'Lappie Knijn - In Kokosnoten'.

Lex Overeijnder (also spelled as Lex Overeynder) was a Dutch comic artist, with a large output in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. He created several newspaper and magazine comics for children, starring anthropomorphic animals or other fictional creatures, such as 'Peter Pluim', 'Willie Beer' (1952-1958), 'Flip en Flop' (1959), 'Lappie Knijn' (1952-1956) and 'De Gabbers' (1970-1974). An advertising man himself, he managed to license his characters to brands like Wibra, Kwatta and Shell, while his fruit folk 'De Froets' had their own TV puppet show on the broadcasting organization NCRV. Overeijnder's work as an alderman for the city council of Epe inspired his final newspaper comic, the political satire 'De Kroniek van Grondel' (1974) in De Telegraaf. Overeijnder was also one of the earliest local artists of the Dutch Disney magazine Donald Duck, the second artist to draw J.H. Koeleman's comic book series 'Pinkie Pienter' and the primary illustrator of comics and merchandising related to the popular children's TV show 'De Fabeltjeskrant'. Later in life he gained fame with his knowledge in books and on the radio about homeopathic herbs. He often signed his work with "Alexo".

Early life
Alex Overeijnder was born in 1931 in Overschie, a neighborhood of Rotterdam. His father was an engineer, who was relocated to the town of Putten during the Second World War. Young Alex spent many solitary hours in the woodlands of the Veluwe, and developed an interest in fauna and flora. His father was however strongly opposed to his son's desire to become a veterinarian. Luckily, he also showed artistic talents. In Putten, Overeijnder got his first lessons in painting still lives from the local woodcut artist and amateur archeologist Jo Bezaan. At home, he copied Marten Toonder's 'Tom Poes' from the newspaper. When the family returned to The Hague after the war, Overeijnder got further painting lessons from Henriëtte Johanna Van Lent-Gort, a member of the Pulchri Studio. He was trained to become an advertising designer at the Academy of Fine Arts, before enlisting in the Navy to serve in the Dutch Indies (nowadays Indonesia). In an article in newspaper Trouw of 6 July 1981, Overeijnder stated that there, for the first time in his life, he encountered comraderie, but also felt opposed to the insanity of war. In December 1949 the Dutch Indies defeated Dutch colonial troops and became an independent country again. Overeijnder returned home, where he initially became a commercial artist, before trying to make a living as a comic artist.

An early Willie Beer, by Lex Overeijnder
'Willie Beer'.

Comics for newspapers and magazines
Overeijnder settled in Alkmaar and worked on several comic series throughout the 1950s. These were mostly innocent children's stories in an accessible and non-pretentious drawing style. Many had funny animal-style lead characters, obviously inspired by Marten Toonder's successful newspaper comics 'Tom Poes' and 'Panda'. They also reflected the author's love for nature. Overeijnder sold his first comic, 'Peter Pluim', for 50 guilders (roughtly 23 euros) a week to the women's magazine Eva: It was serialized there for a year. His comic 'Willie Beer' (1952-1958), about a bear, ran in Revue for six years. Between 17 July 1956 and 2 June 1958 he wrote and drew seven charming magical adventure stories starring the cute rabbit 'Lappie Knijn' (1952-1958). Lappie was accompanied by a human peddler named Jonas. The comic ran both in the newspaper Trouw, as well as the papers of the "Rotterdammer Kwartet", a cooperative between four local newspapers from the Rotterdam region. Some papers ran the strip under the title 'Lappy Loep'. Anton de Zwaan's Swan Features Syndicate distributed them to other countries too, including England, France, Germany, Portugal and Iceland. The adventures of the circus boy 'Floske' (1957) appeared in Wereldkroniek, while the adventures about a mouse and a dog, 'Flip en Flop' (1959), ran on a weekly base in the "Gemeenschappelijke Provinciale Dagbladpers", a group of regional papers.


