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 scribble something on the wood. Dozens of people left a doodle and message 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, Simone Koch... and many more. This was mostly a symbolic gesture, as the coffin would inevitably be cremated and thus all drawings would be gone forever. But hours before the funeral we photographed it from every possible inch. We cherish these snapshots still.

Peter de Wit makes a drawing on Kees' coffin (Photo: Joost van den Broek/De Volkskrant).

In line with his personal wishes Kees' funeral service was kept low-key, without much fuzz. 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 to express grief. Various Dutch and Flemish papers and magazines devoted an article to Kees' 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. In Zone 5300 appeared an in memoriam 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. Flemish comics journalist Patrick van Gompel wrote a personal reflection on the website of TV channel vtm, while Lukas de Vos did the same on the site of rival channel VRT. The French comics information site ActuaBD published no less than three personal tributes. The first was written by Belgian journalist and comics critic Didier Pasamonik, the second by Patrick Gaumer, who co-organized the Lambiek exhibitions in Angoulême and Blois (1993), and the third by cartoonist Marc Lizano, who also drew a special "in memoriam" drawing. Tom Spurgeon's The Comics Reporter, Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics Comics (written by Eric Reynolds) all took a moment to draw attention to Kees' untimely death. Jean-Marc van Tol and Peter de Wit paid tribute in special memorial cartoons which appeared in newspapers that week. Joost Veerkamp presented us a special pastiche of the 'Tintin in Tibet' cover to reference the death of Kees, and our Indonesian friend Tita Larasati dealt with her grief in an autobiographical strip on Facebook. 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.

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 didn't have to hesitate one milisecond about continuing the website and Comiclopedia, even though Kees was no longer around to pay him for it. He considered it an honour and duty to continue his lifework. We must also mention Klaas' brother Coen Knol, who has helped us out with our administration since 2010. About ten years earlier, Coen's son Steven had done the same...

Jurrien and Klaas in 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 made 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 in for a geeky conversation or a debate about the facts of life, Jurrien enjoyed the honour 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 starring Jurrien.

Lambiek also expanded its fame to social media. In 2009 Galerie Lambiek already launched its own Facebook page, followed by an official business page a year later, Lambiekamsterdam. Since 2010 Lambiek can be followed on 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." Another celebrity endorsement came four years earlier from Brazilian cartoonist Bernardo França who paid graphical tribute to Lambiek in 2011. Dace Sietina designed a more abstract interpretation of our iconic ZIP logo, which served as our Facebook profile image 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 combined 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 would return 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 went about on 17 June 2010 when Sandra de Haan, creator of the goofy flies 'Brom en Vlieg', zipped by our store to sign her latest work in the company of Marcel Ruijters. For Marcel this was already his second official visit.

Margreet's workshop. Also present were the comics artists Yiri T. Kohl, Floris Oudshoorn and Mattt Baay.

On 2 July 2010 Margreet De Heer held a drawing work shop for children in our gallery. Encouraging young talent had always been a passion of hers and these must have been her youngest acolites. Four months later, on 2 November, we welcomed the first manga artists in our midst: Jillian Tamaki and her cousin Mariko Tamaki. The co-creators of the graphic novel 'Skim' didn't hail from Japan though, but were Canadians. From an equal bi-lingual country, namely Belgium, we welcomed Belgian 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 their latest 'Heinz' book 'Heinz E'.

Serge Baeken signs in Lambiek, 2011.

On 11 February 2011 it was Klaas Knol's turn to confer the Hal Foster Award to someone who has made himself useful in the periphery of the comics world. He chose Mat Schifferstein, whose publishing house Sherpa has always presented a high quality line of graphic novels. The new year also brought back Margreet 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, while making caricatures of the crowd in books and on body parts. On the closing day of this expo a camera team by Remco Vlaanderen and Coen van Oostrom (Submarine Channel) was also present. However, the duo didn't come for Baeken, but instead recorded a conversation with Julian Hanshaw about his motion comic 'The Art of Pho', a project which went live in January of next year.

Dave Collier took his crowd outside.

Dutch-Latvian artist Dace Sietina's expo, 'Let's Cosmos' ran between 1 July and 28 August 2011. From another part of the cosmos, namely Canada, came David Collier. The author of graphic novels like 'Surviving Saskatoon' signed his work in our store on 23 August. Five days later, on 28 August, comics artist Aimée de Jongh presented her comic book '2017', a collaboration with comedian Thijs van Domburg. Between 1 and 28 September visitors could marvel at the artwork of Gr'nn contributor Erik Wielaert in our gallery. Our home cartoonist Peter Pontiac turned up to autograph 'Rhythm', a compilation of all his previous comics work, on 21 October. Sadly this would be his final official visit to our store before his death four years later. On 14 December Larie Cook exhibited his fun artwork, while Luc Cromheecke closed the year off on 16 December. During his third official visit to Lambiek he signed the third volume of 'Plunk'. Lamelos member Jeroen Funke was also present, dressed up as Plunk. Yes, you read that last sentence right!

