Otto Spoof by Willem Ritstier
'Otto Spoof'.

Willem Ritstier is a Dutch illustrator, cartoonist, and one of the most productive comic scriptwriters of his home country, based in Oud-Beijerland. His solo gag series feature a wide range of zany kids, bums and parrots, such as ''Bartje' (1983-late 1980s), 'Harry Lipwitts' (1984-early 1990s), 'Gaaibaai' (1988-1990, 2004), 'Flip' (2005-2014) and 'Mimoo' (2014- ). As a scriptwriter, Ritstier was for many years closely associated with Minck Oosterveer. Together they created series like 'Philip J. Boogaard' (1984-1986), 'Claudia Brücken' (1989-1991), 'Jack Pott' (1990-1994), 'Speedball Nation' (1995-1996), 'Rick Rolluik' (1999-2001), 'Zodiak' (1996-2001), 'Nicky Saxx' (2002-2008), 'Ronson Inc.' (2010-2011) and 'Storm' (2011) for several magazines and newspapers. Historically, 'Nicky Saxx' was the final adventure comic strip to be serialized in a Dutch newspaper. Among Ritstier many other co-creations are 'Soeperman' (1986-late 1990s, 2009) and 'Stanley' (1995-2003) with René Uilenbroek, 'Pelle' (1998-2003) with Jeroen Steehouwer and Frans Leenheer, 'Sam & Sam' (2001-2004) with Rob Phielix and then Carry Brugman, 'Anders' (2009-2016) with Erwin Suvaal and 'Ward' (2012- ) with Marissa Delbressine. In later years, he explored the western genre with the series 'Claire DeWitt' (2014-2017) and 'Jenny Pine' (2020- ) with Fred de Heij, and ventured into futuristic worlds with 'Saul' (2017- ) in cooperation with Apri Kusbiantoro. More personal were his moving graphic novels 'Wills' Kracht' (2017) and 'Opstaan... en doorgaan - Verder na een verlies' (2020), about the premature death of his beloved wife from breast cancer.

Early life and career
Willem Ritstier was born in 1959 in Rotterdam. He fabricated his own comic magazines from the age of 11. He began his professional life with office jobs, including one at an advertising agency in 1970. In his spare time he made cartoons and comics, which he, in vain, submitted to a great many magazines. He managed to get his comics published in the amateur section 'Plant 'n Knol' of comic magazine Robbedoes (the Dutch-language version of Spirou) no less than four (!) times. They appeared in issues #1960 (6 November 1975), #1964 (4 December 1975), #2001 (19 August 1976) and #2014 (18 November 1976). Ritstier's persistance in pursuing his comics career is illustrated by a remark from Robbedoes editor Jos Wauters: "You could send him away one hundred times, but he would always come back one time more." Early influences on Ritstier's work were Binet, Greg, Gotlib, Dupa, Gerrit de Jager, Peter de Smet, Willy Vandersteen and the Dutch comedian André van Duin, while his early comics also featured typical Rotterdam directness and slang.

De Familie Best by Willem Ritstier
'De Familie Best'.

Early comics and cartoons
In 1982, Wauters published one of Ritstier's short stories starring explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley in the fourth installment of the 'Robbedoes Album +' series of specials. Other early cartoons by the self-taught Ritstier appeared in the Rotterdam weekly Groot Charlois and the Sunday paper De Maas. In 1983, Maarten J. de Meulder published his first album, the semi-autobiographical 'De Familie Best'.

In 1983 he was present in Robbedoes, the Flemish equivalent of Spirou magazine, which had just launched its own section for Dutch and Flemish artists. Ritstier started out with the gag strip 'Bartje' (1983-1985), about a clever and cheeky little boy with a giant cap, and his philosophical dog Kwibus and cocky parrot Lou. In 1985 Bartje continued as a daily strip in the local newspapers of the Sijthoff Press Group (Rotterdams Nieuwsblad, Haagsche Courant, Goudsche Courant). A collection of 'Bartje' strips was published by Loeb in 1986. During its final years, the 'Bartje' newspaper strip was "ghosted" by Leo Immerzeel.

