Sigmund by Peter de Wit

Peter de Wit is one of the most succesful comic artists in the Netherlands. He is best known for his humor comics, such as the dysfunctional family 'De Familie Fortuin' (1985-1998) and his signature series 'Sigmund' (1993-   ) about a cynical psychiatrist. A spin-off to 'Sigmund', the 'Burka Babes' (2005), became an unexpected international success in translation. De Wit is well known for his creative partnership with Hanco Kolk. They co-founded the publishing company De Plaatjesmaker and made several humor comics together, usually with De Wit being co-scriptwriter while Kolk draws. Among their classics have been the historical adventure comic 'Gilles de Geus' (1983-2003), the photo comic 'Mannetje en Mannetje' (1988-1995), the riddle comic 'Inspecteur Netjes' (1989-1999) and the newspaper comic 'S1ngle' (2000-   ), about three young women looking for the perfect partner. 'Mannetje en Mannetje' and 'S1ngle' have also been adapted into TV series. 

Early life and career
Peter de Wit was born in 1958 in Beverwijk, near Heemskerk. His father was a cattle farmer who was also active in gardening. The family later moved to Assendelft, in the Zaan region. De Wit grew up reading magazines like Sjors, Robbedoes, Stripschrift and Vivo Magazine, which ran Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant'. At school he caricatured teachers, much to their disapproval. At home he drew comics. By the time he was 14 he was certain he wanted to become a cartoonist. Nevertheless he went on to study Finnish and Hungarian at the University of Groningen, but dropped out after only three weeks because he realized he was only kidding himself: cartooning was his one and only goal. Among his graphic influences were Mort Walker ('Beetle Bailey'), Gordon Bess ('Redeye'), Brant Parker ('The Wizard of Id') and the work of Morris, Willy Vandersteen, Bob de Moor, Virgil Partch and Tex Avery.

Cover illustration for Striprofiel.

In 1973 De Wit and his friend Gerard Aartsen started out editing and publishing the fanzine Striprofiel. De Wit focused on drawing, lay-out and lettering, while Aartsen was good in writing and taking initiative. Thanks to him, he and De Wit actually managed to go to Brussels where they interviewed Bob de Moor and met Hergé, which left a lasting impression. The editorial team of Striprofiel was eventually reinforced by Maarten de Meulder, who continued Striprofiel as a more professional comics news magazine until 1987. Other contributors were comic experts like Ger Apeldoorn, Har Brok, Jek Lampers, Ernst Pommerel, Meerten Welleman and Rudy Vrooman. Thanks to Striprofiel, De Wit actually learned more about how comic magazines are made. At age 17 his first comic strip, 'Jochem' (1975), ran in the free local paper De Kennemer. One of his first jobs was at Richards Studio in Amsterdam as a comic letterer. Under supervision of Richard Pakker, the studio provided the lettering for all the comic magazines published by Oberon.

Stampede by Peter de Wit

Stampede! (De Cowboys)
In 1979 De Wit began his collaboration with the publishing house Oberon. When he tried to plug a humor comic, nobody was interested. But Eppo magazine was looking for a western-themed gag strip, so De Wit instantly grabbed the opportunity. Inspired by the TV series 'Rawhide', he made a humorous cowboy comic which debuted in issue #34 (24 August 1979) of Eppo under the title 'Stampede!', but was rebaptized as 'De Cowboys' when reprints appeared in Minnetoe, the comics supplement of newspaper Het Nieuws van de Dag. When Eppo (by then retitled Sjosji) reprinted old 'Stampede!' episodes in the 1990s, the new title 'De Cowboys' was used as well. The comic strip features three cowboys in three-panel gags and/or self-contained short stories. Their nameless leader, who is always named "Voorman" by the others, is short-sized and buck-toothed. Scout is an arrogant, moustached, long-haired tall man, somewhat modelled after Buffalo Bill, whose eyes are always covered by his green hat. The long-necked and utterly stupid Banjo completes the team. Stylistically the series echoes the influence of Mort Walker's 'Beetle Bailey' and Gordon Bess 'Redeye'. From Eppo issue #17 (27 April 1983) on, 'De Cowboys' added small filler comics at the bottom of each page. These ran under titles like 'De Vrolijke Barkeeper', 'Doc Holiday', 'Pokerface' and 'Kleine Hihahoeha'. 'Stampede!' was eventually discontinued when Eppo got a new chief editor who disliked the comic and terminated it there and then.

