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Comic Creator Kari

Kari

Anselmus & Kaja Kengen

(3 November 1916, The Netherlands - 2001, Belgium & b. 14 February 1925, Germany/Belgium)   Belgium

  Kari

Monsieur VéWé
'Monsieur VéWé à San Cylindro' (Line 104, 8 March 1957).

The signature of Kari appeared on several classic advertising strips, which were printed in Belgian comics weeklies like Tintin, Line and Spirou during the 1950s. The artist was also an illustrator for newspapers, magazines and Scouts calendars. Throughout the years, the true identity of Kari remained a mystery to many comic historians and researchers. Later it was revealed that Kari was the pen name of Kaja Kengen, a German refugee who came to Brussels during the war. But the true story is more complicated than that, as Kari was in fact a front for Kaja's husband, Dutch-born Anselmus Kengen... the actual cartoonist!

Background
Anselmus-Henricus Kengen was born on 3 November 1916 in Eijsden, near Maastricht. He studied journalism and can be described as a convinced Francophile. He kept his Dutch nationality until his death. His wife Kaja Grünwald was born on 14 February 1925 into a German Jewish family in Iéna. Before the war, her father Richard sent her to Belgium, along with her sister and mother, pregnant with a son, to escape the pogroms. Following their meeting, Anselmus helped Kaja and her family, hiding them and feeding them in a Brussels attic where the family lived. Kaja's sister died of severe leukemia there. Anselmus and Kaja married in 1947. To provide for his wife and her family, Anselmus had to do some small trafficking on the black market. As a result, the post-war justice system, sometimes expeditious, forbid him to continue his work as a journalist.


Illustration for Spirou/Robbedoes in 1951.

Cartoonist
To earn a living, he exploited his gift for drawing, but it was Kaja who had to present herself as the cartoonist to the newspapers and press agencies. Quickly, Kari's art appeared in several Belgian newspapers and magazines, and later also on Belgian television. Kari made illustrations and sports-related gags for Spirou (1951), and illustrations for calendars of the Belgian Federation of Catholic Scouts (1959). The couple also compiled a cartoon collection about the lives and customs of the people of Brussels, called 'Bruxelles ô gai' (Editions de l'Imprimerie Nouvelle, 1954). During the 1960s Kari had a long spell as a cartoonist for the socialist weekly Germinal.

Advertising comics
During the 1950s and 1960s Kari was the artist of several advertising strips, which appeared in Belgian comic magazines. Their ad strip for Frisko chocolate, 'Les Exploits de Friskotin et Friskinette', was published in Tintin in 1950. The advertising serial 'Monsieur Véwé à San Cylindro' for Volkswagen ran both in Tintin and its counterpart for girls, Line, in 1957. An extensive campaign with art by Kari for Sheaffer's pens, starring the character 'Zippy', was published in Spirou and Tintin during the first half of the 1960s. One booklet collection called 'Sheaffer's présente Zippy, roi du Far-West' was also published in both the French as the Dutch language. Their advertising strips for Fiat appeared in newspapers like Le Soir in 1960. Another advertising strip by Kari was 'Les Aventures de Tata Bata vendeur d’élite', which was published in an oblong booklet for Bata shoes in Belgian Congo.

Later life
By the 1980s the Kengen family lived in Uccle, and made illustrations for the publications of Touring-Secours. Both Kaja and Anselmus have also worked as translators. Anselmus Kengen died in Brussels in 2001, Kaja still lives there. On 29 April 2015 she brought her lifestory on stage in the Brussels Académie d'Auderghem.

Zippy roi du Far West by Kari
'Zippy, roi du Far West' (Dutch edition from Robbedoes #1264, 5 July 1962).

Series and books by Kari in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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