Hans G. Kresse ranks among the most important and influential Dutch comic artists. He became famous as the author of the newspaper comic 'Eric de Noorman' ('Eric the Norseman', 1946-1964), about the adventures of the blonde Viking king Eric. This epic medieval adventure series captivated readers with breathtaking artwork, vivid characters, spell-binding narratives and atmospheric illustrations. Originally a pure fantasy comic, Kresse took 'Eric' to new levels by grounding it in historic reality. He spent many hours of research to get every detail about the time period exactly right. The end result is one of the all-time classics of Dutch comics and one of the few to achieve success in translation. Both in Europe as well as South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and the former Dutch colonies. Apart from 'Eric', Kresse also created other historical comics, such as the spin-off 'Erwin de Noorman' (1966-1973), the Napoleonic detective series 'Vidocq' (1965-1970), the Native American 'Matho Tonga' (1948-1949, 1954, 1970) and various other untitled stories about "Indians on the prairie". The talented artist was a much sought-after book and magazine illustrator. His influence on realistically-drawn comics in the Low Countries has been immeasurable. Together with Marten Toonder and Pieter J. Kuhn he still ranks as one of the "Big Three" of Dutch comics. Yet while many have tried to copy his style, few quite managed to top him.

'Matho Tonga'.

Hans Georg Kresse was born in 1921 in Amsterdam as the son of a German-born orchestra violinist and Dutch telephonist. Two years after his birth his parents divorced. Kresse was raised by his Dutch mother and never knew his biological father. The boy studied to become a carpenter, but also showed a gift for drawing. In Haarlem he received art lessons from the sculptors Mari Andriessen and Jan Bronner, and from painter Henri Frédéric Boot. During his youth he already read comics, though he originally had more interest in sculpting. Among his graphic influences were Harold Foster ('Tarzan', 'Prince Valiant') and Alex Raymond ('Flash Gordon'), whose realistically drawn action-packed adventure series had a profound impact on him. Kresse was sixteen years old when he published his first comics in the boy scouts magazine De Verkenner. His first series, 'Tarzan van de Apen' ('Tarzan of the Apes', 1938-1940), was fan fiction based on the iconic jungle hero. The teenager showed more originality with his western comic 'Tom Texan' (1940). Around the same time he also illustrated the scouting guide 'Lassowerpen en Touwdraaien' (1939) on how to use lassos and ropes. It was a translation of the American book 'How To Spin A Rope', but then with illustrations instead of photographs. Afterwards he found a job in Haarlem as painter of advertising billboards.

'Tarzan van de Apen'.

World War II
In the fall of 1940 Kresse applied for a job at Marten Toonder's studio. Toonder had already made himself notable by publishing various comics in local magazines, but by the end of the 1930s he'd decided to establish his own studio. He was the first Dutchman to professionalize comics. The timing was perfect, because World War II cut off the import of American and British comics, creating more demand for locally produced comics. Therefore Toonder was the logical choice for job opportunities. When Kresse showed his artwork, Toonder was quite impressed with his eye for visual perspective and characterization. But the maestro felt that the young man could still use some more training and told him to contact him again. Kresse therefore became an illustrator for Kampeer Kampioen, a publication of the "Royal Dutch Touring Club" ANWB, and created book covers for the publishing company Boekenbedrijf Arena in Haarlem. In 1941 he suddenly received an unexpected letter in his mailbox. It didn't come from Toonder, but the German draftboard. Much to his surprise he wasn't considered a Dutch citizen but a German one! His father had never naturalized himself and, according to a 1892 Dutch law, his Dutch mother was German just because she married a German man. Therefore all her children were technically considered Germans too! The most frightening part about this letter was that Kresse was now expected to serve in the German army.

'Tom Texan'.

