Douwe Dabbert, by Piet Wijn
Douwe Dabbert - Het Monster van het Mistmeer (1978)

Piet Wijn was a versatile Dutch comics artist, known for his poetic style. His stories are either set in historic time periods or fantasy worlds, but in most cases a combination of those two. He is best-known for co-creating the magical dwarf 'Douwe Dabbert' (1975-2001) with Thom Roep for Donald Duck, but he had already made his mark in previous decades with series like 'Aram van de Eilanden' (1951-1960) and 'Puk en Poppedijn' (1964-1974). For many years, he was an anonymous ghost artist for Marten Toonder on series like 'Koning Hollewijn' (1959-1971), 'Panda' (1970-1986) and 'Tom Poes' (1971-1986),

Pieter Cornelis Wijn was born in Hilversum in 1929. He took courses from the Rex drawing school in Amsterdam, where one of his fellow students was Gerard van Straaten. Wijn grew up reading newspaper comics like Mary Tourtel's 'Rupert Bear' and E.C. Segar's 'Popeye'. Other early influences on his own drawing style were the comics artists Hans G. Kresse and Hal Foster, and illustrators like Arthur Rackham, Edmond Dulac and Ivan Bilibin. Later in life, he expressed admiration for fellow artists like Georges Mazure and Fred Julsing, while he also got inspiration from Alex Raymond, Jean Giraud and Jack Davis. In 1953, Wijn settled in The Hague, where he got married two years later.

Als Engelen Zingen
Als Engelen Zingen, a Christmas songbook with illustrations by Piet Wijn

Wijn's graphic career began in 1947. His first assignments were the cover illustrations for three books with sheetmusic published by Broekmans en Van Poppel in Amsterdam. He began his association with the Toonder Studios in Amsterdam shortly afterwards. He was initially an inbetweener at the animation department, working mostly on advertising films. Wijn for instance participated in the development of an advertising spot for Philips, starring Marten Toonder's characters 'Tom Poes' and 'Heer Bommel'.

De Zwarte Hertog by Piet Wijn
De Zwarte Hertog (Tom Poes Weekblad, 4-8-1948)

In that same year, he moved over to the comics studio after the launch of Tom Poes Weekblad, a short-lived comics magazine built around Toonder's creations. After a couple of illustrations, he made a few historic stories in cooperation with writer Waling Dijkstra. The first one was 'De Zwarte Hertog' (1948), which appeared in the classic text comics format, with the text written underneath the comics panels. This first effort was followed by 'De Moorse Tovenaar' (1948-49), 'Manuello Y Gonza' (1948-49) and 'Verowin' (1949-1951).


Manuello Y Gonza

While 'Manuello Y Gonza' was Wijn's first balloon comic, the other two were made in the tradition of Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant', with text captions inside the comics panels. Toonder's syndication manager Ton de Zwaan also distributed these comics to other publications. All stories appeared in Pum-Pum (1951-1953), a comics weekly affiliated to the Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. 'Verowin' furthermore appeared in 't Kapoentje (1950), Week in Beeld (1951-1952) and Eva (1956-1957). A more obscure work in Piet Wijn's oeuvre is the newspaper comic 'Don Dixon'. It is unknown where or if this crime story was actually published, but it at least appeared in a catalogue compiled by Nico Noordermeer for a comics exposition in Leeuwarden in 1977.

De Moorse Tovenaar by Piet Wijn
Verowin (Tom Poes Weekblad #10, 1951)

By 1949, Wijn had become a freelance worker for Toonder's studio. His final creation with Waling Dijkstra was the text comic 'Aram van de Eilanden' (1950). It ran in Tom Poes Weekblad during its final year, but it was also syndicated as a newspaper comic to newspapers like Het Nieuws Van De Dag (Belgium) from 8 June 1950. When Ton de Zwaan left Toonder to form his own Swan Features Syndicate in 1954, Wijn was one of the artists that went with him, along with Henk Sprenger and Hans G. Kresse. From then on, Wijn wrote the 'Aram' stories himself.

Aram, by Piet Wijn
Aram - Het Zwaard van Palermo (book publication 1954)

The series followed in the slipstream of 'Eric de Noorman', Hans G. Kresse's popular historical hero. His adventures were set in the Middle Ages, and were full of dark mysterious realms and ancient societies, led by sinister magicians and their helpers. 'Aram van de Eilanden' was the series that established Wijn's trademark: magical adventures in historical settings. Until 1961, 39 stories were syndicated to regional and international newspapers. The comic has been translated to French, Spanish and the Scandinavian languages, and also ran in Belgian publications. Four stories were however not created by Wijn, but by his replacement Henk Alleman. Nevada published four books of 'Aram van de Eilanden' in 1952. An additional series of four oblong books was released by Neerlandia in 1954 and 1955.

