Cover illustration for the fourth book collection of 'Senmoet de Egyptenaar' (1983).

Dick Vlottes was a Dutch comic artist, cartoonist and commercial illustrator. Starting out illustrating pulpy "beeldroman" comic books, he began his professional career with the Toonder Studio's, participating in several of the company's productions, and most notably creating his own newspaper comic 'Hinter en Minter' (1959-1961). From then on, Vlottes contributed to a great many other magazines and newspapers, working on either his own creations or doing production work as a letterer, graphic editor or colorist. During the 1960s and 1970s, notable solo comics by Dick Vlottes appeared in Olidin ('Senmoet de Egyptenaar', 1963-1966), Tina ('Ineke van Rijswijk' [1973-1977], 'Leonie, het Horoscoopmeisje' [1976-1981) and Televizier ('De Krakers', 1975), while he also tackled art for licensed properties like The Flintstones, De Fabeltjeskrant and the Disney characters. During the 1980s, he was the regular sports cartoonist and illustrator for newspaper De Telegraaf, making instructional comics like 'Johan Cruyff Geeft Voetballes' (1984) and the satirical gag strip 'De Krek' (1987-1990).

Early life
Dick Vlottes was born in 1932 in Uitgeest, in the province North Holland. His father was a gardener. As a child, he read the Flemish children's magazine De Kleine Zondagsvriend, where particularly Burne Hogarth's 'Tarzan' comics thrilled him. He also enjoyed reading Hal Foster's 'Prince Vailiant' and Alex Raymond's 'Rip Kirby', but his true fascination for the art of comics started with the adventures of the female detective 'Rikki Visser', drawn by Jan Dirk van Exter for the Kennemer Dagblad newspaper. Other inspirations were Jean Dulieu's 'Paulus de Boskabouter' comic and the Walt Disney animated feature film 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'. At age 14, Vlottes began drawing his own comics, and then had his first jobs doing advertising illustrations and window dressing. After fulfilling his military service, he fully focused on a career in comics. He took a correspondence art course and studied books about human anatomy, while trying in vain to get a job with the Toonder Studio's, at the time the largest comics production house in the Netherlands.


Tarzan #1 - 'De Verdwenen Wereld' (1955).

Beeldromans
Since he always enjoyed drawing 'Tarzan', Vlottes tried to sell a homemade comic story with the famous jungle hero to ATH, a Rotterdam-based publishing house of so-called "beeldromans". These were pulpy picture novels, filled with action and adventure. Head of ATH was Arnoldus Teeuwen, who bought Vlottes' story and assigned the young cartoonist to write and draw a monthly 'Tarzan' comic book. Between 1955 and 1958, Vlottes drew 43 adventures with the vine-swinging jungle hero, assisted by the teenage cartoonist Albert Survie for the art and his wife Dini Scheffer for the lettering. Much of his imagery was based on Burne Hogarth's 'Tarzan' stories. Only 42 of his stories were released, though. In 1958, ATH was sued by the estate of 'Tarzan' author Edgar Rice Burroughs for bringing out unauthorized versions of the famous literary character. The case was settled and ATH was allowed to release new 'Tarzan' comics, with parts of the profits going to the Burroughs' heirs and other right holders. However, the publisher was no longer allowed to run the locally produced material by Dick Vlottes. Instead, the monthly books contained American reprints of stories by Bob Lubbers and and John Celardo, with cover drawings by Lou Visser.

De Groene Straal by Dick Vlottes
"Beeldroman" covers by Dick Vlottes, for 'Strijd Onder Water' and 'De Groene Straal'. 

Besides ATH, Vlottes also drew "beeldroman" stories for the Bell Studio in Lunteren, run by Ben Abas and his father. In 1955, he made three issues of the science fiction series 'De Groene Straal' ("The Green Ray"). As popular as these action-packed comics were with the youth, older generations criticized "beeldromans" for being dumb, violent pulp. By the mid-1950s, the witch hunt by moral guardians had influenced public opinion to such a degree that many publishers, including the Bell Studio, were forced to quit.

