Fred Penner by Lou Visser
'Fred Penner'.

Lou Visser was an Dutch mid-20th century comic artist and illustrator. During the 1930s, he made a couple of satirical comics for the newspaper Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad and De Groene Amsterdammer. The latter magazine also ran his gag comic 'Toto' (1936). After World War II, he was active as a children's book illustrator and author of newspaper text comics. However, Visser is best remembered for drawing pulp comic books like 'Fred Penner' (1953-1962) and local productions of 'Tarzan'. 

Toto, by Lieuwe Visser (De Groene Amsterdammer, 1936)
Introduction of 'Toto', 1936.

Early life and career
Lourens Jacobus Reinier Visser was born in 1911 in Rotterdam, where he got his technical education at the HTS. Eventually, he chose for an artistic career, and started out in the early 1930s, making satirical comics about the developments in Nazi Germany for both De Groene Amsterdammer and Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad. From 1936 on, he also drew a gag strip about the dog 'Toto' for De Groene Amsterdammer. In 1938, Visser's children's book 'Jip en Tip op Avontuur' was published by Helmond.

Koning der Langneuzen, by Lieuwe Visser
'Dribbeldra, Koning der Langneuzen'.

Post-war work
Shortly after World War II, a coloring picture by Lou Visser about the Hunger Winter went into circulation as a newspaper supplement. In 1945, Visser drew the picture story 'Gerrit en Wijbrand', about a duck and an owl. He tried to get it published by De Gulden Pers in Haarlem, but without luck. Instead, De Gulden Pers published a book with 'Dribbeldra, Koning der Langneuzen' (1947), a Visser story in rhyme, first serialized in the VARA radio guide De Radiogids. The story deals with a feud between a family with long noses and a family with turned-up noses.

'Kitje Kool in de Zuidpool' (1948).

Advertising work
After World War II, Lou Visser was the only staff artist with the Varia advertising agency in Rotterdam's Witte de Withstraat. One of his best-known creations was 'Kitje Kool', a little man with the body in the shape of a coal-scuttle, developed as a mascot for the coal company of the Van Eijsden Brothers. Apart from appearing in advertisements and booklets ('Kitje Kool in de Zuidpool'), the character also received his own statuette on top of Van Eijsden's coal shop at the Schiedamseweg, near the Marconiplein. For the people of Rotterdam, the character became such a famous element of the local street scene, that streetcar conductors announced addressed their stop at the Marconiplein as "Kitje Kool". In 1957, Kitje Kool was removed from the shop roof.

Kitje Kool on top of the Van Eijsden shop (1948). Lou Visser designed the character, as well as the wall paintings. (Photo © Fototechnische Dienst Rotterdam).

Fred Penner
In the early 1950s, Visser became an artist with the publishing house ATH, run by the local Rotterdam printer/publisher Arnoldus Teeuwen. The artist developed the "picture novel" ("beeldroman") series about 'Fred Penner', of which 98 comic books were published between 1953 and 1962. The character started out as a journalist, but from the fifth book on, the comic became a western, inspired by American chewing gum pictures starring movie cowboy Roy Rogers. By then, the size of the publication also changed from landscape to the classic comic book format. Visser came up with most of the absurd storylines himself. While by the mid-1950s, most of the other action-filled picture novel series had all succumbed to the anti-comics propaganda of the Dutch government, the 'Fred Penner' series lasted until the early 1960s.

'Tarzan' book covers by Lou Visser.

Other ATH work
At ATH, Visser also made erotic comedy cartoons for Mascotte, a humor magazine for men. In 1957, he also drew the comical back-up feature about the detecive agency of 'Babel en Knetterton' in the Wanak comic book, until in the third issue, he was succeeded Martin Lodewijk. In 1958, he replaced Dick Vlottes as the cover artist for ATH's 'Tarzan' comic books. His main source of inspiration were the covers of the American 'Tarzan' comic books by Dell Publishing.

Final years and death
After quitting comics in the early 1960s, Lou Visser continued to work for the Varia advertising company. He passed away in 1981. His daughter is Dutch visual artist Eveline Visser, who still has the original Kitje Kool statuette in her atelier.

Fred Penner, by Lieuwe Visser

Identification problems
Because most of the 1950s "beeldroman" comic books were done anonymously, for years there has been speculation about the identity of their artists. In interviews from the 1960s and 1970s, Martin Lodewijk mistakenly identified the 'Fred Penner' artist as "Dick Visser". He later blamed this mistake on the custom of addressing people more formally in the 1950s, as a result of which first names were often unknown. As a result, the name Dick Visser as the 'Fred Penner' artist appeared in Hans Matla's comics catalogue, and in Evelien and Kees Kousemaker's encylopedia of comics, 'Wordt Vervolgd. Stripleksikon der Lage Landen' (1980). Adding to the mystery was the presumption that Dick Visser was a pen name of Albert Winands, who drew picture novels under the name Albert Survie. Also, the author of Visser's pre-ATH work is listed in 'Wordt Vervolgd' as "Lieuwe Visser". To make matters even more complicated, a picture novel called 'Francesco Domati' was published by Winants in Heerlen (no relation to Albert Winands) and credited to "Luc Brown" (story) and "Jake" (artwork). Comic resources however credit this publication to Dick Visser too, presumably confusing the publisher Winants with the artist Winands. Although the artist of 'Francesco Domati' remains yet to be identified, there seems to be no relation to the ATH artist. In 2005, Ron de Laat of the Tarzan fansite "Holland meets ERB" debunked most of the above speculations, when he tracked down Lou Visser's son and provided more information about the artist on his website. 

'Fred Penner in... Het Geheim van de Drakenspits'. 

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