The startled young man went to the recruitment office in Parderborn, but avoided the draft by pretending to suffer from a nervous illness. He was so convincing that he was officially discharged for being "mentally insane". Yet this didn't let him completely off the hook. He was forced to frequently pay a visit to a German military doctor to check whether his condition hadn't improved? After a while Kresse didn't even have to pretend being a nervous wreck: he actually became one! He realized he had to find a permanent job which would make him too valuable to be sent to the front. Kresse found one at Nederland Film (later: Bavaria Film), a film studio under Nazi supervision. The company had a low-budget animation studio, where he learned the craft from Henk Kannegieter. It's often thought that Kresse worked on the antisemitic animated propaganda feature 'Van den Vos Reynaerde' (1943) by Egbert van Putten but, according to Gerrit Stapel, this is incorrect (Dutch comic artists who did work on this picture were Jan Bouman, Joop Du Buy and Stapel). While the draftboard kept him alone for now, it still didn't relieve his stress. He was basically working in the lion's mouth and for an ideology he didn't support. In 1942 his mother discovered that Toonder's studio also looked for animators. Glad to work for the company he wanted to join in the first place he applied again. To his delight Toonder accepted him. The only problem was that Kresse had to finish his contract with Nederlandse Film first, since they had threatened to send him to Germany if he violated it. Luckily Toonder had no problem waiting and guaranteed Kresse that he would hire him instantly once his term was finished. And so it happened.

In May 1943 Kresse became an employee for Toonder, along with fellow former Nederland Film co-workers Hans Keuris and Francis Paid. At first he was assigned to the animation department, where he worked on a promotional film for Andrélon, and a feature film which would eventually remain unfinished because of the Liberation in September 1944 ('Tom Puss. Das Geheimnis der Grotte'). It became apparent that the traumatized Kresse had difficulties working in a team. Therefore he was sent to the comics and illustration department, where he worked alongside Carol Voges and Wim Lensen. Together with Cees van de Weert, Henk Kabos and Frans van Lamsweerde he created the artwork of the picture novel 'Pinneke Proost' (1943) for the jenever brand Kabouter. He also worked on some test episodes for Toonder's comic strip about tugboat captain 'Kappie', which debuted after the war, just like Kresse's own comic 'Robby'. He also worked on more personal projects. With former Nederland Film colleague Han van Gelder, he drew the one-shot stories 'Per Atoomraket naar Mars' and 'Ditto en de Draak in de Grot', written by the retired teacher H. G. Haakenhout. Between 1943 and 1944 Kresse ghosted a realistic comic about the German legend of 'Siegfried', which appeared under the name of his colleague Henk Zwart since Kresse had to lay low for the Germans. The comic was published in the biweekly Nazi-controlled children's magazine Jeugd. At the opposite side of ideology the busy artist also created illustrations for the underground resistance magazine Metro and its publisher D.A.V.I.D. and falsified official documents for the resistance group of Dick van Veen.

In September 1944 the Allied Forces freed the Southern part of the Netherlands, but it took them another half year to do the same for the North. Since Toonder's studio was located in the occupied part of the country this didn't instantly change anything for the better. When Toonder learned that the chief editor of his newspaper De Telegraaf was replaced by a Nazi officer, he decided to discontinue his comic strip. Toonder had the foresight that the Germans were losing the war and that it would be best to distance himself and his studio from them as quickly as possible. On 5 May 1945 the Netherlands were finally liberated. Toonder was still accused of collaboration, but able to avoid sentences by pointing out the secret resistance work that he and his co-workers had carried out. In Kresse's case the situation was more complicated. One day Allied forces arrested him for carrying several "suspicious" objects with him, such as a NSB badge and documents which clarified that he was relieved from German military duties. He was sent off to a POW camp, but Dick van Veen personally visited the prison ward to clear his friend from all charges. Now finally able to breathe again Kresse married his sweetheart the same year...

Robby, by Hans G. Kresse

Post-war comics
In 1945 Kresse's funny animal comic strip 'Robby' (1945-1946) appeared in Trouw, albeit a local edition which only circulated in The Hague. Three stories were published between 4 September 1945 and 8 April 1946: 'Robby en de Robijn van den Hertog', 'Robby en het Wintermysterie' and 'Robby en de Schat van de Inca Beren'. It was a text comic, written by Kresse and Dirk Huizinga, with contributions by Wim van Wieringen and Cees van de Weert. The hero was a little bear, obviously influenced by Toonder's own animal comics. The artist was able to show off his own voice when the non-Toonder comics he created during the war finally appeared in print. Kresse and Van Gelder's humorous science fiction tale 'Per Atoomraket naar Mars' (1946) and the fantasy comic 'Ditto en de Draak in de Grot' (1946) were published in comics booklets by J.A. ten Klei Jr. in Amsterdam. Especially 'De Gouden Dolk' (Buijten en Schipperheijn, 1946) and 'De Grote Otter' (1947), his first comics about Native Americans, gave a much better scope of his talent. Around the same time Kresse published another newspaper comic named 'De Lotgevallen van Detectief Kommer' (9 December 1947 until 29 January 1948), in both "De Nederlander, christelijk-historisch dagblad voor Nederland" and Het Dagblad voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. This detective comic was based on an old unused script by Toonder, but rewritten by production chief Dick Tonnis (1914-1985). A second story appeared in 1949 in Tom Poes Weekblad. Unfortunately the workload proved to be too heavy. As a result 'Detectief Kommer' was cancelled after only two stories in order to give Kresse some rest.

