Promotional comic strip for the Shell Junior Club (Olidin #23, 1961)

Joop Wiggers was a Dutch graphic artist, lay-out desiger, publisher and entrepeneur. He is best-known as the publisher of Jan Kruis' family comic 'Jan, Jans en de Kinderen', and the initiator of the franchise's merchandising line.

Born in 1934, Joop Wiggers met Kruis in the early 1960s. They both worked for the Van Maanen advertising agency, which was directed by Eddy de Smet, the father of future comic artist Peter de Smet. Wiggers and Kruis worked on campaigns for Shell, DAF and Porsche, while they also contributed to Olidin, the magazine of the Shell Junior Club. While Kruis produced comic series like 'Tommy' and 'Baldino', Wiggers did lay-outs and production work, but he also made illustrations. His recurring character was Jantje, the mascot of the Shell Junior Club, who appeared on editorial pages, covers and an occasional promotional comic strip. Other members of the Shell Junior Club were Stientje and Gertje, who appeared in comic strips by Jan Kruis. Kruis and Wiggers continued to cooperate after their Van Maanen-period. One of their joint productions was Goed Gekleed (1967), an advertising magazine for a purchasing association for expensive men's fashion stores.

Spread from Olidin #23, 1961

Already in this period, Joop Wiggers showed a keen eye for business. He self-published posters, boardgames and children's booklets. On 12 December 1970, Kruis began his 'Jan, Jans en de Kinderen' gag page in the women's weekly Libelle. Publisher De Spaarnestad was however in the middle of a reorganization, and refused to launch a book collection at the time. The artist approached his friend Wiggers with the idea, who was enthusiastic right away. Over the course of a chat in the pub, Kruis gave Wiggers the publishing rights of his strip. Without any formal agreement, a bestselling comic book series was born. To fund the first album of 'Jan, Jans en de Kinderen', Wiggers took a mortgage on his house. It was published in a print run of 30,000 copies by Joop Wiggers Producties B.V. in 1972 and was an instant hit. Twenty-four further albums and a host of commissioned publications were produced by Wiggers until 1998. At the height of their collaboration, Wiggers published 150,000 copies per album.

Jan Kruis and Joop Wiggers compiling the 'Jan Kruis' career overview book in 1995.

For thirty years, Joop Wiggers and his wife Beppie served as Jan Kruis' "commercial right hands" and agents. Wiggers saw the commercial possibilities of the fictional Tromp family and also iniated a wide range of merchandising. Towels, teapots, canisters, watches, T-shirts, eiderdowns, posters, socks, placemats, service, puzzles, perfumed toilet calendars and all sorts of other items saw the light. The merchandising especially propelled the family's big red cat into an instantly recognizable mascot. Since he came from the advertising industry himself, Jan Kruis had no issues with the commercial exploitation of his creations at all. On the occasion of the comic's twenty year anniversary, Wiggers initiated a CD/audio cassette with songs related to the series. The songtexts were written by Jan Kruis and Willem Wilmink, while Harry Bannink made the compositions. A television adaptation was made in cooperation with Han Peekel and Wouter Stips in the mid-1980s. Two more prototypes for an animated series were made with animator Gene Deitch in the mid-1990s, but the project was cancelled. The Dutch postal services released a series of 'Jan, Jans en de Kinderen' stamps in 1998. Between 1992 and 1999, Joop Wiggers also published eight albums of 'Vijftien en een 1/2', the comic strip by Jan's daughter Andrea Kruis for Margriet magazine.

Jan Kruis announced his retirement in late 1998, and sold the rights to his characters to VNU (now Sanoma), the publisher of Libelle magazine. The production of the comic was transferred to the editorial offices in Hoofddorp under direction of Joop Wiggers' assistant Mariken Swildens, while VNU also acquired the rights to publish the books. It marked the end of a collaboration of nearly thirty years, but Kruis and Wiggers remained close friends. Joop and Beppie Wiggers moved from Breukelen to Antwerp, Belgium, in the late 1990s. Ironically, Joop Wiggers passed away little over a week after Jan Kruis, on 28 January 2017.

Series and books by Joop Wiggers in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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