Aram, by Piet Wijn
Aram en de Gulden Steen (1953)

In 1956-1957 Wijn left 'Aram' to create a new comic strip for newspaper Het Parool. Pieter Kuhn took a break from the adventures of his popular sailor 'Kapitein Rob', and the paper was in need of a replacement. Wijn teamed up with Parool-journalist Evert Werkman, who had also written for 'Kapitein Rob', and the result of their collaboration was 'Frank, de Vliegende Hollander' (4 April 1955-1 September 1956). Wijn himself has always dismissed the comic, deeming the heroic aviator too one-dimensional and the stories too technical. He left the comic after one year, and returned to the imaginative worlds of 'Aram van de Eilanden', although it must be said that the later 'Aram' stories were more realistic. Pieter Kuhn returned to Het Parool with 'Kapitein Rob', but six more stories of 'Frank, de Vliegende Hollander' were made by Martin Lodewijk in the late 1950s. These did not appear in Het Parool, but only ran in Scandinavian newspapers.

Frank de Vliegende Hollander by Piet Wijn
Frank, de Vliegende Hollander (1955-1956)

In addition to 'Aram', Wijn drew comic adaptations of classic children's novels for the socialist newspaper Het Vrije Volk from 1957 to 1958. The first one was 'De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe' by Johan Fabricius in 270 strips from 24 December 1957 to 11 November 1958, and it was followed by Hector Malot's 'Sans Famille' ('Alleen op de Wereld' in Dutch) in 249 strips from 12 November 1958 to 5 September 1959. The adaptations were written by Hans Jacobs, one of the paper's editors. Both stories were also serialized in Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad. Notable about these two adaptations is that they are both balloon comics, while Piet Wijn preferred the text comics format.

De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe by Piet Wijn
De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (Het Vrije Volk, 14 August 1958)

In 1956 Piet Wijn made the illustrations for the educational book series 'Mannen van Naam', by Aart Grimme and Klaas Norel for Wolters-Noordhoff in Groningen. The books presented famous persons from national history for Christian elementary schools. Prior to this, Piet Wijn had made some illustrations for the magazines Libelle (1950) and Revue (1951-1952).


Illustration for Revue (1953)

Between 1959 and 1961 Piet Wijn was present in Olidin, a promotional comics magazine of petrol company Shell. He created two stories with the character 'Dick Durfal' ('Dick Durfal en het oog van Shiva' and 'Dick Durfal en de Kale Jonker', 1960-1961), while the magazine also reprinted his early work 'De Zwarte Hertog' (1959-1960).

Koning Hollewijn by Piet Wijn
Koning Hollewijn - De Gouddorst (1968)

Around 1960 Wijn left De Zwaan and returned to work for the Toonder Studios on a freelance basis. During a period of 25 years, he was as a ghost artist on several of Marten Toonder's creations. Apparently, Wijn had already worked on Toonder's 'Koning Hollewijn' since late 1959. According to Hans Matla, he stepped in in the story 'De Ronde Tafel' on strip 1725. He continued to draw the full stories of this satire on Dutch politics in De Telegraaf until the end in 1971 (from 'De Revolutie' through 'Het einde van Koudewater'). The stories were written by Lo Hartog van Banda until 1965, after which Marten Toonder and his son Eiso took over. Like with all Toonder productions of the time, other artists sometimes filled in, or assisted on the strips. During Wijn's tenure, Jan Wesseling and Fred Julsing have lended a helping hand on some occasions.

Holle Pinkel en de Wenslucifers, by Piet Wijn (De Spiegel, 1964)
Holle Pinkel en de Wenslucifers (De Spiegel, 1964)

Another early job during this second Toonder period was the 'Holle Pinkel' strip (1962-1964). The comic told the adventures of an anthropomorphic bunny in an animal forest and was created and drawn by Andries Brandt in 1960. The strip ran in local newspapers like Leeuwarder Courant for two years when Piet Wijn took over the art duties in mid 1962. Brandt continued to write the stories until the cancellation of the newspaper strip one year later. Piet Wijn wrote and drew three more stories for the Christian weekly De Spiegel in 1963 and 1964.

