Dick Parker by Rein van Looy
'Dick Parker - Het Geheim van de Roestige Spijker'.

Rein van Looy was a Dutch illustrator and designer for children's books. He is best-known as the illustrator of Dick Laan's 'Pinkeltje' and Jaap ter Haar's  'Ernstjan en Snabbeltje' and 'Saskia en Jeroen'. He has worked for publishers like Van Holkema & Warendorf in Houten, Kluitman in Alkmaar and A.W. Bruna Uitgevers in Amsterdam. Among his very limited comics output is 'Dick Parker. Het Geheim van de Roestige Spijker' (1951), a parody of the violent and therefore controversial "picture novels" which were popular in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The ironic storyline was written by famous novelist and columnist Godfried Bomans. 

Illustration by Van Looy for the Dutch edition of 'Huckleberry Finn'.

Life and illustration career
Reindert Johannes Cornelis van Looy was born in 1910 in Hilversum in the province North Holland. From the 1930s throughouth the 1970s, he was one of the Netherlands' most prominent children's book illustrators, most notably for the publishing house Van Holkema & Warendorf in Houten and Kluitman in Alkmaar. Among his first works were the illustrations for Dick Laan's cycling book 'De Berg M' (1935), Westerman Elmenhorst's 'De smokkelgang van Slot Hohenheim' (1936), Walter Tomson's 'Jongens van de Evenaar' (1936) and several other boys' adventure books. In 1940 he illustrated 'De Grote Tovenaar van Oz', the first Dutch translation of L. Frank Baum's 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' (1900) by Hendrik Scholte. Van Looy drew his inspiration from the 1939 movie adaptation of the story, rather than W.W. Denslow's illustrations from the original US edition. He also made illustrations for Dutch editions of Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' (J. H. Gottmer & Co., 1940), Mark Twain's 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Huckleberry Finn' (De Sleutel, 1946).

As most of Van Looy's 1930s and 1940s clients were rather edifying, he assumed the pen name "Tanner" for his more "vulgar" work. For publisher A.W. Bruna in Amsterdam he designed many covers for crime novels by Hans van der Kallen, who used the pen name Havank. He also served as a mentor for the publisher's son Dick Bruna, who would design many of Havank's later books starring 'De Schaduw', and would achieve world fame with his children's book series 'Nijntje'.

Rein van Looy passed away in Amstelveen in 1994.

'Leven en Lotgevallen van Z.M. Koning Kiliko - De Koning der Kikkers'

One of the few known comics by Van Looy is a 32-pages give-away comics book of 32 x 22 cm, that came with the Amstelveen weekly De Boschrand. It is undated, but presumably from the 1950s. Highly obscure and very local, 'Leven en Lotgevallen van Z.M. Koning Kiliko - De Koning der Kikkers' stars a frog king who protests against the construction of a landscape park, which will cause the disappearance of ditches and meadows. This obviously refers to the Amsterdam Forest in Amstelveen and Amsterdam, built between 1930 and 1970. The opening strip directly refers to the boat races on the park's new Bosbaan waterway. Considering the use of old Dutch spelling in the artwork, the original story might be from 1937, the year the rowing course was inaugurated. The book is however of a later date, since the captions make use of modern, post 1947, spelling.

'Het Geheim van de Roestige Spijker'.

Dick Parker
Van Looy's other known excursion into the comics medium was 'Dick Parker - Het Geheim van de Roestige Spijker' (1951), a parody by novelist and columnist Godfried Bomans of the 'Dick Bos' picture novels by Alfred Mazure. Dick Bos was a hard-boiled police investigator. He often fought criminals and wasn't afraid to use his fists. 'Dick Bos' was very popular with young readers, but moral guardians criticized the tales for being violent pulp, which discouraged the youth from reading "real" novels. The media storm against 'Dick Bos' and similar picture novels was huge in the late 1940s and all throughout the 1950s. It gave comics a social stigma from which they barely recovered in the next decades. Godfried Bomans had no problems with comics. After all, he'd already scripted a newspaper comic for Het Parool, 'De Avonturen van Pa Pinkelman' (1945-1952), illustrated by Carol Voges. He found all the media frenzy and witch hunts preposterous. It inspired him to spoof 'Dick Bos' and show moral guardians how overblown their criticism of picture novels, AKA comics, was.