Eric de Noorman
It wasn't that strange that Kresse suffered a burn-out. Toonder valued him as his most gifted artist. He rarely expressed admiration for his employees, but Kresse was one of the few he frequently praised during interviews. The only downside was that Toonder gave him nearly every assignment. Kresse often had to work deep in the night to reach his deadlines. And while he didn't mind funny animal comics he asked his boss to give him something more challenging. A dramatic comic series, for instance. Toonder liked the idea and was confident that Kresse could pull it off. Kresse planned to create a historical adventure series set in the Middle Ages. Rather than feature knights he went all the way back to the early Middle Ages, during the Viking era. The hero would be a young, strong and intelligent Viking king called "Leif". The Netherlands have a centuries old seafaring tradition and stories about sailors were always succesful. Pieter J. Kuhn's 'Kapitein Rob' (1945-1966) was already a hit in Het Parool, while Toonder's own 'Kappie' (1945-1972) had debuted the same month with equal popularity. So the idea of a Viking leader travelling the seas in his drakar seemed commercially interesting. Toonder however desired a serial set in the lost continent of Atlantis, with plots revolving around dwarfs, giants and other mythical creatures. The two men decided to combine the two concepts, although Toonder changed Kresse's Leif into Eric. Right from the start Harold Foster's 'Prince Valiant' was the major source of inspiration. And, in terms of status, 'Eric de Noorman' eventually became the Dutch equivalent of 'Prince Valiant'...

'De Steen van Atlantis', still with science fiction elements.

Originally, though, no Dutch newspaper or magazine had any interest. Kresse had mostly worked in Toonder's shadow and therefore he was still a nobody to many. Most papers and magazines in the Netherlands preferred humorous children's comics about gnomes and funny animals and 'Eric' fell in neither category. Eventually Toonder had to cross the border to Belgium, where the Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws was willing to give the series a chance. On 6 June 1946 'Eric de Noorman' made its debut. Kresse was lucky, because within a year the Belgian comic industry would explode and oversaturate the market with plenty comic series of their own. But at the time many Belgian magazines and newspapers were still recovering from the war and could still need young talent. Particularly Het Laatste Nieuws who had no succesful comic strip yet.

'Eric de Noorman' is an epic Viking saga. The main hero is the invulnerable good-hearted and noble king Eric. He and his gorgeous wife Winonah have one son, Erwin, who is short-tempered and often gets himself into trouble. Eric has a colourful bunch of henchmen. He is flanked by Pum Pum the midget servant, Orm the pessimistic navigator, Svein the combative warrior, Cendrach the veteran ship builder and his daughter Branwen. Yark and Halfra are two noblemen, but have different personalities. Yark is grumpy, while Halfra is snobby and has a tendency to talk in spoonerisms. Axe and his wife Aranrod are technically friends of Eric, but they frequently quarrel with him and are highly competitive. Still the true villains of the series are pirate captain Ragnar, prince Baldon and Lauri the cloaked magician. The same year of Eric's Belgian debut, the series also appeared in the Danish magazine Kong Fylie, the Swedish Vecko Nytt under the title 'Erik Vidfare', as well as Norwegian and Icelandic translations. Toonder's business partner, Anton De Zwaan, had correctly assumed that a Viking comic would do very well in Scandinavian countries.

Eric de Noorman - 'De zoon van Eric'.

The first story, 'De Steen van Atlantis', introduces Eric as the son of king Wogram. He is given the task of finding a bride in the far away country of Franconia. Eric sails off and finds Atlantis, merging Kresse and Toonder's two narratives into one plot line. Toonder wanted 'Eric' to be a fantasy series, but Kresse was more interested in a historical approach. But back then he still trusted in Toonder's professional experience. By the end of the story Eric finds his ideal woman, Winonah, and marries her. All artwork was drawn by Kresse while his mother typed out the texts. Between 1946 and 1951 the plots were conceived in cooperation with Toonder, while Jan Gerhard Toonder, Dirk Huizinga, Waling Dijkstra and Lo Hartog van Banda would help with the text captions. Later Kresse took this task on his own.