Redactiestripje by Peter de Wit
'Intussen Op De Redactie...' ('De Chef'/'Redactiestripje'). Translation: "You know what irritates me as a comic artist, chef?" - "Well?" - "That people in interviews always ask me: can you earn a living with that? I make professional comics for over 15 years now!" - "What interviews?" - "Yes, that irritates me too." 

In 1980 De Wit launched another small filler comic in Eppo, initially titleless but later labelled 'Redactiestripje' (literally, "the little editorial strip"). Originally Wilbert Plijnaar and Uco Egmond also made gags, but eventually De Wit was the sole artist. 'Redactiestripje' deals with the trials and tribulations of an editorial board who try to run a comic magazine. The editor-in-chief, Chef, is an authoritarian egomaniac. His subordinate, Frits, is the far smarter straight guy. Comparisons with André Franquin's 'Gaston' were unavoidable, though there are certain differences. 'Redactiestripje' was printed in a small-size, black-and-white, four-page newspaper comic format. Rather than just focus on loose gags on the work floor, it directly satirizes the entire comic industry, from cartoonists, editors, publishers, readers, critics, collectors to award shows. It obviously spoofed Eppo itself, especially Frits, who was a caricature of editor-in-chief Frits van der Heide. De Wit also gave himself and other famous faces in the Dutch comic industry cameos. 'Redactiestripje' ran in Eppo's readers' section until 1983, and continued in the magazine as it respectively changed its name from 1985 on in Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad, Sjosji and Striparazzi. Since its satire could be enjoyed without knowledge of Eppo, 'Redactiestripje' also ran in other magazines. Under the title 'Intussen In De Studio' it could be read in AVRO Wordt Vervolgd Clubblad, while it also appeared in the bi-monthly comics news magazine Zozolala from December 1999 until October 2011.

Beertje Sebastiaan
For a while in 1982-1983, Peter de Wit's appearances on Eppo's editorial pages were more sporadic. He had joined Wilbert Plijnaar and model maker Lucas van Doorn in the creation of Studio Funny Pictures, housed in the Rotterdam atelier of designer Patrick Wessels. The team got the assignment to develop animated shorts with the circus bear 'Beertje Sebastiaan'. The project was an idea of Martin Lodewijk and the journalist Robert Kopuit, and  destined to become the first Dutch international animated feature film. The project was however shelved, and all that remained were partial storyboards. Other artists involved in the production were Björn Frank Jensen, Rudy Hulleman, Rob Phielix and Kees de Boer. An animated film, 'Beertje Sebastiaan: De Geheime Opdracht' (1991), was eventually produced by director Frank Fehmers, writer Richard Felgate and a team of Chinese animators, but other than the name had nothing to do with De Wit and Plijnaar's project. On the side, Studio Funny Pictures also did advertising assignments, as well as occasional short stories for Eppo. By 1984 both De Wit and Plijnaar were however back at full speed at Eppo.

Victor Vrolijk
In Eppo issue #13 (1 April 1985) De Wit launched 'Victor Vrolijk', which ran on an irregular basis until 1988. The series revolves around a happy stand-up comedian who constantly tells jokes. The jokes were all sent in by readers, while Victor basically just tells them in lengthy speech balloons.

De Familie Fortuin by Peter de Wit
'De Familie Fortuin'.

De Familie Fortuin
In 1985 Eppo changed its name and became a vehicle to promote the Dutch comics information TV show 'Wordt Vervolgd' for three years, under the title Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd. In the very first issue, from 23 August 1985, scriptwriter Ruud Straatman and artist Peter de Wit launched a long-running comic series which would become De Wit's breakthrough: 'De Familie Fortuin' (1985-1998). The Fortuin family are a bunch of marginals whose dubious activities irritate and/or terrorize their neighbourhood. The initial idea came from the scriptwriter Jan van Die, who knew a certain family in Amsterdam, the Cohens, who had 12 children and whose father was such an efficient salesman "that he was able to sell the very TV set we were watching." Van Die assured that the Cohens were actually very nice people compared with the comic characters.

'De Familie Fortuin' (Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd #2, 9 January 1987).

