her initial looks from British pop icon Twiggy. In 2018, Sherpa reprinted the story in a fully colored luxury volume with an extensive background dossier by Rudy Vrooman.

Arman en Ilva
'Arman en Ilva' - De Perfecte Kringloop (art by Thé Tjong Khing)

Arman en Ilva
The duo then moved on to create the space opera newspaper strip 'Arman en Ilva' (1969-1975), which was distributed to Dutch regional newspapers through the Toonder Studio's. Unlike other sci-fi sagas, this one doesn't have heroic protagonists or high-tech spacecrafts. Instead of science, the character-driven plots about a futuristic Adam and Eve mostly deal with fiction. Hartog van Banda doesn't need faraway galaxies for his story ideas. Instead, he uses the high-rise blocks of the Amsterdam neighbourhood Bijlmermeer as inspiration for the desolate environment of the story 'De Perfecte Kringloop' (1972). In another story ('De bijzonder begaafden', 1971), Hartog van Banda explores the dangers of artificial intelligence. Dark and occult elements form the core of the story 'Het poppenhuis' (1970), while the personality of main character Ilva is questioned in 'Een robot is ook maar een mens' (1969). In 1975, Khing and Banda left the comic. Five more more episodes were made by Gerrit Stapel until 1976. A first series of books was published by Brabantia Nostra between 1977 and 1983. The first Dutch "psychological science fiction comic" is still considered a classic, and has been compiled in a luxury book collection by Sherpa since 2006.

'De Argonautjes' (Pep #31, 1968).

From 1968 on, Lo Hartog van Banda was also a productive scriptwriter for the children's magazines of De Geïllustreerde Pers. His main output was for Pep, for which he was the most prolific writer in the period 1968-1972. With Dick Matena, he created 'De Argonautjes', a comic based on Greek mythology, for which he wrote scripts from 1968 to 1972. Another notable creation for Pep was the superhero parody 'Blook' with Johnn Bakker, for which he wrote the first five stories (1969-1972). He also worked with Matena on three stories with 'Ridder Roodhart' (1969-1971), and made the first two stories of the sci-fi comic 'Titus' with Henk 't Jong in 1971-1972. He furthermore wrote episodes of Gideon Brugman's horror parody 'Ambrosius' and Jan van Haasteren's absurd series about the hallucinating 'Baron van Tast tot Zeveren'.

'Arad en Maya', with art by Jan Steeman (Sjors #20, 1972).

Sjors / Tina
For Sjors, he created the science fiction series 'Arad en Maya' with Jan Steeman from 1970 to 1974, and worked with Joanika and Börge Ring on the 'Distel' comic from 1970 to 1972. He also wrote many scripts for the girls' magazine Tina, of which the thriller serial 'De Twee van Oldenhoek' with Thé Tjong-Khing (1975) is the most fondly remembered. His other creation for Tina was 'Patty en de Big Silver Bull Band' with Gideon Brugman (1971-1976), about a girl and her band. An actual single called 'Papatoe' was released in 1973. Although presented as if the comic character Patty sang it, the singer was actually Marion Biesthorst from The Hague. She released two more singles under the name Patty through Polydor in 1974: 'Ricky Radio' and 'Lazy Baby'.

Patty en de Big Silver Bull Band
'Patty en de Big Silver Bull Band', with art by Gideon Brugman (Tina #48, 1971).

TV script writing
Hartog van Banda was also one of the original contributors to De Vrije Balloen, the independent comic magazine initiated by Patty Klein and Jan van Haasteren in 1975. He had however dropped most of his comics activities during the decade, leaving several of his running projects to Patty Klein, and moved on to write some of the most successful Dutch children's television shows of the time. Hartog van Banda had written his first TV productions during his years with the Toonder Studio's. These included a puppet film with Tom Puss and Oliver B. Bumble. On his own he had written the fairy tales for the children's game show 'Er Was Eens...' for VPRO television in 1956. But he truly made his mark in the TV world with 'TiTa Tovenaar', about a magician and his daughter, starring Ton Lensink and Maroesja Lacunes. Although the original show was broadcasted in short five-minute episodes between 1972 and 1974, it has appeared in reruns on several occasions, and has spawned several books, records and other related merchandising. Frans Piët made a comic based on the series for Televizier in 1974.

Another popular TV series by Lo Hartog van Banda was the puppet series 'De Bereboot', about a group of bears on a boat. He made the series in cooperation with his son Rolf Hartog van Banda, who designed the puppets and held artistic control. 407 episodes with lengths between 5-10 minutes have been produced, and were broadcasted at first on a daily and then on a weekly base by the NOS and the AVRO between 1976 and 1978. This series was followed by 'De Astronautjes', another puppet production by father and son Van Banda, broadcasted in 1978 and 1979. Voice actors involved in both productions were Trudy Libosan, Maroesja Lacunes, Jan Borkus and Paul van Gorcum, while the music was by Joop Stokkermans. Books based on Van Banda's TV series were written by his daughter Helen Arends-Hartog van Banda (1949). Pre-school magazine Bobo ran both a comic (1976-1977) and text stories (1978) based on 'De Bereboot', with artwork by Rolf Hartog van Banda in cooperation with Ton Beek.

Later comics writing
Lo Hartog van Banda returned to writing comics in the early 1980s, when the French publisher Dargaud made plans for a magazine built around the famous Gaul 'Astérix', created by Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny. Banda saw the opportunity to present himself as a new scriptwriter for the series, after the original scriptwriter Goscinny had died in 1977. He wrote a 30-page story, and Daan Jippes drew the first pages. Legend goes that 'Astérix' artist and co-creator Albert Uderzo felt so threatened by Jippes' graphic talents that he vetoed against the project, but the fact that Astérix Mensuel never saw the light can also be the reason why the story was never completed. Banda then wrote three stories with the world-famous cowboy 'Lucky Luke' by Morris: 'Fingers' (1983), 'Nitroglycérine' (1987) and 'Chasse aux fantômes' (1992). The first of these stories is generally considered one of the best 'Lucky Luke' albums since the death of René Goscinny in 1977.

In 1976 Lo Hartog van Banda was awarded the Stripschapprijs for his entire oeuvre by comic appreciation society Het Stripschap.

Death and legacy
He died in February 2006, at the age of 89. One of his final projects was the script for a 'Ti Ta Tovenaar' musical, and he also worked on the scripts of a revival of the TV series (2008-2009). His son Rolf Hartog van Banda has also written comics, such as 'Sidi en Smook' for Donald Duck (with Kees de Boer, 1992) and a great many stories for Tina from the mid-1980s until the early 2000s. Rolf has also worked with his father on both 'De Bereboot' and 'De Astronautjes'. Since 2003 the Dutch city Almere has named a street in their Comics District after Maya from Hartog van Banda and Jan Steeman's series 'Arad en Maya'. 

Lo Hartog van Banda
Photo: Rob van der Nol.

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