Kapitein Rob en het Olie Mysterie, 1925, by QN

Pieter J. Kuhn was a mid-20th century Dutch comic artist, famous for his nautical series 'Kapitein Rob' (1945-1966). 'Kapitein Rob' was Kuhn's sole contribution to comic history and ran less than two decades. But in that timespan, the author established a classic. It was translated in many languages, including English ('Captain Robert'). The stories are still reprinted in book collections to this day. On the surface, the adventures of a brave, rough sea captain and his faithful dog Skip seem a typical maritime comic. However, the storylines also involved space and time travel, making 'Kapitein Rob' a sci-fi/fantasy comic too. This versatility kept the series fresh. Kuhn is praised for his impeccable realistic artwork and precise maritime-geographical research. Every location, ship and piece of equipment is drawn with eye for accuracy. Although he collaborated with a scriptwriter, Evert Werkman, to streamline his narratives, all ideas were completely Kuhn's. It solidified his name among the "Big Three" of Dutch newspaper comics, along with Marten Toonder and H.G. Kresse.

Early life and career
Pieter Joseph Kuhn was born in 1910 in Amsterdam, as the son of a cigar factory worker. He had two brothers and a sister. The Kuhn family lived at the Hugo de Grootkade, a working-class district where many sailing vessels lay waiting to be loaded. The docks and quays were his playground and fuelled his imagination and passion for boats. As a child, he already enjoyed drawing comics which he titled the 'P.K. series', in reference to his initials. In the 1920s, Kuhn took evening courses from the Kunstnijverheidsschool Quellinus, a local arts and crafts school. One of the teachers recognized his talent and stimulated him to enroll at at the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten (Royal Academy of Fine Arts), where he took additional evening courses between 1930 and 1932. During the day, the young student worked as an apprentice lithographer at the printing company Senefelder. In 1929, he got his degree, which helped him get a job as advertising artist with the printing firm Van Dooren in Vlaardingen. On the side, he also illustrated books, book bindings, postcards, LP record covers, children's tableware and film posters. After their marriage in 1934, Kuhn and his wife spent four years living in Schiedam. After a short return to Amsterdam between January and July 1939, the Kuhn family relocated to Hilversum, where Kuhn began making illustrations in commission of the ad agency Kastelein. Some of his drawings, including the a cartoon feature 'Loeb', appeared in the company's house magazine De Basis.

World War II
In 1940, Hitler occupied the Netherlands. Two years later Kuhn quit his job at Kastelein and started his own independent company, in partnership with former colleague Alex Jagtenberg. Kuhn and Jagtenberg illustrated numerous books, signing some of their illustrations with the pseudonym "Peter". Usually, Kuhn made the sketches, after which Jagtenberg finished and colored the drawings. Unavoidably, many commercial offers were done for the Nazis and/or companies under Nazi control. One of their main clients was Volksche Uitgeverij Westland, a wartime publishing firm of national-socialist literature. Kuhn even illustrated propaganda books that glorified Nazism, demonized Jews and advocated Hitler's 1941 invasion of Russia. Yet at the same time, he was secretly active for the Resistance Movement. Kuhn used his drawing talent to falsify identity papers, for instance for his Jewish publisher Hein(z) Kohn. He also illustrated banned books, which were then distributed on the black market. Kuhn additionally helped people hide from the Nazis, including Jews. He not only sheltered people in his cellar, but also on his small sailing boat, the Caprice, moored in Loosdrecht.

One time, he was close to being caught after someone had betrayed him. Following the tip, the Gestapo searched the Kuhn residence, but couldn't find anything. The next day, Kuhn instantly packed up his falsification equipment and biked to Haarlem to go into hiding himself. This enabled him to continue his underground activities elsewhere. While Kuhn's exciting double life was worthy of a 'Kapitein Rob' adventure, it is unknown whether he was prosecuted for collaboration and/or decorated for his bravery after the war. So far, no research seems to have been done regarding this period of his life. Either way, after the 1945 Liberation, Kuhn noticed that book illustration assignments were less in demand. So he tried a different job: comic artist.


First appearance of 'Kapitein Rob' on 11 December 1945.

