Final panel from 'De Andere Wereld' (1979, art by Piet Wijn and Marten Toonder)

Marten Toonder is widely considered one of the "Big Three" of Dutch comics, alongside Hans G. Kresse and Pieter J. Kuhn. Though in terms of importance, influence, production and cultural status he surpasses both of them. Toonder was the creator of the long-running newspaper comic 'Tom Poes en Heer Bommel' ('Tom Puss and Lord Bumble', 1941-1986), starring the adventures of the white cat Tom Poes and his friend, the nobleman bear Olivier B. Bommel. He also created other well-known series such as 'Kappie' (1945-1972), 'Panda' (1946-1991) and 'Koning Hollewijn' (1954-1971). Toonder's comics are renowned for their high-quality artwork, storytelling and colourful language. He worked within the funny animal and fantasy genre, but more as a fabulist than as a children's storyteller. He used clever social satire and unforgettable characters which were witty archetypes of human personalities. Toonder also stood out for his highly eccentric and colourful use of language. His characters speak in very antiquated speech and he often made use of verbal wordplay. Certain words and expressions have even entered the Dutch language. As a result Marten Toonder managed to achieve a highly dignified reputation in literary circles. He was the first (and is still the only) comics artist to be accepted as a member of the Dutch literary institution Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde. Few other Dutch comics artists have gained such cultural acceptance, even among adults who otherwise don't read comics. Toonder can be credited with converting public opinion at a time when many Dutch readers looked down on comics. His prestige is such that he is the only Dutch comics artist whose work is considered to be actual literature. No other Dutch-language comics author has been subject of so many books and essays. Toonder is furthermore important for setting up his own productive and successful studio, which specialized both in comics as well as animation. He provided many young writers and artists with job opportunities. His company released what it still the only Dutch animated feature film created on Dutch soil: 'Als Je Begrijpt Wat Ik Bedoel' (1983). Toonder's influence on Dutch comics was massive and he is one of the few Dutchmen whose comics have been translated across the world. Yet he has also been the subject of controversy, mainly for his role during World War II and for the lack of acknowledgement he gave to his co-workers.

Tom Poes en de Superfilmonderneming by Marten Toonder
Tom Poes en de rare uitvinding (art by Marten Toonder and Wim Lensen)

Early life
Marten Toonder was born in 1912 in Rotterdam as the son of a sea captain in the Dutch merchant navy. His younger brother, Jan Gerhard Toonder, would later become a well known Dutch writer and poet. As a child Marten Toonder was a huge bibliophile. He devoured many classic novels and poetry collections, but also read foreign comics which his father brought along from his long journeys across the world. Toonder studied at the Trade School and after finishing high school wanted to study at the Academy, but his father felt nothing for the idea. Instead, he took his 19-year old son along on a trip to Argentina, hoping he could encourage him to start a nautical career. Yet the voyage would have the opposite effect. While stationed in Buenos Aires, Toonder met Jim Davis, an American animator who once worked for Pat Sullivan and was a pupil of local comics legend Dante Quinterno. Davis learned him drawing comics firsthand, while Toonder also took many tips through a written course by Quinterno. Back in Rotterdam he instantly enscribed himself in the local art academy, but dropped out again after three months. Unsatisfied with the teaching methods, the young man felt he could learn more by studying actual artists. Over the years he underwent further influence from E.M. ten Harmsen van der Beek, Anton Pieck, Wilhelm Busch, Harold Foster, Alex Raymond, Burne Hogarth, Gustave Doré, John Tenniel, Eppo Doeve, Jose Luis Salinas, Freddie Langeler, Wyncie King, Heinrich Kley, Treyer Evans, Eduardo Alvarez, Rodolfo Claro, Pintos Rosas, Hector Pozzo and C.C. Beall. He also developed an interest in animation through the work of Walt Disney, Max & Dave Fleischer, Pat Sullivan & Otto Messmer and Paul Grimault. Later in his career Toonder would also express admiration for Al Capp, Walt Kelly, H.G. Kresse, Dick Matena and René Hausman.

Bram Ibrahim, by Marten Toonder
Bram Ibrahim

In 1933 Toonder and some former school mates established their own publicity agency, called Ibis Studio. Luck was at hand, because a publisher, Helmond, needed a comic strip and instantly accepted Toonder's try-out, 'Tobias' (1933) for publication in the periodical Ideaal. For a press agency from The Hague, Toonder drew the comic 'De vroolijke en griezelige avonturen van Bram Ibrahim' (1933), often shortened to 'Bram's Avonturen' (1933), for which his brother Jan Gerhard provided the texts. This was a short adventure comic about a young Arabic boy. It first ran in newspaper De Nederlander, and was then bought by the regional newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden too.


Fik en Fok (ABC, 1933)

Rotogravure
In October of that same year Toonder became an all-round illustrator for the Nederlandsche Rotogravure Maatschappij, a printing and publishing house in Leiden. His first assignment was taking over the comic strip 'Ukkie Wappie' (1933) in Het Weekblad voor U (which merged with Unicum shortly afterwards) and the Flemish magazine ABC. The strip was in fact a local variation of the American newspaper comic 'Perry Winkle' by Martin Branner, years before Frans Piët would do the same, although more successfully, with 'Sjors van de Rebellenclub' for publisher De Spaarnestad. Toonder's version in ABC commenced on 12 November and in Het Weekblad Voor U on 9 December. Although Toonder's strip was completely different, the Dutch publication commenced under the similar name 'Ukkie Wappie en Pukkie Waffie' (1933-1934), until it was shortened to 'Uk en Puk' (1934-1939). The Flemish version appeared under the title 'Fik en Fok' (1933-1937).

