Maz, detective series, no. 4Maz, detective series, no. 12

Alfred Mazure was the creator of 'Dick Bos', arguably one of the most iconic Dutch comics characters of all time. It was the first in a long line of hard-boiled crime fighters in pulp comic books, which were published by Ten Hagen in three series (1941-1943, 1946-1950 and 1963-1967). Despite being immensely popular among younger readers, the books also received a great amount of criticism from educators. Moral guardians felt that 'Dick Bos' was violent pulp, unsuitable for children and teenagers. They also felt it encouraged "reading laziness", as readers liked staring at pictures more than the words. These two opinions were soon generalized to refer to all comics, a prejudice still found in Dutch culture to this day. But Mazure was also a cartoonist, writer, filmmaker, painter and traveler, who spent most of the latter part of his life in the United Kingdom. In Britain, he is best known as the artist of the newspaper comic strips 'Romeo Brown' (1954-1957), 'Carmen & Co' (1957-1959), 'Jane, Daughter Of Jane' (1961-1963) and 'Lindy Leigh' (1969-1970) for The Daily Herald and The Daily Mirror.

illustratie uit Stuiversblad
Illustration for Stuiversblad #10, 1935.

Early life and career
Alfred Leonardus Mazure was born in 1914 in Nijmegen as the son of a merchant. He attended high school in The Hague, but was sent from school three months before his graduation. He completed his education in Leiden, and then decided to make a living from drawing. A self-taught artist, his first published drawings appeared in a booklet called 'Verzen om voor te dragen' ('Verces to recite', 1933). Mazure was eighteen years old when he became an illustrator for Geïllustreerd Stuiversblad, a magazine published by the Neerlandia Press Group in Utrecht.

De Chef, by Alfred Mazure
'De Chef'.

De Chef
He got the opportunity to publish his first comic stories in the regional newspapers of this group, including the Utrechtsche Courant, the Limburger Koerier and the Dagblad van Noordbrabant (en Zeeland). The first of these was 'De Chef', which ran in aforementioned papers from 21 December 1934 until 22 February 1935. It was a crime story influenced by the American newspaper comic 'Secret Agent X-9' by Alex Raymond and Dashiell Hammett. The hero, Hans Vonk, was a predecessor of Mazure's best-known hero, 'Dick Bos'. A book of this story was published in March 1935. 'De Chef' was followed by more comics in the same genre, 'Da's juist iets voor Willy' (1935), 'Jerry gaat speculeeren' (1937) and 'De Havik in Londen' (1937).

Met een driewieler door de Sahara by Alfred Mazure

Traveling artist
Around the same period, Mazure started traveling through Germany and the Balkan, and then to Turkey and North Africa. His adventurous trip through Eastern Europe was chronicled in the illustrated travelogue 'Door dik en dun met Gipsy', which appeared in Haagsche Post in 1936. His adventures in the Sahara are recorded in the story 'Met een driewieler door de Sahara', which was published in Motor in 1940. In the second half of the 1930s, Mazure also started publishing his first comic strips in England. In the weekly Passing Show, he made a comic about the tramp 'Erbert' (1937-1938), while his creation 'Dad' (1937-1939) ran in John Bull. In his home country, he began a cooperation with the illustrated magazine De Prins and its children's supplement Jeugdland in 1938. Jeugdland ran his Indian comic 'Buikje Roodhuid's Wondere Verhalen' in 1938 and 1939, while he published a weekly comic and cartoons in Wereldkroniek in 1939 and diary comics in De Prins in 1940-1941.

Dick Bos, series, no. 23 (NL), by MazureDick Bos, series, no. 25 (NL), by Mazure

Dick Bos
Between July 1940 and February 1941, De Prins also published the first story of 'Dick Bos', called 'Het Geval Kleyn', which Mazure signed with "MAZ". His last name was derived from the English word "boss". Mazure's hero proved himself a steep investigator, with powerful fists. He is also a master in jiujitsu, and gradually modelled after real-life judo-wrestler Maurice van Nieuwenhuizen from The Hague. Dick Bos battles (organized) crime around the globe. Near the end of each story he traditionally reveals how he solved his mystery, which was usually done with the help of some heavy-handed and wordy captions.After this first story, Mazure began a collaboration with the publishing house Ten Hagen, who started publishing monthly 'Dick Bos' comic books in 1941. The comics were published in a rather unusual format - the books are just 7 cm wide and 11 cm high (3" x 4"), so they could fit into one's pocket. Each page generally contained only one single panel. 

Zilver by Alfred Mazure
Dick Bos takes his time to explain the plot, in 'Zilver' (1941).