'De Avonturen Van Daantje Durf' #4 - 'Ruimtevaarders Gevraagd'.

Mulder & Zoon
During the 1950s, Overeijnder also maintained a regular collaboration with the Amsterdam-based publishing house Mulder & Zoon. His first production for the company was presumably a series of eight "accordeon booklets" with the adventurous 'Jantje Strop' (1951-1952). They were a mix between text comics and picture books, and had all the ingredients of stereotypical naïve 1950s adventure stories. Jantje enjoyed adventures in the sky, on the sea, in a "Negro village" and in Morocco, among other places. The booklets were unsigned, but the artwork resembles Overeijnder's best-known comic series for Mulder, 'Daantje Durf' (1954). Daantje and his pal Binkie were sailors, and therefore roamed the seas for parts unknown. Some adventures even brought them to outer space, such as 'Ruimtevaarders Gevraagd' (#4) and 'Naar De Rode Planeet' (#6).


'De Avonturen van Pinkie Pienter' #48 - 'Geheimzinnige geluiden'. The first panel is direct plagiarism of Hergé's 'Tintin' story 'The Secret of the Unicorn'. 

Pinkie Pienter
By 1958, the Amsterdam publishing house Mulder & Zoon had parted ways with Johan Koeleman, the author of their top comic series 'Pinkie Pienter'. Overeijnder was assigned to continue the series, which was also a hit in the French-speaking countries as 'Martin le Malin'. Overeijnder whipped out six stories, which were obviously a rush job. The artwork was sloppy, and the artist blatantly plagiarized whole panels, poses and plotlines from 'Tintin'. By the time Overeijnder was replaced by Berend Dam, Hergé had sued Mulder. Dam's final 'Pinkie Pienter' stories were only published in French.


Cover illustrations for Donald Duck #6 and #49 of 1958 (© Disney).

Donald Duck
Lex Overeijnder also goes down in history as one of the earliest local artists for the Dutch Disney weekly Donald Duck. The magazine was launched in the Netherlands by De Geïllustreerde Pers on 25 October 1952, following the Scandinavian success of magazines with Walt Disney's short-tempered duck as title character. The early issues were filled with American material, but sporadically Dutch artists were hired make some new cover artwork. The illustrators of the first ones are unknown, with the exception of the publisher's lay-out man Maarten Boom, who presumably designed the cover of issue #32 of 1953. Issues #35 and #38 of that year are believed to be by Overeijnder, and then Endre Lukács becomes the true pioneer of Dutch Disney comics. Lex Overeijnder illustrated seven more covers in 1958 and 1959, often reworkings of American originals.


Donald Duck as goalkeeper, from Donald Duck #23, 1958, presumably by Overeijnder (© Disney).

Lukács and Overeijnder are also credited with the earliest Dutch-produced 'Donald Duck' stories. In a give-away issue of 6 March 1954, it was probably Overeijnder who drew the comic story in which Donald becomes a school teacher. In Overeijnder's other story, published in issue #23 of 1954, Donald is goalkeeper during a soccer match between the Netherlands and Belgium! However, the true origins of these early stories remain clouded in mystery. The attributions to Overeijnder remain disputed too, and the nonsensical production code "S.B.W.D.R.T." continues to puzzle fans and historians alike.


Introduction of 'Stikkeltje' in Nieuwe Leidse Courant (17 November 1966).

Commercial artwork and advertising
During the 1960s, most of Overeijnder's comic series had come to an end. However, Swan Features did syndicate a new strip called 'De Avonturen van Stikkeltje en Bruunke', about a hedgehog and a toy bear. Written by Jeanne Köhler-Emmelot, the strip appeared in Het Binnenhof in 1960 and in the Nieuwe Leidsche Courant in 1966-1967. Since comics didn't provide him with enough income to support his family, Overeijnder's main activity became advertising. Already during the 1950s, he was making folders and advertisements for Alkmaar's local industrials. He also made an occasional advertising comic during this period, such as 'De Avonturen van Rik Ransel' (1959) starring the soldier mascot of Kwatta chocolat, and two mini-books of 'Pim Pienter' (1963) for grocery store chain De Gruyter. He also made the pantomime comic strips 'Cardi' and 'Karon' (1963) for Dafbode, the staff magazine of the DAF factories.

