Comic Creator Ruud Straatman

Ruud Straatman

Rust, Ruud Schrijfman, Straat, Strooss, Hendrik Martens, Baron Ben Verstoten

(b. 16 June 1948, The Netherlands)   Netherlands

Ruud  Straatman

Royaal Modaal by Ben Verstoten
'Royaal Modaal'.

Ruud Straatman is one of the most productive scriptwriters in Dutch comic history. The sheer quantity of his output is impressive, to say the least. His list of Disney stories alone numbers over 1,200 entries, while he also contributed to other studio productions such as 'Sjors en Sjimmie', 'Bobo', Marten Toonder's 'Panda' and Tina's 'Karlijn, Catootje en de Ouders' and 'Nick & Simon'. Straatman has also written scripts for the likes of Peter de Wit ('De Familie Fortuin'), Dino Attanasio('Johnny Goodbye'), Evert Geradts ('Henk Hond') and Hans G. Kresse ('Vidocq'), while he illustrated his own slapstick humor in such comic strips as 'Pien en Peer' (Tina, 1983-1992), 'Simon Spitsmuis' (Eppo Wordt Vervolgd, 1987), 'Polderkolder' (Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad, 1986-1988) and the online comic 'Royaal Modaal' (2003-2006). His collaborations have further extended to magazines in Spain (1984) and Sweden (Fantomen, MAD). One of the more illustrious and impalpable persons in the Dutch comics industry, Ruud Straatman also goes under the pen names Ruud Schrijfman, Strooss, Hendrik Martens and Baron Ben Verstoten, for a variety of reasons.

Early life and later whereabouts
Rudolf Hendrik Marten Straatman was born in 1948 in Bussum into a family of three children. His father was an employee of the Netherlands Trading Society in Amsterdam, but by 1956 the family moved to Geldrop, when father Straatman got a job with Philips in Eindhoven. Much to his chagrin, Ruud Straatman had to spend the rest of his childhood in Brabant instead of the luxurious villa in the Bussum residential area Het Spiegel... This experience hasn't kept him from frequently moving in his later life, however. The man is hard to pin down. Leaving the Netherlands for the first time in 1985, he moved over 85 times in eleven years, living in the USA, Portugal, Spain, England, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Ireland and Germany, while occasionally returning to The Netherlands in between. Since 2002 he has found a steady home in the English coastal town Bexhill-on-Sea, which has been nicknamed "Brexit-on-Sea" in typical Straatman humor.

Influences and education
As a young man, he devoured the newspaper adventures of Pieter Kuhn's 'Kapitein Rob'. He also developed a keen passion for artists like Carl Giles, Jack Davis, Wallace Wood, Martin Lodewijk, André Franquin and Victor Hubinon. Later in life he added Luc Cromheecke, Marc Wasterlain, Alain Dodier, Mark Retera and Gerard Leever to his list of favorite artists, and one can also spot influences of Peter de Smet's absurd humor in Straatman's own comics. At age 16 he enrolled at the Breda Art Academy, but he stayed for only six months. He later took evening classes in Eindhoven, attended the Den Bosch Art Academy and finally settled at the Antwerp Art Academy together with his painter friend Cornslis Le Mair. During his studies in Flanders, he regularly encountered comics legend Willy Vandersteen in the city's night life. It might certainly have triggered Straatman's pursuit of his own career in comics, although he had already published his first cartoons in the local newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad (under the pen name Rust) and the underground music weekly Hitweek at age 16-17. He deserted from his military service after eleven days, but did manage to receive payment for a year and a half anyhow.

Toer Turner by Ruud Straatman
'Toer Turner' (11 November 1972).

Earliest comic exploits
Back in the Netherlands in the late 1960s, Ruud Straatman offered his services to editor Hetty Hagebeuk of comic magazine Pep. He got the opportunity to draw a test page for a new comic by Lo Hartog van Banda, but didn't get the job. It later became a staple in Pep magazine under the title 'Baron van Tast', drawn by Jan van Haasteren. It took until 1972 before he had his first comic published, 'Toer Turner' (1972-1973) in Veronica Gids. Drawn in a style reminiscent of the underground movement, the main hero was a disc jockey on board Veronica, the ship of the eponymous offshore radio station. A planned comic about two police officers and one about Dutch comedian André van Duin for comic magazine Eppo fell through, but he did work with Eppo editor Martin Lodewijk on an advertising comic for Drum tobacco in 1976-1977. As "Ruud Schrijfman", he provided Robert van der Kroft with some gag ideas for Eppo's 'Sjors & Sjimmie' strip in 1978.

