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, best-known for his illustrations for the 'Pinkeltje' books by Dick Laan and for Jaap ter Haar's children's book series '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. As a comics artist he is best remembered for '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 legendary novelist Godfried Bomans. 


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

Life and illustration career
He was born as Reindert Johannes Cornelis van Looy in Hilversum in 1910. 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 furthermore 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).


'Het Geheim van de Roestige Spijker'.

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'.

Dick Parker
In 1951 Van Looy made his first and only comic strip: '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 Parker' was the second comic strip based on a script by Bomans, after Carol Voges' 'De Avonturen van Pa Pinkelman' (1946-1952). At the time 'Dick Bos' and other picture novels were extraordinarily popular among children and teenagers. Yet moral guardians criticized these tales because they considered them to be violent pulp which discouraged the youth from reading "real" novels. The media storm was so huge that comics received a social stigma from which they barely recovered in the next decades. Bomans, as usual, took a more light-hearted and ironic attitude towards the witch hunts and frenzy. '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 comical 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. 


Havank covers by Tanner.

Pinkeltje
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 were without irony, 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 books' setting changed from the Netherlands to the fictional country "Pinkeltjesland", and 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 have served as illustrators. Three comic book adaptations of Dick Laan stories were painted by Jan Huizinga in 1959.

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 broadcasted 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 furthermore worked for the newspaper NRC Handelsblad and magazines like De Vrouw En Haar Huis, Elseviers Weekblad and Kris-Kras. He became art director of The Reader's Digest in 1965. 

Rein van Looy passed away in Amstelveen in 1994.

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

Rein van Looy in Lambiek's Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis
Read the complete 'Dick Parker' story on stripmakerdesvaderlands.nl

Series and books by Rein van Looy in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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