Jan Fortuin is the grudgy, unshaven, cigar-smoking father. Although he lacks a job, he is always looking for some get-rich-quick-scheme, usually of the criminal kind. His long-suffering wife Mien is far cleverder than him. Jan and Mien have one daughter, Loesje, though she was named "Trutjehoela" (a vulgar name to address women in Dutch) for a while due to a deliberate mistake at the population register. The Fortuins also have several sons, though how many is difficult to tell, especially since they all look alike, except for different heights. They are all juvenile delinquents who constantly insult their parents, torment other kids, steal and vandalize. The little brats frequently threaten Meester van Die (a caricature of Jan van Die) and blow up his school, leaving him wounded behind. Fortuin's mother, Opoe, is still alive but barely conscious of her surroundings. Most of the time she is seated in a wheelchair and treated as part of the furniture. Some side characters were references to people of the editorial board, such as Frispeer's chef Juffrouw Oosterknerp (based on chief editor Marjolein Westerterp) and the seedy crook Harry Rotsnor (based on chief editor Peter van Leersum).

Jan Fortuin first meets Aloysius Frispeer (Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd #1, 23 August 1985).

In the pilot episode a character named Aloysius Frispeer checks the state of a building next to Jan Fortuin's home, but through Fortuin's wicked ploys he is unwillingly forced to stay there and become his long-suffering neighbour. Frispeer is an arrogant snob who is annoyed that Jan often mispronounces his name, steals his stuff and invades his place. His naïve and nerdy son Dirk-Jan is a constant gullible victim of Fortuin's streetwise kids. Suffice to say that Frispeer hates the Fortuins with a passion. He frequently insults them, but his curse words are often censored in the speech balloons. Most episodes feature him trying to disgrace the Fortuins, get them arrested or motivate them to move out. While he is usually the buttmonkey, there are some episodes where he triumphs over them. A large part of the comedy is the language. The Fortuins all talk in thieves' slang ("Bargoens") and make frequent spelling and pronunciation errors.

Ruud Straatman wrote the scripts duing the first five years. In 1990 he left, taking Frispeer with him, since he owned the rights to the character. De Wit continued the series by penning his own stories, which were by then published in Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad. The focus shifted to the family dealing with landlords, policemen, a French au-pair and their untrustworthy criminal friends. De Wit's assistant was Mars Gremmen, who also drew the final two episodes in 1998 on his own.

Broer en Zus, by Peter de Wit (1989)
'Broer en Zus' (1989). Translation: "That's quick. I already feel something. Silly, that's not your hand, that's a foot." - Answer: "B-but that's not me!" HELP, DAD! There's a strange foot underneath the sand!" 

Minor comics for other magazines
In addition to his work for the Oberon magazines, De Wit made comics for the Malmberg school magazines during the 1980s and 1990s. 'Broer en Zus' was published in Okki, while Taptoe originally published 'Kitty en Koen', a gag strip about a boy and a girl. Years later, De Wit subsequently contributed some editorial strips of two panels each to Taptoe's mail page. The first was 'Huis en Tuin', about a talking house and tree, and it was followed by 'Woef en Wimpie', about a dog and his boy owner. In the more alternative comics monthly Titanic, aimed at an adult audience, he published his comics feature 'Burgerman' (1984-1985), about a dull and spineless little man, whose wild plans and ambitions are constantly undermined by his dominant and corpulent wife.

Woef en Wimpie by Peter de Wit
'Woef en Wimpie'. Translation: "Woef, I'm going to school and you're not, so you'll stay stupid, understand?"  A dog then brings Woef a copy of the Encyclopaedia Barkannica. 

Hanco Kolk
Since 1985 Peter de Wit is often named in the same breath as Hanco Kolk, with whom he has made several humor comics together since they first met at Eppo. They have praised their friendship and collaboration as being two minds of the same kind. In most cases De Wit co-writes gags while Kolk provides the artwork, 'Mannetje & Mannetje' being the sole exception. Through frequent media appearances the duo have become among the most recognizable cartoonists in the Netherlands. Their collaboration increased when Hanco Kolk joined De Wit in his house studio at the De Wittenkade in Amsterdam. The duo also launched their own publishing label, De Plaatjesmaker, through which they published new albums of their signature series 'Gilles de Geus', but also a collection of mini comics by various artists, called the Pincet series.

