Gutsman by Erik Kriek

Erik Kriek is a Dutch illustrator, designer and comic artist, whose work has a retro feel and great affiliation with Americana. In comics circles, he first became known for his comic book series 'Gutsman' (1994), a pantomime superhero parody. 'Gutsman' gained a cult following because of its absurd, self-reflexive and adult comedy. In the same vein he created the spin-off 'Little Andy Roid' (2000), about an android robot. Kriek has gained a wider audience with his more serious graphic novels, including his collection of Lovecraft adaptations, 'Het Onzienbare' (2012), his graphical adaptations of U.S. murder ballads in 'In the Pines' (2016), and the epic Viking saga 'De Balling' (2019). Since most of his work makes no use of dialogue, Kriek quickly found success all across the globe. 

Early life and career
Erik Kriek was born in 1966 in Amsterdam. Between 1986 and 1991 he studied and graduated at the Rietveld Academy for Art and Design. He then became a freelance artist. Among his graphic influences are American artists like Daniel Clowes, Will Eisner, Charles BurnsJeff Smith and Chris Ware, as well as the classic 1940s horror comics of EC Comics by artists like Wallace Wood. He has also expressed his admiration for Dutch artists like Peter Pontiac, Typex and Peter van Dongen

Little Andy Roid by Erik Kriek'
'Little Andy Roid'.

Kriek first came to notice with his comic book series 'Gutsman', of which he self-published the first issue in 1994. Gutsman, is a superhero who looks somewhat like Lee Falk's 'The Phantom', despite being a lot more stupid and helpless. His love interest is the sexy woman Tigra, who wears a tiger-like outfit. Kriek based her looks on the mascot of the Belgian cigarette brand Tigra. Since the company went bankrupt years ago he was never sued for copyright infringement. Gutsman often tries to win Tigra's hand, but their creator - Kriek himself - also lusts after her. Many episodes feature them fighting over her. Oog & Blik published a total of nine more comic books with Kriek's domestic superhero until 2010, and the stories were also published in the alternative comic magazine Zone 5300, edited by Tonio van Vugt. The pantomime comic strip earned him quick recognition, even in the USA, where they were eventually released by Top Shelf in 2005. In 2006, 'Gutsman' was even brought to the stage as a "silent" music-theatre piece, combining both dance and mime, starring Francisca Rijken, Job Cornelissen and Kriek. 

Little Andy Roid
Another character by Kriek is the robot 'Little Andy Roid', who was first featured in the 'Gutsman' comic books and Zone 300, and had his first solo mini-comic through De Plaatjesmaker in 2000. Oog & Blik published two comic books in a vintage 1950s style, complete with fake advertisements, in 2003 and 2005.

Het Onzienbare
Zone 5300 also ran Kriek's adaptations of classic horror/sci-fi stories by H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), which were later collected in the book 'Het Onzienbare, en Andere Verhalen van H. P. Lovecraft' by Oog & Blik in 2012. It has since been translated into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish and Serbian.

Het Onzienbare by Erik Kriek
'Het Onzienbare'.

In the Pines
Kriek has a strong sense for perfectionism in the production of his books, with high-quality paper, fine workmanship and a slick graphic design. This was also evident in his collection of comics interpretations of five murder ballads, a genre of American folk-songs about ill-fated love stories ending in murder. 'In The Pines' (Scratch Books, 2016) was published to high critical acclaim, and was accompanied by a CD with the ballads from the book, performed by Kriek and The Bluegrass Boogiemen. The songs that served as the basis for Kriek's comic stories were 'Taneytown' by Steve Earle (1997), 'The Long Black Veil' by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin (1959), 'Caleb Meyer' by Gillian Welch (1998), 'Where The Wild Roses Grow' by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue (1996), and 'Pretty Polly (And The Ship's Carpenter)', a traditional from the 18th century. The book has subsequently appeared in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Serbian and Arab. It also won the 2016 Rudolph Dirks Award in Germany in the category "Best Horror", and was lauded as "Album of the year" during the Dutch Comics Days in Rijswijk in March 2017.

In The Pines by Erik Kriek
'In The Pines'.

