How England bribes the press during the Boer War, by Korporaal Achilles 1900
How England bribes the press during the Boer War, by Korporaal Achilles 1900

Johannes Franciscus Nuijens, who used the pseudonym Korporaal Achilles, was a Catholic drawing teacher. He was one of the pioneers in Dutch comics, together with Jan Linse and Alexander VerHuell, as well as the first Dutchman to make satirical comics. He was an avid supporter of the Roman Catholic Worker's Union, whose goal was to "protect the working class and the petty bourgeoisie against the socialist errors of our time". His work was aimed at politics in general and at everything anti-Catholic. Besides comics, he also made cartoons and wrote instruction books about drawing, boys' books and stage plays. The artist also illustrated advertisements, like a poster for Dutch gin.

Not much is known about Nuijens' life. He was born in Wervershoof in 1866. In 1890 he published 'Het Rapport der Defensiecommissie toegelicht en eenigszins uitgebreid door Korporaal Achilles' ('The Rapport of the Commission of Defense, explained and somewhat expanded by Korporaal Achilles'). As serious as the title sounds, the book was actually a satirical text comic. It mocked a new military law at the time, which ended a very unfair but perfectly legal amendment involving the draft service. Up to that point people who were drafted could actually send someone else in their place. Many rich people took advantage of this by paying some poor slob a few nickles in exchange for being able to stay safely at home, while they were recruited in the army for a few years. The comic in question revolves around a certain gentleman named Roland, baron of Prullenberg, who is drafted into military service, but - despite the law change - still is far from being a model soldier.

In 'De Toekomststaat (Een Nachtmerrie Fin de Siècle). Visioenen en Droombeelden uit de 20ste eeuw' ('The Future State (A Nightmare at the End of the Century). Visions and Dreamscapes from the 20th Century', 1891) Nuijens actually created the first Dutch science fiction comic! The story revolves around a certain Nieuwela Domenhuis (a not too subtle caricature of Dutch socialist politician Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis) who marries Wilhelmina Druckem (again based on a real-life activist, in this case feminist Wilhelmina Drucker, after whom the 1970s movement "Dolle Mina's" were named). The newlyweds move to the Dutch isle Urk, where they create a socialist utopia. As one might expect from a propaganda comic their plan completely leads to ruin.

In 1893 Nuijens published 'Klacht van een Onderwijzer over De Vrije & Orde Oefeningen op de Lagere School' ('Complaint from a Teacher about the Free & Disciplinary Exercises in Primary School'). The comic took its inspiration from a new Swedish course in gymnastics at the time. The teachers are forced to learn this new course and get their diploma before they are allowed to continue their lessons as usual. Naturally the old men have the greatest trouble trying to learn these new exercises. A handmaid notices her masters jumping and falling about and assumes they all went crazy. As such she calls a doctor, who tells the gentlemen to stay in bed for a few days.

In 1896 Korporaal Achilles drew 'De Straatjongen, de Justitie en Schoolarrest', which satirized young vandals who smash other people's windows and the bureaucratic paper mountains these minor crimes create. For whatever reason the book was never published. The manuscript is still kept in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Royal Library) of The Hague. Probably his most impressive comic work is 'Aanleiding tot den Engelsch-Transvaalschen Oorlog' ('Reason for the English-Transvaal War'), published in 1900, in which he criticized the Boer War in South Africa. Nuijens presented this military conflict from a Dutch viewpoint and therefore sympathized with the Dutch colonials who wanted to be independent from the British.

Nuijens' comics career remained a 19th-century phenomenon. After 1900 he never made another comic strip. He passed away in Haarlem in 1945.


Aanleiding tot den Engelsch-Transvaalschen Oorlog

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