Doris en Daantje by Marten Toonder
Doris en Daantje (Extra Magazine, 1935)

In the second half of the 1930s and early 1940s, Toonder's comics and illustrations appeared in most of the Rotogravure magazines, such as Unicum, Cinema & Theater and the promotional Extra Magazine for the Jamin stores. They furthermore ran abroad in ABC (Flanders), Bonjour! (Wallonia) and A-Z Luxemburger illustrierte Wochenschrift (Luxembourg), which were published by Jean Meuwissen in Brussels and printed by the Rotogravure. Toonder's creations were seldom limited to one magazine, and ran in several publications at the same time. Notable early creations were the celebrity comic based on the popular film duo Laurel & Hardy (1933) , the humor comic 'The New Nonsens Film Cy.' (1933-1935) and a gag cartoon series 'Wat Er Ook Gebeur', Houd Je Goed Humeur' (1934-1935) in the film and theatre magazine Het Weekblad Cinema & Theater. Within the same pages he also published an adventure comic, 'Bello' (1939), about an anthropomorphic dog. 'De Doodende Straal' (1937-1939) was one of Marten Toonder's few realistic comics and appeared in the Meuwissen magazines.


Thijs IJs (1934)

In collaboration with his brother, Toonder also made 52 adventures of the polar bear 'Thijs IJs' (1934-1938), which ran from March 1934 until October 1938 in the daily paper Nieuwsblad van het Noorden and some other affiliated regional newspapers as a replacement for another white bear: 'Rupert' by Mary Tourtel. It's probably not a stretch to see 'Rupert' as a later inspiration for Toonder's own bear Bommel and Tom Poes, who is also a smart little white critter. With enough lucrative work on his hands Toonder could easily marry his girlfriend Phiny Dick in 1935. Also because she could help him along with inking, drawing and writing. One of Phiny's own comics, 'Doris en Daantje' (1935), was briefly taken over by Toonder during the final months of her pregnancy. In 1940 he did the same for Willy Smit's 'Tijs, de Torenwachter' when Smit fell ill for a few weeks.

The Rotogravure allowed Toonder to work at home from 1938 on, after which his activities expanded. He furthermore illustrated several books, greeting cards and advertisements. In 1937 he even wrote a non-illustrated detective novel, 'Tim MacNab Zoekt Kopij' (1937)!  The book was no success and fell into obscurity for more than 80 years. It was only rediscovered and republished in 2017. For Paraat, a paper for clients of grocery shops, Toonder drew such strips as 'Kareltje en Koolwit' (1938), 'Puckie Pek en Pa Perzik' (1938) and 'Dikkie en Dunnie' (1938). The latter would reappear in the Rotogravure magazines in 1940-1943, and also in Bravo!. This was originally a Flemish magazine published by Meuwissen and printed by the Rotogravure, but the outbreak of World War II had caused distribution problems. In December 1940 Meuwissen launched a new version in both Flemish and French (with such early contributors as E.P. Jacobs and Jacques Laudy). The Rotogravure on the other hand added the original, and completely different, Bravo! as a children's supplement to their magazines Unicum (1940-1941) and Cinema & Theater (1941-1942). Marten Toonder and Auke Tadema filled the majority of this Dutch version's pages, including such Toonder productions as 'Jim en Soe' (1940), 'Jopie en Joris' (1940-1942) and 'De Koning van het Oerwoud' (another realistic effort, 1941-1942). One of Toonder's final creations for the Rotogravure was 'Slim en Sloom, Speurders' (Unicum, 1942-1943).

De Koning van het Oerwoud, by Marten Toonder
De Koning van het Oerwoud (Bravo, 1940)

Most of Toonder's early comics were fairy tale- adventure stories starring child characters or anthropomorphic animals. As enjoyable as they were they show little hint of his later genius, though he would later re-use certain characters or plotlines for 'Tom Poes'. The pussy cat Dicky Dons and polar bear Thijs IJs in 'Thijs IJs', for instance, already echo Tom Poes and Olivier B. Bommel. Even Bommel's iconic catchphrase, "Een eenvoudige doch voedzame maaltijd" ("A simple but nourishing meal"), already made its entry in 'Thijs IJs'. Throughout this decade Toonder met British comics artist Roy Wilson who not only showed him a copy of the comics magazine Funny Wonder, but also helped him draw in a more dynamic style. Dick de Boer and Loek Donders wrote an illustrated chronicle of Toonder's early work under the title 'De tekentafel wiebelde een beetje' (Cliché, 2016).

Diana Edition
Despite the high production the Great Depression was still in effect and Toonder and his wife often faced salary cuts. Therefore he decided in 1939 to become an independent artist in order to make more money run into his own pocket. His major client was Diana Edition, an agency of Austrian publisher Fritz Gottesmann (1899-1945). Gottesmann had begun his firm in Vienna in 1935, and had set up shop in Amsterdam in 1938 after Hitler occupied his country during the Anschluss. The firm distributed comic strips and other features all over the world, but had lost contact with several of its contacts. Among these were William Timym, artist of the newspaper strip 'Der Chef' (1938-1940), and Erwin von Barta, creator of 'Don Lino' (1938-1944) and 'Hannibal' (1938-1945). Toonder was assigned to "ghost" these strips, which appeared in the Argentine magazine Leoplán and a couple of local Dutch newspapers. Toonder had also presented Gottesmann a portfolio with some of his own new creations, such as 'Japie Makreel', 'Tim Slim', 'Wolle Waf', 'Don Sombrero' and a yet unnamed white cat. 'Don Sombrero' (1940-1945) ran in the Arnhemse Courant (1940-1941) and under the title 'Pancho Sombrero' in the Argentine magazine Leoplán (1943-1944), as well as the Swedish paper Götesborgs-Posten (1940-1945). 'Japie Makreel' (1940-1942) found a spot in the children's magazine Doe Mee!. To keep up with the heavy workload, Marten Toonder hired Wim Lensen as his first assistant in July 1940.

