Otto Spoof by Willem Ritstier
Otto Spoof

Willem Ritstier is an illustrator and cartoonist, and one of the most productive scriptwriters of Dutch comics, based in Oud-Beijerland. He is especially known for his many cooperations with Minck Oosterveer, including the final comics serial in a Dutch newspaper.

A self-taught artist from Rotterdam, he had been fabricating his own comic magazines from the age of 11. He began his professional life with several office jobs, while making cartoons and comics in his spare time, which he submitted to a great many magazines. That Ritstier was persistent in pursuing his career in comics is illustrated by this remark from Robbedoes editor Jos Wauters: "You could send him away one hundred times, but he would always come back one time more." 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. 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 had the typical Rotterdam directness and slang.

De Familie Best by Willem Ritstier
De Familie Best

In 1983, Maarten J. de Meulder published his first album, the semi-autobiographical 'De Familie Best'. In that same year, he was present in Robbedoes, the Flemish equivalent of Spirou magazine, which had just launched a section with comics by 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. Later came the corny slapstick stories of the semi-criminal 'Harry Lipwitts' (1984-1986). 'Harry Lipwitts' additionally appeared in Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd in 1985 and 1986, while Bartje continued his career as a daily strip in the local newspapers of the Sijthoff Press Group (Rotterdams Nieuwsblad, Haagsche Courant, Goudsche Courant) in 1985. A collection of 'Bartje' strips was published by Loeb in 1986. The 'Bartje' newspaper strip was "ghosted" by Leo Immerzeel during its final years.

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

Ritstier began an association with the publishing house Jumbo-Offset in 1984. After publishing an album with the character 'Babet' in a collection of so-called "experimental" comics, he was one of the originators of the amateur comics magazine Yèch in 1984. Ritstier formed the editorial team with Caren Peeters, Adri van Kooten and Minck Oosterveer. Besides his first cooperations with the artists Oosterveer and Van Kooten, the magazine featured Ritstier's own strips starring 'Babet' and 'De Vries'. 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 in seven issues of Yèch in 1984 and 1985. The final issue appeared in 1986.

GaaiBaai, Foppe slaat door, by Willem Ritstier
Gaaibaai

While 'Harry Lipwitts' continued his adventures in the Leeuwarder Courant from 1987 to the early 1990s, Ritstier created the comic 'Gaaibaai', about the bachelor Lodewijk Spruit and his self-willed parrot Foppe Meyer. It ran in newspaper Algemeen Dagblad from 1988, and also appeared in the 'Suske en Wiske' holiday books of Standaard Uitgeverij. Standaard released two book collections in 1989 and 1990. His comic 'De Familie Iks' was then published weekly in De Courant Nieuws van de Dag in the early 1990s. By then, Ritstier was a productive scriptwriter for others. 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.

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. One of their early creations was the clumsy private investigator 'Philip J. Boogaard', whose adventures appeared in the Saturday papers of the Sijthoff group in 1984 and 1985. 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

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. In 1990 Ritstier and Oosterveer started their next newspaper comics serial. Six stories of the adventurous series 'Jack Pott' were published in Algemeen Dagblad from 1990 until its abrupt end in 1994. 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 information magazine Comic Watch, the duo were present in Suske & Wiske Weekblad with 'Speedball Nation' (1995-1996) and 'Rick Rolluik' (1999-2001). They created another newspaper comic strip in 1996, this time for De Telegraaf. 'Zodiak' was a heroic fantasy series with influences from Tolkien and Alex Raymond's 'Flash Gordon'. 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, but general audiences only judged it from a superficial viewpoint, thus underestimating its true value.

ZodiakNicky 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. Willem Ritstier and Minck Oosterveer had the dubious honor to literally carry the Dutch continuing newspaper comic to the 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

Their next creation was the horror comic 'Trunk'. After a first published short story in Menno Kooistra's 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 hero 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. Between 1995 and 2003, Ritstier and René Uilenbroek were present in Suske & Wiske Weekblad with 'Stanley'. The humor comic featured an incompetent white explorer, Stanley, and his far smarter and sarcastic black guide who both cross the African jungle. In many ways it was an updated version of Ritsier's earlier comic from 1982. Ritstier also wrote and drew the comic strip 'Alvin' (2000-2001) for this Flemish magazine, while writing the scripts of 'Quint & Co' (1995) for Rob Phielix, 'Pelle' (1998-2003) for Jeroen Steehouwer and Frans Leenheer, and the aforementioned comics with Oosterveer. He additionally wrote the puzzle comic 'Sam & Sam' for Samsam, a monthly about children in development countries. The artwork was done by Phielix, and later by Carry Brugman (2001-2014).

AndersClaire DeWitt

He teamed up with his former Yèch partner Adri van Kooten to create '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 StripNieuws. Ritstier and Suvaal's next project is the film noir comic 'Harry Link'. Ritstier wrote the second album of the sci-fi comic 'Jack Slender' (V.O.S., 2013) for Hendrik J. Vos, and created the western horror trilogy 'Claire DeWitt' (Xtra, 2014-2017) with Fred de Heij. In Eppo magazine, he made 'Tim Tijdloos' with Pieter Hogenbirk (2009) and the adventure comic 'WARD' with Marissa Delbressine since 2012. He also revived the classic soccer comic 'Roel Dijkstra' with Roelof Wijtsma, which was created by Andries Brandt and Jan Steeman for the original Eppo in 1975.

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.


Flip

Although most of his output for comics has been as a writer 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 Eneco. 'Gaaibaai' was revived under the title 'Foppe' in a TV magazine for a while in 2004, while his creations 'Alvin' and 'Otto Spoof' have made appearances in StripNieuws. For Kidsweek, he made the gag strip 'Flip' from 2005 to 2014.

Rozewater by Willem Ritstier

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. He posts a daily cartoon with the character 'Mimoo' on Facebook since 2014. 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 furthermore makes illustrations for children's books and advertisements, sometimes using the pen name Bill Risty.

Mimoo by Willem Ritstier

Ritstier's wife of 29 years passed away from breastcancer in 2009. 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 the 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.


Wills Kracht

Willem Ritstier won the Stripschapprijs 2017 for his contributions to Dutch comics, especially as a writer. It was the first time that the prize was awarded to solely a comics writer; Lo Hartog van Banda had to share his award with Hans G. Kresse in 1975. Besides interviews in several newspapers and comics information magazines, Ritstier was also appointed guest chief editor of the fourth StripGlossy of Seb van der Kaaden's publishing house Personalia. The issue appeared in March 2017 and launched the publication of 'Saul' by Ritstier and artist Apri Kusbiantoro, a fantasy story made in the style of Don Lawrence's 'Storm' stories.

Willem Ritstier's daughter Veerle is an artist as well. She makes pieces of art with several techniques, from 3D textile sculptures and etchings to paintings and photographs. His son Alwin is a filmmaker, and maintains the YouTube channel Vet Gezellig with his wife and vlogging partner Saske de Schepper.

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

www.ritstier.nl

Dutch biography in De Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis

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