Gilles de Geus
Kolk and De Wit's first joint production was the short story 'Dennis De Wonderhond', which appeared in Eppo #20 (21 May 1982) and was made in collaboration with Gleever. Their combined forces truly came to fruition with the historical adventure series 'Gilles de Geus', set during the 16th century, at the height of the Eighty Years' War with Spain. Hanco Kolk had begun the series on his own, aided for the initial scripts by Wilbert Plijnaar. The first short story was published in Eppo issue #2 (14 January 1983). Originally, Gilles was a highwayman who tries to rob people without much success in short stories of two to four pages in length. One night Kolk and De Wit hit the pubs, when they discussed the series. De Wit felt that these slapstick stories were too limited. He literally told Kolk that he "had a goldmine in his hands: a comic strip about the Eighty Years' War, but you don't do anything with it." De Wit therefore took over as co-writer. Gilles lost his buffoonish behaviour and became more heroic. The creators gave him a best friend: Leo the muscular sailor. Despite being very strong, his vocabulary rarely rises above anything but the word "Hee..." ("Hey"). The stories now became full-length adventures about his activities as a soldier in William of Orange 's resistance army fighting the Spanish armies led by the Duke of Alba. Kolk and De Wit used other historical characters too. Dutch inventor Cornelis Drebbel was cast as a mad scientist, while Willem van der Marck, A.K.A. Admiral Lumey, turned into a dumb, itchy, self-important, dwarf-sized loser who provides most of the laughs.

'Gilles de Geus'. 

In terms of historical drama, De Wit and Kolk modelled 'Gilles de Geus' after Willy Vandersteen's 'De Rode Ridder'. Though the comedy was obviously inspired by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix'. Both comics are set during an important period in national history. Both feature local resistance against foreign oppressors. And both make use of puns, historical-cultural references and nods to contemporary society. The fan favorite album 'De Revue', in which Gilles travels to certain locations in the Netherlands, is a homage to the 'Asterix' story 'Le Tour de Gaule' (in English: 'Asterix and the Banquet'). Kolk and De Wit once even directly spoofed the opening of every 'Astérix' story, with the giant magnifying glass on the map setting a village on fire in what turns out to be a nightmare sequence. However, there are differences too. 'Gilles de Geus' sometimes pushes anachronistic jokes into the absurd, with, for instance, nosy artists who try to sketch prince William the Silent, much like modern-day paparazzi try to snap pictures. Gilles and his friends have even used time travel in certain stories.

'Gilles de Geus' was a critical and commercial success and grew into one of the all-time classics of Dutch comics. Oberon released the first three albums between 1985 and 1987. In 1988 Kolk and De Wit established their own publishing company, De Plaatjesmaker, to release all subsequent albums and reprints. In 1996 'Gilles de Geus' was published by Arboris and from 1999 on by Silvester. In total nine albums have been published, the final one in 2003. Since the final two albums were not serialized in a magazine, their production was funded through an early form of crowdfunding, initiated by publisher Silvester in Den Bosch. A new attempt at crowdfunding in 2014 failed to get enough money for a new story. The series has also been translated in English ('Bryant the Brigand') and Spanish ('Tristán el salteador', running in the magazines Ohe and Fuera Boda). The first volume of the complete 'Gilles de Geus' was published by Matsuoka in April 2020.

Mannetje & Mannetje by Peter de Wit
'Mannetje & Mannetje'.

Mannetje en Mannetje
Kolk and De Wit continued their comics collaborations in Eppo (and its retitled incarnations Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd, Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad, SjoSji) throughout the late 1980s and the 1990s. They sometimes performed in theater shows, where the duo played David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, although most of their sketches were set in restaurants or at the doctor's place. Kolk and De Wit reused these characters but under the more vague descriptions "Mannetje en Mannetje" ("Little Man and Little Man") and introduced them to readers in the first issue of Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad on 19 February 1988. The two sympathetic but somewhat clumsy chaps live out awkward situations in a series of sequential photos where the backgrounds are typically drawn around them, as are the onomatopeia and movement lines. Most episodes were black-and-white photographs, made in the studio of Nick van Ormondt, but in the final episodes colour was used. 'Mannetje & Mannetje' survived Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad's name change in 1994 as Sjosji and new episodes ran until the penultimate issue of 1995, on 15 December. 'Mannetje en Mannetje' also ran in English translation in the comedy magazine The Truth as 'Jones and Jones'. Colleagues Aloys Oosterwijk, Kees de Boer, Wilbert Plijnaar and Eric Heuvel made guest appearances in the episodes.