Japie Makreel, by Marten Toonder
Japie Makreel (from Doe Mee)

War years
In 1940 Hitler invaded the Netherlands as well. Since Gottesmann was Jewish he went into hiding in 1941, handing over his entire business to Toonder until the war was over. Unfortunately Gottesmann never saw that day, as he was arrested in August 1944 and died in the Mauthausen concentration camp on 25 February 1945.

Meanwhile Toonder had an entire firm where he could employ young Dutch comics artists in search for a job. Since the Nazis banned the import of American and British comics there was more demand and opportunity for comics by local artists. This gave both him and his studio a certain monopoly in the Netherlands. Toonder could now finally get a comics character he created in 1938 in print. On 16 March 1941 the small but smart white cat 'Tom Poes' enjoyed his first adventure in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. Like most Dutch comics at the time it was a text comic, with the story written underneath the images. Toonder's wife Phiny wrote the captions for the initial six episodes of 'Tom Poes ontdekt het geheim der blauwe aarde', but eventually left this job to her husband. 'Tom Poes' is a funny animal comic, though there are human characters as well. He lives in a fairy tale world set in a vague age. Some clothing, objects and architecture look medieval, other stuff appears to be from the 18th or 19th century, while modern-day cars, radio, film and television also co-exist. In the third story 'In den Tovertuin' (12 July 1941) Tom first meets the rich landlord bear Olivier B. Bommel. Bommel instantly conquered readers' hearts with his humoristic behaviour. The naïve and self-important bear often prides himself being a "tender nobleman for whom money doesn't matter". Yet he often gets carried away by his big mouth because he never thinks before he acts. Although he presents himself as a dignified person he is always the first to panic when danger is about and begs Tom "to think up a ploy." In 'De Drakenburcht' (1941) Bommel bought his own car, De Schicht, and castle: Bommelstein, where he employed his trusty labrador butler Joost in 'De Zieke Hertog' (1942). Soon Bommel rose from Tom Poes' sidekick to the series' new protagonist. Some fans even refer to the series as 'The Bommel Saga', since most stories basically revolve around him. One story, 'Het Griffoen-Ei' (1976), doesn't even feature Tom at all.


Tom Poes board game

By 1941 Toonder found a new business partner in Jan Bouman (1912-1978), whose first project was a boardgame based on 'Tom Poes'. Bouman would remain Toonder's associate in the following years, although their relationship soured near the end of the war. In addition to Lensen, new co-workers were attracted like Cees van de Weert, Jan Scheffer and Dirk Huizinga. With the desire to produce animated films, Toonder and Bouman founded Geesink-Toonder Tekenfilmproducties with Wim and Joop Geesink in June 1942. Geesink brought several of his co-workers along, including Henk Kabos, Frans van Lamsweerde, Geertje Knoef, John van der Meulen, Mary Oosterdijk, Carol Voges and Henk Zwart. The studio produced animated shorts for companies like de Dutch Railways and Philips. Now that Toonder had a signature comic strip he dreamed of making an animated feature film starring Tom Poes. The project attracted a lot of artists who'd otherwise be forced to work for Nazi-controlled companies in Germany, among them Henk Albers, Albert van Beek, Richard Klokkers, Jan Dirk van Exter, Henk Sprenger, Wim Boost, Siem Praamsma, James Ringrose, Wim Bijmoer and Frits Godhelp. Another assignment was an illustrated novel named 'Het Recept van Pinneke Proost' (1943) for the jenever brand Kabouter. The story was written by Toonder and illustrated by Kabos, Van de Weert, Van Lamsweerde and newcomer Hans G. Kresse, but remained unpublished.


Saint-Nicholas celebration of the Toonder Studios in 1944. Marten Toonder is in the middle with mitre

The firm was dissolved after only one year out of creative differences. Toonder wanted to make hand-drawn animated films, while Geesink was more interested in stop-motion and puppet films. Toonder abreacted his frustrations with the comic strip 'Tom Poes en de Superfilmonderneming' (1944), in which Tom and Bommel get involved in movie production. Yet Toonder kept his animation projects going under the banner of "Toonder-Bouman Filmproducties", even though the war circumstances made this increasingly difficult. By the fall of 1944 everything came to a halt. Both electricity and food were in short supply in Amsterdam, particularly since the northern part of the country was still under Nazi occupation while the rest was already liberated. As the winter approached people suffered through the "Hunger Winter".

On 20 November 1944 Toonder also cancelled 'Tom Poes' halfway the story 'De Chinese Waaier'. He made this bold decision because De Telegraaf had just received a new chief editor, Henri "Hakkie" Holdert jr., who was an SS member. Toonder had a physician declare him "too manic-depressive to continue working." After the war the comics artist was still sentenced for collaboration, since De Telegraaf was already Nazi-controlled at the start of the war, just not with actual Nazis as chief editors. The fact that Toonder's animation studio had been financed by the German film company Degeto and that he was a member of the Kulturkammer were also held against him. Many also felt that his decision to cancel 'Tom Poes' was not that admirable, since by that point it was already clear that the war was nearly over. Yet the artist was eventually able to clear his name since he secretly falsified documents for the Dutch resistance movement. Furthermore the very first 'Tom Poes' story in 1941 had nearly got its creator in trouble with the Nazis, because they recognized themselves in an evil gang of goose-stepping robbers in rubber boots. From the autumn of 1944 Toonder had helped resistance workers Dick van Veen and Jo Pellicaan with their illegal printing service D.A.V.I.D. They operated from a so-called "second division" of the Toonder Studios in the Amsterdam Spuistraat. D.A.V.I.D. printed illegal papers like Vrij Nederland, Het Parool and Trouw, as well as booklets of the publishing company De Bezige Bij. Toonder and his co-workers Henk Kabos, Wim van Wieringen, Carol Voges and Hans G. Kresse provided anti-Nazi illustrations for many of their own publications, most notably illegal paper Metro (1944-1945). D.A.V.I.D. continued its activities in the first post-war years, and released among others things the first 'Tom Poes' booklets. In 1982 Toonder would be honoured with the Verzetsherdenkingskruis (the Resistance Memorial Cross).