Titles like 'Li-Hang', 'Texas', 'Chicago', 'Silver', 'S.O.S.', 'Dr. X' and 'Jiu-Jitsu' give a good impression of our hero's exciting escapades during his first series. Besides Alex Raymond, Mazure's other influences were British novelists like P.G. Wodehouse, Edgar Wallace and Agatha Christie, Clarence Edward Mulford's 'Hopalong Cassidy' cowboy books and the detective film series 'The Thin Man'. 'Dick Bos' was an immense hit among Dutch youth, and some issues reached a circulation of over 100,000 copies. This prompted the Nazi publishing company Ullstein to ask Mazure to make his hero an SS soldier, and the comic into a Nazi propaganda strip. New adventures were expected to deal with Bos fighting at the front, and battling the black market. Mazure refused, which in 1942, after 15 books, resulted in a publication ban.

Judo by Alfred MazureJudo by Mazure
Dick Bos - 'Jiu-Jitsu' (1941).

1940s media adaptations
By that time, Mazure was already making stagings of 'Dick Bos' adventures with his 16 mm camera. Mazure made clandestine films like 'Drank na sluitingstijd' (1942), 'Valsch geld' (1942), 'De Gasman' (1942), 'Inbraak' (1943), 'Moord in het Modehuis' (1945) and 'Zwarte Kolen' (1946), with Van Nieuwenhuizen in a starring role as 'Dick Bos'. They were financed with a loan from his publisher Ten Hagen, which unfortunately tied Mazure to a lifelong stranglehold contract. The films weren't a success either, because the motion picture rating system felt they were unsuitable for people under 18, which was the target audience. Mazure also used his camera to aid the resistance.

Alfred Mazure slaat Lou den Hartog
Alfred Mazure "punches out" Lou den Hartogh in one of his film productions (presumably 'Moord in het Modehuis). Photo: Piet van der Ham.

Post-war impact
After the war, Ten Hagen started reprinting the earlier 'Dick Bos' books, which were still genuine best-sellers. Under contractual pressure of Ten Hagen, Mazure wrote and drew new episodes from 1948 on. New monthly 'Dick Bos' books appeared until 1950. The success of mini-sized booklets "picture novels" ("beeldromans" in Dutch) spawned many other fearless heroes, such as 'Lex Brand' and 'Tom Wels' by Ben Abas, 'Charlie Chan' by Nico Draak, 'Fred Penner' by Lou Visser, 'De Kat' by Henk Albers, 'De Moker' by Hans Ducro, 'De Helse Patrouille' by Fred Julsing Sr. and 'Spot Morton' by Alfred's brother Georges Mazure.

Dick BosDick BosDick Bos

Novelist and columnist Godfried Bomans even wrote a parody, 'Dick Parker', complete with an actual text comic lay-out. Bomans satirized the heavy violence of the comics by making the body count rise into the ridiculous. The illustrations to this comic parody were provided by Rein van Looy. This comic strip was later collected in Bomans' book 'Capriolen' (1953). None other than Marten Toonder also satirized 'Dick Bos' in his 'Tom Poes' story 'Horror, De Ademloze' (1949). The story features the silly goose Wammes Waggel obsessing over his favorite comic strip 'Dick Dubbelslag' to the point that he is inspired to commit real-life violence. It soon turns out that it's a "magical" comic strip which duplicates all violent action in its pages in real life. 


Satirical comic by Maz about the witch hunt against his comic books, for a memorial book of his high school.

Controversy
Apart from the sales, controversy about the violence in 'Dick Bos' also rose after the war. Many adults felt 'Dick Bos' was a genuine threat to the welfare of the innocent youth. The fistfights and gun violence gave children the "bad example", while picture stories ("beeldromans") in general would make them too lazy to read "real literature". People like Bomans and Toonder, who evidently didn't like Mazure's work, still felt all this criticism about its supposed "bad influence on the youth" was pure mass hysteria. Unfortunately, they were a minority. In 1948, F.J.T. Rutten, the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, sent a circular among school governors to fight further diffusion of these comics. As a result comics in the Netherlands suffered a very bad public image. Many parents, preachers and moral guardians banned 'Dick Bos' and many titles ended up in coal stoves. But it wasn't just violent "beeldromans" that were targeted, soon all newspaper comics, comics magazines and comic books were threatened. The post-war Dutch comic scene suffered such a bad reputation that all throughout the 1950s many comics magazines had to fight for their existence. The media frenzy was so extreme that only text comics were allowed, where the text could be read below the images instead of in speech balloons. At least then the youth would still have to make an effort to read. Every "violent" comic was refused, leaving only innocent children's stories about gnomes and anthropomorphic animals behind. This further stigmatized the medium as bland children's entertainment. Even today comics in the Netherlands are still not fully rehabilitated as a result of these witch hunts in the 1940s and 1950s. 

Comic strip for Popular Pictorial
Comic strip for the Popular Pictorial, signed "Leo".

British detectives
However, Mazure had moved to England after the war, where he would eventually naturalize himself as a British citizen. He was disillusioned about the negative press about 'Dick Bos', especially since it ran parallel with government investigations against Nazi collaborators, throwing him on the same heap, despite his resistance against the Nazi press. He focused on writing and drawing comics for the British market. He for instance drew a comic for Popular Pictorial - house magazine of the British Conservative Party - which he signed with "Leo". For The Daily Herald, he created 'Sam Stone' (1948-1950) and 'Bruce Hunter' (1951-1953, also referred to as 'Bruce Bunter'), two obvious 'Dick Bos' clones.