'Mannetje en Mannetje' (Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad #15, 5-17 September 1988). Translation: "I assume this is the first time you ever attended a ballet, isn't it, Little Men?" 

Between 7 October 1990 and 10 May 1994 'Mannetje & Mannetje' was broadcast as a pixilation animated TV series on VPRO television during the Sunday morning children's hour on a two-weekly basis. Kolk and de Wit played themselves, while actresses Myrte van Heusden and Claudia Dijkstra portrayed the female roles. Again, Aloys Oosterwijk had occasional side roles. The episodes were produced by Comic House, and marked one of the first times that computer techniques were used in Dutch animation. One of the people who worked as an animator on the series was Metin Seven

First episode of 'Inspecteur Netjes' (Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad #6, 1989), by then still drawn by Peter de Wit.

Inspecteur Netjes
De Wit also worked with Hanco Kolk on the riddle comic 'Inspecteur Netjes', which debuted in Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad on 1 April 1989. The inspector, modelled after Humphrey Bogart, introduced a mystery presented on one full page. Readers could find out the solution by paging further through the magazine to a follow-up page, where Netjes explained everything. The first three episodes were drawn by De Wit, but after that Kolk took over, using his more linear drawing style. In 1992 De Wit left the series altogether, but Kolk continued it on his own until the final issue of the magazine in April 1999, by now a monthly titled Striparazzi. 'Inspecteur Netjes' was reprised by Kolk in Veronica Magazine between 2002 and 2004.

Laat Maar Zitten
For VARA TV Magazine, Kolk and De Wit additionally made the comics adaptation of the television comedy 'Laat Maar Zitten' in 1992. The series was a Dutch adaptation of the British sitcom 'Porridge', and centered around the inmates of a prison. The Dutch TV episodes were scripted by Ger Apeldoorn and Harm Edens, and had Johnny Kraaijkamp Sr. in one of the most prominent roles.

Promo for the Teleac series from Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad #2, 1993.

Teleac: 'Strip & Cartoon Tekenen'
Thanks to their appearances in the photo comic 'Mannetje & Mannetje' and its animated TV adaptation, Kolk and De Wit became very recognizable to mainstream audiences. Their notability increased when they hosted a docu TV series on Teleac, which specializes in educational programming for adults. Their series, 'Strip & Cartoon Tekenen', was broadcast in eight episodes between 24 January and 18 March 1993. Kolk and De Wit explained how to draw characters, motions, backgrounds, compositions and how to write stories. In between they played comedic skits in the studio, intercut with footage where Monique Hagen interviewed famous cartoonists about their profession. Among the legends brought in front of the camera were Gerrit de Jager, Albert Uderzo, Ed van Schuijlenburg, François Walthéry, Henk Kuijpers, Theo van den Boogaard, Wilbert Plijnaar, colorist Wilma Leenders and Martin Lodewijk. Teleac also made 'Strip & Cartoon Tekenen' available on video and as a guidebook, authored by Frans Le Roux and Jesse van Muylwijck. The series drew high ratings and has frequently been repeated on Dutch television in later years.

Sigmund by Peter de Wit
'Sigmund' (22 March 1999). Translation: "Good morning without worries, doctor." Answer: "Yes, good day with a smile." 

De Wit's most famous creation is 'Sigmund' (1993-   ), a gag-a-day comic about a psychiatrist. He thought the character up when he felt really down. To cope with his bad feelings he doodled a throwaway gag about a psychiatrist murdering his patient once he enters the door. As mean-spirited as the idea was, it actually made De Wit laugh and he started developing a real gag comic around it. Sigmund, obviously named and somewhat modelled after Sigmund Freud, is a pint-sized psychiatrist with a missing eye. He hates his job and is fed up with his nagging patients. Most of the time he provides arrogant, cynical comments about their problems. Though, just as often they have a snappy comeback. Even when Sigmund actually tries to analyze their mental problems and provide solutions it only shows off his incompetence and lack of empathy. Or the patients simply misunderstand him. While 'Sigmund' sometimes has recurring characters, most are nameless. A running gag is that Sigmund sometimes tries to pick up women in a bar, but fails. 

Early 'Sigmund' strip, which was actually featured in one of the Teleac episodes. Translation: "Sometimes I lie in bed for days. I don't notice time passing by. All I do is lie on my back, staring at the ceiling." Answer: "Yes, that's what you told me by phone. I consulted a few reference books. There's a name for what you have: vacation." 