'De Wolven van Scorr'.

Eric de Noorman: success
'Eric de Noorman' quickly caught on with Flemish readers. On 25 April 1951 Het Laatste Nieuws even launched a separate children's magazine Pum-Pum, named after the dwarf character from the series. Kresse naturally published in this magazine too, creating a junior spin-off of 'Eric' named 'De Jeugd van Eric', assisted by Dick de Wilde. For less than two years Pum-Pum appeared as a separate magazine, but on 25 February 1953 it became a free supplement with Het Laatste Nieuws, appearing each Wednesday. The same year Kresse passed 'De Jeugd van Eric' on to Gerrit Stapel. Pum-Pum ran until 11 January 1967. Kresse experienced the popularity of 'Eric' firsthand when he was once caught in Belgium for making a traffic violation. When the police officer read his identity card he recognized his name and was in immediate awe. So much in fact that Kresse was allowed to drive along without being ticketed!

While 'Eric de Noorman' did well in Flanders it took until 28 November 1947 before Dutch readers got to know him. Though he had to debut in the first issue of Toonder's comic magazine Tom Poes Weekblad, because other Dutch publications were still not interested. Only when the series took off there it finally appeared in a Dutch newspaper: De Nieuwe Haarlemsche Courant, in 1948. Other papers followed soon after. By 1949 'Eric de Noorman' was already popular enough to be adapted into a play by Het Vrolijk Toneel under direction of Riny Blaaser.

Eric de Noorman - 'De Gouden Droom'.

Eric de Noorman: Style and artwork
Like many Dutch newspaper comics at the time 'Eric De Noorman' appeared in the text comics format, with the dialogue written underneath the images. All episodes were printed in black-and-white. Later in his career Kresse colorized some 'Eric' stories and adapt them in speech balloon format. Yet most fans agree: the only way to truly enjoy and experience the series is as a black-and-white text comic. Kresse was a master in light and shadow effects. His characters are often shown in powerful black-and-white contrasts, which give his drawings the feel of a classic black-and-white silent picture. Some other realistic comics from that same era often look stiff and unconvincing. 'Eric de Noorman', on the other hand, swept away readers' imagination like few others. Every scene looked near-photographic, all action cinematic and his pen-and-ink characters feel like genuine people. There is a vividness in his characters rarely seen in other comics. From 1949 on Kresse used brush techniques, which gave his work an even more elegant look. The text comic format allowed readers to admire his marvellous and atmospheric illustrations on their own terms. Marten Toonder expressed it best in his foreword to a reissue of the 'Eric' story 'De Geschiedenis van Bor Khan' (1988): "I don't believe that the epic Eric saga would've grown to such proportions if it had been a balloon comic. Not in Kresse's head and not in the fantasy of his countless fans."

Eric de Noorman - 'De Zwarte Piraat'.

Eric de Noorman: Historical accuracy
Kresse increased the comic's believability by grounding it more in plausible reality. Up until 1951 'Eric de Noorman' was a pure heroic fantasy series. He drew the Middle Ages as most people imagined it, without any concern about historical accuracy. Eric encountered magicians, dragons and goblins. The story 'Schipbreukelingen in Rome' (1950) was a turning point. Since the plot involved real-life Roman emperor Commodus the artist felt the need of gathering more historical documentation. From that moment on he did more historical research. Toonder's business partner Anton De Zwaan even took Kresse on a trip through Scandinavia, where the comic artist collected even more documentation, including a miniature model of a Viking drakar. All sword and sorcery disappeared from the series. Eric now got involved in battles with Celts, Picts, Saxons and Scots and meets historical characters like Attila the Hun. In the story 'De Wolf en de Havik' (1955) Eric discovers that his castle has been destroyed and moves into more sober-looking huts, a decision on behalf of Kresse to give his hero a more historically authentic home. The dwarf Pum Pum was also removed from the series, because he was a "magical gnome". The only thing that Kresse couldn't change was Eric's title of "King of Norway". Historically speaking, Norway didn't exist as a nation yet, but Kresse left it the way it was out of convenience. The artist pushed his quest for realism so far that his characters actually aged and even died. Even Eric grew older as time passed by. At the time this practice wasn't unusual in US comics, but in Europe Kresse was one of the pioneers in this field.

