Comics History

Lambiek at Kerkstraat 132 (2010-2015)

Lambiek store and gallery, drawn by Joost Halbertsma in 2012.

Funeral of Kees Kousemaker: obituaries and tributes
After Kees Kousemaker's passing on 27 April 2010, his funeral was prepared. People who visited Lambiek that week could leave a message behind in our guest book. In the gallery, his still-empty coffin was put on display so that anyone who wanted could inscribe something on the wood. Dozens of people left drawings and messages behind, among them the Kousemaker family, Peter Pontiac, Margreet de Heer, René Windig and Eddie de Jong, Maaike Hartjes, Aloys Oosterwijk, Floris Oudshoorn, Peter de Wit and Simone Koch. This was a symbolic gesture, as the coffin and the artwork eventually were cremated. But hours before the funeral, we photographed the decorated coffin from every possible angle. We cherish these photographs still.

Typex and Jeroen Funke make drawings on Kees' coffin, while Margreet de Heer and Yiri T. Kohl look on. (Photo: NRC).

In line with his personal wishes, Kees' funeral service was kept low-key, without much fuss. Pontiac's 1980 illustration of Kees flying over Amsterdam was used as the official funeral card. From all over the world, letters, e-mails and online messages poured in, expressing grief. Various Dutch and Flemish papers and magazines ran articles about Kees' life and death. Journalists, columnists and Lambiek regulars such as Jos van Waterschoot, Jeroen Mirck, Michael Minneboo, Peter Breedveld, Hans Frederiks and Robin Schouten wrote personal obituaries for their sites and blogs. Zone 5300 featured an "In Memorium" written by Natasja van Loon. Flemish comics expert Jan Smet, who wrote chapters in Kees and Evelien Kousemaker's book 'Wordt Vervolgd' (1979), commemorated Kees in an issue of Stripgids magazine. Flemish comics journalist Patrick van Gompel wrote a personal reflection on the website of TV channel VTM. Lukas de Vos did the same on the site of rival channel VRT. The French comics information site ActuaBD published three different personal tributes. The first was written by Belgian journalist and comics critic Didier Pasamonik, the second by Patrick Gaumer, driving force behind the Lambiek exhibitions in Angoulême and Blois (1993), and the third was by cartoonist Marc Lizano, who also drew a special "In Memoriam" drawing. Tom Spurgeon took a moment to draw attention to Kees' untimely death on his blog The Comics Reporter, as did the websites for the publishing houses Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics. Jean-Marc van Tol and Peter de Wit paid tribute in special memorial cartoons which appeared in newspapers that week. Joost Veerkamp presented Lambiek with a special pastiche of the 'Tintin in Tibet' cover in reference to Kees' death, and our Indonesian friend Tita Larasati dealt with her grief in an autobiographical strip, that she posted on Facebook the day Kees died. Ceesepe also paid tribute to Kees by taking a publicity still from the Vincent Van Gogh biopic 'Lust for Life' (1956) and adding a picture of a sad Charlie Brown on Van Gogh's canvas, a reference to the fact that both Kees and Van Gogh were Dutchmen.

Later that year, on 1 November, the Dutch broadcasting service KRO made a special episode for All Saints Day, 'Ode aan de Doden', in which Kees Kousemaker was one of many noteworthy recently deceased Dutch people whose death was covered.

Tita Larasati drew this strip about Kees, which she posted on Facebook the day Kees died.

Personnel in the early 2010s
Kees' death was a tremendous blow for Lambiek. But the store kept going under Boris' command, with Klaas Knol, Abel Schoenmaker and Lot Rossmark helping behind the counter. Bas Schuddeboom was committed to continuing the website and Comiclopedia, even though Kees was no longer around to pay him for it. He considered it an honor and duty to continue Kees' brainchild. We must also mention Klaas' brother, Coen Knol, who has helped with the store's bookkeeping since 2010. About ten years earlier, Coen's son, Steven, had done the same as a Lambiek intern...

Jurrien de Vries and Klaas Knol in front of the counter of Kerkstraat 132 (2014).

