Born in The Hague, Dick Matena studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, but stayed there for only one year. He worked as a decorator in a department store in The Hague and then became an appretice with the Marten Toonder Studios in 1960. There, he cooperated on the advertising project 'Het Geheim van de Gulden Gaper', and he became the penciller of the 'Panda' strip in 1961.
In spite of several fights he had with the management (he quit the studio two times but came back both times), he drew 'Panda' for five years. During the same period, he cooperated on 'Tom Poes', and created his own series, 'Polletje Pluim' for the weekly magazine Prinses. He additionally illustrated 'Big Bad Wolf' stories for the Donald Duck weekly through the studios.
De Argonautjes (Pep #25, 1970)
Matena was the third Dutch artist to join the magazine Pep in 1968. He created historical series like 'De Argonautjes' (1968-1973) and 'Ridder Roodhart' (1969-1971) with Lo Hartog van Banda, as well as 'Grote Pyr' (1971-1974), for which he wrote the scripts himself. He also wrote the scripts for the soccer comic 'De Maccaroni's', that was drawn by Dino Attanasio.
Big Bad Wolf (Donald Duck 7, 1977)
Matena was also present Pep's successor, Eppo magazine. He wrote one episode about the privateer 'Kleine Pier' in 1975. He left the magazine for a while and worked as an advertising artist. Upon his return, he focused on scriptwriting for other artists. He started the series 'De Partners' with Carry Brugman, succeeded Martin Lodewijk as the writer of 'Storm' for Don Lawrence and wrote three 'Blook' stories for Johnn Bakker.
He drew the western comic 'Dandy' himself (1979-1980) and made several independent stories under the name A. den Dooier. These were collected in 'De A. den Dooier Omnibus' in 1986. Matena redrew the collection and published it under the name 'De teloorgang van Oude Knudde' in 2008.
Grote Pyr (Pep #30, 1974)
Between 1976 to 1991, he was present in the Dutch Donald Duck weekly again with stories starring Disney side-characters like 'The Big Bad Wolf', 'Bucky Bug', 'Hiawatha' and 'Gus and Jaq'. Starting in 1988 he made several adaptations of Dutch children's books for the magazine, including 'Kruimeltje', 'Pietje Bell', 'Dik Trom' and 'Afke's Tiental'. In the mid 1970s he was also present in Revu as the illustrator of the 'Revuutje' section and in the family weekly Wij with a comic of the same name, which he made in cooperation with Fred Julsing.
Matena first showcased his talent for realistic drawing with the science fiction comic 'Virl', that appeared in Mickey Maandblad from 1977 to 1981. He focused on adult-oriented and often controversial comics from the late 1970s. He started out with 'Amen' in Gummi and he was the first Dutch artist to publish in Heavy Metal Magazine in 1979. He made the series 'Mythen' until 1986, in which he portrayed famous persons like Bob Dylan, Alfred Hitchcock and Elvis Presley.
These were followed by one shot comics like 'Lazarus Stone' (1979), 'De Prediker' (1982), 'Het Web' (1983) and the full color strip 'Beet!' (1983). Most of these were published in Spanish magazines like El Vibora, 1984 and El Comico Vivo, and collected in Dutch in book format by Espee and Arboris. Matena lived in Spain for while, but eventually settled in Belgium. He received the Stripschapprijs in 1986.
Dick Matena was present in Playboy with 'Titia' and in Titanic with 'Sterrenschip' in the mid 1980s. Besides making adaptations of children's books for Donald Duck, he also started making biographical comics. The first one, 'De Laatste Dagen van Edgar Allan Poe', was published in Titanic. It was followed by 'Gauguin & Van Gogh', 'Mozart & Casanova' and 'Sartre & Hemingway', that were published by Lombard. He made four albums of the series 'Flynn' for Arboris in 1993 and was present in Sjosji with the science fiction comic 'Alias Ego' between 1993 and 1996. He assumed the pseudonym John Kelly and drew three stories in the 'Storm' spin-off series 'De Kronieken van de Tussentijd' from scripts by Martin Lodewijk.
De schoolband (Tina 36, 1998)
A versatile artist, he was furthermore present in Tina with 'Joop ter Heul' (1997), in Krant van West-Vlaanderen with the weekly comic 'Familie Algoed' and in the erotic comics magazine Rooie Oortjes. In 1997 he was asked by Marten Toonder to revive the 'Tom Poes' balloon comic. Two new stories were published in Donald Duck, but an attempt to revive the newspaper version was aborted. He is also the cover illustrator of the 'Tom Poes' book collections of Hans Matla's publishing house Panda since 2000.
Since 2000, Dick Matena has been mainly busy with comic adaptations of classic books from Dutch literature, starting with Robert van Gulik's 'Rechter Tie'. In 2001 he commenced working on a comics version of the classic novel 'De Avonden' by Gerard Reve, which gave him wide media attention. It was published in Het Parool and later as a series of books by De Bezige Bij.
Later followed adaptations of Dickens' 'Christmas Carol' (2004), 'Kort Amerikaans' by Jan Wolkers (2006), 'Kaas' and 'Het Dwaallicht' by Willem Elsschot (2008), Freek de Jonge's theatre show 'De Komiek' (2009) and 'Kees de Jongen' by Theo Thijssen (2011). Dick Matena was additionally present in the relaunched edition of Eppo magazine in 2009. He makes new stories for 'De Partners' with Carry Brugman and even revived his classic SF comic 'Virl' in 2011.
In 2003, he was the first non-Belgian artist to win the Bronzen Adhemar, the official Flemish Community Cultural Prize for Comics.
Dick Matena hosted a signing for his book
'De Avonden' at Lambiek in March 2003