Kapitein Rob
While the Netherlands slowly but surely rebuilt itself, newspapers tried to attract more readers through serialized comics. Even during the war, Kuhn had thought about creating a newspaper comic about a sea captain. The Netherlands have a centuries old seafaring tradition, which naturally made stories about sailors very popular. At first, Kuhn looked for a pre-existing novel he could adapt into a comic strip. Unable to find something suitable, he decided to think up his own stories. The former Amsterdam resistance paper Het Parool was now mainstream and greenlighted his idea. On 11 December 1945, the first episode of 'Kapitein Rob' was serialized. Sixteen days later, another newspaper comic about a captain, Marten Toonder's 'Kappie' (1945-1972), debuted in Het Vaderland and Algemeen Dagblad. In the following year, the adventures at sea of H.G. Kresse's Viking 'Eric de Noorman' (1946-1964) were launched in the Flemish paper Het Laatste Nieuws. Still, 'Kapitein Rob' remains the first post-war Dutch maritime comic series. A strong graphic influence on Kuhn's strip was Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant'. Milton Caniff's nautical comic 'Terry and the Pirates' may have been an inspiration too, given the subject matter.


Werkman and Kuhn contemplating over new 'Kapitein Rob' stories at the beginning of 'Het Mysterie van het Zevengesternte' (1949).

Evert Werkman
Like all Dutch newspaper comics at the time, 'Kapitein Rob' was presented in text comics format, with the text written underneath the images. Kuhn wanted a more "American style" balloon comic, but his editors rejected this idea. The captions for the first story, 'De Avonturen van Het Zeilschip De Vrijheid' (1945-1946), were written by journalist Wijnanda "Nanny" Aberson (1912-1994). Yet she found it difficult to write descriptions for images lacking immediate action. The head of Het Parool, Wim van Norden, also felt she wrote "too literary" for the young target audience. Therefore, from the second story on, 'Het Scheepsjournaal van Peer den Schuymer' (1947), a more professional writer and journalist, Evert Werkman (1915-1988), was approached. Werkman had recently written a boys' novel ('Klaas Rol Valt Naar Boven', 1945) and also shared Kuhn's passion for the sea. They remained creative partners until the final episode. However, Werkman was less of a scriptwriter and more of a modifier. His role was to streamline Kuhn's ideas into a coherent, well written text, based on his finished drawings and descriptive notes. Interviewed in Stripschrift issue #107 (January 1978), Werkman stated that the 'Kapitein Rob' stories were all products of Kuhn's unlimited imagination, more than his own. Above all, Werkman was somebody Kuhn could talk to, whenever he wanted to discuss his characters and stories. The two men understood each other so well that after a while, they didn't need to hold meetings any longer. Kuhn simply sent him all the material and Werkman knew what to do next. Werkman and other co-workers of Het Parool were given cameos in the story 'Het Mysterie van het Zevengesternte' (1949).

Cast
Originally, 'Kapitein Rob' was titled 'De Avonturen van het Zeilschip De Vrijheid' ("The Adventures of Sailing Ship The Freedom"). With the 7th episode, the title was changed, bringing the focus to the young, brave sea captain Rob van Stoerem, instead of his ship. A few months before the first episode, Kuhn considered naming his hero 'Kapitein Zeil' (literally: "Captain Sail"), but at the suggestion of his wife he eventually named him Rob. The name "Rob" was probably derived from the Dutch term "zeerob" (translation: "sea dog", "seafarer"). However, his last name "Van Stoerem" (literally: "Van Coolem") still sounded a bit silly. In later episodes, Kuhn simply referred to him as Captain Rob, since his coolness was obvious to all readers. His ship De Vrijheid (The Freedom) was another not so subtle name. It directly referenced the post-war atmosphere of liberation. In general, World War II is still very much present in the early stories. In the episode 'Het Geheim van de Bosplaat' (1948), a secret Nazi hideout is discovered underneath the island Terschelling. Rob lost his father during a sea battle on 13 May 1940. He also lost his brother Kees at sea. In a later story, 'De Rose Parels van Tamoa' (1951), he finds out that his sibling still alive on an exotic island, where Rob is revered as a king. Rob's faithful Samoyed dog was saved from a sinking battle ship near Murmansk. He adopted the animal as his pet and named him Skip.