By 1979, Ruud Straatman was hired as an editor for Robbedoes, the Flemish sister magazine of Spirou. He translated several of the French-language comics, and met some of the top artists of Franco-Belgian comics. He managed to give Dutch artist Henk Kuijpers a spot in both Robbedoes and Spirou with his 'Franka', and helped a young Eric Heuvel with the launch of his career. In available spots where Spirou had an advertisement, Straatman and Dutch artist Peer Coolen provided the filler strip 'Sjefke Molm' (1979). Straatman also wrote a plot for Arthur Piroton's FBI agent 'Jess Long', following the death of the original writer Maurice Tillieux. He however left Robbedoes in May 1980 before the collaboration could develop any further.

Disney comics
During his visits at the offices of Eppo magazine, Ruud Straatman also got in touch with the editors of the Dutch Disney magazines. Even before joining Robbedoes, he began a long tenure as scriptwriter for Donald Duck weekly. The local production of Disney stories had begun a couple of years earlier, and expanded in the 1980s under editor-in-chief Thom Roep. Straatman quickly became one of the most productive contributors to the magazine, initially with stories starring mainly secondary characters like 'Dumbo', 'Little Hiawatha' and 'Gus 'n' Jaq', but later also with 'Donald Duck' and his nephews. He has written hundreds of stories with nearly every standard Disney character, although his favorites seem to be 'The Big Bad Wolf', 'Brer Rabbit', 'Chip 'n' Dale', 'Bucky Bug' and 'Madam Mim'. Straatman's plots have been drawn by nearly all the freelance artists associated with the magazine, but his collaborations with Dick Matena and José Colomer Fonts stand out. With Matena for instance, he added the crocodile Karel Krokodil to the 'Brer Rabbit' universe. Other creations are the Big Bad Wolf's "disguise shed" ("vermomhok") and Chip and Dale's nemesis Egbert Eekhoorn.

Straatman wrote essentially short humorous stories, but among his best remembered contributions to the weekly are the longer serials he made with Colomer Fonts starring Jose Carioca. Between 1983 and 1991 the magazine ran seven long stories with this Brazilian loafer from the feature films 'Saludos Amigos' and 'The Three Caballeros'. Straatman also wrote two long "movie sequel" stories with 'The Rescuers' (1987, 1991, drawn by Miquel Pujol and José Ramon Bernado, respectively) and one with 'Lady and the Tramp' (1988, drawn by Pujol). Another notable long script by Ruud Straatman is the 'Donald Duck' story 'Gloom of the Unknown Author' (1992, art by Bas Heymans), which reveals the origins of the Junior Woodchucks Guidebook. Besides comics for the regular weekly, Ruud Straatman and Dick Matena made many gags starring Goofy's talking crow Ellsworth (1984-1988) for the back pages of Mickey Maandblad. In the same monthly, the duo also made an occasional story with 'Mickey Mouse' or 'Supergoof'. Straatman furthermore wrote some 'Gyro Gearloose' puzzle comics for Willie Wortel's Puzzelparade (1984-1985, 1989, art by Colomer Fonts), and many short tales of 'Winnie the Pooh' for pre-school magazine Disneyland (1989-1993, art by Studio Comicup).

Anoek en de Krokotainer by Ruud Straatman
'Anoek en de Krokotrainer' (1982).

Malmberg, Schoenenreus, Bobo
By 1980, Ruud Straatman's comics collaborations expanded rapidly. He made regular contributions to the Malmberg school magazines Okki, Jippo and Taptoe, most notably the short stories he wrote and drew with 'Anoek en de Krokotrainer' (1982-1983) in Jippo. The title hero, named after the author's daughter, was a young girl who regularly hung out in the city's sewer system with an anthropomorphic crocodile. For shoe brand De Schoenenreus, he wrote and drew the full-length album 'De Kluts van Nop' (1982) starring the mouse Topolino and the "Shoe Giant", followed by four mini-comics. During a period of ten years, Ruud Straatman furthermore wrote the title comic of toddlers' magazine Bobo, both for the Dutch and the Indonesian edition, while giving the blue bunny his best friend Tjerk along the way.

Pien en Peer by Ruud Straatman
'Pien en Peer' (Tina, 1985).