Harry Lipwitts
The corny slapstick stories of the incompetent criminal and layabout 'Harry Lipwitts' (1984-1986) ran in the comic magazines Robbedoes (1984-1985) and Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd (1985-1986), before continuing as a newspaper comic in Leeuwarder Courant from 1987 into the early 1990s. Each episode shows the zany lazybones strolling the streets, encountering all kids of corny and absurd events.

Harry Lipwitts by Willem Ritstier
'Harry Lipwitts', with a cameo of Bartje (Eppo Wordt Vervolgd #2, 1985).

In 1983 Ritstier began an association with the publishing house Jumbo-Offset. After publishing an album with the character 'Babet' (1983) in a collection of so-called "experimental" comics, he was one of the originators of the amateur comic magazine Yèch in 1984. Ritstier formed the editorial team with Caren Peeters, Adri van Kooten and Minck Oosterveer. Besides his first cooperations as a scriptwriter with the artists Oosterveer and Van Kooten, the magazine featured new strips with Ritstier's own 'Babet', a baby girl with modern, feminist standpoints. Another character he created himself for Yèch was 'De Vries', a quick-witted and impertinent parrot who moves in with his former owner's nephew. A collection of these early comic strips was published under the title 'Thee met een wolkje melk' in 1985. Other contributors to Yèch were Rob Phielix, Peter Hulpusch and René Uilenbroek, and the magazine formed a breeding ground for Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd magazine when it was transferred to Pinpoint Productions in 1985. Ritstier participated with seven issues of Yèch in 1984 and 1985. The final issue appeared in 1986.

GaaiBaai, Foppe slaat door, by Willem Ritstier

While Ritstier continued 'Harry Lipwitts' in the Leeuwarder Courant, he additionally created the comic 'Gaaibaai', about the bachelor Lodewijk Spruit and his conceited parrot Foppe Meyer. It ran in newspaper Algemeen Dagblad from 1988 on, and also appeared in the 'Suske en Wiske' holiday books of Standaard Uitgeverij. Standaard released two book collections in 1989 and 1990. In 2004 'Gaaibaai' was revived in a TV magazine under the title 'Foppe' in a TV magazine. 

De Familie Iks
His family gag strip 'De Familie Iks' was published on a weekly base in De Courant Nieuws van de Dag in the early 1990s. One small landscape format-shaped book collection was published by Amice in 1993. By then, Ritstier was already a productive scriptwriter for others.

Minck Oosterveer
The artist with whom Ritstier is mostly associated with is Minck Oosterveer. After their editorship of Yèch, they have worked on many comic series together until Oosterveer's death in 2011. An early creation was the clumsy private investigator 'Philip J. Boogaard', whose adventures appeared in the Saturday papers of the Sijthoff group in 1984 and 1985. His name was an obvious reference to film noir actor Humphrey Bogart. Two stories were published in the 'Suske en Wiske' holiday books of 1985 and 1986. The comic was a true joint effort. Ritstier was the scriptwriter, but he also drew the caricatural segments, while Oosterveer illustrated the realistic parts. From then on, they established a more traditional working relationship as writer and artist.

Philip J. Boogaard, with art by Ritstier and Oosterveer
'Philip J. Boogaard', with art by Ritstier and Oosterveer.

Claude Brücken
Through editor Rob Harren, they got their comic about the Berlin-based police investigator 'Claudia Brücken' published in Kuifje, the Flemish edition of Tintin magazine, in 1989. The publishing house Lombard released three books in 1990 and 1991, both in Dutch as well as French. A fourth story was left unfinished due to a change of management and the subsequent disappearance of the magazine. It wasn't published until Boumaar released a book publication in 2000. Note that the character was named after the singer of the 1980s synthpop groups Propaganda and Act.

Jack Pott
In 1990 Ritstier and Oosterveer started their first daily comics serial. Six adventurous stories with the not-too-bright late 1930s gambler and skirt-chaser 'Jack Pott' were published in Algemeen Dagblad from 1990 until its abrupt end in 1994, when the newspper changed its policy with regard to comics. Book collections appeared at De Boemerang, followed by reprints at Bee Dee in 2006. After a short-lived project with the superhero comic 'Arachna' (1994) in the comics news magazine Comic Watch, the duo was present in Suske & Wiske Weekblad with the semi-caricatural adventure comics 'Speedball Nation' (1995-1996) and 'Rick Rolluik' (1999-2001).

