Lappie Knijn - In Kokosnoten

Lex Overeijnder (also spelled as Lex Overeynder) was a Dutch comics 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 through broadcasting organization NCRV. Overeijnder's work was 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 furthermore one of the earliest local artists of the Dutch Disney magazine Donald Duck, the second artist of J.H. Koeleman's 'Pinkie Pienter' and the primary illustrator of comics and merchandising related to the popular puppet 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 flora and fauna. 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 lifes 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. In an article in newspaper Trouw of 6 July 1981, Overeijnder stated he encountered comradeship for the first time in his life there, but also felt opposed to the insanity of war. With the Indonesian independency a fact in December 1949, Overeijnder returned home, where he quickly tried to make a living as a comics artist.

An early Willie Beer, by Lex Overeijnder
Willie Beer

Comics for newspapers and magazines
Overeijnder settled in Alkmaar and worked on several comics 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 for 50 guilders (roughtly 23 euros) a week to the women's magazine Eva: 'Peter Pluim' ran for one year. Then came the bear 'Willie Beer' (1952-1958) in Revue, and the newspaper strip 'Lappie Knijn'. Seven charming and at times magical adventures of the rabbit Lappie and the human pedlar Jonas were published in newspaper Trouw between 17 July 1956 and 2 June 1958. The episodes also appeared in 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, 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 1950s adventure stories, with all their naivety. Jantje had adventures in the sky, on the sea, in a "negroe village" and in Morocco, among other places. The booklets were unsigned, but the artwork shows resemblances to Overeijnder's best-known comics 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

Pinkie Pienter
By 1958, Mulder had parted ways with Johan Koeleman, the author of their top comics 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 Donald Duck weekly. 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! The true origins of these early stories however remain clouded in mystery. The attributions to Overeijnder remain disputed, and the non-sensical 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 comics series had come to an end. Swan Features however 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, but an aborted project for Co-op supermarkets with dolls based on the stop motion TV puppet series 'De Fabeltjeskrant' proved career-changing.


Fabeltjeskrant in Het Parool, 19 September 1969

Fabeltjeskrant
Even though the Co-op deal fell through, the production company behind 'De Fabeltjeskrant', M. M. Chanowski, kept in touch. They asked if Overeijnder could make comics based on the series? 'De Fabeltjeskrant' is one of the most iconic childrens' series in Dutch TV history, of which three series were made (1969-1974, 1985-1989, 1996). It presents Meneer De Uil (Mr. Owl) reading the latest whereabouts of the inhabitants of the Animal Forest from his "Fables Newspaper". 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. Overeijnder's comics version debuted in newspaper Het Parool on Monday 1 September 1969, and focused on "Ome Gerrit" the mail pigeon. It ran until 17 October. During the same period, Overeijnder provided artwork to numerous 'Fabeltjeskrant' products, from booklets and puzzles to wallpaper. Overeijnder made sure he kept the characters close to their original puppet designs.

Fabeltjeskrant, by Lex Overeynder
From: De Fabeltjeskrant #6

Lex Overeijnder was also one of the editors and the main illustrator of the Fabeltjeskrant weekly, which was 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, focussing 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 furthermore contained text stories, a mail page, and games by Dick Vlottes. The magazine was continued as Sprookjesland, which had no further involvement of 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
The experience however gave the artist 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. That crop has at the same time caught the attention of the group's enemies, including the red wizzard Sov and his bone idle Gork folk. The series came to an end after 1039 episodes on 23 March 1974. 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
Annoyed by this rejection, Overeijnder went home and angrily skribbled some new characters, he remembered in 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. 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 broadcasted in 1974-1975, while Lex Overeijnder simultaneously made a comics version , which had already debuted in TV guide NCRV-gids in 1972.


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

Commercial collaborations
With 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, which were available at Shell petrol stations. The characters furthermore 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. The circus boy Floske was also published in book format for Sorbo in 1976. 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. He served as alderman in the Epe city council for the local party Nieuwe Linie between 1974 and 1977. It inspired him for his final comics 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 on his discoveries. And so, Overeijnder dropped all commercial and artistic activities and became an idealistic expert in herbal science. He had his own sections in local magazines, and a weekly talk on TROS radio. He furthermore 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
The final years over Overeijnder's life were thus spent among herbs. He passed away in Heerenveen in April 1984. Despite his large comics output and his own commercial eye, Lex Overeijnder's oeuvre never managed to stand out among the classics of Dutch comics, and is therefore largely forgotten nowadays. 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

Lex Overeijnder in De Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis
Martin le Malin site

Series and books by Lex Overeijnder in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

X

If you want to help us continue and improve our ever- expanding database, we would appreciate your donation through Paypal.