Censorship and reductions
In the late 1940s and all throughout the 1950s many comics in the Netherlands were regarded as pulp which corrupted the youth and made them too lazy to read real books. 'Eric de Noorman' was one of the few comic strips to escape this prejudice. Fellow artists hailed its masterful artwork and historians acknowledged its historical authenticity. Because of its text comics format and educational nature it was deemed acceptable for young readers. 'Eric de Noorman' looked and read less like a comic strip and more like a literary epic. The 'Eric' series was popularized by small and cheap books in landscape format, which often told an entire story. While it wasn't the only (Dutch) comic strip sold in this format, it's still the most associated with the genre and fondly remembered by many comics collectors. However, many books were often edited carelessly. In order to fit everything in, the illustrations were often casually cut and stories incomprehensibly shortened. While 'Eric de Noorman' ran uncensored in Flemish newspapers, prudish Dutch censors often took offense with certain "erotically suggestive" scenes. Some male characters walked around bare-chested or wore kilts, while women were occasionally drawn with voluptuous breasts and dresses which showed quite some skin. Censors sometimes redrew certain images to cover up body parts that were too revealing. Other times they clumsily blacked everything out, making it appear as if these characters wore pitch black robes. Some stories weren't even published in the Netherlands, making confused readers unable to understand the continuity any longer.

Eric de Noorman: International success
Meanwhile 'Eric de Noorman' invaded the rest of the world, though in some countries it was reworked as a balloon comic. The comic appeared in French as 'Eric l'Homme du Nord' in the Walloon newspaper Le Soir and under the title 'Eric le Brave' in the French magazines Aventures Boum, Vécu, Récréation, and Pierrot Champion. English-language readers followed 'Eric the Norseman' in the British papers Liverpool Echo and The Evening Express. In Germany it could be enjoyed as 'Erik, der Wikinger' in Boni Bilderpost. Finnish readers could follow his adventures in Maaseudun Tulevaisuus, consequently the only language which changed Eric's name, renaming him 'Olaf'. The Norse Viking also appeared in Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Spain ('Erik, El Hombre del Norte'), Portugal ('Erico, Homem do Norte'), South Africa, Curaçao, Suriname, India, Argentina and Brazil. In Indonesia 'Eric' was even bootlegged as a balloon comic.

Eric de Noorman: Later years
The comic became so universally popular that it effectively became the bestselling title of all Toonder comics, which naturally didn't sit well with Toonder. His business partner Anton De Zwaan claimed that 'Eric' was just easier to sell in foreign translations, but Toonder didn't believe him and in 1953 they discontinued their partnership. Despite having a bestseller in his hands, Kresse too felt unsatisfied. Toonder often came across as undecisive, never quite knowing what he wanted with the series? It also bothered Kresse that many of his texts were changed without consulting him. Another irritation was the printing quality. In some papers, like the Liverpool Echo, 'Eric' was nigh unreadable. In 1951 Kresse took a bold move and applied for a job at the Disney Studios by sending Walt Disney a letter with a few examples of his comics. Although Disney visited Europe and the Netherlands that same year he couldn't find the time for an appointment. As a result Kresse stayed in the Netherlands and eventually joined De Zwaan's own agency, Swan Features, instead. 'Eric de Noorman' ran for 13 more years, while the series became more historically oriented, completely written and drawn by the maestro himself. However, his collaboration with De Zwaan wasn't completely lucrative either. Kresse had signed a contract in which he would share half of the profits with De Zwaan. The deal stipulated that Kresse wasn't allowed to contact Toonder or any of his employees at all. On 24 January 1964 the final episode of 'Eric de Noorman' appeared in the papers.

'Xander' (1947).

Xander, Matho Tonga and other comics
Apart from 'Eric', Kresse also drew a comic strip about Greek mythology named 'Xander' (1947-1948) which appeared in Tom Poes Weekblad and the Swedish weekly Vecko Nytt. The texts were written by Dirk Huizinga, former photographer of De Telegraaf, who also worked on 'Kappie'. For the same magazine, Kresse also illustrated the feature 'In de Tipi' (1947), which explained the daily lives of Native American tribes. This led to his most well known western comic, 'Matho Tonga, Laatste der Mandans' (1948). Matho Tonga is a Native American who, just like Chingachook of the Mohicans, is the last of his tribe. The comic strip is notable for being a strong statement against the mistreatment of Native Americans by white Americans. Three stories were created in assistance by Dick de Wilde, serialized in Ons Vrije Nederland (1948-1949), De Zweep (1948-1949), Algemeen Dagblad (1950-1951), Wereldkroniek (1954) and, two decades later, in Pep (1970). Piet Wijn filled in on the artwork for strips #124 through 128. In 1977 all three stories were collected in book format by Oberon.