Captain Rob and Paula get married at the end of 'De Speurtocht van de Vrijheid' (1954).

Kuhn modelled his protagonist after himself, down to his pipe smoking habit. Whenever the artist appeared in the press or at public meetings, he usually put on a sea captain's hat to resemble his alter ego. Rob is a typical chaste hero. In several stories, he teams up with two attractive female journalists, the blonde Willy and brunette Marga, though he has no sexual interest in them. Rob is even annoyed when they join him on his voyages, even though the ladies prove to be very helpful sailors on board. Since hanging around with unmarried women was still a social taboo in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Kuhn had Rob marry another woman, Paula, in 'De Speurtocht van de Vrijheid' (1954). The couple has two children, Robbie and Josje, both modelled after Kuhn's own offspring. The names of Kuhn's daughters, Willy and Marga, had already inspired the previously mentioned journalist duo. Unfortunately, readers complained about Rob's marriage too, fearing their adventurous hero would settle down. So Kuhn made the captain a lonely drifter again, barely mentioning his wife and children ever again.


Kapitein Rob - 'Het Raadsel van Venus'.

Rob's recurring opponent, the mad scientist Professor Lupardi, debuted in the third story, 'Het Pinguïnland van Professor Lupardi' (1947). Originally, he fell into a volcano at the end of the tale, but Kuhn brought him back from the dead when he realized Lupardi was a great archenemy. Lupardi invents many ludicrous things to take over the world. He is assisted by his toady sidekick Yoto, who wears glasses with thick plastic rims. Lupardi's looks were inspired by Kuhn's friend Detmer Detmers, who also owned a Samoyeed dog named Skip. Yoto was based on Kuhn's uncle. Another recurring character, Cigarette Larry, was originally a moustached, chain smoking American-born crook, with looks based on Clark Gable. But the nefarious villain later changes his ways and becomes an officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The fact that Kuhn's wife found Larry very attractive may have played a role in his conversion to a "good" character.


Kapitein Rob - 'Het Geheim van de Tunnel'.

Maritime expertise
Pieter Kuhn once described 'Kapitein Rob' as "a tale for boys, based on reality, in order to enlarge their maritime, geographic and general knowledge." Since his childhood he was fascinated by ships and harbors. He often visited the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam and owned a large collection of books, photographs, magazine clippings and objects. His personal sailing ship Caprice in Loosdrecht was a specific small type, named a "tjalk" in Dutch. In 'De Stranding van de Caprice', he named a mysterious ship after his own. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Kuhn often sailed to the Meditteranean to get inspiration for new stories. He loved going out on the water, but was equally happy just cleaning or fixing things on deck, while the vessel was moored in the harbor. During summers, he often drew new 'Kapitein Rob' episodes with his paper sheets lying on top of his motor engine desk. In his final years, Kuhn considered buying a real sailing boat, which he could name "De Vrijheid", like the ship of his signature character.

Kuhn was a genuine maritime expert, whose passion splashed from the pages. He spent many hours getting every technical detail in his ships right. Once he received a congratulatory letter from a real-life sailor for his drawing of a buoy: even the registration codes were correct! Another time, Kuhn spotted a tiny technical mistake in an episode which was already sent to print. He had his drawings instantly returned to him, so he could fix the error. When stories came out in book format, the artist sometimes corrected mistakes too. In the story 'Het Scheepsjournaal van Peer den Schuymer' (1948), set in the 16th century, the characters use a steering wheel, but Kuhn later discovered this was an anachronism. In the book version he altered the panel to depict a vertical lever/bar to steer the rudder, a so-called "kolderstok" in Dutch. In terms of maritime perfectionism, Kuhn is comparable to one other comic artist: the Fleming Bob de Moor. Both were contemporaries. While De Moor was arguably more virtuoso, Kuhn still topped him by being equally good in depicting both modern ships and historical vessels. De Moor was, by comparison, specifically focused on 16th and 17th-century ships.

Kapitein Rob in China
'Kapitein Rob in China'.