Toonder Studio's
More experienced, Vlottes again tried to get a job with the Toonder Studio's, and this time he was accepted. At the studio, Marten Toonder and his team produced comics for Dutch newspapers and magazines, some of which were also sold to publications abroad. With their clever social satire, thought-provoking morals and exquisite use of the Dutch language, the family friendly Toonder comics escaped the wrath of moral guardians.


Martin Evans - 'De Zerovaart' (AKA 'Zinna'), 1958.

One of Dick Vlottes' first studio assignments was the science fiction newspaper comic 'Martin Evans', written by Lo Hartog van Banda. During its first 1955 serialization in Scandinavian newspapers, the debut story 'Het Venuskruid' was drawn by Ben Abas (strips #1 through 100) and finished by an unknown studio worker (strips #101 through 104). For the 1958 reprint in Dutch newspaper De Stem, penciler Thé Tjong-Khing and inker Dick Vlottes redid the final four strips. After that, Vlottes penciled and inked the sequel story, 'De Zerovaart' (3 January through 7 April 1959). A third and fourth story were then drawn by Gerrit Stapel, from scripts by Hartog van Banda and Harry van den Eerenbeemt.

Minter en Hinter by Dick Vlottes
'Minter en Hinter en de Gouden Kadetjes' (1960).

Minter & Hinter
Also for the Toonder Studio's, Vlottes created his first original comic series, 'Minter en Hinter' (1959-1961), about two adventurous twin brothers. Between 7 September 1959 and 29 July 1961, ten stories were serialized in the newspapers Het Vrije Volk, Trouw and De Stem, in which the globetrotting kids encountered mad scientists, pirates and other crooks on their adventures in Egypt, at sea and in the woods surrounding their hometown Pebbel. The first two stories were written by Paul Biegel, who later gained fame as a Dutch children's book author. As a comic writer, Biegel also scripted the sci-fi serial 'Het Document van Venus' (1959-1960) for Henk Albers, and several storylines of Marten Toonder's 'Kappie'. The other eight adventures of 'Minter en Hinter' were written by Dick Vlottes himself. The series was also syndicated to newspapers in Turkey (Ajans Ekspress) and Iceland (Heimilis Posturinn).


Marten Toonder's 'Kappie', by Dick Vlottes.

Toonder productions
During his time as a freelancer with the studio, Vlottes also worked on comic series created by Marten Toonder himself. Between mid-1961 and 1962, he collaborated on about eight stories of the 'Kappie' newspaper strip, alongside fellow penciler Piet Wijn and inker Richard Klokkers. He also participated in the production of the weekly 'Tom Poes' balloon comic in Donald Duck magazine, and contributed to a couple of daily 'Tom Poes' stories as well (presumably 'De Tijwisselaar' in 1962 and 'De Wilde Wagen' in 1963). In a 2004 interview with Brabant Strip Magazine, Vlottes said that his taskmaster's heavy criticism and seemingly random corrections were not only very discouraging, but also stagnating the production. Another downer was Toonder's response when studio representative Rita Brakke had managed to sell the children's adventure comic 'De Drie Sproetjes' - created by Dick Vlottes - to four Scandinavian newspapers. When Vlottes arrived at the studio to sign the contracts, he overheard Toonder reprimanding Brakke for not selling his own series to those newspapers instead. As a result, 'De Drie Sproetjes' was shelved and Brakke left the company. In the Brabant Strip interview, Vlottes reflected that this incident damaged his relation with Toonder forever.


'Botje Boon's Ballonnetje' (Olidin, 1962).