By 1996 they found their way to the newspaper De Telegraaf, which carried their heroic fantasy serial 'Zodiak' between 1996 and 2002. The paper was in need for a replacement of the popular American 'Flash Gordon' comic (created by Alex Raymond, but drawn by Jim Keefe at the time), which had just ended its run. Logically, Raymond's space opera served as a major inspiration for 'Zodiak', as did the work of fantasy novelist Tolkien. Ristier and Oosterveer's main characters were Tom van Santen and his girlfriend Caren van der Plas, who accidentally get lost in a world where life in based on the twelve zodiac signs. The authors gave their comic a pulpy look and feel, which was especially felt in Oosterveer's sexy female characters. Ritstier explicitly stated that they were meant ironically, and felt disappointed that general audiences only judged the comic from a superficial viewpoint, thus underestimating its true value.

ZodiakNicky Saxx

Nicky Saxx
The rather complex 'Zodiak' strip came to an end and was succeeded by 'Nicky Saxx' in 2002. This adventure newspaper dealt with Nicky and her friend Elja Steiner, who travel the world as private investigators, problem solvers and paranormal researchers. It ran until 4 January 2008, when De Telegraaf decided they only wanted to print gag strips. And so, Willem Ritstier and Minck Oosterveer had the dubious honor to literally carry the Dutch newspaper comic serial to its grave in the final episode of their strip. Books of both 'Zodiak' and 'Nicky Saxx' were published by Boumaar, while Kippenvel even released six issues of a Nicky Saxx Magazine from 2007 to 2009.

Oosterveer and Ritstier's newspaper characters bury the newspaper comics serial in 2008.

Final collaborations with Oosterveer
Ristier and Oosterveer's next creation was the horror comic 'Trunk'. After a first short story in Menno Kooistra's horror anthology 'Bloeddorst' (2007), a long story called 'De Onbekende Soldaat' was serialized in MYX Magazine in 2008. The authors were then present in the relaunched Eppo magazine with the raw wild west detective series 'Ronson Inc'. Two albums were published by Don Lawrence Collection in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, Ritstier and Oosterveer also made an album of 'Storm', the epic space saga created by Martin Lodewijk and Don Lawrence. It was the intention that the duo would produce new albums in alternation with the other authors, Lodewijk, Romano Molenaar and Jorg de Vos, but they made one album ('De Banneling van Thoem') due to the unfortunate death of Minck Oosterveer in 2011.

Besides his steady collaboration with Oosterveer, Ritstier has worked with several other artists on a regular base. For Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd, he wrote stories of 'Dabbo' for Hupet in 1987-1988, and he created the hilarious superhero parody 'Soeperman' with René Uilenbroek in 1986. 'Soeperman' continued his career in Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd's successor Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad. A proper album collection never saw the light, but Soeperman's antics have been collected in albums by Oberon, Zet.El, Big Balloon and BeeDee until 1998. The authors revived their creation when Eppo magazine was relaunched by Rob van Bavel's Don Lawrence Collection in 2009.

Between 1995 and 2003, Ritstier and René Uilenbroek were present in Suske & Wiske Weekblad with 'Stanley'. Set in dark Africa, the humor comic featured an incompetent white explorer, Stanley, and his far smarter and sarcastic black guide Weekend (a nod to Man Friday from 'Robinson Crusoe'). In many ways it was an updated version of Ritsier's earlier comic strip from 1982. Boumaar released three books between 2003 and 2009.

Suske & Wiske Weekblad
Besides 'Stanley', 'Speedball Nation' and 'Rick Rolluik', Ritstier provided the Flemish Suske & Wiske Weekblad, of Standaard Uitgeverij, with several other series. He wrote the scripts of 'Quint & Co' (1995) for Rob Phielix and 'Pelle' (1998-2003) for Jeroen Steehouwer and Frans Leenheer, and wrote and drew the gag strip about the wisecracking kid 'Alvin' (2000-2001) himself. 'Alvin' initially shared the page with Walter's 'Tuin-Tv' and Ikke's 'Kas'.