Geographical expertise
Kuhn was also skilled in visualizing recognizable geographic locations. Some backgrounds in 'Kapitein Rob' were directly based on holiday photos or sketches, for instance to Morocco, Italy or Spain. Others were lifted from photos of exotic places in National Geographic Magazine. Many settings were based on his own country, though, including Amsterdam, the Muiderslot castle and especially the isle of Terschelling. The isle is a central place of action in stories like 'Het Geheim van de Bosplaat' (1947), 'De Ontdekking van Krijn Storm' (1954) and 'Het Geheim van de Westergronden' (1958). This regional appeal is one of the series' charms. Kuhn managed to create a time capsule of the post-war Netherlands as well as what Amsterdam looked like in the 17th century. Some locations are still recognizable to tourists today.


Kapitein Rob - 'De Vliegende Hollander'.

Genre-busting
Contrary to most nautical comics, 'Kapitein Rob' didn't limit itself to one specific set-up. The first story is still a straightforward sea adventure, set in the present. In the eighth tale, 'De Terugkeer van Peer den Schuymer' (1948) the series took a different direction. Rob is introduced to a special invention by professor Prudon: "Het Historisch Oog" ("The Historical Eye"). It brings him into a coma, so his mind can travel back in time, allowing him to enjoy adventures in past centuries. Thanks to this device, Rob meets pirates, explorers and, in 'De Zwerftocht van De Vliegende Hollander' (1949), observes the legendary phantom ship The Flying Dutchman. Throughout the series, he meets historic Dutch naval heroes and even his own 17th-century forefather, Robert Janszoon. In 'De Vallei der Vergeten Wereld' (1948), obviously inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle's novel 'The Lost World', Rob discovers an island full of dinosaurs.


Kapitein Rob - 'De Vallei Der Vergeten Wereld'.

Spacecraft was another one of Kuhn's passions. In the 1950s, Kuhn followed the pioneering work in this field closely. Even before the Russians and Americans got involved in the space race, he already depicted Rob going into outer space. In 'Het Levende Eiland' (1949), the captain and his dog travel to the center of the moon, which is apparently hollow and a shelter for hideous monsters. In 'Het Raadsel van Venus' (1951), peaceful Venusians travel to Earth. Whenever Kuhn drew extraterrestrial spacecrafts or monsters he aways made sure they looked believable and scientifically plausible. The space module in 'De Ruimtereis van Jane Winter' (1962), for instance, looks remarkably visionary. It's nearly identical to the Eagle lunar module used by Apollo 11 only seven years later.


Kapitein Rob - 'Het Levende Eiland'.

In the same Stripschrift interview, Kuhn's scriptwriter Evert Werkman recalled that he was at first sceptical about his friend's ideas to make Kapitein Rob travel through time and into outer space. But in hindsight, he felt he made the right choice. Indeed, the strange mixture between fantasy, historical and science fiction makes 'Kapitein Rob' highly unique. It also allowed great versatility in subject matter. Still, Werkman also downplayed the often heard comparisons with 19th-century science fiction writer Jules Verne. In his opinion, Kuhn reached the literary level of the author of 'Voyage to the Moon' and 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' only superficially. 'Kapitein Rob' is a typical old-fashioned adventure comic set in exotic locations, with clear-cut heroes and villains. Recurring themes are treasure hunts, smugglers, saboteurs, spies, mad scientists, unknown islands and strange phenomena and monsters. Werkman felt Kuhn had more in common with the escapist literature of Karl May: entertaining variations on simple, very similar narratives. Yet readers usually only complained about continuity errors. Kuhn always took the effort of rectifying them for the book collections.

De aanslag op de

Success
'Kapitein Rob' was an instant hit with readers. Only one year after his debut, stories became collectable in little landscape-format books. Between 1946 and 1961, about 56 titles were published. From April 1949 on, an exclusive column titled 'Kapitein Rob Vertelt' ("Captain Rob Narrates", 1948-1950) appeared in the bi-weekly comic magazine Ketelbinkie-krant. In this editorial, Rob told stories about his maritime friends, presented in text format, with illustrations by Kuhn. Ketelbinkie-krant was a magazine circulating in Rotterdam, built around Wim Meuldijk's famous cabin boy 'Ketelbinkie'. With the start of 'Kapitein Rob Vertelt', an Amsterdam edition of the magazine was launched under the title Kapitein Rob's Vrienden ("Captain Rob's Friends"), since Kuhn's creation was far more popular in the Dutch capital. In March 1952, Ketelbinkie-krant became a weekly magazine, appearing throughout the country as Robs Vrienden. The final issue appeared on 8 February 1957.