In 1984 the girls' magazine Tina became another important client for Ruud Straatman. For many years, he provided the magazine with 'Pien en Peer' (1984-1993), a gag strip about a young girl and her chubby talking horse. While he drew these strips himself, he provided scripts to about 40 dramatic short stories with artwork provided by the magazine's main supplier of that time, the Spanish Creaciones Editoriales agency. Nine of these stories featured the horse 'Miskoop' (1988-1992), and were drawn by María Barrera.

During the 1980s, Ruud Straatman got the opportunity to work with even more legendary comics characters. For the Toonder Studio's, he wrote three balloon comics with Marten Toonder's 'Tom Poes' for Donald Duck magazine. 'Tom Poes en de Tijdverdrijver', 'Tom Poes en de Wederwolf' and 'Tom Poes en de Roddeltante' however stranded in the script phase, as the collaboration between Toonder and Donald Duck magazine came to an end. Only 'De Tijdverdrijver' had some pages sketched out by Wil Raymakers, but it took until 2018 before the story was fully drawn and published, this time by Tim Artz in the Stripglossy. 'De Roddeltante' was reworked into a story for 'Panda', the last remaining Toonder newspaper comic, for which Ruud Straatman wrote four stories in 1988 and 1989, succeeding Harrie Geelen as scriptwriter. 'De Roddeltante', 'De Ridders van Flut', 'De Vakantievoerder' and 'De Magimixer' were all illustrated by Toonder Studio staffers Jaap Lamberton and Frits Godhelp.

'Panda', from Nieuwsblad van het Noorden (7 March 1989).

Other famous characters
A 1984 'Lucky Luke' script in which the comic cowboy encounters the inventor Thomas Alva Edison was called off because the series' artist Morris objected to Straatman's humor overload, while an attempted plot with Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske' (1989) was aborted because of a change of management at Standaard Uitgeverij. Straatman did have the opportunity to write a story with the voluptuous Olga Lawina from Martin Lodewijk's 'Agent 327' comic for the 1984-1985 Truckstar pocket calendar. The artwork was provided by Willem Vleeschouwer, as Lodewijk didn't have the time for it himself. In the late 1980s Straatman provided some gags for a planned spin-off starring the pets from Jan Kruis' family comic 'Jan, Jans en de Kinderen' by request of publisher Joop Wiggers. This project was also cut short, but Kruis did use the Straatman plots in which the dachshund Lotje thinks she is emperor Napoleon in his weekly page for women's weekly Libelle.

In addition to his many collaborations in the Netherlands, the globetrotting Straatman also found clients abroad. Already in the mid-1980s, he wrote science fiction and horror stories with a comical twist for Josep Toutain's 1984 magazine in Spain, using a yet to be identified pen name. Starting in the mid-1980s, he also wrote for Rolf Kauka's 'Fix und Foxi' and Bastei's comics based on the TV character 'Benjamin Blümchen'. Later that decade he joined the Swedish edition of MAD magazine by Williams Förlag, for which he wrote and drew 'Sir Harold Sillybum, the famous sexplorer' (1988-1989). Around the same period, and in cooperation with Piet Zeeman, he wrote stories with Lee Falk's 'The Phantom' for the Swedish Fantomen magazine by Semic Press.

The 100th episode of 'De Familie Fortuin' had cameo appearances of both Straatman and De Wit.

De Familie Fortuin
Up until now, most of Ruud Straatman's endeavours had been anonymous. His name became more well-known when he was asked to write 'De Familie Fortuin' (1985-1990) for the artist Peter de Wit in Eppo magazine. The concept of this strip about a dysfunctional family came from Wilbert Plijnaar and Jan van Die, but Straatman added the decent neighbour Aloysius Frispeer and grandma Fortuin to the cast. Straatman excelled in coming up with new swindles by father Fortuin, of which the poor Frispeer was the constant victim. In antisocial behavior, the Fortuin family certainly surpassed Gerrit de Jager's 'Familie Doorzon' and the Flodder family from Dick Maas' movie franchise 'Flodder'. Straatman didn't shy away from spoofing his colleagues in the series. Scriptwriter Jan van Die was represented as the school teacher of the Fortuin children (their number differs per episode), while Eppo Wordt Vervolgd editor-in-chief Peter van Leersum and his trademark moustache stood model for the shady Harry Rotsnor. After about 115 episodes, the collaboration between Ruud Straatman and Peter de Wit had worn out, and De Wit continued on his own from 1990 to 1998. Both Frispeer and grandma left the comic as well, as Straatman kept the rights to these characters. The Straatman era episodes were collected in three albums by Oberon and Big Balloon between 1988 and 1991.