In 1957 Kresse was also present in Olidin, a magazine published by the junior club of the oil company Shell. There he published the text comic 'Roland de Jonge Jager' (1957) and two stories of the science fiction comic 'Pim en de Venusman' (1959-1960). Other important contributors to Olidin were Emile Brumsteede, Wim Giesbers, Frits GodhelpFriso Henstra, Niek Hiemstra, Jan Kruis, Ted Mathijsen, Joost Rietveld, Chris Roodbeen, Jan van der Voo, P. Visser, Dick Vlottes, Carol Voges, Joop Wiggers and Piet Wijn

'Pim en de Venusman'.

By 1953 Kresse began a second career as an illustrator. His first client was the Hague children's book publisher Van Goor, but the collaboration ended quickly because of creative differences. More lasting was his association with the magazines of De Geïllustreerde Pers. Between 1953 and 1965 Kresse illustrated many text serials for the Dutch Disney weekly Donald Duck. These included original stories by Dick Dreux, Joop Termos and Tim Maran, but also classic stories by Enid Blyton ('The Famous Five'), Rudyard Kipling, Jules Verne and Robert L. Stevenson. As one of the magazine's first local contributors, he helped it earn its firm roots in Dutch culture to this day. Kresse returned to its pages during the 1980s. He also provided illustrations for Revue, Margriet and Panorama. Highlights were the well-documented historical series 'Van Tinnen en Transen' (1956), 'Avontuur en Romantiek Op en Rond de Zuiderzee' (1957), 'Avontuur voor de Boeg' (1959), 'Onze Voorvaderen op Vrijersvoeten' and the painted centerfolds about world conquerors in Revue. Some of these were also printed in the German magazine Praline. Also notable were the painted covers for Panorama, and his illustrations for the seasonal books and children's book library of the women's magazine Margriet from 1955 onwards.

Illustrations for the text serial 'Randar de Bevrijder' by Dick Dreux, which was serialized in Donald Duck in the first half of 1961.

Kresse kept busy creating cover and interior illustrations for book series, including 'Geschiedenis en Cultuur voor Jonge Mensen' by Jaap ter Haar (1961-1967), Paul Nowee's 'Arendsoog' series (1962-1980), the 'Pim Pandoer' series by Carel Beke (1963-1964), Ray Franklin's 'Winfair' (1966-1968) and the collections 'Fibula Junior' (1969-1974) and 'Fibula. Klassieke Reeks' (1971-1972). In 1959 Kresse divorced from his first wife and remarried. They received three children, the first one named Eric. By 1984 this marriage also ended in divorce.

After discontinuing 'Eric de Noorman' Kresse came to the conclusion that times had changed. Text comics were losing their popularity in favour of balloon comics. In 1964 he joined the newly found magazine Pep, another publication of De Geïllustreerde Pers, where he created stories with 'Spin en Marty' (1964) and 'Zorro' (1964-1967), both based on the popular Disney children's TV series and mostly written by Joop Termos. Kresse drew another comic strip inspired by a television series for Revue, this time based on 'Bonanza' (1965-1966). Eight stories in total were created. The artist also used his own creativity with two other comics published in Pep, namely the short story 'De Boogschutter' (1965, script by Yvan Delporte), and his second-best known series 'Vidocq'.

'Vidocq' (1965-1970) is set during the early 19th century when Napoleon conquered Europe. The main character, Vidocq, is a master detective who once served jail time. He was based on the legendary Eugène François Vidocq (1775-1857), a burglar-turned-detective whose memoires had a tremendous influence on the detective literature genre. Kresse once again used extensive documentation for this colorful and atypical comic hero. The master of disguises was accompanied by the sexy Annette, who became his wife, and the redheaded servant Coco as comic relief. Kresse created a total of 23 short stories and 9 serials, four of which were written by Tim Maran. The character made a comeback in Pep's successor Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd in 1986-1987. Besides two reprints, Kresse made three new stories written in cooperation with Ruud Straatman.