On 10 February 2012 the annual ceremony of the Hal Foster Award took place in Lambiek. The prestigious prize was handed 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'. Wim de Bie, the taller half of the legendary satirical duo Van Kooten & De Bie, presented Baxter the first copy. With these two comedy legends together in the same room there was no reason to be "doom thinking", as De Bie would say. It was however 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. While we already devoted an exhibition about Gr'nn contributor Erik Wielaert half a year ago, we now opened our doors to the entire Gr'nn crew. On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of this comics magazine from Groningen, Gr'nn's traveling exhibition with suitcase installations could be seen in our gallery between 27 April and 18 May. Rising up from the underground Aart Clerkx was back on 16 June to sign his Shakespearean graphic novel 'King Lear'. A famous quote from this play goes: "The art of our necessities is strange, and can make vile things precious." Our next signing artist Jeroen Funke is a strange artist altogether - dressing up as Plunk is one thing - and certainly makes precious work. On 2 August he appeared in Lambiek to sign 'Victor & Vishnu Op Veelvuldig Verzoek'. At our "plentiful request" he'd pay us another visit one year later.

Part of the Gr'nn suitcase exposition.

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'), but she did so on 20 September and 6 October. Though the second time her book signing coincided with the Wetenschapsweekend ("Science Weekend"). No scientific proof was necessary to confirm that Belgian cartoonist Lectrr's second book signing in our store on 3 November was just as enjoyable as the first time. Equally amusing was the visit of Erik Varekamp and Mick Peet on 15 November to autograph their humoristic look at controversial Dutch prince Bernhard with 'Agent Orange - De Affaire King Kong'. And just when things couldn't get cosy and fun enough 'Heinz' creators Windig & De Jong turned up on 16 November for their seventh and thus far final book signing in Lambiek.

Typex signs 'Rembrandt'.

The eternal question whether comics can be art was turned on its head on 7 March 2013. Because that day Herman Roozen and Pieter Hogenbirk turned art into comics with their presentation of their funny comic strip 'Rembrandt', about the Netherlands' most famous painter. On 29 March Gabriël Kousbroek was welcomed in our midst, since we've always liked people with the prefix "Kous" in their last name. He signed his autobiographical graphic novel 'Kousboek' and would return to our store again in 2015. The Nightwatch apparently made long hours because on 12 april 2013 another book signing about a Rembrandt-related comic took place at our place. Though, this biopic, 'Rembrandt', was created by Typex in what marked his second official visit to us. Typex added cameos of several of his colleagues in his graphic novel debut. A drawing which didn't make the book, but did feature our own Boris Kousemaker, was donated to us on Lambiek's 45th anniversary in November. Things got "funky" in Lambiek on 10 May when Jeroen Funke signed the latest copy of his 'Victor & Vishnu' series. Three days later, on 13 May, Jan Cleijne cycled into our store to present his graphic novel 'Helden van de Tour', about legends of the Tour de France. He would be at the center of 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. In hindsight the first one was actually kind of amusing. On 19 April 2013 our rolling shutter was stuck. Despite collective efforts we couldn't get it up. At moments like these we sure wished people like Popeye, Superman or Jerom actually exist. Since they weren't around we had to enter the store through the basement windows of our office space. As we joked on Facebook that day: "Ladies and gentlemen, Lambiek is literally opened now!" On 21 July 2014 we had an opposite feeling. That day we actually wished our store had been more locked, because a heavy summer rain leaked through the roof and severely damaged some of our comics. Maybe we should've covered our ceiling with copies of 'Asterix and the Falling Sky'? And not just because of the title, nudge nudge...

Michiel Budel's Wayward Girls.

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 organized. Instead, we held our first virtual exhibition on 7 June 2013. With online expositions you at least don't have to worry about stuck rolling shutters or leaking rooftops. Computer users can scroll through the images, even years after these works had been put on display. Some of the artists, like Dace Sietina, Willem Vleeschouwer, Mark Retera and Joost Swarte had all been to our store in person. In Michiel Budel's case he never held an actual exhibition in Lambiek. The controversial artist, notorious for naughty girls series like 'Wayward Comics' and 'Francine' did let his characters pay Lambiek a visit in one of his comics, though.