Puk en Poppedijn, de stippelvlinder, by Piet Wijn
Puk en Poppedijn - Koning Winter (1966-1967)

He then provided De Spiegel with his own creation, 'Puk en Poppedijn'. This was a charming and enchanting family comic, told from a child's perspective. Puk and Poppedijn are two 18th century kids, who undergo the most exiting adventures with friendly witches, elves, evil gnomes and other fairy tale characters. The adults on the other hand don't believe a word of these experiences and have a logical explanation for everything. De Spiegel was cancelled after 18 stories in 1972. Luckily, Wijn got the opportunity to revive his beloved characters in Prinses, a women's weekly of the same publisher (Zomer & Keuning). Nine more stories appeared between 1972 and 1974. A large part of the storybook appearance of 'Puk en Poppedijn' must be attributed to the beautiful coloring of Wim Lensen. Most of the original pages were however destroyed in 1971 in a fire at the castle of Nederhorst ten Berg, where the Toonder Studios were situated at the time. Lensen had just left the pages outside of the safe for reorganization purposes when tragedy struck. The poor man never fully mentally recovered from the experience...


Typical Piet Wijn art in a 1962 story of Kappie, while Dick Vlottes was the strip's regular penciler. A similar "ship of ice" would later appear in a 'Douwe Dabbert' story.

Between 1970 and 1972, Piet Wijn also drew the final twelve adventures of Marten Toonder's sailorman 'Kappie' and his tugboat, which were written by Eiso Toonder for Algemeen Dagblad. He had already lended a helping hand to Dick Vlottes on several earlier stories during the 1960s.

Panda by Piet Wijn
Panda - De Verdorster (1972)

Wijn's longest association was however with the funny animal comic 'Panda'. He succeeded Jan van Haasteren in 1970, and continued to draw the adventures of the smart panda until 1986. Yet again most of the plots were written by Eiso Toonder, although Wijn began writing the stories himself from the late 1970s. The comic's fantasy environment is largely similar to that of Marten Toonder's best-known creation, 'Tom Poes'. The main antagonist, Joris Goedbloed, even appears in both franchises. Although Marten Toonder will always be remembered for 'Tom Poes', the 'Panda' comic was the studio's largest export product. It appeared in a wide variety of international newspapers, and for the occasion the episodes had to be reworked from the typical Dutch text comics format to a balloon strip. Wijn hated these modifications, feeling that the balloons ruined the composition. The story 'De Ongelukszoeker' (1977) marked the comic's complete transition from text comic to balloon comic. In the Netherlands, 'Panda' ran in mostly local and regional newspapers, including Nieuwsblad van het Noorden. Piet Wijn was brought in once again to draw the final 'Panda' strips after his successor Jaap Lamberton had passed away in 1991. Wijn thus concluded the longrunning series, to which he had committed himself for sixteen years. It was furthermore the final Toonder comic to disappear from newspaper circulation, since the last 'Tom Poes' newspaper story was published in 1986.

Panda by Piet Wijn
Panda en de Meester-koekenbakker (1982)

Marten Toonder admitted that his co-workers were responsible for 'Panda', 'Hollewijn' and 'Kappie', but he always said that he "kept the Tom Poes comic all to himself". While it is true that Toonder wrote most of the stories himself after moving to Ireland in 1965, the pencil art was still produced by artists in the Netherlands. Piet Wijn had the longest run on the strip, replacing Fred Julsing in 1971. He silently pencilled nearly all stories until the final one in 1986, with Marten Toonder providing the finished art and inking. He had already contributed some pencil work to earlier stories such as 'De Wilde Wagen' (1963) and 'De Blijdschapper' (1970). Piet Wijn's style was well suited for Marten Toonder's magical stories, which became more and more influenced by the Irish landscapes and legends. The ever-loyal Wijn didn't mind to remain in the shadow of his master, and it wasn't until later that his role in the 'Tom Poes' comic was acknowledged. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he also provided the cover art to the first 21 volumes in Oberon's book collections of the 'Tom Poes' balloon comic which appeared in Donald Duck.

Both Piet Wijn and Marten Toonder had made drawings and settings for a character called 'De Goeroe'. Eiso Toonder used the drawings to compile a new daily comic strip, which appeared during the 1970s in both De Telegraaf and The Irish Times. He made the cut-and-paste comic strip under the pen name Peter Abel.