The first sample strips appeared in the second issue of the small press comic magazine Razzafrazz of October 1992. While the character, concept and style were already there, De Wit was still looking for a good title and named the comic 'Mensch, durf te leeven' ("Human, dare to live"), after the 1918 feel good song by Jean-Louis Pisuisse. General audiences first saw 'Sigmund' in a 1993 episode of the TV course 'Strip & Cartoon Tekenen'. When the comic made its mainstream debut, it initially appeared in the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws as 'Mijnheerke Psi' (1993). Yet its readers considered it too cynical and after two-and-a-half months it was dropped and moved to another paper, De Morgen, where it found a more receptive audience under the new title 'Sigmund'. De Wit always wanted his comic to appear in De Volkskrant, because it was a very serious paper in need of a good laugh. He actually used his rejection letter from Het Laatste Nieuws to promote 'Sigmund' in De Volkskrant: "The Belgians consider it cynical and nasty, isn't that something for you?" To his surprise the editors finally agreed and first published it on 2 January 1994. Yet once again, readers complained about it. After six months De Wit received another half year to remodel the format somewhat.

De Wit, who had interviewed his hero Mort Walker for Eppo in issue #3 (16 January 1987) and kept correspondence with him, wrote the maestro a letter for help. Walker sent him feedback with 25 essential criteria for a good daily cartoon strip, which proved that 'Sigmund' only met two of them. He adviced to let Sigmund leave his office more often, which would open more creative possibilities. De Wit finally knew what to do and his daily comic rose in popularity. To this day it still appears in De Volkskrant as its home comic strip. 'Sigmund' also runs in Het Parool while older episodes appear color in Eppo since 2009. Book collections of 'Sigmund' have been published by De Plaatjesmaker from 1994 to 1997, and then by De Harmonie since 1994. De Wit's son Tex later also helped him out with some of the gags. 'Sigmund' has been translated in Finnish, Thai and Malaysian.

Translation: "Doctor, I'm unhappy." Answer: "BE HAPPY THEN!". -"Doctor, I'm lonely." Answer: "DON'T BE LONELY THEN! ... Jesus, I'm good." 

In nearly four decades' time, 'Sigmund' has only been victim of censorship once, in 1994. The editors objected to a gag in which a woman complains that her husband has a secret lover, whereupon Sigmund demands that she explains everything in "football language". De Wit managed to make them change their mind and got the episode published. As inspiration for his comics, De Wit not only reads many professional magazines about psychology and self-help, but also regular human interest magazines, especially for women. He also visits congresses for psychologists and psychiatrists, even signing his books during these events. Much to his delight he discovered that quite some real-life psychologists and psychiatrists are fans. Some use gags during lectures, others keep 'Sigmund' books in their waiting rooms. Some have even paid him a huge compliment by asking him whether he "actually is a psychologist?"

During the Cartoonreference in December 1994, Peter de Wit has also performed 'Sigmund' on stage. However, because audiences are unpredictable in their reactions, he discontinued it after a few gigs. Still, De Wit has continued his signature series for almost 30 years now because he feels he can express all his own frustrations, anxieties and problems in it.

Burka Babes by Peter de Wit
'Burka Babes'. Translation: "Soon the burqa will be banned and then we'll be allowed to walk around looking that sexy too." 

Burka Babes
De Wit once spotted a pair of women dressed in burkas in a local supermarket. The strange image intrigued him. He used the round, black tampon-like shapes, reminiscent of Dick Bruna's children's books, to portray a group of Muslim women dressed in burkas who always carry grocery bags. The characters debuted in 'Sigmund' around 2005. Much of the comedy is derived from the fact that they all look identical, while readers never know what they look like underneath their pitch black dresses? Right from the start, 'Burka Babes' met with controversy, because some felt it ridiculed islam, Arab culture and/or women. However the strips are never stigmatic or vicious. At the same time the characters were very popular with readers too. So much in fact that it became a spin-off, which even eclipsed 'Sigmund' in foreign popularity, finding an international audience among English, French, Spanish, Italian and Czech readers. Nevertheless, De Wit discontinued the series after a few years because he grew tired of it.

Vader en Dochter by Peter de Wit
'Vader & Dochter'. Translation: "What's your problem?" - "Sometimes it's so difficult that mum has died. You're sweet, dad, but there are things a woman can only discuss with another woman." - "Like what?" - "Men." 