First Tom Poes story, Het Geheim der Blauwe Aarde (a.k.a. 'De Laarzenreuzen')
First Tom Poes story, Het Geheim der Blauwe Aarde (a.k.a. 'De Laarzenreuzen')

Tom Poes
'Tom Poes' had already been successful during the war. Between 1941 and 1945 it was adapted into several stage plays by comedian Wim Sonneveld and novelist Hella Haasse (of 'Oeroeg' fame). But it only became a true cultural phenomenon when it returned to publication on 10 March 1947, this time in two different newspapers, namely the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant (nowadays NRC Handelsblad) and De Volkskrant. Originally 'Tom Poes' had been a basic children's comic with occasional nods that adults could enjoy. But freed from the censorship that had hindered him during the war Toonder now wrote more sophisticated stories with satirical and philosophical layers. Tom Poes' home town Rommeldam became a satirical metaphor for the average Dutch town. Various characters evolved into clever human archetypes, whose animal species gave a hint of their personality. Bommel and his rival, the vain rooster Marquis de Canteclaer, are pompous yet utterly incompetent upper class people. The hippo Dirk Dickerdack is the equally narcissistic mayor. Bureaucrat Dorknoper, a hamster, is obsessed by doing everything "by the book", while bulldog police officer Bulle Bas always makes the wrong deductions. Meanwhile, two dogs named Hieper and Super, are the real crooks of the village, along with the mad scientist Joachim Sickbock, who is a goat. Grocer Garmt Grootgrut, a ram, constantly yelps that "little proprietors are always victim of misfortune." Rat reporter Argus has no qualms about publishing a sensational story, even if it lacks sources, while psychiatrist Okke Zielknijper, a llama, is quick with his diagnoses and even quicker to ask his patients for expensive bills. The grouchy sea captain Wal Rus has little patience for dealing with landlubbers and the utterly stupid but happy and carefree goose Wammes Waggel is the village idiot. The 'Tom Poes' universe also has some recurring human cast members. Professor Zgbygniew Prlwytzkofsky, for instance, is a man of German-Polish descent who often mixes German-sounding expressions in his language. The black magician Hocus P. Pas is one of the series' antagonists and well known for his evil cackling laugh. Zwarte Zwadderneel is a sharp satire of fine preachers who believe everyone should pay for their sins, except themselves. Finally there is the painter Terpen Tijn who lives like a bohemian and always expresses deep theories about his art, despite living in poverty. Toonder based him on the real-life Dutch painter and art forgerer Joannes Diekmann, who gave his wife art lessons.

Tom Poes, by Marten Toonder (June 1941)

Several stories were clever satirical social commentary on politics ('De Talisman', 1947, 'De Grote Barribal', 1965, 'De Maanblaffers', 1967, 'De Wind der Verandering', 1975), war ('De Kneep van Knipmenis', 1951, 'De Spalt', 1983 ), psychiatry and quacks ('Het Iksel', 1953, ('Het Stenenbeenprobleem', 1957), nuclear energy ('De Split-Erwt', 1957), economics ('De Windhandel', 1959, 'De Pasmunt', 1965, 'De Zonnige Kijk', 1976), insurance ('De Hachelbouten', 1960), refugees ('Het lemland', 1960-1961, 'De Bevrijding van Sollidee', 1968, 'De Andere Wereld', 1979), television ('De Killers', 1964-1965), mass hysteria ('Het Monster Trotteldom', 1964, 'Het Platmaken', 1969), consumerism ('De Slijtmijt', 1970), the generation gap ('Het Nieuwe Denken', 1966, 'De Hup-Bloemerij, 1968, 'De Mob-Beweging, 1970), pollution ('De Doorluchtigheid', 1974), sensational media ('De Kaligaar', 1975, 'De Gekikkerde Vorst, 1977), religion ('De Grote Onthaler', 1977) and the UN ('De Unistand', 1979). The author also discussed sociological and philosophical questions. Certain tales deal with the friction between the individual and the masses, different social classes and nature vs. technology. In 'Het Overdoen' (1957-1958) Bommel is faced with the opportunity to literally correct his past by going back in time, though he learns a valuable lesson that one can also restore one's mistakes in the present. 'De Bovenbazen' (1963) is often named Toonder's masterpiece. The tale centers around ten businessmen who live in isolation at the top of a mountain. They start a bet with Bommel, which he wins and makes him part of their exclusive company. The story unfolds as a clever commentary on economics, business monopolies and wealth distribution. The story also introduced the word "bovenbaas" in the Dutch language, which refers to out-of-touch "bosses at the top".


Tom Poes en het Kukel (1963, art by Ben van 't Klooster)

However, the most remarkable aspect about Toonder's stories was the writing. He wrote in a very colourful, somewhat old-fashioned and highly eccentric style, which was very close to prose. He enjoyed playing around with words and expressions, throwing in puns as well. Toonder's linguistic highlights weren't just restricted to the narration. Practically every character has his own catchphrases and distinctive way of talking. Several of his neologisms have become part of the everyday Dutch language and are included in the official dictionary. In 'Kwetal, de Breinbaas' (1949-1950) the word "denkraam" was introduced to refer to someone's ability to think and understand. The word "grootgrut" to refer to a large supermarket is a bastardization of the character Grootgrut, who ironically is just a small store owner. The expression "kommer en kwel" was introduced in 'De Hachelbouten' (1960) and refers to misery. The term "minkukel" was derived from 'Het Kukel' (1963) and is nowadays used to refer to stupid people, even though in the original tale it describes people with low creativity. The word "zielknijper" (literally "soulpincher") to describe a psychiatrist is often thought to be an invention by Toonder, since the psychiatrist in 'Tom Poes' is literally named Zielknijper. But in reality the word goes back to the writings of 19th century novelist Multatuli, which is presumably where Toonder got it from since his work was mandatory reading in every Dutch language class at the time. For those interested in Toonder's linguistic work Pim Oosterheert's 'Van Aamnaak tot Zwirkvlaai' (2005) and 'Bommelcitaten' (2005) are a welcome addition to any fan's collection.