Header for Robs Vrienden magazine.

'Kapitein Rob' also found success in foreign countries. Syndication was initially handled by the Vaz Dias press agency, but expanded when Ton de Zwaan's Swan Features Syndicate took over. De Zwaan sold the feature to newspapers in Belgium (in Flanders it ran in Het Volk, in Wallonia in Samedi Jeunesse), England, Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Suriname, Aruba, Curaçao, Brazil, South Africa, India, Pakistan and Indonesia. It was translated in English ('Captain Robert'), French ('Capitaine Jacques' in Coq Hardi and 'Capitaine Bonvent' in L'Est-Éclair), German ('Kapitän Rob'), Spanish ('Capitán Rob'), Portuguese ('Capitão Audaz', 'Capitão Bonvent'), Polish ('Kapitana Roba'), Danish, Finnish, Italian, Afrikaans, Indian, Pakistani and Indonesian. In some cases, the text comics were modified to the balloon comics format, like the Spanish translation in Suplemento Infantil (a children's supplement of the paper Las Provincias), and the French translation by Parisian publisher Mondial in their 'Récits Complets' series.


'De Geniale Constructie', advertising comic for Magneet mopeds (published in Magneet Monitor in 1964).

Advertising and illustration work
Although 'Kapitein Rob' was a bestseller, both in the Netherlands and abroad, Het Parool still underpaid Pieter Kuhn. As a result, he remained active as an illustrator. He designed recruiting posters for the Dutch Royal Marine and the Royal Java-China package line. His advertisements for Heineken beer and the bike and motorcycle company Magneet Monitor in Weesp were done in comics format. Kuhn was also the artist behind the trading cards 'Pioniers van de Ruimtevaart' (1956), a series about space travel written by Gerton van Wageningen and produced by the Rotterdamsche Margarine Industrie, which could be collected in a sticker album. Professor Lupardi and his assistant Yoto both star in it.

Kuhn livened up several books, mostly involving sea travels and marine life, such as Olaf J. de Landell's 'Nachtfluistering' (1944), Evert Zandstra's 'Stormkaap' (1952) and Ton van Beers' 'Hou Vol Govert' (1949) in his 'Govert Pits' series. The busy artist designed the cover of a 1942 book about naval hero Michiel de Ruyter, as well as the non-fiction work, 'Van Flevo- tot IJsselmeer' (1943) by Henk Draaisma, both published by Holle & Co. His illustrations also appeared in nautical magazines like De Waterkampioen and De Blauwe Wimpel. In De Waterkampioen, Kuhn als provided images for Hans Anton Maurenbrecher's serialized travel diary 'Het Journaal van de Takebora'. Maurenbrecher sailed the seas in his ship the Takebora and chronicled everything in his captain's log. In a sad coincidence, Kuhn and Maurenbrecher died in the same year. In Kuhn's case from a heart attack, while six months later, Maurenbrecher's ship sank before the Australian Coast. His body was never found. 'Het Journaal van de Takebora' was posthumously released in book format by the Laren-based publisher A.J. Luitingh.

A more stylistic break were Kuhn's 1943-1944 illustrations of Grimm and Andersen's fairy tales, both for publisher Richard Bing, which he signed with "Peter". Under the pen name Kuhn, he livened up the pages of four English-language children's books for Sandle Brothers Limited in London: 'Off to School', 'Happy Days', 'Jolly Times' and 'Fun and Games', all published in the 1950s. In addition, he also illustrated the covers of Franz Taut's 'Candelaria' (1944), a 1946 Dutch translation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's 'Jane van Lantern Hill' and L. Post-Beuckens' 'Land en Volk van Gaast en Klif' (1947).