'Dick Parker' follows the "great detective Dick Parker" in an "educational and constructive picture story". The plot kicks off with Parker being asked to investigate "yet another murder mystery", which his colleagues can't solve, "because they are idiots". Throughout the story Bomans occasionally references characters and situations from non-existing "previous episodes". The body count, action sequences and violence are depicted in the most ridiculous ways. Parker is apparently capable of jumping from a driving vehicle through the window of a moving train. Even during fights he is never severely wounded, despite getting hit with a pick axe. While the tone is humorous, Van Looy depicts the violence in a far more gruesome way than the original 'Dick Bos' stories. We see bleeding corpses and in one particularly chilling scene a man is split in two, so we can see his skeleton and intestines. The comic strip was prepublished in Elsevier and later collected in Bomans' book 'Capriolen' (1953), though omitted from later reprints, when 'Dick Bos' had lost much of its topicality. A strange decision, since the story is perfectly enjoyable even if one is unfamiliar with the original spoof target. 

Cover illustrations for 'Vier Vreemde Vrienden' and 'Het Geheim van de Zevende Sleutel', signed by Rein van Looy under his pseudonym Tanner. 

Van Looy made the illustrations for most of Dick Laan's children's books about the gnome Pinkeltje ('Fingerling' in English) during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The first book appeared at Van Holkema & Warendorf in 1939 and had illustrations by Dokie van Amstel. The 1948 reprint featured artwork by Eelco Marinus ten Harmsen van der Beek, while the second and third book had illustrations by respectively Froukje van der Meer and Harmsen van Beek. Van Looy became the regular artist from the fourth installment ('Pinkeltje in Artis') in 1952, and he remained the series' illustrator throughout Dick Laan's lifetime.

Allegedly, Dick Laan was (initially) not pleased with the illustrations for his work. In 'Pinkeltje en het Grote Huis' (1953), the second book with drawings by Van Looy, he even added this passage: "Why do these silly artists keep drawing me in the wrong way" yelled Pinkeltje. "I think," said mister Dick Laan, "it's because those artists have never actually seen you." "But you have seen me," said Pinkeltje, still very angry. "Yes, Pinkeltje," replied mister Dick Laan, "I don't like them as well, but the gentleman who prints the booklets doesn't show me the drawings beforehand." If the remarks weren't meant ironically, the author hopefully grew to like Van Looy's work later on, as the man illustrated all the remaining 'Pinkeltje' books during the author's lifetime.

'Pinkeltje Op Zoek naar Klaas Vaak' (1954).

During Van Looy and Laan's cooperation, the 'Pinkeltje' books' setting changed from the Netherlands to the fictional country "Pinkeltjesland". New characters like Pinkeltje's wife Pinkelotje and the "cloud man" Wolkewietje were introduced. Laan wrote a total of 29 books, 26 of which had artwork by Rein van Looy. The final book by Laan and Van Looy appeared in 1977, four years after the author's death. Van Looy also provided the illustrations for the book based on Harrie Geelen's 1978 'Pinkeltje' film, which was adapted to book format by Geelen's wife Imme Dros. Several writers have written new 'Pinkeltje' stories since the 1980s, while Dagmar Stam, Julius Ros, Wilbert van der Steen and Arne van der Ree served as illustrators. Three comic book adaptations of Dick Laan stories were painted by Jan Huizinga in 1959.

Cover illustration for 'Saskia en Jeroen' by Jaap ter Haar. 

Jaap ter Haar and other book illustrations
Also at Van Holkema & Warendorf, Van Looy illustrated several book series by Jaap ter Haar. These included nine books starring the twins 'Saskia en Jeroen' (1955-1971) and another nine with 'Ernstjan en Snabbeltje' (1958-1960), a series about a little boy's friendship with a duck. Both series were originally radio plays broadcast by NCRV. Other notable books with illustrations by Van Looy were reprints of J.B. Schuil's 'Hoe de Katjangs Op De Kostschool van Buikie Kwamen' (1952) and 'De A.F.C.-ers' (1959), as well as Jaap ter Haar's 'Tuffy' books (1961-1962). He also worked for the newspaper NRC Handelsblad and magazines like De Vrouw En Haar Huis, Elseviers Weekblad and Kris-Kras. In 1965 he became art director of The Reader's Digest. 

Dick Parker by Rein van Looy
'Het Geheim van de Roestige Spijker'.

Read the complete 'Dick Parker' story on stripmakerdesvaderlands.nl

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