Tom Poes en de Krookfilm
Tom Poes en Heer Bommel - De Krookfilm (1973)

By the early 1970s, Piet Wijn was one of the most talented Dutch comic artists around, yet he remained somewhat unnoticed. This was partially because of his own modest character, but also because most of his productions were either made anonymously or for niche publications. It wasn't until the 1980s that Nico Noordermeer's publishing label De Lijn released a lot of the artist's early work in book format. Appreciation for Piet Wijn's work increased when he began his association with the children's magazines of the publishing house Oberon in the 1970s.

Jennifer Scott by Piet Wijn
Jennifer Scott (1973)

Between 1973 and 1986 he illustrated several melodramatic comic stories for the girls' magazine Tina. His first contribution were the adventures of 'Jennifer Scott' (1973-1975). Andries Brandt wrote the stories, which are set in rural Oregon during the period of the American pioneers. The title character is an upper middle class girl, who flees from her evil aunt and tries to find her father, who is wrongfully accused of robbing a bank. With Patty Klein, he subsequently made an adaptation of Johanna Spyri's 'Heidi' novel in 1976. The sequel 'Heidi en Peter' was published in the same year. In 1977 and 1978 Wijn made five adventures about 17th century pirate daughter 'Gloria van Goes' with Paul Deckers.

Gloria van Goes, by Piet Wijn
Gloria van Goes (1977)

The four subsequent adventures of 'Maartje' (1979-1985) were in a contemporary setting. Maartje was an everyday girl who likes to hide out in nature to escape the city and its problems. The stories were written by Tina editors like Rudy Jansen and Marjolein Winkel. Piet Wijn furthermore made another adaptation of Hector Malot's 'Sans Famille' (1979-1980) for Tina, which was reprinted in Donald Duck in 1998. He finally illustrated Donne Avenell's exiting story 'De Wachter van Maartensuys' (1982-1983), about a mysterious house in the Dutch dunes. Much of Piet Wijn's work for Tina was published in black-and-white by De Lijn, or in color in Oberon's 'Tina Topstrip' collection. Piet Wijn was additionally present in Tina's spin-off magazine Tina Club with a comics version of the Ernst Hoffmann fairy tale 'The Nutcracker' (1974).

Maartje by Piet Wijn
Maartje in de Biesbos (1980)

Wijn was most notably a mainstay in the Dutch weekly Disney magazine Donald Duck. Already in 1968 and 1969, he was involved in the Toonder Studios' production of Disney comics. He drew twelve stories with Walt Disney's 'Big Bad Wolf' and three with the little Indian 'Hiawatha'. An extra 'Wolf' story was made directly for the Walt Disney Studios' US production of comic stories for their overseas licensees in 1967.

The Big Bad Wolf by Piet Wijn
Big Bad Wolf story from Donald Duck #23, 1969

His best known work for Donald Duck, however, was an original creation. In 1974 he was contacted by editor Thom Roep about some fairy tale-like illustrations he once sent to the pre-school magazine Bobo. The drawings had never been used, but Roep saw something in a white-bearded dwarf character Wijn drew on those pages. Wijn and Roep created a oneshot story about the spoiled princess Pauline ('De Verwende Prinses', 1975), in which this dwarf had a supporting role. It was so well-received that 'Douwe Dabbert', as the character was named, received his own series.

Douwe Dabbert by Piet Wijn
Douwe Dabbert - Het Verborgen Dierenrijk (1975)

Douwe Dabbert is a wise little dwarf who owns a magical knapsack. His alliterative name was chosen to be in line with Donald Duck's name. While somewhat rooted in older Dutch gnome stories, like Dick Laan and Rein van Looy's 'Pinkeltje', Jean Dulieu's 'Paulus de Boskabouter' and Phiny Dick's 'Olle Kapoen', Roep and Wijn's creation was still something different. His adventures are set in the 17th century, during the Golden Age of the Netherlands. Some stories are historically realistic, while others have a more fantastical approach, with witches, anthropomorphic animals and evil wizards. Wijn brought everything to life in highly detailed and atmospheric drawings which bring Douwe to all corners of the Earth.