Overeijnder eventually headed his own advertising agency, which employed seven people, and then held staff functions in large advertising firms. He worked on campaigns for Milky Way and Mobil Oil. 


'Fabeltjeskrant' in Het Parool, 19 September 1969.

Fabeltjeskrant
Overeijnder made a deal with the Co-op supermarket chain to create dolls based on the TV stop-motion series 'De Fabeltjeskrant'. While the plans fell through he and TV producer M.M. Chanowski kept in touch. He asked Overeijnder to create a celebrity comic based on 'De Fabeltjeskrant'. The children's series about a group of forest animals was extraordinarily popular. In each episode the host Meneer De Uil (Mr. Owl) read from his newspaper to tell viewers what happened in the Animal Forest that week. With its roots in the classic fables of De La Fontaine, Aesop and Phaedrus, the series also featured the all-knowing Juffrouw Ooievaar (Miss Stork) and her helper Zoef de Haas (Zippy the Hare), the ever-busy Truus de Mier (Miss Ant), bar owner Bor de Wolf (Boris the Wolf), the sly Lowieke de Vos (Mr. Cunningham) and the DIY Beaver brothers, among many other characters. 'De Fabeltjeskrant' would run for three TV series (1969-1974, 1985-1989, 1996) and achieve iconic status. Overeijnder's comics version debuted in newspaper Het Parool on Monday 1 September 1969, and focused on "Ome Gerrit" the mail pigeon. It ran for barely a month, until 17 October. During the same period, Overeijnder provided artwork to numerous 'Fabeltjeskrant' products, from booklets and puzzles to wallpaper. He made sure he kept the characters close to their original puppet designs.

Fabeltjeskrant, by Lex Overeynder
'De Fabeltjeskrant' #6.

Lex Overeijnder was also one of the editors and the main illustrator of the Fabeltjeskrant weekly, published by Rotogravure in Leiden between 5 April 1969 until 29 August 1970. The magazine appeared under supervision of series writer Leen Valkenier and producer Thijs Chanowski and prominently featured a comics serial by Overeijnder, focusing on one of the major characters. Among the other published comics were 'De Zandpiepers' by Jaap Nieuwenhuis, 'Bella Dons' by Klaas Groot and an uncredited adaptation of Mies Bouhuys' children's book series 'Auto-bas' (1969-1970). Rik van Bentum was also one of the contributors. The weekly also contained text stories, a mail page, and games by Dick Vlottes. The magazine later changed its title to  Sprookjesland, after which it had no further involvement by Overeijnder. Later in the 1970s, Dick Vlottes made a new comic based on 'De Fabeltjeskrant' for Televizier.


'De Gabbers' (De Telegraaf, 26 October 1970).

De Gabbers
By working on 'De Fabeltjeskrant' comics, Overeijnder had the opportunity to drop his advertising work and focus on comics again. On 3 October 1970 he launched 'De Gabbers' (1970-1974) in De Telegraaf, a newspaper balloon strip about peculiar creatures who live in a valley surrounded by steep mountains, dark woods and a large lake. The only female is Moer Goer, who makes new Gabbers from a special kind of cabbage. The crop catches the attention of the group's enemies, including the red wizard Sov and his bone idle Gork folk. On 23 March 1974, after 1039 episodes, 'De Gabbers' came to an end. By then, Overeijnder had approached several broadcasting organizations for a possible TV adaptation. None were interested, but NCRV kept the door open if he would pitch a good idea.


The puppets from the 'Froets' TV show (Het Parool, 17 September 1974).

