Alfred Mazure was the creator of 'Dick Bos', one of the most iconic Dutch comics characters of all time. It was the first in a long line of hard-boiled heroes who fought crime 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 several newspaper comic strips for The Daily Herald and The Daily Mirror in the 1950s and 1960s.
Jane, Daughter of Jane
Alfred Leonardus Mazure was born 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'), which appeared in 1933. Mazure was eighteen years old when he became an illustrator for Geïllustreerd Stuiversblad, a magazine published by the Neerlandia Press Group in Utrecht.
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).
Around the same period, Mazure started traveling through the Balkan and North Africa. His adventurous trip in 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' ran in John Bull (1937-1939). In Holland, 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.
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". 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 broad and 11 cm high (3" x 4"), so they could fit into one's pocket. Mazure's hero proved himself a steep investigator, with a sharp eye and powerful fists. He was also a master in jiujitsu, and was gradually modelled after real-life judo-wrestler Maurice van Nieuwenhuizen from The Hague. Dick Bos battled (organized) crime around the globe. Near the end of each story he traditionally revealed how he solved his mystery, which was usually done with the help of some heavy-handed and wordy captions.
Titles like 'Li-Hang', 'Texas', 'Chicago', 'Silver', 'S.O.S.', 'Chicago', '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 turn the comic into a propaganda strip. New adventures should deal with Bos fighting at the front, and battling the black market. Mazure refused, and a publication ban followed after fifteen books in 1942.
By that time, Mazure was already making stagings of 'Dick Bos' adventures with his 16 mm camera. Using a loan from Ten Hagen, 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'. He was also using his camera to aid the resistance. After the war, Ten Hagen started reprinting the earlier 'Dick Bos' books. The success of mini-sized booklets "picture novels" ("beeldromans" in Dutch) caused the creation of 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. Forced by his contract with Ten Hagen, Mazure also started making new 'Dick Bos' books in 1948. 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).
Satirical comic by Maz about the witch hunt against his comic books, for a memorial book of his high school.
While Bomans' work was satire many adults in the Netherlands nevertheless felt that 'Dick Bos' was a genuine threat to the welfare of the innocent youth. Apart from the violent content which gave "a bad example", these picture stories ("beeldromans") would make the Dutch children too lazy to read real literature. 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, a great many of these classic comic books have disappeared in coal stoves across the country. New monthly 'Dick Bos' books appeared until 1950. In those days, the media frenzy against comics was so extreme that many titles only survived in the form of text comics, where the text could be read below the images rather than in speech balloons. At least then the youth would still have to make an effort to read. Innocent children's stories about antropomorphic animals and gnomes were tolerated, while violent comics like 'Dick Bos' were almost wiped out. The post-war Dutch comic scene suffered such a bad reputation that many comics magazines had to fight for their existence throughout the 1950s.
Alfred Mazure had moved to England after the war, however. He eventually became a naturalized British citizen, and started focusing on writing and drawing for British publishers. Among the first comics he created for the British market were 'Sam Stone' and 'Bruce Bunter' in the newspaper The Daily Herald from 1948 to 1950. During the same period, he also drew a comic for the conservative magazine Popular Pictorial, which he signed with "Leo".
Mazure was an artist for the socialist newspaper The Daily Mirror for several years, creating the 'Romeo Brown' comic strip from 1954 to 1957, which was later continued by Jim Holdaway. Another comic he drew for this newspaper was 'Jane, daughter of Jane' (1961-1963), which served as a spin-off to Norman Pett's comic strip 'Jane'. Other British comics by Mazure were 'Carmen & Co' for the Daily Sketch from 1957 to 1959, and the sexy 'Lindy Leigh' in Mayfair from 1969 to 1970. He furthermore made a comic strip based on the British TV sitcom 'The Larkins' for the Sunday Graphic in 1960, and a comic based on the British TV soap 'Crossroads' for TVTimes Magazine in 1972-1973.
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).
During the 1960s, Mazure had 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 a series about erotics called 'The Connoisseurs' for Men Only in the 1970s.
Alfred Mazure returned to London in 1970, where he passed away at the age of 59 in 1974. The character of '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. A documentary called 'Dick Bos weer in actie' was made by Jan Bosdriesz in 2004 and Rich Thomassen wrote a book about 'Dick Bos' and his creator in 2014, called 'En Maz creëerde Dick Bos'. 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.