René Windig and Eddie de Jong are an inseparable Dutch comics duo, best-known as simply Windig & De Jong. They are also referred to as "Gezellig & Leuk" ("Cozy & Nice"), after the comic book they edited and published anonymously in the 1970s and 1980s. They have created hilarious parodies of such classic comics as the 'Oom Wim' feature from Spirou/Robbedoes magazine, Walt Disney's 'Donald Duck' and Alfred Mazure's 'Dick Bos', but are best known for their own gag comic, 'Heinz', about a grumpy striped cat. Windig and De Jong have established their own universe, filled with both human and anthropomorphic characters, with many cross-overs and guest appearances in other strips. Their work is characterized by a fondness for absurdity, old-fashioned language and silly humor.
Both artists were born in Amsterdam. René's father was photographer Ad Windig (1912-1996), one of the underground photographers who captured the German occupation in Amsterdam on camera during the final war years. He was also instrumental in post-war Dutch photography and a tutor to such photographers as Ed van der Elsken and Philip Mechanicus. Both René and Eddie grew up reading the 'Donald Duck' stories by Carl Barks and the comics published in Robbedoes magazine, most notably those by André Franquin and Morris. Other influences on their future work were the Flemish grandmasters Willy Vandersteen and Marc Sleen, American authors Charles M. Schulz and George Herriman, and Dutch comic artist and illustrator Carol Voges. Through his father, Windig also developed an interest for artists like Pablo Picasso, Karel Appel, Vincent Van Gogh, Hokusai and Saul Steinberg. Windig (the tall one) and De Jong (the short one) began their collaboration at the local Barlaeus high school, where they formed the artists' collective "De Vijf Slijmerds" ("The Five Slimeballs") with their friends Hans van Amstel, Hans Rot and Hans Niepoth. They made their own comic stories, with each member drawing another panel, like a relay race. Already in these early efforts, they parodied other comic characters, such as Spirou's 'Oom Wim' ('Oncle Paul'). Shortly afterwards, the fivesome published their drawings in the alternative music magazine Aloha, and launched the first issue of Gezellig & Leuk in 1973.
In this self-published magazine, Windig and De Jong continued their parody of the classic educational and moralizing Spirou comic strip 'L'Oncle Paul' (called 'Oom Wim' in the Dutch version). The original Oncle Paul featured a wise uncle who would always break up arguments between his young nephews to tell them a story. When he was finished talking he'd deliver his moral to them as well as the young readers. Windig and De Jong's version shares the same visual style and set-up as the original but was far sillier. The corny morals and archaïc language are frequent targets. Wim is depicted as a slightly senile lunatic who regularly forgets what he is talking about. Sometimes his aesops don't have a point to them or couldn't even be described as such. Oom Wim also appeared in other magazines over the decade, such as Caramba and Gummi.
After the publication of Gezellig & Leuk 1, "De Vijf Slijmerds" broke up, and Windig and De Jong continued as a duo. They managed to get published in the Dutch Disney comics magazine Donald Duck, one of the best-selling children's magazines in the Netherlands. After a tip from Flip Fermin, they went to the offices of De Geïllustreerde Pers for an application with a spokesperson of the magazine Pep, but he turned out to be absent. Since the Donald Duck staff was located in the same building, Windig and De Jong went there instead and promptly got hired. In 1974 they made seven short stories starring Donald, deliberately trying to capture the style of Carl Barks, of whom they were great admirers. Besides a couple of stories written by editors Thom Roep and Paul Dekker, they wrote most of their own scripts. However, they were soon fired because their bosses felt that their stories were a bit too eccentric and inappropriate for the target audience. Many comics have a rather aggressive tone where people constantly yell at one another and get violent. At the same time the drawings tended to be a bit "off-model" in certain scenes, according to Disney standards. Note that contemporary artist Mau Heymans applies an even more eccentric drawing style for his 'Donald Duck' comics! But the times were different, and Windig and De Jong's final (official) Duck-story was published in early 1975.
Donald Duck (Gezellig & Leuk 2, April 1977)
While Windig and De Jong were somewhat glad to leave - the rules of the Disney concern were too restrictive - they still felt disgruntled about the whole experience. The iconoclastic gentlemen decided to ventilate their frustrations in new issues of their own magazine Gezellig & Leuk. The second issue was published in 1977, four years after the first. They drew new 'Donald Duck' stories, once again mimicking Barks, but with content that made the frenzy over their earlier 'Duck' comics seem overly exaggerated. In this version Donald was depicted as a grouchy prick who constantly curses the most vulgar swear words. In one story he gets drunk and wastes Huey, Dewey and Louie's children's welfare on alcohol. Afterwards he gets robbed by a prostitute and becomes a victim of gay bashing. In another he gets jailed after thrashing up a dinner between Daisy and her illegitimate lover.