Tom Poes - Horror de Ademloze (ep. 754), by Marten Toonder
Horror de Ademloze (pencils by Henk Kabos and Ben van 't Klooster)

During the 1940s and 1950s many moral guardians looked down on comics as utter pulp which demoralized impressionable children and made them too lazy to read. Toonder's comics looked innocent and educational by comparison. Most stories dealt with funny animals and fairy tale characters. All were published in text comics format, stimulating reading actual blocks of text. And above all, the writing had such literary depth that he was able to distinguish himself from all other comics published in the Netherlands. As such Marten Toonder became the standard. To this day comics in the Netherlands are still judged by the "literary" qualities set by Toonder decades ago, for better or for worse. It's a telling fact that only Toonder had the audacity and intelligence to satirize the witch hunts against comics in his 'Tom Poes' story 'Horror, De Ademloze' (1949), in which Wammes Waggel is manipulated by an "evil" comics artist. In 1954 Toonder even became the first and only comics artist to be inducted in the prestigious literary institution Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde. The decision was nevertheless controversial, but luckily Toonder had some celebrity fans in the literary field. Cees Buddingh praised Toonder as an "excellent satirist" whose work was: "highly recommended to any beginning writer" and claimed they were one of the few Dutch-language writings destined to remain classics." Gerard Reve (of 'De Avonden' fame), wrote: "Tom Poes is great literature, even though few realize it." In 1989 Dutch novelist Jan Wolkers (of 'Turkish Delight' fame) refused to accept the P.C. Hooft Prize since he felt Toonder ought to have received it decades ago!

Cover of Tom Poes Weekblad

Between 28 November 1947 and 30 June 1951 Tom Poes received his own magazine, Tom Poes Weekblad. It featured a 'Tom Poes' balloon comic and offered Toonder's co-workers the opportunity to launch their own creations. Between 1950 and 1951 the studio also published De Bommelbode, a supplement to De Volkskrant. Working on two magazines at the same time proved to be too difficult and both came to an end in the same year. Yet Toonder earned enough money by simply producing comics for Dutch and foreign publications. As early as 1941 'Tom Poes' was published in the Czechoslovakian magazine Punta, while his gag comic 'Don Sombrero' (1941) was printed in Sweden. After the war 'Tom Poes' was furthermore published in English, French, German, Spanish, Danish (the magazine Århus Stiftstidende), Swedish, Finnish, Czech and Indonesian. In the Netherlands 'Tom Poes' was popular enough to inspire theatrical plays and radio show adaptations, while publisher De Bezige Bij launched a successful book collection. Between 1955 and 1959 a miniature city based on Rommeldam was erected in Oisterwijk, for which novelist Godfried Bomans (writer of Carol Voges' comic 'Pa Pinkelman') held an introductory speech. Since 1964 Bommel has his own statue in the village Den Bommel. From 1 October 1955 to 1969 and again from 1980 until 1988 and 1999 until 2000, 'Tom Poes' was also published in the Dutch Disney comics magazine Donald Duck. It was the first non-Disney comic to be featured in its pages, but as a family friendly funny animal comic it didn't feel out of place. Only two major changes had to be undertaken. Since the target audience were children the language was simplified and since all other comics in the magazine were balloon comics 'Tom Poes' also adapted that format. Earlier 'Tom Poes' balloon comics were based on older entries in the series, but eventually brand new stories were created too, with Lo Hartog van Banda as main scriptwriter, and artists like Frits Godhelp, Wim Lensen, Ben van 't Klooster and Richard Klokkers providing the core of the artwork. Other magazines which published 'Tom Poes' balloon comics were Ons Vrije Nederland (1945-1950), AVRO Radiobode (1954-1955), Wereldkroniek (1951-1954) and Revue (1957-1966).


Czech version of the first Tom Poes story

Kappie, Panda & Hollewijn
On 27 December 1945 'Kappie' made its debut in the Dutch papers Het Vaderland and Algemeen Dagblad. The text comic revolved around a moustached sea captain, Kappie and his navigator De Maat, chief engineer De Meester and Chinese cook Ah Sing. Toonder originally wrote 'Kappie' himself, but eventually Dirk Huizinga took over this job, aided by Phiny Dick. Throughout the strip's run, Lo Hartog van Banda, Harry van den Eerenbeemt, Andries Brandt and Eiso Toonder have been regular scriptwriters, while Mary Oosterdijk, Frits Godhelp, Joop Hillenius, Ton Beek, Jan van Haasteren, Dick Vlottes, Fred Julsing, Terry Willers, the Spanish Selecciones Illustradas agency and eventually Piet Wijn took care of the art duties. Even Toonder's own father gave some technical advice on naval matters, from marine equipment to sea storms. In Belgium 'Kappie' ran in De Gazet van Antwerpen and in the Walloon newspaper Le Soir under the title 'Cappi'. 'Kappie' kept sailing until 12 July 1972.