Polderkolder & Simon Spitsmuis
Besides 'De Familie Fortuin', Ruud Straatman worked on several other comics for Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd magazine. As a writer/artist he made the humor comic about farm life 'Polderkolder' (1986-1988). He used the pen name Strooss, the Luxembourgish translation of "Straat" (street). As he was in a state of bankruptcy, Straatman made his next comic under the name "Straat" for the script and "Hendrik Martens" for the art. The Macherot-like 'Simon Spitsmuis' (1987) was a rather grim animal comic, and the segment about vivisection caused many angry letters and cancellations.

Scriptwork for Eppo/Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad
Still for Eppo Wordt Vervolgd, Straatman helped the legendary Hans G. Kresse with writing three new stories with the 19th century master detective 'Vidocq' (1986-1987). When Eppo Wordt Vervolgd continued as Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad, Straatman made two stories of the political animal comic 'Henk Hond' (1989-1991) with artist Evert Geradts. The stories were violent and contained sexual innuendo, so the editors regularly applied censorship. Straatman and Geradts made a story set in Zuid-Blafrika (a pun on South Africa) and a pastiche on the Northern-Irish politician and religious leader Ian Paisley, while a third script was never used. Despite the short run, 'Henk Hond' can be considered one of the most elaborated works in Straatman's oeuvre. Straatman then succeeded Martin Lodewijk as the scriptwriter of the gangster comic 'Johnny Goodbye' (1990-1992) for Dino Attanasio. He took over halfway through the serial 'De Man Die Wel Bestond', and then wrote three more short stories.

'Simon Spitsmuis' (Eppo Wordt Vervolgd #33, 1987).

Sjors & Sjimmie
When Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad was launched in 1988, the title comic was changed from a gag strip into a series of short stories. As the authors Robert van der Kroft, Wilbert Plijnaar and Jan van Die were unable take care of this production, the editors sought new scriptwriters and artists, who could work under the trio's supervision. Straatman became one of the main contributing writers, along with Evert Geradts and Piet Zeeman. The art duties were fulfilled by Hein Haakman and artists affiliated with the Spanish agencies Comicup, Comicon and Creaciones Editoriales. Straatman's final story for the series was printed in 1994.

Royaal Modaal
Both personal and professional issues led to Ruud Straatman's departure from the comic industry during most of the 1990s. During this period he wrote a thriller novel called 'Pocket Money', which he later released as an eBook in 2012. By 2003 he returned to comics, but on his own terms. Together with his friend Piet Zeeman, he launched a website on which he presented his webcomic 'Royaal Modaal' (2003-2005, 2006), a spoof of the Dutch royal family. The strip was originally intended for Casterman back in 1989, but it didn't go into production because of a lack of prepublication options. For the relaunch, Straatman assumed the pen name "Baron Ben Verstoten" to provide a more noble source for the royal whereabouts. The name was also a lash against some of his former clients, as "Ben Verstoten" literally means "I'm cast out", and to mark his return to the profession. Straatman maintained his baron persona on the many comics message boards of the time. The title 'Royaal Modaal' was thought up by Martin Lodewijk. The comic strip ran for a few years until - as Straatman claimed - a TV executive pressured him to discontinue it in the last week of January 2005, which coincided with Queen Beatrix' birthday. About a year later, Straatman relaunched 'Royaal Modaal'. Other gag comics about the Dutch royal couple have been Marc de Boer's 'Willem & Max' (2017) and Herman Roozen and Pieter Hogenbirk's 'Van Oranje' (2016-2018).