Windig and De Jong solely filled three more issues of Gezellig & Leuk in 1978, 1979 and 1982, introducing original characters like 'Père Leonard' (1978), 'Pietje Pelikaan' (1979) and the farmer 'Theun' (1979). Especially Theun has made regular appearances in several of the duo's later productions. For Caramba magazine, they additionally created a couple of strips featuring the unemployed (and semi-autobiographical) clowns 'Zappo & Pipetti' (1978), who wander the streets of Amsterdam.
The hilarious parody of Alfred Mazure's 1940s action hero 'Dick Bos', aptly renamed as 'Dick Bosch', first appeared in the story 'Dick Bosch en het geheim van Den Schpuit' in Supergum magazine in 1980. The strip, full of exaggerated old-fashioned language and cliches, later appeared in the comics magazines Wordt Vervolgd (1981), De Balloen (1982) and the squatter's magazine Bluf! (1984). The strip was featured as a newspaper gag comic in De Waarheid (1983) and Brabants Nieuwsblad (1983). Longer stories appeared in Gezellig & Leuk, and later also as a text comic in the newspaper Het Parool ('Dick in den Grooten Stad', 1988).
After the disappearance of the short-lived magazine Caramba, the duo became part of Ger van Wulften's gang at the publishing house Espee in 1979. They contributed to its alternative comics magazine Gummi and Van Wulften collected much of their previous work in books like 'Ouwe Troep' (1980) and 'Fnirwak, Boek vol Vertwijfeling en Hoop' (1983). A selection of Windig's scribbles and sketches was published in the large book 'René Windig Drawings' (1982). The duo and their publisher clashed often, but Van Wulften did give them full artistic freedom. Especially when they were appointed as editors of the alternative comics magazine De Balloen (1982-1983), which was a continuation of Patty Klein and Jan van Haasteren's De Vrije Balloen. Together with Aart Clerkx, Gerrit de Jager, Wim Stevenhagen, Hein de Kort, Willem Vleeschouwer, Peti Buchel, Eric Schreurs and other artists, they filled De Balloen's pages from Van Wulften's studio in the Raamstraat in Amsterdam. The magazine was a creative highlight of the 1980s, but the fun didn't last long. More and more friction arose between Van Wulften and his artists. At one point, the authors used De Balloen as a stage for their frustrations. Gerrit de Jager has chronicled his experiences with Ger van Wulften in the autobiographical graphic novel 'Door Zonder Familie' (2013), and one can easily recognize Windig and De Jong among the Espee crowd.
The final issue of De Balloen appeared in 1983, after which Windig and De Jong found their own studio in the Warmoesstraat, above a condom shop. They brought with them Paul Bodoni, Aart Clerkx and Mark Smeets, with whom they made three more issues of Gezellig & Leuk (1984-1986) through their own foundation. Besides work by aforementioned authors, the publications contained contributions by Kamagurka, Herr Seele, Hein de Kort, Eric Schreurs, Peter Pontiac and Wim Stevenhagen. Throughout the decade, the Gezellig en Leuk Foundation also released several books with the work of Windig & De Jong, Bodoni, Clerkx and Smeets.
In 1984, their friend Frans de Wit asked Windig and De Jong to make a comic for the squatter's magazine Bluf. As the main character, they chose De Wit himself, who was the singer in the band De Rockin' Belly Bende, in which Windig also played the harmonica. The adventures of the squatting punk 'Rockin' Belly' appeared in Bluf until 1985. Additional characters were Jopie the fish dealer (who actually originated in the 'Dick Bosch' strip) and a cat, who would become known as 'Heinz'. Windig and De Jong also provided the illustrations for posters of the band's performances and for two of their singles, which were released on Dancing Cat Records ('Heinz' was the label's mascot). By 1986, the comic appeared in Goochem, the children's page of the Amsterdam daily Het Parool. This marked the actual debut of the cat with an attitude, 'Heinz', who also won the favors of a more mature audience. Heinz's solo comic began as a replacement of Gerrit de Jager's strip 'Liefde en Geluk' on 2 January 1987.