De Zwarte Kimono by Piet Wijn
Douwe Dabbert - De Zwarte Kimono (1995)

Wijn and Roep's creative collaboration was notable, seeing that Roep was only 22 years old at the time while Wijn was already 45. Despite their age difference they easily found common ground in their love for fantasy, history and works like Mary Tourtel's 'Rupert Bear', novels by W.G. van de Hulst and artwork by Carl von Spitzweg, Nicolas Dear and Wilhelm Hauff. 'Douwe Dabbert' proved popular with readers and remains the best-remembered comics series in Donald Duck, aside from the Disney comics of course. It even managed to gain popularity in translation, another rare feat for a non-Disney comic in a Disney magazine. 'Douwe Dabbert' was translated in German, Luxembourghish, Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish and Indonesian but was nowhere as popular as in Denmark. Contrary to other countries all albums of 'Douwe Dabbert' were translated in Danish, where the character is known as 'Gammelpot'. In Indonesia various bootleg comics starring Douwe Dabbert ('Pak Janggut') came out, of which Roep and Wijn's heirs only learned about when the Internet site Catawiki pointed out their existence.


Voor de kleutertjes (De Vrije Balloen #3, 1976)

'Douwe Dabbert' and the Toonder series 'Tom Poes and 'Panda', Piet Wijn managed to take on other projects. In a completely different fashion, he illustrated a rather cynical comic story by Andries Brandt, called 'Voor de kleutertjes', in the third issue of the alternative comics magazine De Vrije Balloen in 1976. For toddlers' magazine Okki, Piet Wijn and Patty Klein made the poetic pantomime comic 'Annemoon' (1980-1982), about a little girl who sails, flies or drives through a magical land with her bed. Piet Wijn has also illustrated text stories by Hans Hoekstra and Patty Klein about trolls for Jippo. Additionally, Piet Wijn provided the artwork for the story 'Het rijk der schimmen' (1978) in Raymond Donkersloot's sci-fi magazine Essef. Between 1985 and 1987 he wrote and drew a new comic called 'Joker' for the children's magazine Ezelsoor.

Annemoon, by Piet Wijn
Annemoon

Piet Wijn was already a celebrated artist during his lifetime. In 1984 he won the Stripschapsprijs, the most prestigious comics prize in the Netherlands. Unfortunately the final decades of his life were spent in ill health. He suffered a stroke in late 1986, which left him partially paralyzed and unable to draw with his right hand. 'Joker' had to be taken over by Jan Wesseling and concluded. It was around the same period that he left the daily 'Panda' comic and passed the pencil to Jaap Lamberton and Frits Godhelp. Instead of a new 'Douwe Dabbert' story, Donald Duck published 'De Strijd om 's-Hertogenbosch' (1987), which starred the character Johanna and was situated during the Eighty Years' War. The story was written by Paul Deckers and originally created for Tina years earlier, but never used. It was published in book format by the "Circle of friends of s-Hertogenbosch" in 1996.

Wijn nevertheless refused to give in and taught himself to draw with his left hand. This impressive effort meant that 'Douwe Dabbert' could continue his succesful run. Wijn initially received assistance from Lucas Abedy for the inking duties, but he gradually managed to take resume task as well. A second stroke forced him to quit drawing completely in the late 1990s. The final 'Douwe Dabbert' story was finished by Dick Matena and published in Donald Duck in 2001. All 'Douwe Dabbert' stories have been collected in 23 albums by Oberon and Big Balloon between 1977 and 2001. When 'Douwe Dabbert' definitively disappeared from Donald Duck's pages, the magazine reprinted three of Wijn's 'Joker' stories in 2001 and 2002.

Joker by Piet Wijn
De Avonturen van Joker (Donald Duck #47, 2001)

Piet Wijn passed away in Leidschendam in 2010, but his work lives on in the several reprint collections that have seen the light of day. The Keij-Position Boumaar has reprinted much of Piet Wijn's work for Tina. Boumaar in turn collected 'Annemoon' and 'Joker' in luxury books in 2009 and 2010. Since 2013, Barabas produces large format collections of 'Douwe Dabbert', while Don Lawrence collection reprints the regular album collection. Streets named after 'Aram' and 'Douwe Dabbert' are part of the "comics heroes" district of Almere. Although the latter was suggested by Lambiek's Kees Kousemaker way back in 2003, the Douwe Dabbertstraat was for many years a mere name on a map. It was the last part of the district to be built and parcelled out, street name signs weren't placed until 2016.

Lambiek will always be grateful to Wijn for illustrating the letter "D" in our encylopedia book, 'Wordt Vervolgd - Stripleksikon der Lage Landen', published in 1979.

Thom Roep and Piet Wijn
Thom Roep and Piet Wijn

Piet Wijn in Lambiek's Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis
(in dutch)

Series and books by Piet Wijn in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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