Illustration for 'Het Journaal van de Takebora'.

Final years and death
From 1945 on, 'Kapitein Rob' had a decade-long uninterrupted run. However, in early 1955, Kuhn decided to take a sabbatical year. He was tired of the series and bluntly explained that "life's too short to waste one's time." Het Parool instantly looked for a suitable replacement comic. In a similar realistic style, Piet Wijn drew the adventures of 'Frank, de Vliegende Hollander' (1955-1956) in the following year. In the final 'Kapitein Rob' episode, printed on Friday 1 April 1955, Kapitein Rob refused a new assignment and passed it on to his aviator friend Frank instead. Frank's adventures took off on 4 April, also written by Evert Werkman. However, many readers missed Kapitein Rob, including the legendary Dutch columnist Simon Carmiggelt, who stated: "Het Parool is too grey without Kapitein Rob." A year and a half year, on 1 September 1956, Kapitein Rob made his triumphant comeback. 'Frank, de Vliegende Hollander' was cancelled, although later that decade, Martin Lodewijk made some new episodes for Scandinavian newspapers. Two years later, on 8 November 1958, 'Kapitein Rob' was interrupted once again, when Kuhn suffered from a heart attack. He survived, but it took half a year before he felt fully recovered to continue the interrupted story, 'De Schimmen van de Nevelvallei'. The captain set sail again on 30 June 1959.

For almost seven years the series had a steady course, until in January 1966, Kuhn suffered a second, this time fatal heart attack. He was at the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam and died on the spot, barely 55 years old. His latest story, 'Rendez-Vous in Jamaica', was halfway serialization. The first 30 strips had seen print. The next 50 were fully inked, but the rest of the story only existed in sketch form. Since Kuhn had never used an assistant or trained a successor, 'Kapitein Rob' was instantly cancelled. In 1976, the Toonder Studio's attempted to relaunch the series in the balloon comics format with Gerrit Stapel as artist. After Stapel had made a couple of try-out panels, Kuhn's heirs vetoed against the initiative.

Posthumous events
During the 1960s, public interest in comics was on the rise. Had Kuhn lived longer, he might have received more press attention and recognition. A comforting thought is that 'Kapitein Rob' is far from forgotten. Already in 1977, publishing company Skarabee reprinted all stories in a new book series. Between 1995 and 1997, Hans Matla released the strip's entire run, including the 33 text stories, in 21 luxury volumes under his imprint Uitgeverij De Vrijbuiter. Paul Rijperman Publications subsequently re-released the material in comic album format between 2001 and 2007, and a new reprint collection by Personalia followed in 2020. Since 2016, Dutch comic collector Ernst Slinger has released books with several of the German 'Kapitän Rob' translations in very limited print runs.

Halfway the 1970s, Kuhn's family members obtained the full rights to all his artwork, including his signature comic. They also kept a close watch on his copyrights. In 1992, they sued publisher Querido because of Robert Anker's parody novel 'De Thuiskomst van Kapitein Rob'. The book spoofs 'Kapitein Rob' by putting him in adult situations, including a sex scene with the journalists Willy and Marga. Kuhn's heirs objected to the pornographic nature as well as the cover, which imitated Kuhn's graphic style and characters. On 9 October 1992, the judge ruled in their favor. Querido had to withdraw the book and pay a fine of 5,000 guilders (2300 euro/2800 dollar) for emotional damages. On 1 January 2009, the Pieter Kuhn Foundation was established to safeguard the author's legacy. On 15 May 2014, Kuhn's entire archive was donated to Groningen Archives.