In 2012, Marko Otsen transformed our gallery into the back office and storage of our upcoming webshop. Developer Dirk Zaal built a completely new site, which went online on 2 October 2012. Boris commissioned Joost Halbertsma to make a special promotional flyer of our store to celebrate this event. To help out with our webshop, Jurrien de Vries became our new employee in 2012. Always up for a geeky conversation or philosophical debate, Jurrien enjoyed the honor of having a cameo in a 29 May 2015 online comic by Lae Schäfer, which takes place in Lambiek.

'Lae's Life' strip by Lae Schäfer, featuring Jurrien at Lambiek's webstore section (2015)

Lambiek also expanded its fame into the realms of social media. In 2009, Galerie Lambiek launched its own Facebook page, followed by an official business page a year later, Lambiekamsterdam. Since 2010, Lambiek has generated two Twitter accounts as well. We were subject of a remarkable tweet ourselves on 28 November 2015, when Spanish film director Guillermo del Toro ('Hellboy', 'Pan's Labyrinth', 'The Shape of Water') raved about our store: "Great Comic Book Stores: Lambiek. Most people don't go to Amsterdam looking for comic books. I did. Lambiek is an institution worldwide." In 2011, Brazilian cartoonist Bernardo França paid tribute to Lambiek with an in-store drawing. Dace Sietina designed an abstract interpretation of our iconic ZIP logo, which served as our Facebook profile photo for a while.

Expos, book signings and other events (2010-2013)
The first big event organized after Kees' death was the third book signing of the Lamelos collective, which was a double book presentation by the collective's members Sam Peeters and Jeroen Funke. Taking place on 14 May 2010, Peeters presented his debut graphic novel 'In de Schaduw van Mijn Lul' while Funke signed copies of 'Viktor & Vishnu - Text Free'. Funke returned to our store in 2012, 2013 and 2014, while Peeters would come out of the shadows again in 2016 and 2017. On 27 May 2010, we had another duo presentation: 'Cartoondiarree' creator Michiel van de Pol presented and autographed his first full-length graphic novel 'Terug naar Johan', while Edith Kuyvenhoven signed 'Ik, God en Mijn Oma', her personal recollection of her time with her unintentionally funny grandmother. On 4 June, Mezzo flew by to autograph his graphic novel 'Le Roi des Mouches' ('The King of the Flies'). More buzz was generated on 17 June 2010, when Sandra de Haan, creator of the goofy comic strip 'Brom en Vlieg' ("Blow and Fly"), zipped by our store to sign her latest work in the company of Marcel Ruijters. For Marcel, this was his second official visit.

Margreet's workshop (2010). Also present were the comic artists Yiri T. Kohl, Floris Oudshoorn and Matt Baay.

On 2 July 2010, Margreet De Heer held a drawing workshop for children in our gallery. Encouraging young talent had always been a passion of hers, and these were some of her youngest acolites. Four months later, on 2 November, we welcomed the first manga artists: Jillian Tamaki and her cousin, Mariko Tamaki. Coming all the way from Canada, the creators signed their graphic novel 'Skim' in our store. From Belgium, we welcomed cartoonist Lectrr on 13 November. The goofy joker came back for another signing session two years later. Invading our place for the sixth time, Windig & De Jong took out their pens on 23 November to sign the latest volume of their compilation series, 'Heinz E'.

Serge Baeken signs in Lambiek, 2011.

On 11 February 2011, as a recipient of the Hal Foster Award in the previous year, Klaas Knol needed to confer the prize to someone else who has made himself useful in the "periphery of comics". He chose Mat Schifferstein, whose publishing house Sherpa has always produced a high-quality line of graphic novels. The new year also brought back Margreet de Heer, who beamed down on 25 February 2011 to present her educational graphic novel 'Religie in Beeld' ('Religion - A Discovery in Comics'). Two months later, the equally blessed artist Serge Baeken came up from Belgium. The busy sketcher exhibited his drawings in our gallery from 15 April until 27 May 2011, and at the opening, drew caricatures of the crowd in books and on body parts. On the closing day of this exposition, Remco Vlaanderen and Coen van Oostrom of The Submarine Channel came by with a video camera. But the duo didn't come to interview Baeken, but instead recorded a conversation with Julian Hanshaw about his motion comic 'The Art of Pho', a project which went online in January, 2012.