Bruce Hunter by Alfred Mazure
'Bruce Hunter'.

More successful was his third British PI, 'Romeo Brown' (1954-1957), whose adventures were written by Peter O'Donnell for the socialist newspaper The Daily Mirror. Unlike his predecessors, Brown was actually an anti-hero, who only solved his cases by accident. The strip was also the first showcase of Mazure's talent for drawing sensual women. 'Romeo Brown' was subsequently drawn by Jim Holdaway, who worked on the feature with O'Donnell until 1963 before creating 'Modesty Blaise'.

Romeo Brown by Alfred Mazure
'Romeo Brown' (Dutch publication).

Carmen & Co
Beautiful women proved a specialization during Mazure's British career. His next creation therefore starred the sexy detective duo 'Carmen & Co' (1957-1959), a comic strip for The Daily Sketch strongly influenced by Alex Raymond.

Jane, Daughter of Jane
Another comic he drew for The Daily Mirror was 'Jane, Daughter of Jane' (1961-1963), written by Les Lilley. It was a reprise of Norman Pett's sexy World War II comic strip 'Jane' (1932-1959). While the original Jane had shocked the prudish English society with her nudity and promiscuity, the times had changed when Mazure's version appeared. Response was tame, and the strip was eventually dropped.

Jane, Daughter of Jane, by Maz for the British market
'Jane, Daughter of Jane'.

Lindy Leigh
His work on 'Jane' however brought him to the attention of the editors of the British adult magazine Mayfair. They assigned him to draw a sexy comic strip for the magazine, inspired by the success of Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder's 'Little Annie Fanny' in Hugh Hefner's Playboy. The result was the elegant but not-too-bright spy 'Lindy Leigh' (1969-1970), who unlike her full color inspiration appeared in black-and-white. Like Annie and Jane, Lindy too was troubled with gradually losing her clothing while being pursued by hordes of horny men. Even though the feature was short-lived, it was adapted by cult film director Antony Balch into an installment of the film series 'The Secret of Sex' with model Maria Frost in the leading role. Balch chose the episode 'The Moranian Treaty', and stayed remarkably faithful to Mazure's panels and dialogues. So far, 'Lindy Leigh' seems to be the only comic created by a Dutch author adapted into a foreign film.

TV comics
Alfred Mazure furthermore made a comic strip based on the British TV sitcom 'The Larkins' for the Sunday Graphic in 1960, and between 1972 and 1973 one based on the British TV soap 'Crossroads' for TV Times Magazine. 


'Lindy Leigh'.

Return of Dick Bos
He drew new 'Dick Bos' books between 1963 and 1967, caused by a revival of the character's popularity. These new stories additionally appeared in magazines like Televizier (1965-1968), AVRO Bode (1968) and Algemeen Dagblad. During this period, Mazure and his family settled on Malta. There, he experimented with animation, using his own technique which he called "Mazimation". Two short films starring 'Dick Bos' were produced, 'Jail Break' (1967) and 'The Knight of Malta' (1967).

Novels
During the 1960s, Mazure also established himself as a novelist. His novels about female secret agent 'Sherazad' were successful in The Netherlands, the UK and France. He wrote detective novels starring 'Ape Dragoner', and more humorous books like 'Pigeon Parade' and 'Priscilla Darling'. He published the novel 'Blooded Royal' under the pen name Lenard Cullner. He also wrote chronicles about his life in Spain and on Malta for Wereldkroniek from 1967 to 1969, as well as the erotic series 'The Connoisseurs' for Men Only in the 1970s.

SherazadSherazad

Legacy and influence
Alfred Mazure returned to London in 1970, where he passed away at the age of 59 in 1974. Yet Dick Bos is far from forgotten. Between 2005 and 2014 Hans Matla's publishing house Panda released a complete collection of all stories. Mazure's vintage hero furthermore inspired René Windig and Eddie de Jong's hilarious parody 'Dick Bosch' in the 1980s. The format, lay-out and style of the 'Dick Bos' "beeldromans" were also the basis of Kees Sparreboom's tongue-in-cheek tribute 'Boot & Van Dijk' in 2004. The theatrical company Toneelschap Beumer & Drost made a cinematic theater show based on 'Dick Bos' in 2016. Dutch film director Paul Verhoeven has named 'Dick Bos' as a big influence on his work. Since 2003, the Dutch city Almere has a street named after 'Dick Bos' and a park named after Mazure, as part of their "Comics Heroes" district.

Books about Alfred Mazure
For those people who want to know more about Mazure, Jan Bosdriesz' documentary, 'Dick Bos weer in actie' (2004) and Rich Thomassen's book 'En Maz creëerde Dick Bos' (2014) are highly recommended. 

Alfred Mazure

Alfred Mazure in Lambiek's Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis
www.dickbos.info

Series and books by Alfred Mazure in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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