The longest-running and most widely distributed series by Toonder was 'Panda' (1946-1991), starring an anthropomorphic panda bear. In many ways it was an expy of 'Tom Poes', down to the fact that it was also set in a fantasy world inhabited by talking animals. Panda not only shared the same design as Tom Poes, but his butler Jollipop was basically Bommel's butler Joost all over again. Panda's nemesis, the sly fox Joris Goedbloed, even made a cross-over appearance in the 'Tom Poes' comic. Goedbloed is an intrigueing character in Toonder's stories. While officially a villain whose crooked plans often cause trouble for the main characters, he nevertheless has a sense of decency. If he realizes he went too far, he will help solve the matter again and restore the damage done. Despite the similarities 'Panda' was nevertheless a huge success, even translated into English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, French and Icelandic. One of its celebrity fans was the Irish novelist Brendan Behan who liked Joris Goedbloed. After the text comic's debut on 23 December 1946 the series was continued for 45 years. It came to an end on 31 December 1991 as the final Toonder comic still in production. Like with 'Kappie', Toonder took care of the original stories himself, although some sources credit these to Jan Gerhard Toonder and Phiny Dick. Regular scriptwriters for the series have been Dirk Huizinga, Lo Hartog van Banda, Harry van den Eerenbeemt, Eiso Toonder, Piet Wijn, Harrie Geelen and Ruud Straatman, while Wim Lensen, Ben van Voorn, Harry Hargreaves, Terry Willers, Jan Steeman, Jan van Haasteren, Piet Wijn and Jaap Lamberton have pencilled the stories.


First appearance of Panda and Joris Goedbloed (1946, art by Marten Toonder)

On 20 March 1954 Toonder created another long-running text comic: 'Koning Hollewijn' (1954-1971). The series was set in a medieval fairy tale world where the wise and noble monarch Hollewijn rules the country from his palace Koudewater, assisted by his personal advisor Wiebeline Wip. The court is furthermore inhabited by Prime Minister Dreutel, butler Pieter Plichtpleger, general Hoetentoeter, police inspector Kernslijper, court detective Euvel, court scientist Dr. Kerndrayer en court painter Halbo Hoep. Whenever there's trouble ahead it's usually because shrewd businessman Magnus D. Daalder, anarchist Zwederik Loser, criminal couple Alexander and Troubelle Solouche and/or the witch sisters Anna and Cobra Mork had a hand in it. 'Koning Hollewijn' was published in De Telegraaf and shared the same satirical edge as 'Tom Poes', though with more emphasis on politics. Another notable difference was the graphic style. Everything was drawn less cartoony and more semi-realistically. Toonder himself remained involved with the scripts and the artwork throughout most of its run. He initially wrote the stories with Lo Hartog van Banda, who was instrumental in its creation. In the final years Toonder plotted the stories with son Eiso. For the early stories, Marten Toonder inked most of the characters, while Ben van 't Klooster and Ben van Voorn did the rest of the art duties. Toonder later stepped out in this phase of the production, after which Jan Wesseling took over. By 1960 Piet Wijn took over all artwork until the series came to an end on 26 June 1971. 'Koning Hollewijn' was also translated in French, Danish and Swedish.

First appearance of Koning Hollewijn in 1954
First appearance of Koning Hollewijn (1954, art by Ben van 't Klooster, Ben van Voorn and Marten Toonder)

Toonder Studios
From World War II on, the Toonder Studio flourished like no other Dutch comics studio ever had before or ever will again. The war era team of artists was expanded or replaced with an entire new generation of comics authors. For several decades, the studios were a stepping stone for young talent. Up until the 1970s, new artists like Gerrit Stapel, Wim van Wieringen, Dick Matena, Fred Julsing, Jan van Wensveen, Ton Beek, Jan van Haasteren, Jan Steeman, Thé Tjong-Khing, Jan Wesseling, Frits Kloezeman, Willy Lohmann, Georges Mazure, Dick Vlottes, Ton Kooreman and Jaap Lamberton joined the ranks, although most of them on a freelance base. Some foreign comics artists were also hired, like the South African Alexander Podlashuc, the Welshman Harry Hargreaves and the Brits Terry Willers and Robert Hamilton. Waling Dijkstra, Harry van den Eerenbeemt, Andries Brandt and Patty Klein became prominent new scriptwriters.

When his association with Jan Bouman ended, Toonder found a new business partner in Anton de Zwaan in 1946. The clever salesman managed to get the studio's productions published in newspapers and magazines from all over the world. These included not only the major Toonder series, but also new series by employees such as Hans G. Kresse ('Eric de Noorman'), Henk Sprenger ('Piloot Storm'), Piet Wijn ('Aram van de Eilanden') and Henk Kabos ('Tekko Taks'). Toonder's wife Phiny Dick participated in the creation of 'Olle Kapoen' (1945-1959, with artists Coen van Hunnik and Richard Klokkers) and 'Birre Beer' (1954-1959, art by Ton Beek). Toonder himself worked with Jan Kruis on the development of a new strip called 'Student Tijloos' in the late 1950s, but the project was shelved. It was eventually serialized in Algemeen Dagblad between 1961 and 1963, but then written by Hartog van Banda and drawn by Gerrit Stapel and Thé Tjong-Khing. Toonder text comics like 'Panda' and 'Kappie' were reformatted to balloon comics by studio co-workers, with eye on international distibution.


Letterhead of the Toonder Studios, 1950

While the studio kept producing comics the maestro once again tried to organize an animation department. Some TV cartoons were made starring Tom Poes, as well as advertisements for Philips, but these lacked the quality of Toonder's literary output. Shorts like 'De Gouden Vis' (1952) and 'Moonglow' (1954) were much better received and even won international awards. De Zwaan even met Walt Disney for more professional advice. Disney suggested hiring English animator and former Disney employee Harold Mack, who, together with his wife Pamela, soon helped out Toonder's animation department. Other foreign animators who joined in were the Danes Børge Ring, Bjørn Frank Jensen and Per Lygum, as well as the Frenchman Philippe Landrot and English painter Alan Standen. Still, for a long time the animation studio barely made a profit and De Zwaan never understood why Toonder didn't drop it altogether in order to focus on the far more lucrative comics series? By 1953 he left the company over this matter. Toonder too was dissatisfied with De Zwaan. Despite the fact that he sold most of their comics to foreign magazines it was mostly Kresse's 'Eric de Noorman' and not his own titles. De Zwaan took the most important non-Toonder productions with him to his Swan Features Syndicate.