AndersClaire DeWitt

Scriptwriter for children's comics
By the 2000s, Willem Ritstier had established himself as one of the most prolific scriptwriters of his home country, both for children and mature audiences. From the late 1990s until 2014, he wrote the funny animal puzzle comic about the mouse and elephant detective duo 'Sam & Sam' for Samsam, an educational school monthly about children in development countries, published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The artwork of the first 27 episodes were by Rob Phielix, after which the pencil passed to Carry Brugman (2001-2014). A book collection appeared in 2007. In addition to writing for his own creations, Ritstier has written comic stories for the girls' magazine Tina from 2002 to 2006 (art by Carry Brugman, René Bergmans, Peter FitzVerploegh...) and he succeeded Pieter van Oudheusden as the writer of Studio Vandersteen's 'Junior Suske en Wiske' from 2012 to 2014 (art by Jeff Broeckx). Since 2015 he also writes comics with Disney characters for Donald Duck and Donald Duck Junior.

Scriptwriter for album series
With his former Yèch partner Adri van Kooten he created 'Winth', a fairy tale comic set in ancient Japan. The project was halted after only album (Bee Dee, 2008), because the publishing house cancelled its activities. Ritstier and artist Erwin Suvaal made the trilogy 'Anders' (Arboris, 2009-2016), about two "normal" kids in a world where everything is different. Several installments of the strip were first published in comics news magazine StripNieuws. Ritstier and Suvaal's next project was the film noir comic 'Harry Link'. Ritstier wrote the second album of the sci-fi comic 'Jack Slender' (V.O.S., 2013) by Hendrik J. Vos. In 2018 Ritstier and the artist Wilbert van der Steen were commissioned to create 'Chemo-Kasper' (2018), an educational comic about children's cancer. It was a joint production between Ballon Media and the Prinses Maxima Centrum.

Eppo magazine
In 2009 Rob van Bavel of the publishing house Don Lawrence Collection relaunched the classic comic magazine of the 1970s and 1980s, Eppo. Many contributors of the early years returned to its pages, and Ritstier has been a regular presence ever since. His first creation was the timetraveling 'Tim Tijdloos' with Pieter Hogenbirk (2009), and in 2012 he and Marissa Delbressine launched the adventure serial 'WARD', about a family that ends up in all kinds of fantastic and mysterious adventures after an ill-fated sailing trip. With Roelof Wijtsma, he revived the classic soccer comic 'Roel Dijkstra' (2017-2018), which was one of the staples in the original Eppo, created by Andries Brandt and Jan Steeman in 1975. For publisher Personalia, Ritstier and Wijtsma continued their collaboration for a short-lived junior soccer comic for girls, 'Josje' (2021), of which a couple of episodes were published in Jump magazine.

Westerns with Fred de Heij
Due to the unfortunate death of Minck Oosterveer, the western series 'Ronson Inc.' had come to a sudden halt. The experience had however triggered Ristier's interest in the genre. He found a new partner-in-crime in Fred de Heij, with whom he intended to continue the series. Publisher Van Bavel however refused a third episode of 'Ronson Inc', so the authors created a brandnew "horror western" trilogy, starring the black bounty hunter 'Claire DeWitt' (Xtra, 2014-2017). Ritstier was partially inspired by the gritty western TV series 'Deadwood', but also decided to explore the boundaries of the genre by adding horror elements and pulpy action. After this trilogy, they embarked upon another no-nonsense western heroine, this time inspired by the classic 1950s western movies. The "Calamity Janesque" 'Jenny Pine' (2020) and her dog Leo rode off in their first album, published by Standaard Uitgeverij in 2020. Outside of the western genre, Ritstier and De Heij additionally collaborated on the graphic novel 'De Witte Dood' (MENLU, 2023), set in 1939 during the Russian invasion of Finland.

Other magazine work
Willem Ritstier served as guest editor-in-chief of the fourth issue of the Stripglossy, published by Personalia in March 2017. The issue marked the debut of 'Saul', a futuristic fantasy series with painted drawings by the Indonesian artist Apri Kusbiantoro, which meticulously mimicks the atmosphere of Don Lawrence's classic 'Storm' artwork. New episodes have been serialized in the glossy, while Personalia has collected the series in book format since 2018. For the new Belgian comic magazine Maxix, he teamed up with the artist Michiel Offerman to create 'Luthon-Höge' (2021-   ), a series about a young police inspector who joins the "gendarmerie" of a small French countryside town in the 1950s. In the same magazine, he launched the adventures of 'Jeff Rylander' (2021) - a former crime reporter at a low point in his life -  in collaboration with artist Eric Heuvel. In 2022, he collaborated with Ger Apeldoorn on writing the comic feature about dream detectives 'Poh en Slim', drawn by Ralf van der Hoeven for Maxix magazine.