De Froets
Although most Dutch TV broadcasters didn't want to adapt Overeijnder's comic series 'De Gabbers', the NCRV did ask him to instead come back, "if he had a good idea". After this rejection, Overeijnder went home and angrily scribbled some new characters  based on ones he had made for the Dutch newspaper De Leidse Courant of 2 November 1974. The result were the fruit folk 'De Froets' (1972-1975), which included the tomato Maatje, the pickle Gurkie and policeman Pruum (a plum). Their nemeses were the wasps On and Guur. This time the NCRV was interested, and made the series part of its 'Kijkdoos' program for young children. The puppets were made by the Slabbers brothers in Amsterdam, while Joop Theunissen wrote the scripts based on ideas by Overeijnder. The production was taken care of by Chanowski, who was also behind 'De Fabeltjeskrant'. The series was broadcast in 1974-1975, while Lex Overeijnder simultaneously made a comics version , which had already debuted earlier, in 1972, in TV guide NCRV-gids.


'De Gabbers', from a text story in Jamin Junior #2.

Commercial collaborations
Thanks to his background in advertising, Overeijnder was successful in commercially exploiting his creations. In 1972, 'De Gabbers' were featured in a seasonal comic book and several jigsaw puzzles, available at Shell petrol stations. The characters also appeared in text stories in Jamin Junior (1972), a publication of candy manufacturer Jamin. The artist also managed to use his back catalogue for these collaborations. The Wibra discount clothing stores issued booklets of 'Lappie Knijn' (1975-1976) and 'Floske' gift wrapping.  In 1976 the circus boy Floske was also published in book format for Sorbo. A new production were the four mini-books with 'Giel Kooperman' (1976) for SRV, the Dutch mobile supermarkets.


'Kroniek van Grondel' (De Telegraaf, 11 September 1974).

Political work: De Kroniek van Grondel
During the 1970s, Overeijnder returned to the Veluwe region, and settled in Vaassen, a village near Epe. Between 1974 and 1977 he served as alderman in the Epe city council for the local party Nieuwe Linie. It inspired him to create his final comic series, the newspaper comic 'De Kroniek van Grondel' (1974-1975), which offered mild satire based on conflicts and everyday situations in local politics through the three parties in the fictional town on Grondel. The strip appeared as a traditional text comic in De Telegraaf from 7 September 1974 until 2 September 1975, and showed not only influences of Marten Toonder's 'Koning Hollewijn', but also André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' (the character Pep in particular). Overeijnder asked Jaap Loohuis to provide the text captions based on his ideas.

Herb specialist
Alex Overeijnder's first wife Ans passed away in 1975. He remarried and relocated to the Frisian city Heerenveen, where he radically changed course. Through his new wife Iet, he refound his childhood interest in herbs and their usage. He fully educated himself in the matter, and took it to himself to inform people about his discoveries. Overeijnder even dropped all commercial and artistic activities to become an idealistic expert in herbal science. He had his own sections in local magazines, and a weekly talk on TROS radio. Overeijnder also began a foundation which warned against charlatanry and commercial exploitation. He was the author of several informative (mini-)books on the subject, such as 'Kruid-kroniekje' (L.O.S. bv, 1979), 'Fenegriek' (L.O.S. bv, 1980), 'Huismiddeltjes uit Grootmoeders Apotheek' (Helmond, 1981), 'De Grote Kruidenapotheek' (W.J. Thieme & Cie) and 'Hoest en Keel klachten' (Helmond, 1984).

Death
Lex Overeijnder passed away in Heerenveen in April 1984. Despite his large comics output and his own commercial eye, his oeuvre never managed to stand out among the classics of Dutch comics, and is therefore nowadays largely forgotten. André Wijntjes released four limited edition collections 'Lappie Knijn' through his publishing label Kippenvel in 2016-2017.


Lex Overeijnder at work. Photo from Leidse Courant, 2 November 1974.

Martin le Malin site

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