'Zizmo Dreams' (from: 'Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream').

Tobias Tak was one of those Dutch artists who operated largely out of the spotlights of his home country. Based in London, Tak contributed his surreal and fairy tale comics with characters like the wizard Gaboon and Zizmo the cat to international anthologies and alternative comix papers, both from the USA and the UK. Several of these stories were collected in the States in the books 'Upside Down' (Top Shelf, 2003) and 'Gaboon's Daymare' (Alternative Press, 2011). Tak also earned praise for his graphic interpretations of Federico García Lorca's poetry, collected in the Netherlands in the book 'Canciones' (Scratch, 2017).

Early life and inspirations
Tobias Eduard Tak, Tobi in short, was born in 1954 in Voorburg in the Dutch province South Holland. While still in high school, Tobias created the characters of Gaboon the Wizard ("Gaboen" in Dutch) and his glamorous companion Shlenzy ("Slijntje"), who both starred in adventures designed to entertain his sister Elise, his brother Marten and their friends. Tak later explained that the character had come to him in a dream, in which he saw a strange man with frog-like feet, an orange tail and a beetle's shell. He was wearing a turtleneck and strange puffy pants, while his hair looked like flames. Out of the middle flame came musical notes, which transformed into birds as they left his head. The fifteen-year old quickly sketched the character after waking up. The wizard was the first of many surreal creations which have come from the author's mind. All of Tak's comics are characterized by their dreamlike environments and creatures, which remind of the imagery in Winsor McCay's 'Little Nemo in Slumberland', John Tenniel's illustrations for Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' and Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann's gruesome children's story collection 'Der Struwwelpeter'. Another influence are the underground comix of Gary Panter.

'Klazeena Goes Polka Dotty'.

Education and musical career
Tak enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, from which he graduated five years later, in the late 1970s. Soon afterwards, his first comics were published in the alternative cult magazine Talent (previously known as Tante Leny Presenteert) of Amsterdam-based publisher Drukwerk. But by this time Tobias had already started another career as a jazz and tap dancer, singer and choreographer. During the following years, while hoofing on the stages of the USA and Europe, he continued creating stories with his cartoony friends. But it was not until 1999 that he started dedicating most of his time to drawing again. By then Tak was mostly living and working in London.

Anthology and magazine work
In 2000, Tak's 16-page story 'Klazeena Goes Polka Dotty' (2000) was published in the first issue of Ronald Cornelissen's Dutch art magazine Wormhole. In mid-air during a plane journey to Barcelona, Tobias met comic artist Lorna Miller, who encouraged him to continue drawing stories and offered him a guest spot in the third issue of her comic book Witch (Slave Labor Graphics), for which Tobias created a five page comic entitled 'Furry Tale' (2002). In 2003, the first book of collected stories by Tobias Tak was published by the US alternative label Top Shelf Productions under the title 'Upside Down'. Soon after that his work was noticed by editor Danny Hellman, who invited him to participate in his self-published title 'Legal Action Comics, Part Two' (2003). Five years later, Tak contributed the story 'Piff the Prancing Pixie' to Helmann's 'Typhon' anthology (2008).

Illustration by Tobias Tak. 

Tak was also asked to draw for the Fantagraphics anthology 'Blood Orange' (2004-2005), which ran his work in issues #1, 2 and 4. He then started working on a long story entitled 'The Land Behind the Mirror', which once again takes place in the fantastical world of the wizard Gaboon. Installments of the story were published in LeGun, the 2005 magazine of the British art collective LeGun. In 2008 the artist made a fantastical retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk under the title 'The Ten Inch Giant' for Glenn Head's 'Hotwire Comics Vol. 2' (Fantagraphics, 2008). He featured Gaboon in a couple of full pages in which the several panels form one big drawing for the newspaper style comic anthology POOD in 2010-2011. He repeated this gimmick in his graphic interpretation of the 1936 movie 'Komedie Om Geld' for the Dutch anthology 'Filmfanfare' (2012), and his contribution to the Winsor McCay tribute collection 'Little Nemo: Dream Another Dream' (Locust Moon Press, 2014). Tak's art additionally appeared in several issues of Richard Cowdry's British comics paper The Comix Reader.

From: 'Gaboon's Daymare'.

2011 saw the publication at Alternative Press of 'Gaboon's Daymare', a new book of collected short stories by Tobias Tak. These were various stories in different drawing styles, but all with Tak's usual surreal fairy tale themes, created between 2003 and 2011 for various publications. In 2013 Tobias Tak worked for the first time with his sister, visual artist Elise Tak. Tobias' traditional drawing style was combined with Elise's high-tech 3D and CGI techniques for the fairy tale 'The Spirit of Saturn', exhibited at the 2013 Pool Art Fair in New York. Among Tak's other characters are Zizmo the Cat and Hemingway the monkey, who starred in 'Zizmo: Lost in the Groove' (co-written by Tanya Meditzky) and 'Zizmo and the Two Grandmothers'.


It took until 2017 before Tak's work was collected in book format in the Netherlands. In that year, Scratch Books released 'Canciones', a collection of graphic interpretations of the progressive poetry by leftist-oriented and openly gay Spanish poet Federico García Lora (1889-1936). In his trademark rich and imaginative style, Tak visualized twenty poems from Lorca's 'Canciones' (1927). This collection of lyrical poems based on popular Andalusian folk songs and ballads has remained the best-known work of the Spanish poet, who was killed in 1936 by supporters of general Francisco Franco because of his socialist sympathies. The book was bilingual, containing both the Spanish originals and the Dutch translation of Lorca's texts, had art direction by Joost Swarte and a foreword by Lorca translator Christopher Maurer from the Boston University.

Death and legacy
Battling with illness for several years, Tobias Tak passed away in Amsterdam on 7 January 2020, shortly before his 66th birthday. His final project was the 'Gaboon' graphic novel 'De Droommaker ('The Dream Maker'), published posthumously by Concerto Books in 2022. The mysterious and magical worlds of the actual "dream-maker" Tobias Tak have earned the artist praise from Robert Crumb, Joann Sfar, Art Spiegelman, Joost Swarte and Rod McKie.

comic artist by Tobias Tak
'Don't forget to remember not to forget' (Or: 'The Tree of Forgetfulness'), from Pood #1.


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