'De Weg van de Wraak'.

Native American series
In 1968 Kresse illustrated various stories by Anton Kuyten for Pep about Native Americans. The first two were titled 'De Schreeuw van de Dondervogel' (1968-1969) and 'De Indiaanse Opperhoofden en Hun Oorlogen' (1971-1973). In the same genre Kresse reprised 'Matho Tonga' but under a different title, 'De Laatste der Mandans', followed by other comics about Native American chiefs, such as 'De wraak van Minimic' (1970), 'Mangas Coloradas' (1971-1972, script by Kuyten) and 'Wetamo' (1972-1973). The artist actually enjoyed drawing stories about Native Americans more than 'Eric de Noorman'. In 1972 he made a deal with publisher Casterman to create a comic series which can be best described as a saga about an Apache family. It follows them throughout the ages as they are confronted with colonial settlers. Ten stories in total were created: 'De Meesters van de Donder' (1973), 'De Kinderen van de Wind' (1973), 'De Gezellen van het Kwaad' (1974), 'De Zang van de Prairiewolven' (1974), 'De Weg van de Wraak' (1975), 'De Welp en de Wolf' (1976), 'De Gierenjagers' (1978), 'De Prijs van de Vrijheid' (1979), 'De Eer van een Krijger' (1982) and the unfinished story 'De Lokroep van Quivera'. The series never received any other name but the 'Indianenreeks' (the 'Indian series') and was recognizable by a font sporting the head of a Native American chief in the upper right corner of every book. While translated in more than ten countries, it never sold well. Yet 'De Welp en de Wolf' did win the Prix Alfred for "Best Foreign Comic Book" (1977) at the International Comics Festival of Angoulême.

'De Zang van de Prairiewolven'.

Erwin de Noorman
All the while 'Eric de Noorman' was far from forgotten. Only two years after the series was terminated Kresse discovered that there was much demand for its comeback. He suggested this to the editors of Pep, but they asked him to come up with something new instead. Both got their wish in the end as Kresse created a spin-off of the original series, 'Erwin de Noorman' (1966-1973), starring Eric's son Erwin. Contrary to the original, this was a balloon comic published in color, just like all other comics in Pep. Erwin was also more of an anti-hero. He often made regrettable mistakes and suffered from temper problems. In 1974 Kresse quit all his comics activities, both for Pep as well as Casterman. The final 'Erwin' story, 'Erwin, De Ware Koning', remained unfinished.

Alain d'Arcy
Four years later he did create another comic strip for Eppo: 'Alain d'Arcy' (1977-1978), a magical history series about a Knight Templar.

Erwin de Noorman - 'De Bevrijding' (Pep #5, 1967).

Revival of Eric de Noorman
In 1969 the publishing company Wolters Noordhoff tried reprinting the old 'Eric de Noorman' stories, but gave up halfway. Other publishers like Tango and Skarabee failed at the same mission. In 1980 Dutch comics collector Hans Matla made a deal with Kresse to republish all 'Eric' stories chronologically and in a luxury format through his publishing house Panda. The first entry appeared in 1980, the final one in 1991. All original artwork and writing was restored and every instance of censorship removed. Kresse helped out, but most of the restaurations were in hands of long-time admirer Dick Matena. In 1984 De Spaarnestad published translations of two Danish balloon comic versions of 'Eric de Noorman' as supplement to Panorama magazine. Two years later the 'Eric story, 'De Vrouw in het Blauw' (1986), appeared in the book Wordt Vervolgd Presenteert. Both new stories were later added to Panda's prestigious collection too. In 1988 he redrew the older 'Eric' story, 'De Geschiedenis van Bor Khan', and adapted it into a balloon comic. The idea came from Thom Roep, who had just done the same with Alfred Bestall's 'Rupert Bear' stories for Donald Duck. The renewed story ran in Eppo's successor Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad. The sequel, 'Svitjolds Offer', was considered for a remake too, but stranded after only 11 pages.

'De Geschiedenis van Bor Khan', balloon version.

In 1976 Hans G. Kresse received the Stripschapprijs for his entire body of work. 'De Welp en de Wolf' in his 'Native American' series won the Prix Alfred for "Best Foreign Comic Book" (1977) at the International Comics Festival of Angoulême. In 1997 Kresse was posthumously made a honorary member of de Dutch Illustrators' Club (NIC). 