Dave Collier took his crowd outside (23 August, 2011)

Dutch-Latvian artist Dace Sietina's exposition, 'Let's Cosmos' ran between 1 July and 28 August 2011. Canadian graphic novelist David Collier, author of 'Surviving Saskatoon,' signed his work inside and outside of our store on 23 August. Five days later, on 28 August, comic artist Aimée de Jongh presented her comic book '2017', a collaboration with comedian Thijs van Domburg. Between 1 and 28 September, visitors of our gallery marveled at the artwork of Erik Wielaert, contributor to the Groningen-based comic magazine Gr'nn. Our house cartoonist Peter Pontiac turned up on 21 October to autograph 'Rhythm', a comprehensive compilation of all his comics work. Sadly, this would be his final official visit to our store before Pontiac's death in 2015. On 14 December, Larie Cook exhibited his fun artwork, and Luc Cromheecke finished off the year off on 16 December with his third official visit to Lambiek. Cromheecke signed the third volume of his 'Plunk' series. Lamelos member Jeroen Funke showed up in a Plunk costume. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly!

Luc Cromheecke's 'Plunk' exposition in 2011, featuring Plunk himself!

On 10 February 2012, the annual ceremony of the Hal Foster Award took place in Lambiek. The prestigious prize was awarded to comics distributor Ron Poland. Absurd artwork filled our gallery on 23 March, when British cartoonist Glen Baxter signed his latest book, 'Colonel Baxter's Dutch Safari', published by De Harmonie. One of Baxter's biggest fans in the Netherlands is Wim de Bie, of the legendary satirical duo Van Kooten & De Bie. Calling himself the "Conservator of the Glen Baxter Museum", De Bie wrote the book's foreword and presented Baxter the ceremonial first copy at the signing. It was impossible not to shiver the next day, when Erik Kriek came by to sign copies of his graphic novel adaptations of the horror tales of H.P. Lovecraft, 'Het Onzienbare en Andere Verhalen' ("The Unseen and Other Stories"). Lambiek hosted an exhibition about Gr'nn contributor Erik Wielaert in 2011. Between 27 April and 18 May, on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of this comics magazine from Groningen, we opened our doors to the entire Gr'nn crew. Gr'nn's traveling exhibition with suitcase installations exhibited in our gallery. Rising up from the underground, Aart Clerkx was back on 16 June to sign his Shakespearean graphic novel 'King Lear'. In that play, King Lear says, "The art of our necessities is strange, and can make vile things precious." Jeroen Funke, a strange artist who makes precious work, appeared in Lambiek on 2 August to sign 'Victor & Vishnu Op Veelvuldig Verzoek' ("Victor & Vishnu By Plentiful Request"). At our "plentiful request" he paid us another visit one year later.

Part of the Gr'nn suitcase exposition (2012).

There was no scientific explanation why our former web editor Margreet de Heer turned up twice in a row in our store to present and sign the same book, 'Wetenschappen in Beeld' ('Science: a Discovery in Comics'), on 20 September and 6 October, though the second time her book signing coincided with the government-initiated annual Wetenschapsweekend ("Science Weekend"). Belgian cartoonist Lectrr's second book signing in our store on 3 November was just as enjoyable as the first time, and equally amusing was the visit of Erik Varekamp and Mick Peet on 15 November to autograph their satirical look at controversial Dutch prince Bernhard, 'Agent Orange - De Affaire King Kong'. On 16 November, we had the regal return of Lambiek's most frequent exhibiting artists, 'Heinz' creators Windig & De Jong, for their seventh book signing in Lambiek.

Typex signs 'Rembrandt' (12 April, 2013).

The question of whether comics can be art was turned on its head on 7 March 2013, when Herman Roozen and Pieter Hogenbirk transformed art into comics in their presentation of their funny comic strip about the Netherlands' most famous painter, 'Rembrandt'. The Nightwatch continued on 12 April 2013, when Typex returned to Lambiek to sign copies of his graphic novel biography 'Rembrandt', made in commission of the Rijksmuseum as part of celebrations of reopening after ten years of reconstruction work. Typex added cameos in 'Rembrandt' of several of his colleagues, and a drawing which didn't make it in the book of our own Boris Kousemaker, Typex donated to us in November for Lambiek's 45th anniversary.