Olidin
In the early 1960s, Vlottes left the Toonder Studio's, and offered his services to Olidin, the magazine of the Shell Junior Club, produced by the Van Maanen advertising agency. His first contribution were two stories of the children's adventure comic 'Botje Boon's Ballonnetje' (1962-1963), about a little boy and a living balloon called Dummetje, written by Harry van den Eerenbeemt. At Olidin, Vlottes also provided the drawings for 'Wetenswaardigheden Over De Ruimtevaart', an illustrated column with facts about space travel. Other artists who worked for Olidin were Emile Brumsteede, Wim Giesbers, Frits GodhelpFriso Henstra, Niek Hiemstra, Hans G. Kresse, Jan Kruis, Ted Mathijsen, Joost Rietveld, Chris Roodbeen, Jan van der Voo, P. Visser, Carol Voges, Joop Wiggers and Piet Wijn

Senmoet de Egyptenaar
While 'Botje Boon' was still running, the Olidin editors asked Vlottes for another comic. This became 'Senmoet de Egyptenaar' (1963-1966), a historical balloon comic set near the end of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, starring the poor sailor Achat and his young son Senmoet. Contrary to 'Botje Boon' - with its semi-caricatural drawing style and large-head characters - 'Senmoet' was fully realistic, well-documented and highly detailed. Interested in Egypt since his early childhood, the country and its history were recurring themes in Vlottes' comics and paintings throughout his life. He wrote and drew the series all by his own. Vlottes took great care in its historical accuracy, taking much inspiration from the 1945 historical fiction novel 'Sinuhe the Egyptian' by the Finnish writer Mika Waltari. Funny enough, another Dutch comic artist, Bert Bus, was inspired by the same book for the creation of his comic series in Sjors magazine, 'Theban' (1957-1959). At the time, the two artists were not aware of each other, realizing only later that they had made "almost exactly the same comic" (as Bus recalled in Stripschrift issue #87). Years later, Vlottes and Bus decided to join their forces in their shared love for Ancient Egypt, but the planned comic project never saw the light.

Senmoet, de Piraten van de Nijl, door Dick Vlottes
'Senmoet' story 1 - 'Jacht Langs De Nijl' (1963).

'Senmoet' was one of the last new comic series launched in Olidin. The magazine folded in 1963, when the Royal Dutch Shell no longer wanted to invest in it. Through the Swan Features Syndicate - owned by Marten Toonder's former business partner Ton de Zwaan - Vlottes continued his series as a newspaper comic. Besides a serialization in the Flemish children's magazine 't Kapoentje, nine 'Senmoet' stories ran in the regional newspaper of the "Rotterdam Kwartet" group (De Rotterdammer, Nieuwe Haagsche Courant, Nieuwe Leidsche Courant and Dordtsch Dagblad). In the Nieuwe Haagsche Courant, for instance, 'Senmoet' ran between 16 November 1964 and 15 November 1966. Since his strip ran in newspapers with a Christian background, Vlottes noticed the editors edited out all the expletives referring to the Egyptian gods, resulting in strange white spaces in the speech balloons. There were also readers' complaints about the many female characters, modelled after Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren. Feeling the edits didn't do his comic justice, he decided to quit the 'Senmoet' series after nine stories. The comic remained in circulation through Swan Features; on 23 October 1968, it began a weekly serialization in Amigoe di Curacao, a Dutch-language weekly from the Dutch Caribbean region.


Cover drawings for Pep issues #27 and #48 of 1965, starring Dino Attanasio's 'Spaghetti' and Jean Tabary's 'Valentin le Vagabond'.

Production artist
After 'Senmoet', Dick Vlottes left comics for a while and turned to production art, commercial illustration and other work-for-hire, often for licensed properties. His wife Dinie had done the same line of work, as a letterer for both the Toonder Studio's and Swan Features Syndicate (including the 'Marion' newspaper comic by Thé Tjong-Khing). For the comic magazine Pep, Dick Vlottes provided comic story lettering, as well as an occasional cover illustration featuring a licensed, foreign comic hero. At times, he also helped out Hans G. Kresse with the inking of his 'Zorro' comic stories. Vlottes was additionally present at Sjors magazine, doing the colorizations for the reprints of the British 'Billy Bunter' stories (appearing in Dutch as 'Billie Turf'). For the women's weekly Libelle, he also colored the 'Bessie Bunter' ('Bessie Turf') comics.