De Balling
His next project was an epic Viking story set in 10th century Iceland, called 'De Balling'. It tells the story of Viking warrior Hallstein Thordson, who returns home after a long exile for murdering his best friend Hraffn. The story of 208 pages was published in Scratch Books in May 2019. The story was inspired by his mother, who has Finnish roots and often took him to visit Viking-related musea. Kriek also cited 'Wickie the Viking' and Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosinski's 'Thorgal' as influences and especially the 1984 Icelandic cult film 'When the Raven Flies' (1984). The project was nevertheless an ordeal for Kriek, who suffered a brain infarct in November 2018. During a visit at a local bar he suddenly collapsed. When he awoke in a hospital bed it turned out that the left half of his body was paralyzed. The doctor also informed him he suffered from diabetes. Luckily he draws with his right hand and therefore could continue working on 'De Balling', as his body slowly but surely recovered. 

'De Balling'.

Creek Country
When he's not sweating it out over the drawing board, Kriek has been performing on stage in Irish bars, as a singer and banjo player. But music also plays an important role as a stimulus during his drawing process. To honor his favorite artists, Kriek created the artbook 'Creek Country' (Concerto Books, 2020), with 50 portraits of folk, country and bluegrass musicians. Like 'In The Pines', the book is accompanied by a CD with a selection of songs, performed by Tim Knol and the Blue Grass Boogiemen.

De Kuil
After the dark woods of North America and the cold hills of medieval Iceland, Erik Kriek chose a contemporary Dutch setting for his next next graphic novel, 'De Kuil' ("The Pit", 2023). After the tragic loss of their son, a couple move into an old family home in the woods of the Veluwe. They hope to put the sadness behind them and get their lives back on track, but instead are confronted with the mysteries of the woods.

Other comics
Further comic stories by Erik Kriek have appeared in Incognito, De Volkskrant, NRC Next, the cultural magazine Hollands Diep, the literary comic magazine Eisner and the anthology 'Strips in Stereo' (2006). In addition to comics, Kriek works as an illustrator for a wide variety of national and international magazines and newspapers, including VPRO Gids, Vrij Nederland, HP/De Tijd, NRC, De Volkskrant, Playboy and Onze Taal from his home country, Weltwoche from Switzerland, Die Welt from Germany, and Maxim and the Boston Globe from the USA. In 2022, he participated in the collective graphic documentary comic 'Bestemming: Canada', published by Scratch Books in collaboration with the Dutch consul in Canada. The book tells the story of ten Dutch emigrants who tried to find their luck in the Canadian wilderness. The other contributors were Aimée de Jongh, Anne Stalinski, Emma Ringelding, Erik de Graaf, Floor de Goede, Hanco Kolk, Jordi Peters, Mei-Li Nieuwland and Paul Teng.

Books & illustration work
In 2008 Kriek illustrated the cover of Geert De Weyer's book '100 Stripklassiekers Die Niet In Je Boekenkast Mogen Ontbreken' (2008), a guide to 100 essential classic comic series. His designs appear on T-shirts, skateboards and sneakers, and on album covers for artists like Beyond Lickin' ('High Heels Fuzz', 2010) and Anouk ('Fake It Till We Die', 2016). He has also designed covers for the Dutch editions of Tolkien books by the publishing house Meulenhoff and for the pocket books of J.K. Rowling's 'Harry Potter' series by De Harmonie. In late 2016, he released his first children's book, 'Mika, Het Beertje Dat Niet Slapen Wilde' ('Mika, The Little Bear That Didn't Want To Go To Sleep'), in the Dutch "Little Golden Books" collection of the publishing house Rubinstein. 

Kriek Lambiek in 1997
Left: flyer for an exhibition of Erik Kriek's work in Gallery Lambiek in March 1997
Right: For the 40th anniversary of the Amsterdam-based comics shop Lambiek in 2008, Erik Kriek designed this EC pastiche, starring Lambiek's Kees Kousemaker, Klaas Knol and Boris Kousemaker

With only 300 comic pages on his name at the time, Erik Kriek was probably the artist with the smallest oeuvre to receive the Stripschapprijs, awarded on 27 September 2008 during the Stripdagen in Houten. 'In the Pines' won the 2016 Rudolph Dirks Award for "Best Horror". His book 'Het Onzienbare' won the 2012 Haxtur Award for "Best Short Story".

Series and books by Erik Kriek you can order today:


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