Het Mooiste Vak ter Wereld
De Wit additionally made 'Het Mooiste Vak ter Wereld', about a high school teacher, Frans, and his frustrated attempts to deal with pupils, parents and his colleagues. The gag comic ran in the early 1990s in magazine Van 12 tot 18, a specialist journal for secondary education. In 1999 a compilation album was published by Bert Meppelink, with a foreword by TV host Jack Spijkerman.

Vader en Dochter
Through his agent Comic House, De Wit was assigned to create a gag comic for the Tros magazine Mikrogids, which became 'Vader & Dochter (1999-2003), about a single father and his teenage daughter.

On 29 September 2000 a new newspaper comic by Kolk and De Wit, 'S1ngle', debuted in Het Parool. The gag-a-day comic stars three single ladies who work as nurses in a hospital. Many episodes deal with their frustrating experiences with male partners, as well as the contrast between their personalities. Fatima Prins is a multiracial girl, whose father is Moroccan. She is the dreamy type and somewhat naïve at times. Recurring gags feature her philosophising about love from the comfort of her lazy chair. At home she visits dating sites, but only her mother ever seems to respond to her comments. Nienke Meppelink is the largest of the three and wears spectacles. Due to her chubby posture and blunt, no-nonsense attitude she can be quite intimidating. Several gags feature her phoning her mother, whom she never ceases to blame for all of her problems. Another running gag is her grumpiness whenever she is on her period. Many people are scared to death during her time of the month and refuse to be in her presence. Stella Deporter, the black-haired smoker of the three, is the stereotypical man-eater. She's had so many partners that her friends occasionally find out they're dating one of her numerous ex one-night stands. The only thing to shake off Stella's arrogance is when people guess her correct age.

'S1ngle' also has a few side characters. Fatima often has to deal with a nagging hospital patient, Mr. Kwadijk, with whom she frequently exchanges insults and waspish remarks. The bearded Dr. Van Swieten, while in charge, is cynical about his job. He often tries to score with women, but fails every time. Plastic surgeon Bernard is a big-chinned, moustache-wearing macho, whose sexist remarks and jokes aren't always appreciated by his nurses. Naturally Van Swieten and Bernard get along fine. In 2013 a reader's poll was held to introduce a fourth female protagonist to the series: Floor, a single mother who considers herself far more important than she really is.

'S1ngle' marked the first time Kolk used his more linear drawing style for a commercial comic strip. A huge part of its appeal is the way he portrays people with only a few carefully chosen elegant lines. In an interview he stated that he loves drawing women, but wants to make them more than just pin-ups. Therefore he portrays them doing everyday activities and occasionally pulling grotesque facial expressions to make them feel like real people. During the early years the series appeared in black-and-white, but halfway the 2000s Kolk started colourizing the series, influenced by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder's similar soft-painted panels in 'Little Annie Fanny'.

The series is published in 15 other national and regional papers too, including Algemeen Dagblad, De Leeuwarder Courant, Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant and De Gelderlander. In Flanders, Belgium, episodes ran in De Gazet van Antwerpen and, for a few years, in Humo magazine. 'S1ngle' has known an uninterrupted run, except for three months in 2011 when Kolk was hospitalized. In 2003 Kolk and De Wit sued a lifestyle monthly with the same title for unfair copyright infringement. They won their case. 'S1ngle' has also been adapted into a successful TV series, starring Bracha van Doesburgh (Fatima), Eva van der Gucht (Nienke) and Katja Schuurman (Stella), of which three seasons were broadcast by NET5 from 2008 to 2010. Other than prereading the scripts, Kolk and De Wit had no creative involvement. The series subsequently appeared on German and Hungarian television.

'Het Lege Nest'.

Het Lege Nest
By the late 2000s, De Wit's children had grown into adults and lived on their own. Like most parents he suffered from the "empty nest syndrome", a certain melancholia that his children were no longer living in the same house. Although he was fully aware that these feelings were normal, he still wanted to express them in a comic strip. This became 'Het Lege Nest' (2011), his first full-length graphic novel. De Wit uses an alter ego, Ben, who also feels bad about his young adult children leaving the parental home. Suddenly life has lost all meaning to him. To deal with his depressions, Ben goes into therapy. De Wit originally wanted to use a different therapist than his comedic character Sigmund, but eventually he decided to use him anyway. Nevertheless Sigmund actually gives competent advice this time, all things De Wit read about in real psychological books.