Tom Poes en de Kwinkslag (pencils by Piet Wijn, 1972)

Up until 1964 Toonder discussed the basic plots of his 'Tom Poes' comic with Lo Hartog van Banda, while artists like Ben van Voorn, Ben van 't Klooster, Dick Matena, Fred Julsing and Piet Wijn pencilled and partially inked the drawings in accordance with the scripts. In 1964 Toonder moved to Greystones, Ireland, where he could enjoy peace and quietness. He kept artistic supervision over 'Kappie', 'Panda' and 'Hollewijn', but from now on tended to write and ink the 'Tom Poes' all by himself, while Piet Wijn provided the pencil drawings. In the Netherlands, Bert Kroon became head of the Toonder Studio's, which eventually moved to the castle in Nederhorst den Bergh. Andries Brandt became chief of the comics department, which was largely dissolved in 1973. Only the staff artists Richard Klokkers, Frits Godhelp and Jaap Lamberton remained until the early 1990s. An 18-issue magazine series about the history and backgrounds of the company was launched by Jan-Willem de Vries in 2017.

Ireland years
Toonder stayed in Greystones for most of his long life, occasionally paying a visit to the Netherlands again. He joined his son in the creation of a new gag strip named 'De Goeroe' (1970-1980), which appeared under the pen name "Peter Abel". The strips were mainly cut-and-paste productions by Eiso Toonder from stock artwork by Marten Toonder and Piet Wijn. Each episode dealt with people asking a guru for advice, only to receive answers they didn't expect. The nameless guru is often pitched against Kilroy, a witch dabbling in black magic, and a nameless money-obsessed businessman. In 1978 the guru received an apprentice too. The series ran for a full decade in De Telegraaf from 4 November 1970 until 26 November 1980, though on a less regular basis as the years progressed. It also appeared in Tintin, the Haagsche Courant, the Rotterdamse Courant and The Irish Times.

Even though the animation studio was never as profitable as the comics Toonder kept investing money in it, making cartoons for advertisements and educational purposes, such as the Deltawerken. After decades of work Toonder finally accomplished his lifelong dream. In 1983 the studio, in cooperation with producer Rob Houwer, released an animated feature named 'Als Je Begrijpt Wat Ik Bedoel' (1983), based on the 'Tom Poes' story 'De Zwelbast' (1957) in which Bommel discovers a dragon who grows to enormous size when he is agitated. The screenplay was written by Harrie Geelen. It was the first animated feature film created in the Netherlands. The picture did Toonder's style justice and was professional enough to receive official congratulations from both Warner Brothers as well as the Walt Disney Company. For those interested in Toonder's animation department Jan-Willem de Vries' book 'De Toonder Animatiefilms' (2012) is very much recommended, as it also has a foreword by Eiso Toonder and a companion DVD with all of Toonder's animated films.


Ben van 't Klooster's biting cartoon after Toonder's interview with Sonja Barend (1982)

Controversy
For most of the second half of the 20th century Toonder's studio was the biggest, most well known and most successful comics studio of the Netherlands. Basically any Dutch comics writer of artist aspired to work there, if not for the payment then for the high social status. Like many artists who establish a lucrative enterprise Toonder could be a difficult taskmaster, though. He preferred to follow his own intuition and others had to guess what he wanted, since he never knew it beforehand and even tended to change his mind at times. He could be very demanding and ungrateful, passing it off as if he created every series single-handedly. Some couldn't take it anymore and quit, like Cees van der Weert and Ben van 't Klooster. In November 1965, Lo Hartog van Banda, gave an interview to the Haagse Post. Unbeknownst to Banda the reporter combined this interview with a highly critical and well-researched analysis of the Toonder Studios. Toonder was furious when he read the article, particularly since it revealed the open secret that most of the work was done by his assistants nowadays, rather than himself. He took the matter personally, even though Banda had nothing to do with the overall critical tone and revelations of the article. In 1982 Toonder gave a TV interview to Sonja Barend in which he still minimalized the input of his assistants. This angered many of his former writers and artists. Van 't Klooster even drew a gritty cartoon about the transmission in which Toonder sweeps away all of his studio assistants, while Tom Poes remarks: "All these little men probably meant nothing." In Toonder's defence, Barend didn't give him much opportunity to elaborate, and the master's main co-worker of the time, Piet Wijn, preferred to stay out of the spotlights. Apart from Toonder's troublesome relationship with his employees he didn't get along with his own sons either. He was such a workaholic that he had little time for his children. Even those who followed in his footsteps in the family firm like Eiso Toonder, were not treated with more respect or gratitude for what they did for the company, as can be read in Wim Hazeu's Toonder biography.

Still nobody can deny that Toonder cared about his work. He kept a close eye on the entire production and had the final say. The maestro had an unusual working method too. Contrary to most studio heads he let others write and draw everything out while he inked the final product. In that sense he was more of a corrector. He always checked the artwork, often erasing tiny details to have them be redone. With the same perfectionism he rewrote scripts to make certain sentences match his own literary style. While Toonder had no trouble leaving series in the hands of his co-workers he kept inking the daily 'Tom Poes' newspaper comic until the final episode. That moment arrived on 20 January 1986, when the story 'Het Einde van Eindeloos' ('The End of Endless') ended with Olivier B. Bommel marrying his sweetheart Doddeltje and celebrating the event with a huge banquet. Readers were somewhat puzzled that Tom Poes decided to leave his good friend, pack up his knapsack and roam the Earth again. Others felt it was a perfect poetic conclusion to the saga. Since 'Tom Poes' had been a mainstay in newspapers for more than 45 years its conclusion naturally received nationwide news coverage. At readers' demand NRC Handelsblad even reprinted older episodes for the next twelve years. When they finally decided to give other comics a chance it still led to outrage. Meanwhile, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter who commenced publication of 'Tom Puss' in February 1946 kept running the series until 2001!