In the second half of the 1960s, Vlottes did graphic design work, lettering and spot illustrations for TV 2000, a magazine published by the Rotogravure in Leiden, built around the 'Thunderbirds' characters. Also for TV 2000, he graphically reworked and remounted the French 'Thierry la Fronde' comic in inkwash. He did the same with Jean-Claude Forest's 'Barbarella' for Televizier. In addition, Vlottes made illustrations for the society magazine Story, illustrated the 'Tips voor Touristen' section in the women's weekly Eva and drew gag comics with monkeys for the Ziekenfondsblad, a publication of the Dutch Health Insurance Fund.


'Top Kat Vist Achter Het Net' (De Flintstones #75), presumably drawn by Dick Vlottes.

Comics with licensed characters
In the late 1960s, Vlottes was one of the cartoonists drawing locally produced covers and comic stories with Hanna-Barbera characters for the Dutch monthly De Flintstones comic book, published by De Geïllustreerde Pers. Vlottes provided artwork for a couple of comic stories with 'Top Cat'. Through Swan Features Syndicate, he got the assignment to draw short comic strips with Walt Disney's Donald Duck for the Bazooka chewing gum wrappings. Later on, Vlottes was also involved as an inker with the Dutch production of Disney comics for Oberon's Donald Duck weekly. This included inking of new stories - like some early 1980s 'Little Hiawatha' stories penciled by Frits Godhelp - but also of foreign ones of which the source material was unavailable, like pages of the classic Carl Barks story 'Donald Duck in Darkest Africa'.


"Games from the Animal Forest" (De Fabeltjeskrant #23, 1970).

De Fabeltjeskrant
One of the main properties Vlottes worked on was 'De Fabeltjeskrant', a children's puppet TV show about the stories of Meneer De Uil ("Mr. Owl") and other forest creatures. The children's series was extraordinarily popular at the time. In each episode the host Meneer De Uil read from his newspaper to tell viewers what happened in his forest that week. With its roots in the classic fables of Jean de la Fontaine, Aesop and Phaedrus, the series also featured the all-knowing Juffrouw Ooievaar (Miss Stork) and her helper Zoef de Haas (Zippy the Hare), the ever-busy Truus de Mier (Miss Ant), bar owner Bor de Wolf (Boris the Wolf), the sly Lowieke de Vos (Mr. Cunningham) and the DIY Beaver brothers, among many other characters. 'De Fabeltjeskrant' ran for three TV series (1969-1974, 1985-1989, 1996) and achieved iconic status.

Between 5 April 1969 until 29 August 1970, the Rotogravure released a weekly De Fabeltjeskrant magazine, appearing under supervision of series writer Leen Valkenier and producer Thijs Chanowski, with Lex Overeijnder as lead comic artist. Dick Vlottes provided game pages and other illustrations. Eventually, Vlottes was appointed by Chanowski Productions to illustrate countles merchandising articles related to the show, including puzzles, booklets, pillows, clocks, umbrellas, badges, etc. Later on, he also did similar illustration work for products related to other children's series, including 'Swiss Family Robinson', 'My Little Pony' and 'The Snorks'.


'De Krakers' (1975).

Televizier
In the mid-1970s, Vlottes was hired by TV guide magazine Televizier to create another comic strip based on 'De Fabeltjeskrant'. For the same magazine, he also developed 'De Krakers' (1975), a 25-episode social satire in comic format about the upcoming 1970s prosperity crisis and the disadvantages of the consumer society. The main character is a rich industrialist who wants to get richer by marketing an insect killer spray that also shrivels panties into threads.

Leonie het horoscoopmeisje by Dick Vlottes
'Leonie het Horoscoopmeisje' (Tina, 1977).

