'De avonturen van Tobias Sloom' (Nieuwe Schiedamsche Courant, 5 October 1946).

Willy Kuyper (officially written as Willy Kuijper) was a Dutch comic artist and illustrator. He was one of several Dutch artists trying his luck at making newspaper comics in the first years after World War II. As a member of Piet van Elk's Stripfilm Studio, he produced serials like 'De Avonturen van Tobias Sloom en Binkie' (1946), 'Valentijn de Veroveraar' (1946-1948), 'De Kapitein van den Geheimen Dienst' (1947) and 'Ted Bolt op het onbekende eiland' (1947). All were text comics about international adventurers, made with the naïvety of the day.

Early life
Born as Willem Jan Kuijper in Amsterdam in 1928, he came from a working class family. His father Johannes Pieter Kuijper was a blacksmith, who after war worked in Beverwijk's metal industry. Willy probably inherited his artistic talent from his material grandmother, who originated from a Liège family of stonemasons and sculptors. During World War II, Willy Kuyper had his first job as an errand boy at the Geesink-Toonder Studio's. There, he became friends with the young artists Henk Albers and Albert van Beek. Among their circle of friends was also Willy Alberti, a young singer who became one of the main performers of typical Amsterdam tear-jerk songs (and the father of singer Willeke Alberti). Kuyper's father was a member of the Communist party, and often sent the boys on nightly errands for the resistance. It wasn't until after the war that Kuyper's artistic career took off.

Stripfilm
Launched out of the ashes of an ill-fated attempt at a full-blown animation studio, Piet van Elk's Stripfilm Studio dedicated itself to the production of newspaper comics for the many regional newspapers of the recently liberated Netherlands. Besides his regular companions Albert van Beek and Siem Praamsma, Van Elk attracted new artists like Hans Nije, Henk Albers, Francis Paid and Willy Kuyper to fulfill this mission. The Amsterdam-based group produced several strips which were distributed by the Persbelangen agency to not only Dutch newspapers, but also Belgian ones, such as Het Volk and Vooruit. Willy Kuyper joined the crew in early 1946, and applied the same jolly, round drawing style as most of his colleagues.

Tobias Sloom, by Willy Kuyper
'Tobias Sloom en Binky' (Stripfilm, 1947), One of the rarest Dutch comic books.

Tobias Sloom en Binkie
Kuyper's first strip was 'De avonturen van Tobias Sloom en Binkie' (1946), of which two stories were made, written by "P. Lenty". The first one, simply called 'China', followed the two heroes on their journey through China, in search of their stolen luggage. It apparently knew such popularity, that Stripfilm collected the story in a booklet with a limited print run of 500 copies. 200 of these were offered for free to new customers of the Alkmaar-based insurance company Hooge Huys. Today, it is one of the rarest comic booklets in Dutch comic history, with only a handful remaining copies. Among the newspapers that ran 'Tobias Slim en Binky' were Nieuwe Schiedamsche Courant and Het Volk in Belgium.


'Valentijn de Veroveraar'.

Other comics
Willy Kuyper's 'Ted Bolt op het onbekende eiland' ("Ted Bolt on the Unknown Island", 1947) ran in De Vrije Alkmaarder, Amersfoortsche Courant, Het Vrije Volk and Leidsche Courant. It presented the adventures on a faraway island of a hero with strong visual resemblances to Piet van Elk's creation 'Bim'. 'Valentijn de Veroveraar' also consisted of two serials, namely 'Het Levenswater' (November 1946 - December 1947) and 'De Schatten van Mmumm' (December 1947 - February 1948). Literally translated as "Valentine the Conqueror", the protagonist was the bravest warrior of the faraway country Melkanje. His adventures appeared in papers such as Het Vrije Volk, Bredasche Courant, Goudsche Courant and Helmondsche Courant.

The last known creation by Willy Kuyper was 'De Kapitein van den Geheimen Dienst' (Nieuwsblad van het Zuiden, 1947), a.k.a. 'Kaptein Dumpeladoris' (Nieuwe Schiedamsche Courant, 1947), which followed the adventures of J.G. Dumpeladoris, nicknamed Dumpie, a Captain of the Secret Service. He is sent out to investigate a mystery surrounding the steamboat Louise, but ends up entangled in a gang of cocaine smugglers and goldmakers. Note that Kuyper's later comics no longer mentioned Stripfilm in the copyright byline, and that the second 'Valentijn' serial (his last published comic) carried the "Eska Studio's" imprint instead.

Illustrator
Not much is known about Willy Kuyper's further life and career. In the early 1960s, he moved to Uithoorn. In that same decade, he illustrated sets of classic school posters for the publisher Duwaer, as well as the cover of the 31st edition of the classic children's book 'Kruimeltje' by Chris van Abkoude in 1972 (the interior illustrations remained by Pol Dom). He passed away on Tenerife on 19 January 1983.

Dutch comics collector and Stripfilm connaisseur Ernst Slinger is planning on reprinting all of Kuyper's comic strips in a limited collector's edition, set to be released in 2020.

Series and books by Willy Kuyper in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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