In between, on 29 March, Gabriël Kousbroek was a welcome guest (particularly because we've always been partial to people with "Kous" in their last name). The artist signed his autobiographical graphic novel 'Kousboek' ("Kousbook", a pun on his name Kousbroek) and returned to our store for an exposition in 2015. Things got "funky" in Lambiek on 10 May, when Jeroen Funke signed the latest copy of his 'Victor & Vishnu' series. Three days later, Jan Cleijne came by to present his graphic novel 'Helden van de Tour' ("Heroes of the Tour"), about legends of the Tour de France. His artwork was "recycled" for a bigger exposition in 2014.

On 13 April 2013, Boris had to break into his own store.

During this period, we encountered two major setbacks. On 19 April 2013, our rolling shutter in the front of the store got stuck. Despite collective efforts, we couldn't make it budge. At moments like these we wished Popeye or Superman actually existed. Since they weren't around, Boris had to pry open a window frame of our basement office space. We could proudly announce on Facebook that day: "Ladies and gentlemen, Lambiek is open!" On 21 July 2014, rain found it easier to get into our store than Boris did. And it didn't need a circular saw to do it, either. A heavy summer rain leaked through the roof and severely damaged some of our comics so badly, that it had to be tossed out. Fortunately, we had enough dry stock left to sell to our eager customers.

Michiel Budel's Wayward Girls (2013).

Virtual expo
In 2013, most of our gallery space was occupied by the stock and the wrapping table of our new webshop. Physical exhibitions weren't possible for a while, until we got things reorganized. Instead, we held our first virtual exhibition on 7 June 2013. With online expositions, we discovered we didn't have to worry about stuck rolling shutters or leaking rooftops. And unlike our limited-time in-store exhibitions, computer users could scroll through the images years after these works had been put on display. Some of the artists, like Dace Sietina, Willem Vleeschouwer, Mark Retera and Joost Swarte had previously made tn-store appearances. In Michiel Budel's case, he never held a physical or virtual exhibition in Lambiek. The controversial artist, notorious for his naughty girls series 'Wayward Comics' and 'Francine', let his characters pay Lambiek a visit in one of his comics.

Willy Wodka and his installations (April 2014).

Expos, book signings and other events (2013-2014)
On 31 July 2013, Peter van Dongen held his second book signing in Lambiek. He presented his graphic novel, 'Drie Dagen in Rio', set in Brazil. Mike Meijer signed copies of his graphic novel 'Einzelgänger' ("Lone wolf"), on 1 November 2013, but contrary to the title, he brought some company. The musical combo featured in the CD that accompanied the book, performed live at the gallery opening. More music was heard in our gallery on 7 February 2014, when Czech artists Jaroslav Rudis and Jaromír Svejdík - famous for the comic book trilogy 'Alois Nebel', which was adapted into an animated film - held a book signing and live performance with their Kafka Band. On 11 April of that same year, some old acquaintances and former shop exhibitors Gerrit de Jager ('De Familie Doorzon') and Peter de Wit ('Sigmund') held a presentation of their cartoons for soccer magazine Hard Gras.

Mylo Cywitz performing in Lambiek, 18 April 2013 (Photo © Kasper Vogelzang).

A highly unusual guest was in our midst on 4 April 2014: artist, inventor and vodka brewer Willy Wodka. This multitalented Dutchman exhibited his drawings and self-created objects and machines, including a nitrogen-fueled vodka still! Those who could remember it, found it a pleasant evening. On 18 April, a triple-feature event took place in our gallery. The 11th edition of the Sketch Battle was led by Maia Matches and won by cartoonist Jean-Marc van Tol. Secondly, we had the annual ceremony of the Hal Foster Award. Previous winner Mat Schifferstein handed the prize to Natasja van Loon, enthusiastic comics promotor and editor of Zone 5300 magazine. The experimental sounds of Mylo Cywitz and Frankenstein's Ballet was the third event and wrapped up the evening.

Invitation for our 45th anniversary party, drawn by Wasco.