Kapitein Rob

Musical and film adaptations
In 1950, Evert Werkman adapted 'Kapitein Rob' into a musical, but it was never performed. In 1996, a theatrical show finally came about, directed by Gerard Knap, with lyrics by Rudolf Geel and music by Knap. Ever since the 1970s, plans were made to adapt 'Kapitein Rob' into a live-action TV series. One of the ideas included a co-production between the West German broadcasting company Westdeutsche Rundfunk (nowadays WDR) and the Dutch broadcasting company AVRO. The Dutch marine would make submarines and techniqual equipment available. Haye Thomas, a correspondent of the Dutch broadcasting company NCRV in London, also played with the idea of a TV adaptation. In 1978, the NCRV considered a 13-part series in collaboration with the Dutch film company CineCentrum Hilversum, which would star Rutger Hauer as Kapitein Rob. Less than a decade later, this series was still under consideration, but now as a Belgian-Australian co-production. By the 1990s, plans changed from a TV series to a theatrical film, again with Hauer in the title role. Film company Great Concept also considered an animated feature, produced by the Dutch broadcasting company TROS. At one point, the Toonder Studios were approached for another animated version. Dutch film director Jan de Bont, who broke through in Hollywood with the action film 'Speed' (1994), also expressed the desire to adapt the comics series into a film. In the end, all these ideas stranded because of budgetary issues.

It took until 2007 before 'Kapitein Rob en het Geheim van Professor Lupardi', a co-production of Screenpartners and Shooting Star Films, was released in theaters. The film was directed by Hans Pos, who had produced several award-winning adaptations of Dutch books in the past, including the children's film 'De Tasjesdief' (1995), 'Kruimeltje' (1999) and 'Pietje Bell' (2002), as well as the adult film 'Left Luggage' (1998). The picture starred Thijs Römer and his wife Katja Schuurman as Captain Rob and his love interest Paula. Comedians Arjan Ederveen and Alex Klaasen portrayed professor Lupardi and Yoto. Ironically enough, the crew didn't film at sea, because of budgetary reasons and because lead actor Römer suffered from aquaphobia. Although the film won both a Gouden Film (Golden Film) and MovieSquad Junior Award, it didn't do well at the box office.

Legacy and influence
Since 1994, Kapitein Rob has a memorial plaque in the dunes of the Bosplaat nature reserve on Terschelling, where several of his adventures were situated. The island even harbors a 'Kapitein Rob' trail. Since 2003, two streets in the Dutch city Almere are named after Kuhn's characters, as part of the "Comics Heroes" district. Apart from the Kapitein Robstraat and Professor Lupardistraat, there is also a road named after their creator, the Pieter Kuhnweg.

On 13 December 2020, 75 years after his debut, Kapitein Rob made his comeback in Het Parool, written by Frank von Hebel and drawn by Fred de Heij. The new story, 'De Laatste Reis van de Vrijheid', was intended as a homage and therefore presented in the classic text comics format. Serialized until 7 August 2021, the one-shot story coincided with a complete reprint of all 73 original 'Kapitein Rob' stories by publishing company Personalia.

Pieter Kuhn goes down in history as one major Dutch comic artists from the post-war period, often ranked in one of the "Big Three" lists. In the case of newspaper comics, he forms the "Big Three" with Marten Toonder and Hans G. Kresse. When talking about Dutch realistic comics, he is one of the "Big Three" with Kresse and Alfred Mazure. Locally, Kuhn has influenced Dutch comic creators like Jan Kruis, Jan Steeman, Ruud Straatman, Bart van Leeuwen, Fred de Heij, Kees Sparreboom and Harry Balm. The Belgian artist Willy Vandersteen was also a fan of Kuhn's comic. The 1940s comic artists team, Leen and Gerda Spierenburg, copied panels and narratives from 'Kapitein Rob' for their digest-sized comic books 'Atlantic Star' and 'Algiers' in the Panter collection. In the 1970s, Bob Heiligers drew a parody of 'Kapitein Rob' for the underground magazine Modern Papier, titled 'Kapitein Rot'.

Books about Pieter Kuhn
Lex Ritman's books 'Kapitein Robs Stormachtige Leven' (Panda, 1978, revised in 1995) and 'De Wereld van Pieter Kuhn' (Antoninus Plus, 2016) are highly recommended. Hans Gieben's 'Het Universum van Kapitein Rob' (2010), published by the Pieter Kuhn Foundation, offers an index of all 'Rob' stories. Kuhn fan Henk van der Stoel wrote the book 'De Vrijheid Vaart Uit' (Sherpa, Amsterdam), about his love for the series.

Pieter Kuhn

De Pieter Kuhn Stichting

Series and books by Pieter Kuhn in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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