'Het Lege Nest' is notable as De Wit's first serious work. The tone is more melancholic and didactic than fans are used to. Still, it's not a depressing book either. He kept his trademark cartoony style and there is room for occasional situational comedy. De Wit also kept a light-hearted tone by putting smiles on all the background characters. 'Het Lege Nest' also marked the first time De Wit tried to draw, rather than just script, a longer story. He admitted that he preferred making short comics.

'Leren Signeren'.

Books about the comics profession
In 2019 De Wit made 'Leren Signeren' (Concertobooks, 2019), a how-to guide on how writers and artists can have the most enjoyable signing sessions. It sheds light on what to wear, how to deal with tough customers, etc, of course presented with De Wit's trademark dry humor and irony. In 2019, De Wit also wrote and compiled a monography about his mentor Wilbert Plijnaar, one of the creative forces behind Eppo and later a story artist for many major Hollywood productions. The extensive hardcover book 'Wilbert Plijnaar - Rotterdammer in Hollywood' (2019) presents an overview about Plijnaar's lengthy career in the comics and animation industries, with testimonials by his close colleagues and pupils. It was self-published by De Wit under the Placebo Pers imprint.

Graphic contributions
In April 2017, Peter de Wit 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 were 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, René Windig, Dace Sietina, Lae Schäfer and Eliane Gerrits. The same year he also paid homage to André Franquin's 'Gaston Lagaffe' in the collective tribute album 'Gefeliciflaterd!' (2017). In 2020 he joined 75 Dutch & Flemish comic artists to make a graphic contribution to the free collective comic book ‘Striphelden versus Corona’ (Oogachtend, Uitgeverij L, 2020). The book is intended to support comics stores who had to close their doors for two months during the lockdown at the height of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. 

Studio De Wittenkade
From the mid-1980s until 2007, Peter de Wit worked from his house atelier at the De Wittenkade in Amsterdam. Throughout the years, several other artists have joined him at "Studio De Wittenkade", including Hanco Kolk, Aloys Oosterwijk, Ben Westervoorde, Floris Oudshoorn and Michiel de Jong. In 2007 De Wit and Westervoorde cooperated on the daily rebus feature 'Rebuzz' for newspaper AD (Algemeen Dagblad). Peter de Wit now works from in the centre of Amsterdam, where he shares an atelier with a stamp maker, photographer and designer. 

Flyer for Peter de Wit's exposition at Gallery Lambiek from 15 March 2002 on. 

In 1994 De Wit won the Stripschapspenning, followed by the NZH-prijs (1995) a year later. During the Stripdagen of 9-10 October 1999, he also received the Stripschapprijs, the most prestigious Dutch comics award, awarded annually by comics appreciation society Het Stripschap. The book 'Sigmund Eerste Sessie' won the 1995 VSB Publieksprijs, awarded on 7 June 1996. In 2008, Kolk and De Wit also won de Hoogste Prijs, intended to promote Dutch comics, from the broadcasting organization VPRO. The two authors felt the low amount of money that came with the prize (1250 euros) torpedoed these good intentions, and refused to accept it.

In March and April 2002, there was an exposition of his work in Gallery Lambiek. A special album celebrating Peter de Wit's 25 year-career in comics was released in the Strip Comic Week in 2004. Sigmund's fifteenth anniversary was celebrated in 2009 with a special exposition called 'Nederland volgens Sigmund' in the Stripmuseum Groningen, which presented the changes in Dutch society through 'Sigmund' episodes. It was the most successful exposition in the museum until then.

In 1986 Peter Visser and Carol van Dijk recorded a song about 'Gilles de Geus' for a fan club of the series. Visser and Van Dijk would later become famous as the rock band Bettie Serveert. Since 2003 a street in the comic heroes district of the city Almere has been named after Kolk and De Wit's character Gilles de Geus. A park in the same city, the Sigmundplantsoen, has been after de Wit's character Sigmund.

Peter de Wit is the father of comedian Tex de Wit (1986), one of the regular writers and co-hosts of the satirical TV show 'Zondag met Lubach' since 2014, and one of the writers/performers in the TV sketch show 'Klikbeet' (2017). Peter de Wit named his son after Tex Avery.

Stampede by Peter de Wit
De Wit's portfolio at ComicHouse

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