Final years and death
By 1982 Kresse once again briefly retired because his eyesight worsened. An operation solved the matter partially, but still hindered him while drawing. Occasionally he provided illustrations for publisher Westfriesland and between 1982 and 1988 again for the Disney weekly Donald Duck. In 1987 Kresse published the juvenile novel 'De Kleine Heldin' and dedicated it to Toonder. His final new creation was a comic series about Genghis Khan, but only 17 pages were made before he passed away from lung cancer in 1992. His death made headlines all over the Netherlands.

Illustration for 'De witte hengst Moina' by Marja Schilling (Donald Duck #24, 1983).

Legacy and influence
Hans G. Kresse was known as a humble, somewhat grumpy man who felt he wasn't exceptionally gifted. According to him "anyone could learn his skills" and he famously referred to himself as "een plaatjespoeper" ("just a shitter of pictures"). He wasn't a social type and preferred staying at home rather than go out and meet his fans, the press or other people. Yet he at least lived long enough to experience the appreciation many other veteran artists never received. Two years before his death an official fan club was established, the Kressekring (1990), who had their own fanzine: Viking. In 1997 this evolved in the Stichting Hans G. Kresse, with official participation of his children and grandchildren. The foundation guarded Kresse's legacy and provided its benefactors with newsletters and reprints of obscure and previously unpublished works. Since 2006 a group of 50-60 Kresse fans organize annual gatherings during which the work and life of Hans G. Kresse are studied and discussed. Among the group's core members are Kresse scholars like Eric Planting, Rob van Eijck, Hans Matla, Julius de Goede and Rob Aalpol. Frits van der Linden opened his own Kresse Museum in Gouda on 29 May 2010. The Comics Museum in Groningen also presented a lot of Kresse material in its permanent exhibition. Because of these private initiatives, the Kresse foundation saw its main goal fulfilled, and announced its dissolvement in July 2018. The final newsletter appeared in November 2018. Kresse's manuscripts and published works are transferred to the Comics Documentation Center of the University of Amsterdam, while the author's personal correspondence remains within the family.

Illustration for the book series 'Geschiedenis en Cultuur voor Jonge Mensen' by Jaap ter Haar.

His work was a strong influence on many European artists who worked in the realistic genre: Jijé, Willy Vandersteen, Karel Verschuere, Frank SelsBob de Moor, Rik Clément, Martin Lodewijk, Jan Kruis, Piet Wijn, Dick Matena, Theo van den BoogaardAnco DijkmanJean Giraud, René FolletGrzegorz Rosinski, Claus Scholz and William Vance. Willy Vandersteen and Karel Verschuere's 'De Rode Ridder' and Rik Clément's 'Reinhart de Eenzame Ridder' often imitated his graphic style, sometimes downright copying poses and characters. Clément's Reinhart the knight was an obvious expy of Eric. Another huge fan of Kresse is Dick Matena, who once drew an erotic parody of 'Eric de Noorman', published in the Dutch edition of Playboy magazine. In the comics district in the Dutch city Almere three streets have been named after Kresse characters since 2003, namely the Matho Tonga street, the Winonah street and the Eric de Noormanhof. There is also a street for the artist himself: the Hans G. Kresseweg. 

Lambiek will always be grateful to Kresse for illustrating the letter "E" in our encylopedia book, 'Wordt Vervolgd - Stripleksikon der Lage Landen', published in 1979.

Hans G. Kresse with Lambiek's Kees Kousemaker in 1983.

Books about H.G. Kresse
Dick Matena published a personal reflection on Kresse's achievements, in landscape format naturally, named: 'Herinneringen Aan Een Mythe. Hans G. Kresse's 'Eric de Noorman' (1998), which is a more extended version of an article Matena published earlier, named 'Mijmeringen Bij Een Oeuvre'. The highly recommended book has a foreword by Marten Toonder. In 2007 the equally insightful booklet 'Eric de Noorman Opnieuw Bekeken. 60 Jaar Nederland's Grootste Stripheld' was published by Rob van Eijck, with a foreword by Dick Matena. It provides readers with an overview of Kresse's entire life and career, once again presented in landscape format. Wim Hazeu, who also wrote the excellent 2012 biography about Marten Toonder, has announced an upcoming biography about H.G. Kresse.

Illustration for the text story 'Stevijn Hazehart', published in 1965 in Donald Duck weekly.


Series and books by Hans G. Kresse you can order today:


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