Marten Toonder and Phiny Dick in 1942

Final years and Legacy
Toonder spent his final years in bad health and with many of his loved ones passing away. In 1990 his beloved wife Phiny died. He remarried composer Tera de Marez Oyens in 1996, but she too died within the same year from cancer. This motivated him to return to his home country, where he got a room in the Rosa Spier home in Laren, a retirement home for Dutch artists. Toonder found some solace in writing his autobiography, which was published in several volumes between 1992 and 1998. To safeguard his artistic legacy, Marten Toonder founded the Stichting Het Toonder Auteursrecht (The Toonder Copyright Foundation) in 2000. Board members of the foundation are Toonder's granddaughter Milou Toonder and comics artist Wil Raymakers, among other people. Still, he suffered from such depression that he made a failed suicide attempt in 2001. He eventually passed away in 2005 at the age of 93. His passing made headlines in all Dutch media. Since 2008, new activities with Toonder's creations are supervised by the Toonder Compagnie BV, which is headed by Willem Feltkamp.

Bommel statue
In honor of Marten Toonder's 90th birthday, the city of Rotterdam erected this six-meter public monument on Friday, 12 July 2002, featuring several characters from the famous Toonder comic 'Tom Poes en heer Bommel'.

During his lifetime Toonder received numerous honors and awards. In 1982 was made Officer in the Order of Oranje-Nassau and received a Pro Merito Melitense honor by the Maltese Order for anonymously donating an ambulance to them. In 1982 he was awarded with the Stripsschapsprijs and in 1992 he received the literary Tollensprize for his entire work. In 1998 the 'Tom Poes' story 'De Trullenhoedster' (1966) was adapted into a theatrical musical, followed by the 2012 musical 'De Nieuwe IJstijd' by the ensemble Opus One. Since 2002 a huge monument has been erected at the Binnenrotteplein in Rotterdam, honouring Toonder and his many creations which are sculpted into a 6 metres long fountain. Between 2007 and 2010 several 'Tom Poes' stories were adapted into audio plays. For five years a special comics award, the Marten Toonderprijs, existed between 2009 and 2013. To commemorate his 100th birthday in 2012 a special exhibition was organized around his work, complete with a book, 'Schrijversprentenboek', which featured graphic homages by various artists, novelists and celebrities.

About 177 newspaper stories of 'Tom Poes' were created, with 76 balloon comics for Donald Duck. The complete collection of all 'Tom Poes' stories are available as 'De Volledige Werken' and have been published chronologically by Panda between 1991 and 2002. All stories are presented in the text comics format but in larger image reproduction than previous book collections. One of the major forces behind this publication was the Haagsch Bommelgenootschap and comics collector Hans Matla. Toonder himself provided a foreword while his son Eiso added some rare artwork from the family archives. In some cases a few strips had to be redrawn because the original drawings or prints were missing. Since 2008 another complete chronological collection has been made available by De Bezige Bij in oblong format. For a long while it seemed that 'Tom Poes' had died with the retirement of its creator. However, it turned out Bommel merely had a long winter's sleep. Toonder and Dick Matena started working on two new balloon stories for Donald Duck in the late 1990s, but Toonder's demanding methods put such a strain on their friendship that the project was abandoned after two stories. Between 2001 and 2004 a series of promotional books were made for pharmaceutical company Pfizer with scripts by Patty Klein and artwork by Wil Raymakers, followed by the text comic 'Heer Bommel en de i-padden' (2012) by Gerben Valkema and Klein in commission of the Dutch Association of Librarians. A year later Dick Matena's 'De Pas-Kaart' (2013) appeared in prepublication for the migration magazine VertrekNL. Three years later another text story called 'Het Lastpak' (2016) was created by Henk Hardeman and Henrieke Goorhuis. Goorhuis also illustrated the "Little Golden Book" 'Tom Poes en het cadeautje voor heer Ollie' (2017) by Sjoerd Kuyper for Rubinstein Publishing.

Self-portraits by Marten Toonder

Marten Toonder is arguably the most-studied Dutch comics author of all time. Dozens of books and essays have been written about his use of language, characters, locations and social satire. In 1987 and 1989 two poetry collections were published named 'Hanezang' and 'Vleugeljaren' presumably by the Tom Poes character Marquis de Canteclaer, but in reality written by Toonder himself. Like any popular comics artist Toonder was also victim of a huge number of parodies. Among the more notable titles were 'Heer Bommel en de Weerbaarheidsgedachte' (1961) by Harrie Geelen, 'Paul Poes en de Plagiatoren' (1964) by Fred Julsing, 'Heer Bommel en de Superconcentratie' (1969) by Els Nijkamp, 'Heer Bommel en de Tabakssmokkelaar' (1969) by Martin van Amerongen, 'Dalt Wisney's Tom Puss' (1971) by Aart Clerkx, 'Heer Bom en het Militair-Industrieel Complex' (1971) by J.C. v.d. Vlak en Bob Slobbers, 'Heer Bommel en de Ziekers' (1971) by Th. E. Kothlas Altes, e.a., 'Heer Bommel en het Ipsen der Pronen' (1974) by T. v.d. Pas and A. Beenhakker, the porn parody 'Strip-tease. Een Heer van Stand relaxt!' (1981) by Henk R. Mondria and Jan Dienske and the political parody 'Olivier B. Bommel in Nicaragua' (1985).

For those interested in Toonder's life Wim Hazeu's biography, 'Marten Toonder' (2012) is a must-read. Lambiek will always be grateful to Toonder for illustrating the letter "B" in our encylopedia book, 'Wordt Vervolgd - Stripleksikon der Lage Landen', published in 1979.


The final panel from 'Het einde van eindeloos' (1986)

Toonder and Dutch comics during World War II in the Dutch Comics History
Toonder Studios and Dutch comics after World War II in the Dutch Comics History
Marten Toonder in De Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis (in dutch)
Toonder Studio's in De Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis (in dutch)

Series and books by Marten Toonder in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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