Heinz's popularity quickly grew outside of Amsterdam's city borders, when his adventures appeared in several other regional and local newspapers. By 1988, 'Heinz' was published in the Belgian newspapers Het Volk and De Nieuwe Gids, and the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter ran the strip for a while in 1992. Episodes in color were published in the magazines Nieuwe Revu (1989, in the section 'Graphouderskade') and Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad (1991). Besides a one-year hiatus in 1992, Windig and De Jong spent 12 years drawing the adventures of their grumpy cat, who gradually became more philosophical. Book collections were released by the Gezellig & Leuk Foundation between 1988 and 1990, and by Hansje Joustra's Oog & Blik between 1992 and 2006.
In addition, the duo made the current affairs strip about fish dealer 'Ome Cor', which served as a promotional strip for Het Parool from December 1987 to February 1988. They made illustrations for the letter's pages in Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad (1990-1997), and developed a booklet with the character 'Decibel' for the employees of the Dutch telephone company PTT to accompany the transformation of Dutch telephone numbers to ten digits in 1995. The real Rockin' Belly released two more albums under the name Belly Goes Bonkers in 1991 and 1999, for which Windig and De Jong provided the album art. They furthermore made illustrations for the philosophical and poetic writings of the duo Erik Bindervoet and Robbert-Jan Henkes.
One event in 1999 triggered a turning point in their career. Because of personal issues, the duo supplemented the newspapers with old strips for a while. A perceptive reader sounded the alarm, after which several papers dropped the strip, especially the ones from Brabant. This somewhat dimmed the author's enthusiasm to continue, but they did draw new 'Heinz' strips for another year. When Windig and De Jong called it quits in 2000, many fans were flabbergasted. Instead, plans were made for an animated 'Heinz' film by Zig Zag Film. It wasn't the first time that Windig and De Jong ventured into the field of animation. Shortly after their discharge from Donald Duck magazine in 1975, they had worked on an animated film called 'Pee Pee Cluck Cluck', which never saw the light of day. Alas, 'Heinz the Movie' underwent the same fate, despite several announcements and press articles in 2001 and 2002. The proposed storyboard was adapted for publication in the newspaper Het Parool, where Heinz reappeared from March 2004 until February 2006. The new 'Heinz' strip, by now in color and drawn in a more loose style, was supplemented with companion strips starring the characters 'Eend', 'Kabouter', 'Sliske' and 'Hund', which were collected in the book 'Beffen-IJf' in 2006. 'Eend' starred a duck, 'Kabouter' a gnome, 'Sliske' a literally teethless version of Willy Vandersteen's character 'Wiske' ("slissen" is Dutch for "to lisp"), while 'Hund' had a dog as its protagonist.
From then on, Windig and De Jong focused on the coloring of their old black-and-white strips for an upcoming anthology collection. The colored strips also made appearances in the French Disney magazine Picsou (2007) and in the free Dutch newspaper Metro (2010). Although the artists have made no new strips since 2006, they did produce new introduction pages with an 'Oom Wim'-like rabbit for the 'Heinz from H to Z' collection. They also provide the annotations in cooperation with their graphic designer Cyril Koopmeiners. The first book, 'H', was released by Oog & Blik in late 2009 with a foreword by Lambiek's Kees Kousemaker. The following installments had introductions by Joost Swarte ('E', 2010), publisher Hansje Joustra ('I', 2012) and the authors themselves ('N', 2016). A reworked comic story based on the old film script was published under the title 'Heinz de graphic novel' in 2011. New rumors of a 'Heinz' movie have popped up since 2012. A proposed new effort, scripted by Piet Kroon, was successfully funded through CineCrowd in 2015.
Windig and De Jong's collaboration can be called unique. They both write, pencil, ink and color for their productions, and it is indistinguishable who did what. All strips are genuinely collaborative efforts, although there are short periods were one did all the work while the other was on holiday. Windig and De Jong contribute much of their inspiration and zest for work to their large collection of Dolly Parton and Stanley Brothers records, which they played almost non-stop in their studio. Besides hilarious humor and colorful characters, the 'Heinz' strips are filled with inside jokes and childhood nostalgia. The authors regularly refer to stars and comics from their youth, advertisements, literature and other pop culture phenomena.
Several of Windig and De Jong's previous creations made guest appearances in 'Heinz', such as 'Jopie de Visboer', 'Dick Bosch', 'Oom Wim' and 'Theun', and even their pets! In fact, Heinz himself was based on René Windig's housecat, and Frits the cat and Jodocus the tortoise were also actual animals. The duo even played with the newspaper comics format, by having their protagonist visit or comment on the other strips published in the comics section. Certain strips feature 'Heinz' in "borrowed" settings from other comics, such as Marten Toonder's 'Tom Poes' and Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant'. All these references and easter-eggs are meticulously annotated and illustrated in the complete 'Heinz from H to Z' collection.
