Henk Sprenger is one of the classic Dutch comics artist, and the creator of the popular soccer strip 'Kick Wilstra'. Sprenger was born in Wormer, and briefly attended art classes. During World War II, he worked at the animation department of the Toonder Studios in Amsterdam. He also made drawings for Metro, that was printed by the illegal press. Shortly after the War, he made his first comic, 'Demoneneiland'. In 1948, he illustrated the book 'Patave het Holenjong'. An adaptation of this book was published in Pum Pum weekly and the IVIO-jeugdblad. Sprenger was also present in Tom Poes Weekblad with 'Monus, de Man van de Maan', a story with a script by A.D. Hildebrand.
Piloot Storm (Tom Poes Weekblad, 1949)
Sprenger soon found his first success with the aviation war comic 'Arend Stork', which was soon restyled to 'Piloot Storm', in which more science-fiction elements were introduced. Six small books were published of 'Piloot Storm' by the Tukstra biscuit factory, and six subsequent one by the publishing house De Vlijt.
In 1949, Sprenger made the first episodes of his newspaper strip 'Kick Wilstra'. Wilstra, the legendary comic sportsman, with impressive physical qualities, feeling for justice, and entrepreneural skills, was the ideal image for many Dutch youths of the post-World War II years of reconstruction. Wilstra's motto "always straight ahead" was the slogan for a whole generation. The comic was published in periodicals like Ketelbinkie Krant/Robs Vrienden and several newspapers.
The name of his character was derived from the names of Dutch soccer legends Kick Smit, Faas Wilkes and Abe Lenstra, while the artwork was inspired by Ray Gotto, the author of the American baseball comic 'Ozark Ike'. Sprenger was one of the first in The Netherlands to use word balloons in his drawings instead of the conventional wordless panels with massive columns of text below them. Sprenger also stood out for the way he used graphic jokes in rendering sayings and expressions.
In the early seventies, Sprenger made his comeback in the newspaper comics section (among others in the Amsterdam daily Het Parool) with the soccer strip 'Piet Keizer'. Nevertheless, Sprenger never attained the same level of popularity as he did with 'Kick Wilstra'. Shortly afterward, Sprenger bid the comic form farewell to pursue a career in aircraft design at Fokker. By then, his reputation as one of the big names in the rise of Dutch comics was firmly established. In 2003, he was awarded by the Dutch Stripschap with the Bulletje & Boonestaak-schaal. Henk Sprenger passed away on 29 December 2005.
cover for the French edition of 'Piloot Storm'