Peter de Wit is one of the most successful comic artists in the Netherlands. He made his name in the Dutch comics magazines of the 1980s and is the (co-)creator of two of the most widely read Dutch newspaper comics: 'Sigmund' and 'S1NGLE'. Born in Beverwijk, Peter de Wit decided he wanted to become a cartoonist at the age of 14. He grew up reading magazines like Sjors, Robbedoes, Stripschrift and Vivo Magazine, which ran Hal Foster's 'Prince Valiant'. He started out by editing and publishing the comics information magazine Striprofiel together with his friend Gerard Aartsen in Assendelft in 1973. At the age of 15, De Wit and Aartsen headed for Brussels to interview Bob de Moor. Their meeting with Hergé during this visit left a lasting impression on De Wit. The editorial team of Striprofiel was eventually reinforced by Maarten de Meulder, who continued it as its main editor until 1987. Other contributors were comic experts like Ger Apeldoorn, Har Brok, Jek Lampers, Ernst Pommerel, Meerten Welleman and Rudy Vrooman.
As a comic artist, De Wit made his debut at age 17 with the strip 'Jochem' in the free local paper De Kennemer. Peter went to study Finnish languages, but eventually cancelled his studies to become a professional comic artist. He found employment with the Richards Studio in Amsterdam as a comics letterer.
He began his collaboration with the publishing house Oberon in 1979, and continued to draw for Eppo magazine and its subsequent incarnations Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad, Sjosji and Striparazzi until the late 1990s. He started out with the funny western comic strip 'Stampede!', which he drew between 1979 and 1983. This was retitled to 'De Cowboys' in the late 1980s, when the strip was reprinted in the Minetoe comics supplement of newspaper Het Nieuws van de Dag. Under this title, the strip also returned in Sjosji in the 1990s. This strip clearly shows the main influences on De Wit's humor and drawing style: American newspaper comics, and especially 'The Wizard of Id' by Brant Parker, 'Redeye' by Gordon Bess, 'Beetle Bailey' by Mort Walker and the work of Virgil Partch.
In addition, Peter created a great many other (western) strips for Eppo as a filler for editorial pages, such as 'Kleine Hihahoeha'. De Wit also made a comic about the activities at the editorial offices of Eppo, initially in alternation with Wilbert Plijnaar and Uco Egmond. De Wit's 'Redactiestripje', as it was eventually labelled, appeared in Eppo from 1980 to 1983, and was later continued in AVRO Wordt Vervolgd Clubblad (called 'Intussen in de Studio'), Sjors & Sjimmie Stripblad, Sjosji, Striparazzi and eventually in the comics information magazine Zozolala until 2011. His breakthrough was 'De Familie Fortuin', a comic about a dysfunctional family, created by editor Jan van Die in 1985. Ruud Straatman wrote the scripts until 1990, and then Peter did both artwork and scripts until 1998. Also for Eppo/Wordt Vervolgd, he made a comic called 'Victor Vrolijk' from 1985 to 1988.
In addition to his work for the Oberon magazines, De Wit made several comics for the Malmberg school magazines. 'Broer en zus' was published in Okki, while Taptoe subsequently published 'Kitty en Koen', 'Huis en Tuin' and 'Woef en Wimpie', the latter two as editorial strips. In the adult-oriented comics magazine, he published his comics feature 'Burgerman' from 1984. Through his agent Comic House, he was also assigned to create a comic strip for the Tros magazine Mikrogids, which became 'Vader & Dochter', about a single father and his teenage daughter. It ran for four years, until 2003. De Wit additionally made 'Het Mooiste Vak ter Wereld', a comic about a teacher in French languages for Van 12 Tot 18, a specialist journal for secondary education.
Broer en Zus (1989)
He began his long-term and fruitful collaboration with Hanco Kolk in 1985. Together, they started writing the scripts for 'Gilles de Geus' ('Bryant the Brigand'), a series about a 17th century highwayman which was created and drawn by Kolk in short stories since 1983. De Wit and Kolk turned it into an adventure series however, making the character one of the soldiers of William of Orange in the battle against the Spanish oppressor during the Dutch Eighty Years' War. 'Gilles de Geus' is often referred to as the Dutch answer to René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix'. Both comics are set during an important period in local history and contain hilarious comedy, as well as nods to our present age and several double layers. The first album was released by Oberon in 1985 and the subsequent albums and reprints were published by De Plaatjesmaker (1988), Arboris (1996) and Silvester (1999). The ninth and final album was published in 2003. The album 'The Seven Provinces', was also published in English in 2003.
Kolk and De Wit also created the photo comic 'Mannetje & Mannetje', with themselves in the starring roles, which was published in Sjors en Sjimmie Stripblad/Sjosji from 1988 to 1995. The two sympathetic but somewhat clumsy chaps live out their awkward situations in series of sequential photos with drawn elements. The strip was adapted into a stop-motion animated TV series for VPRO television from 1989 to 1993. By that time, Hanco Kolk and Peter de Wit were probably the most recognizable comic artists of the Netherlands. It was not surprising that they were asked to host a course about drawing comics for the educational broadcasting company Teleac in 1992. For VARA TV Magazine, they additionally made the comics adaptation of the television comedy 'Laat Maar Zitten' in that same year.
In the late 1980s, De Wit and Kolk founded their own publishing label De Plaatjesmaker, through which they published their own series in book format, but also a series of small minicomics by various artists, called the Pincet series. Since 2000, Peter de Wit and Hanco Kolk make the daily strip 'S1NGLE' for the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool. This popular comic strip about three single ladies is now published in over 15 local and regional newspapers from the Netherlands and Flanders. It has been adapted into a successful TV series, starring Bracha van Doesburgh, Eva van der Gucht and Katja Schuurman, of which three seasons were broadcasted by NET5 from 2008 to 2010.
De Wit's most famous creation however, is 'Sigmund', a daily comic about a psychiatrist who watches the world around him and who delivers the appropriate cynical comments. It initially appeared in the Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws as 'Mijnheerke Psi', where it was considered too cynical, and thus cancelled. It found a more receptive audience in the Flemish newspaper De Morgen and has run in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant since 1994. Book collections of 'Sigmund' have been published by De Plaatjesmaker and later De Harmonie since 1994.
A couple of side characters in the 'Sigmund' gags were a group of burka wearing ladies who always carried grocery bags. A humorous nod at the Muslim community, but never stigmatic or vicious, these 'Burka Babes' were eventually granted a spin-off series. 'Burka Babes' actually surpassed 'Sigmund' in terms of popularity, even reaching an international audience in Spanish, English, French, Italian and Czech translations!
In 2011, he published 'Het lege nest', a graphic novelette about a man with empty nest syndrome. Although with fictional characters, the story contains autobiographical elements. Main inspiration came when De Wit's own children left the parental home. (His son is, by the way, Dutch comedian Tex de Wit.)
From the mid 1980s until 2007, De Wit worked from his house atelier in Amsterdam. Throughout the years, several other artists have joined him in "Studio De Wittenkade", including Hanco Kolk, Aloys Oosterwijk, Ben Westervoorde, Floris Oudshoorn and Michiel de Jong. He now works from an atelier in the centre of Amsterdam, alongside a stamp maker, photographer and designer. In 1999, Peter de Wit won the Stripschapprijs, the most prestigious Dutch comic award. 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.