Their playful humor was unprecedented in The Netherlands. Allthough rooted in the anarchistic underground movement of the 1970s, it also shows a great affection for the mainstream comic heroes from their childhood. The mild blows they deal to other creators' works are never vulgar, but they don't play at safe as well. For that matter, Windig and De Jong's pastiches stand out among the many other comics parodies of the 1980s. The illegal and mostly sex-oriented comic books with Willy Vandersteen's 'Suske en Wiske', Hergé's 'Tintin', Morris' 'Lucky Luke' and Peyo's 'Smurfs' relied heavily on out-of-character behaviour. They showed their subjects in compromising acts, or used them to make a political statement. Windig and De Jong on the other hand exaggerated the already existing characteristics of their subjects. Their 'Oom Wim' is an even more all-knowing bore than the original. Their Donald Duck's temper and bad luck reach even bigger heights and lows than in the Disney comic books, while the bravado of their 'Dick Bosch' is far more over-the-top than Mazure's original.
With their humorous and rebellious nature, Windig and De Jong are two colorful figures in the Amsterdam comics scene. Their studios in the city have been a meeting place for comic artists from around the country. After working in the Warmoesstraat (1984-1991), they set up shop in the Nieuwe Herengracht (1991-2000). Their final studio in the Nieuwe Amstelstraat (2005-2011) also housed an actual Heinz Museum from 2009 to 2011. The museum was a joyful mess and one could stare one's eyes out on the many artefacts and un-commissioned artwork on the walls, as well as their collection of Dolly Parton memorabilia. Windig and De Jong's artwork has been on display on many occasions in Lambiek, the Amsterdam-based comics shop/gallery of their close friend Kees Kousemaker.
After their first exposition, 'The Stupid World of Heinz' in October 1993, they have returned to Gallery Lambiek in September 1999 with 'Proost, Heinz!' ('Here's to you, Heinz!'), in December 2002 with 'Miniatures' and in August-September 2006 with 'The Heinz Empire'. But their connection with Lambiek is more than that. They are regulars at the shop's parties, openings and other gatherings, and they have provided artwork for advertisements, a book token and the old website. For many years, a large scale model of 'Heinz' greeted the customers in front of the old Lambiek store on the Kerkstraat. Kees Kousemaker provided the foreword to the first edition of their 'Heinz van H tot Z' collection, which was presented in Gallery Lambiek by Bindervoet & Henkes in November 2009.
Eddie de Jong nowadays spend large parts of the year in the United States. Windig has moved on to work on personal art projects. He fills sketchbooks and canvases with original artworks inspired by photos, art movements (COBRA, Impressionism), exotic cultures (Africa, Japan, Oceania), nature and the city. Humor is of course still an important aspect of these creations, especially in his mini-paintings and designs of silly birds. Windig's birds have been made into statues by Parastone since 2009. He furthermore plays in the bands De Wilma's and Rootsclub.
In April 2017, René Windig participated in Wasco's art project at the WGKunst Gallery in Amsterdam. He and nine other artists worked side by side, both collectively and solo, on the creation of monsters and other gruesome and weird creatures. The result was several paintings, murals, collage artworks, illustrations and comic strips, which were on exhibit at the gallery afterwards. An overview magazine was published as well. The other participating artists were Ge Wasco, Anne Stalinski, Jeroen Funke, Merel Barends, Tommy A, Peter de Wit, Dace Sietina, Lae Schäfer and Eliane Gerrits.
Windig's homage to George Herriman
Windig and De Jong were awarded a Stripschap Penny for their book 'Fnirwak' in 1984, but sold the thing at the same convention so they could pay for their train tickets back home. The duo received the Stripschapprijs for their entire oeuvre in 1991, and the NZH Comics Prize for their book 'De Groote Dick Bosch Almanak' in 1992. Windig and De Jong have left a lastig mark on the next generation of Dutch gag strip artists. Their typical humor can be traced back in popular strips like 'Dirk Jan' by Mark Retera and 'Beestjes' by Schwantz. They have also influenced the work of Luc Cromheecke, Jean-Marc van Tol, Jean-Paul Arends, Hallie Lama, Ruben Libgott, Patrice van der Linden, ckoe and the Lamelos collective.