2013: Lambiek's 45th anniversary & cameos
On 8 November 2013, Lambiek celebrated its 45th anniversary. The event marked the return of Gallery Lambiek, albeit a smaller version because of the webshop storage. Hallie Lama, Jeroen Funke, Typex, Michiel Budel and Wasco donated special drawings to congratulate us, and Wasco also created the official invitations. Earlier that year, the Metro newspaper ran a strip of Schwantz' 'Beestjes' ('Vermin'), in which the dog character goes to Lambiek to celebrate the 45th anniversary, but reconsiders after noticing the cat 'Heinz' blocking the door.

Original artwork for Schwantz's 2013 'Beestjes' strip, celebrating Lambiek's 45th anniversary.

Expos, book signings and other events (2014)
All the way from France came the renowned cartoonist Lewis Trondheim, who gave the lecture 'Signed Greetings' in our store on 24 April 2014. Made possible in collaboration with the Institut Français des Pays-Bas, the creator of 'Lapinot' and 'Donjon' talked about his personal dreams and daily frustrations. On 27 June 2014, illustrator, graphic novelist and conceptual artist Jan Cleijne came back for a full-scale expo of his moody paintings about silence, loneliness and desire. Between 27 and 29 August, the German comics publisher Johann Ulrich of Avant Verlag was in Amsterdam by invitation of the Nederlands Letterenfonds ("Dutch Literary Fund"). Apart from meeting representatives of Dutch publishing companies, cartoonists, translators and other specialists, Ulrich also visited Lambiek. Our old acquaintances of the Lamelos collective returned on 29 August. They signed copies of their collective work 'Kaasheld en Poephoofd', and member Jeroen Funke also presented the latest issue of his 'Viktor & Vishnu' series. The event ended with one of the collective's notorious auctions.

The 2014 Lamelos signing session was followed by yet another auction.

We were proud to present the compilation book 'Kruitvat' of Stefan Nieuwenhuis' absurd comics magazine Van Speijk in our store on 12 September. The accompanying exposition featured artwork by Bas Köhler, Dace Sietina, Floor de Goede, Rob Derks, Eva Staal, Anne Staal, Eduard Bezembinder, Jeroen Funke, Wasco, Argibald, Han Bolo, Hallie Lama, Marc van der Holst, Michiel van de Pol, Remco Lee Polman, Sam Peeters, Danibal, Ruben Steeman, Schwantz, Sabine van den Berg, Boris Peeters and Tonio van Vugt. Belgian comic artist Rik Willemen signed his graphic novel 'A Song Called City' in our midst on 26 September, while 2 October marked the return of Aimée de Jongh, this time with a "return" book of her own, namely her graphic novel debut 'The Return of the Honey Buzzard' ('De Terugkeer van de Wespendief'). Remco Polman put up a chair on 10 October and signed the first volume of his 'Floris van Dondermonde' comic.

Tante Til (Hetty Heyting) of 'De Familie Knots' in Lambiek.

Lambiek on the small screen
On 20 May 2014, the documentary series 'Kijkbuiskinderen', about old Dutch children's TV shows, was partially filmed in Lambiek. The subject of that particular episode was 'De Familie Knots' (1980-1984), a kids' show set in a comics store, therefore explaining why Lambiek was the choice of location. The episode was broadcast on 14 January 2015. Our store was topic of a different documentary on 28 May 2014. Hosted on the Brazilian cultural website Tujaviu, narrator Paulo Enrique introduced the viewers to Lambiek, after which Boris Kousemaker gave a synopsis of the store's history. The makers had special interest for Peter van Dongen's graphic novel 'Drie Dagen in Rio' (2013), because it was set in Brazil, though they decried the fact that it hadn't been translated into their native Portuguese yet! On 8 January 2015, a day after the terrorist attacks on the French satirical magazine Charlie-Hebdo, a video crew from RTV Noord-Holland came by to interview Klaas Knol about the event, and accompany him to that evening's demonstration on the Dam.

Klaas interviewed by RTV Noord-Holland on the Dam in Amsterdam (8 January 2015).