Later solo comics and cartoons
Although most of Willem Ritstier's comics output has been in the role of scriptwriter since the 1990s, Ritstier has continued to draw cartoons and comics himself. Among his commercial comic strips are 'Dirkje' for magazine Ditjes & Datjes of supermarket Dirk van den Broek and 'Co & Wattje' for the power company Eneco. His creations 'Alvin' and 'Otto Spoof' have also made appearances in StripNieuws. For Kidsweek, he made the gag strip 'Flip' (2005-2014), which can be considered a continuation of 'Alvin'. He posts regular cartoons with the kitten 'Mimoo' and her mouse friend on Facebook since 2014. Since 2019 Ritstier is part of Hans Lijklema's collective Facebook project 'Cartoons for Breakfast', both with 'Mimoo' and his postcard style 'Like Me' feature.

Rozewater by Willem Ritstier

Greeting cards and other illustration work
Ritstier's main source of income is however designing wishing cards, which he has done since 1988 for companies like PaperClipCards. Ritstier's cartoons and illustrations have appeared in Algemeen Dagblad, De Telegraaf, Leeuwarder Courant, calendars for Lannoo, and a number of internal publications of corporations like KLM and Philips. Ritstier was the regular illustrator and cartoonist for the scientific children's magazine Zo Zit Dat from the first issue in 1994 until 2015. He additionally makes illustrations for children's books and advertisements, sometimes using the pen name Bill Risty.

Since 2022, Ritstier has been writing and drawing children's picture books for publisher MENLU, starting with 'Mamma! Waar ben je?' (2022), featuring the character of Elly the elephant. This first book was followed by 'Kasper gaat vliegen' (2022) and 'De Appel' (2022). In 2023, Elly the elephant returned in 'Niemand wil met Elly spelen'.

Mimoo by Willem Ritstier

Wills Kracht
In 2009, Ritstier's wife of 29 years passed away from breast cancer. The artist began working on a very personal graphic novel about her illness and subsequent death in 2011. He restarted the effort three times before he found the right approach. Ritstier openheartedly covered the entire process his family went through: the questions, the fears, the treatments and the end. He chose a simplified graphical approach, drawing characters without faces. This way, the author could keep more distance to the heavy subject matter, and put more expression in the character's movements instead of cartoony faces. 'Wills Kracht' was published by SubQ in 2017. The subsequent period of mourning and going on with life is covered in the book's follow-up, 'Opstaan... en doorgaan - Verder na een verlies' (2020).

'Wills Kracht'.

Graphic contributions
In 2020, Willem Ritstier joined 75 Dutch & Flemish comic artists to make a graphic contribution to the free collective comic book 'Striphelden versus Corona’ (Oogachtend, Uitgeverij L, 2020). The book is intended to support comics stores who had to close their doors for two months during the lockdown at the height of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. 

On 4-5 March 2017, during the Stripdagen in Rijswijk, Willem Ritstier was awarded the Stripschapprijs for his contributions to Dutch comics, especially as a writer. It was the first time that the prize was awarded to solely a comic writer; in 1975 Lo Hartog van Banda had to share his award with Hans G. Kresse.

Since his beginnings as an artist of slapstick and zany humor strips, Willem Ritstier has certainly expanded his activities. One of the Netherlands' most prolific and allround comic authors, his oeuvre contains not only kids' humor comics and action-filled adventure and fantasy serials, but also widely praised, highly personal graphic novels. His children have also pursued creative careers. Ritstier's daughter Veerle is an artist as well, who makes pieces of art with techniques ranging from 3D textile sculptures and etchings to paintings and photographs. His son Alwin is a filmmaker, who maintains the YouTube channel Vet Gezellig with his wife and vlogging partner Saske de Schepper. In 2021, Alwin Ritstier released a book about dealing with severe anxieties, 'Gek van Mezelf' (Lev. Uitgevers, 2021).

Willem Ritstier
Willem Ritstier in 2017 (Photo © Peter Beemsterboer).

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