Disney comics & Tina (2)
In 2005, Straatman resumed his collaboration with the Dutch Disney publications, and was quickly reinstated as one of the most productive writers, along with Evert Geradts, Jan Kruse and Frank Jonker. Again, he has worked with nearly all the characters the Dutch weekly has to offer, while focusing on short, humorous stories. Besides many stories for the weekly, Straatman wrote the early gags with the young 'Duckies' characters, which the editors provided to the special interest magazines Hockey.nl (2008-2010) and Games Guide (2009). Straatman also returned to girls' magazine Tina, where he became one of the writers of the celebrity comic about Dutch singers Nick and Simon (2010-2013, art by Rafa Ruiz or Carmen Pérez), in alternation with Frank Jonker, Thom Roep and Bas Schuddeboom. Between 2012 and 2015 he was one of the main writers for 'Karlijn, Catootje en de Ouders', Tina's younger spin-off of Libelle's 'Jan, Jans en de Kinderen'. Drawing inspiration from his own family experiences, he wrote not only one-page gags but also three-page short stories, which were drawn by Josep Nebot of Studio Comicup. In 2014-2015 he furthermore wrote some episodes of Tina's title comic, during creator Jan Vriends' break from the feature.

De Avonduren van Aloysius Frispeer
'De Avonduren van Aloysius Frispeer'.

Later work
Straatman picked up the drawing pen for commercial assignments, which often came through the Striptekenaar.info agency of his friend Piet Zeeman. One of these was a poster for Brabant Cultureel in 2012. Besides his commercial work, Straatman has been posting his personal comics projects on Facebook, all drawn on the iPad, since 2014. First there were new adventures of 'Aloysius Frispeer' (2014-2015), the unfortunate neighbour from 'De Familie Fortuin', who now lived next to a family of Arabian origins. An avid cigar smoker, Ruud Straatman subsequently posted a daily 'CigarToon' (2015-2017). In 2018 Straatman wrote 'Raffie & Simpor - Pengembaraan' (2019), a comic story about wildlife preservation, drawn by the Indonesian artist Redy Prio. It is the first comic book produced and published in the South Asian country Brunei (in both English and Bahasa) by the Panaga Natural History Society in commission of the Wildlife Warriors. Straatman's eldest daughter Stephanie was the editor.

Cigartoon by Ruud Straatman

Humor & style
A few notable exceptions aside, such as 'Henk Hond', the core of Ruud Straatman's output consists of pure and simple humor. His dialogue-driven plots read like a sitcom, with the lead characters undergoing a wide range of annoyances, dangers and other distractions. For some peculiar reason, Straatman is at his best when writing about characters operating on the fringes of the law, such as the dysfunctional Fortuin family or Walt Disney's hustler parrot Jose Carioca. His humor is often targeted at authority figures, like Sjors and Sjimmie's Colonel, father Jan Tromp in 'Karlijn, Catootje en de Ouders' and Nick and Simon's manager Jaap Buijs. And let's not forget the endless rows of police officers, tax inspectors, mother-in-laws, charity officials and demanding girlfriends who pass through in Straatman's puppet theater. They all serve as disturbing elements for the lead characters, who are in most plots initially just minding their own business. Mad Madam Mim is simply annoyed by anyone who comes into the vicinity of her cottage. Giants, trolls, dragons and door-to-door salesmen all provide an unlimited stream of inspiration. Many of Straatman's Chip 'n' Dale stories begin with the two chipmunks being awoken by the sound of a woodpecker, a construction crew, an owl or another noisy animal - as a result "ZZ-huh?" has become one of the most-used sound effects in Dutch Disney comics. The adventures of Topolino in 'De Kluts van Nop' also begin with the mouse being distracted from his daily routine by the giant, after which the hero tries to settle the score.

Chip 'n' Dale story by Ruud Straatman, drawn by Miquel Pujol (H 2012-285).

The endless variations on these basic plot devices, as well as his capability to work with every character or franchise he is handed, make Ruud Straatman a useful writer for studio productions needing high output. His working method somewhat reflects his self-willed nature. The quick and productive scriptwriter first sketches out his pages, and then makes up the dialogues along the way. This improvisational writing style can result in hilarious slapstick, but it does require some extra effort from the editor on duty. According to legend, script supervisors Wilbert Plijnaar and Jan van Die let Ruud Straatman write 'Sjors & Sjimmie' stories of ten pages, which they then trimmed down to a more cohesive four, five or six- which in the end can be considered some of the funniest in the series.

Although Ruud Straatman is prominently present on comics message boards, Facebook groups and social media in general, he has seldomly given interviews about his life or career. For those interested in the man's life and times might want to read Robin Schouten's interview with him in Brabant Strip Magazine #202 (2014), or the article in Stripglossy #10 (2018).

Koning Lambiek by Ruud Straatman
'Koning Lambiek (met prins Lammeling) van 't Belegen Land'.

Ruud Straatman Inducks entry

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