60 years of Klaas Knol
2014 had been quite the year for our legendary salesman Klaas Knol. That year he, Paul Teng, Rudi de Vries, Teunis Bunt and Daan van den Bos were jury members during the annual Stripschapprijs awards, led by Ger Apeldoorn. The prestigious Stripschap Prize went to Fred de Heij that year. On 22 August, Klaas celebrated his 60th birthday in our store, which was a nice change of pace from our regular celebrations of comic books and their artists. Despite his ripe age, Klaas' ability to recognize celebrity visitors actually seemed to increase! That year, he noticed Dutch comedian-singer André van Duin in our store. His visit wasn't all that surprising. During his long and succesful career, Van Duin inspired two celebrity comics, one by Fred Julsing and another he co-wrote with Toon van Driel. He wanted a copy of Ger Apeldoorn's book 'De Jaren Pep', about the history of this Dutch comic magazine. The comedian had provided reminiscences about the magazine, but the publisher never sent him a complementary copy. Klaas gave Van Duin a store copy for free, and afterwards demanded a free copy from the publisher to replace it.

Klaas was featured in this comic strip by Floor de Goede, which appeared in the newspaper Het Parool on 26 July 2014.

Death of our house cartoonist Peter Pontiac
On 20 January 2015, our house cartoonist Peter Pontiac succumbed to liver cirrosis at the age of 63. Together with Onno Docters van Leeuwen, Joost Swarte and Windig & De Jong, he gave our store a visual style. This legendary Dutch underground cartoonist provided key pieces of promotional art that enhanced Lambiek's reputation. He also assisted Kees with many of Lambiek's self-published books. Peter Pontiac's death was just as much the end of an era for Lambiek as Kees' passing. In his unfinished graphic novel 'Styx', Pontiac talked about his inevitable death, but also reflected on his deceased friends Kees Kousemaker and Flip Fermin. Podium published the book posthumously in 2016.

Expos, book singings and other events (2015)
In 2015, it was Bas Schuddeboom's turn to be part of the jury who decided the winner of the annual Stripschapprijs. Cok Jouvenaar was the chairman, and the other committee members were Jilles Bijsterveld, Hans Edink, Fred de Heij, Noël Ummels and Robin Vinck. Their pick for the award was underground cartoonist and graphic novelist Marcel Ruijters. 2015 also marked the visit U.S. comic artist Derf Backderf, who signed his macabre graphic novel 'My Friend Dahmer' on 17 February. The book describes the teenage years of Jeffrey Dahmer, the notorious serial killer, cannibal and necrophile, as seen through the eyes of his classmate Derf Beckderf. A year later, Backderf returned to Lambiek for another signing of the same graphic memoir.

On 23 February 2015, Joost Swarte returned to Lambiek for another official visit. He presented his portfolio 'La Bédé est dans la Rue' ("The comic is on the street"). For this project, 25 Dutch artists set up an atelier at the Angoulême comics festival, where they made over 75 posters and silkscreens, which were hung on walls across the city. The drawings were also posted on the website of the French magazine Libération. Swarte's portfolio was a selection of the 25 best posters, combined with illustrated reports from Libération and 24 pages of Maaike Hartjes' comics diary of the experience. Apart from Swarte, several contributing cartoonists were present at the Lambiek presentation. Between 3 and 25 April, Gabriel Kousbroek and René van Asselt held their exposition 'Asselt vs. Kousbroek' in our gallery. It was a visual dialogue about various topics, illustrated inside huge word balloons. On 15 April, U.S. cartoonist and comics expert Scott McCloud, author of the influential graphic novel 'Understanding Comics' and its follow-ups, gave a talk in our store. He spoke to the audience about comics in general and his latest graphic novel 'The Sculptor', which he autographed afterwards. McCloud was our final book signing for a year.

Scott McCloud with Jeroen Funke on 15 April 2015.

The past five years had been rough for Lambiek. The store not only lost its founder, but also its in-house cartoonist. Then, rising rent prizes forced us to consider either closing Lambiek or moving to another location. To make room and raise money, we held a huge stock sale on 30 April 2015. We sold many books from publishers like Glénat, Dupuis, Lombard, Dargaud and Silvester at discount prizes up to 50 percent. Luckily, we could relocate Lambiek elsewhere, in a completely different street in another Amsterdam neighborhood...

No fun anymore at Kerkstraat 132.

Next chapter: Koningsstraat 27 (2015-present)