Tina
The 1970s also marked the return of Dick Vlottes as an allround comic creator, this time for the girls' magazine Tina, that had just started its own comic story production. Between 1973 and 1977, he made six stories of 'Ineke van Rijswijk', about a young shop assistant in a department store. The first two stories were written by Will Heiens, the others by Vlottes himself. Between 1976 and 1981, he also contributed irregularly appearing gag pages with 'Leonie, het Horoscoopmeisje', about a girl fascinated with her daily horoscope.

Ineke van Rijswijk by Dick Vlottes
'Ineke van Rijswijk' (Tina, 1974).

De Telegraaf
By the 1980s, Vlottes had returned mostly to commercial art. He began a fruitful collaboration with the newspaper De Telegraaf and its less expensive regional paper Courant Nieuws van de Dag, making the 'Mini-Toe' cartoon for the weekly comics supplement Minitoe (1980-1989). Throughout the decade, he was also featured prominently on De Telegraaf's sports section, 'Telesport', with instructional comics about sports like soccer, golf and snowboarding. The most notable of these productions was 'Johan Cruyff Geeft Voetballes', in which Dutch soccer legend Johan Cruyff explained the basic rules of the football game. It was based on a French comic book, redrawn for the Dutch market by Vlottes with Johan Cruyff as instructor. In 1984, publisher Mustang released the story in book format. Even though the book had much success, the French publisher of the original demanded a halt to further distribution. Apparently, De Telegraaf only had permission for a newspaper serialization, and not for a book release. In 1986, De Telegraaf also released 'Leer Golf met Jack Nicklaus', a landscape-formatted comic book about the rules of golf, starring the legendary champion Jack Nicklaus, written by the journalists Robbie van Erven-Dorens and Charles Taylor Charles and illustrated by Dick Vlottes. 


Episode #4 of a snowboarding instruction comic by Dick Vlottes (De Telegraaf, 1 December 1989).

De Krek
Between 21 September 1987 and 27 January 1990, Vlottes provided daily commentary on the sports news of the day in his cartoon gag strip starring 'De Krek', an opinionated sports spectator. For over two years, it was a popular and recognizable feature in De Telegraaf's sports section. A group of Krek fans in Beverwijk even started an actual Dick Vlottes Fanclub, which was active throughout the strip's run.


De Krek. Translation: "How nice of those guys... to do the accounting for so many clubs free of charge!" (The FIOD is the Dutch Internal Revenue Service).

Book collections
Many of the comics Vlottes made during his career were never released in book format. Only years after their original publication, small indie imprints picked up his work for re-release. Between 1982 and 1983, Nico Noordermeer's De Lijn released four book collections of 'Senmoet' stories. A complete re-edition followed in 2013, when publisher Amor Vincit Omnia reprinted all nine stories. In 2006, Ron Streppel of the publishing house Boumaar collected several the early Vlottes comics 'Botje Boon' (under the title 'Dummetje') and 'De Krakers' in limited edition books. Vlottes also provided cover illustrations for volumes of Boumaar's re-editions with Henk Sprenger's 'Piloot Storm' (2008) and Loek van Delden's 'Smidje Verholen' (2008). 'Minter en Hinter' in turn were published in books by Bonte (2006) and The Keij-Position (2013). Because the originals were lost, Vlottes re-inked a couple of pages for the The Keij-Position's re-edition of Piet Wijn's 'Maartje' comic.


New cover illustrations for 2006 reprints of old Vlottes comics by publisher Boumaar.

Final years and death
Later in life, Vlottes was mostly active as a painter, often using Egypt as a source of inspiration. A planned new comic project about the secrets of Ancient Egypt never got off the ground. Until old age, Vlottes was a regular guest at Dutch comic conventions. On 22 October 2005, during the Stripdagen in Houten, Dick Vlottes was awarded the Bulletje & Boonestaakschaal for his contributions to the Dutch comic industry. He received his award alongside fellow veteran cartoonists Dik Bruynesteyn and Jan van der Voo. In the morning of 5 June 2022, Dick Vlottes died at the age of 89.


Dick Vlottes, from Stripschrift #182 (April 1984).

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