Willy Wodka and his installations.

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 Rio de Janeiro. On 1 November 2013 Mike Meijer presented his graphic novel 'Einzelgänger', though contrary to the title he did bring some company. The comic book came with a musical record, featuring songs inspired by the story, which were performed by a musical combo. More music could be heard on 7 February 2014, when Czech artists Jaroslav Rudis and Jaromír Svejdík - famous for 'Alois Nebel', which was also adapted into film - held a book signing. They performed with their own Kafka Band that day. 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 association football magazine Hard Gras. A highly unusual guest was in our midst on April 4th, namely artist, inventor and wodka brewer Willy Wodka. This Dutch multicreator showed us several of his drawings and self-created objects and machines, one of which was a wodka brewing machine fueled by nitrogen. On 18 April an indoor concert was organized in collaboration with comics magazine Zone 5300. Spearheaded by the 11th edition of the Sketch Battle, led by Maia Matches and won by Jean-Marc van Tol, spectators could also witness the ceremony for the annual Hal Foster Award in our store. The winner that year was Natasja van Loon, editor of Zone 5300 and overall comics promotor. Soon afterwards the experimental sounds of Mylo Cywitz and Frankensteins Ballet set a party in motion.

Mylo Cywitz performing in Lambiek (Photo © Kasper Vogelzang).

2013: Lambiek's 45th anniversary & cameos
On 8 November 2013 Lambiek celebrated its 45th anniversary. The event also 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. Wasco also created the official invitation card. Earlier that year an episode of Schwantz' 'Beestjes' in Metro had the dog character contemplate a visit to Lambiek, only to reconsider once he noticed 'Heinz' in front of the store.

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

Expos, book signings and other events (2014)
All the way from France came the renowned cartoonist Lewis Trondheim, who held 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. Jan Cleijne had no reason to feel frustrated, because on 27 June 2014 he came back for a full-scale expo of his paintings. Between 27 and 29 August the German comics publisher Johann Ulrich of Avant Verlag was invited to Amsterdam by the Nederlands Letterenfonds ('Dutch Literary Fund') for a three-day visit. Apart from visiting various Dutch publishing companies, cartoonists, specialists and translators Ulrich also visited Lambiek. His visit didn't attract as much people as the book signing by old acquaintances Lamelos on 29 August.

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 comics 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, author of the comic strip 'Floris van Dondermonde', put up a chair on 10 October and signed his latest publication.

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 and narrated by Paulo Enrique it provided a small synopsis of our history and an interview with Boris Kousemaker. The makers had special interest for Peter van Dongen's graphic novel 'Drie Dagen in Rio' (2013) because it was set in Rio, though they decried the fact that it hadn't been translated to Portuguese yet! Following the terrorist attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie-Hebdo on 7 January 2015, a film crew of regional broadcasting company RTV Noord-Holland came by to interview Klaas about the event, and accompany him to the demonstration on the Dam.

Klaas interviewed by RTV Noord-Holland on the Dam in Amsterdam.

60 years of Klaas Knol
Previously, 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 Stripschapprijs 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 comedian-singer André van Duin in our store. Van Duin's visit wasn't all that surprising. During his long and succesful career the singer of 'Willempie' inspired two celebrity comics, one by Fred Julsing, another by Toon van Driel - which he co-wrote. But he wasn't there to buy any of these, nor to report a horse in the hallway. It turned out he wanted a copy of the book 'De Jaren Pep' by Ger Apeldoorn, about the history of the Dutch comics magazine Pep. The comedian had provided a written contribution, but never received a presentation copy by the publisher. Klaas gave him a copy for free and just ordered a new one for the store afterwards.

Klaas also appeared in this comic strip by Floor de Goede, which appeared in Het Parool on 26 July 2014.

Death of our home cartoonist Peter Pontiac
On 20 January 2015 our home cartoonist Peter Pontiac succombed to liver cirrosis at the age of only 63. Together with Onno Docters van Leeuwen, Joost Swarte and Windig & De Jong he was one of the main cartoonists who gave our store a visual style. Yet to most audiences he was the one most identified with Lambiek. From his illustrated advertisements, book covers and lettering: he left an immeasurable legacy behind. In that regard his death was just as much the end of an era as Kees' passing. In his unfinished graphic novel 'Styx', Pontiac talked about his inevitable death, but also reflected on how he felt about those of his friends Kees Kousemaker and Flip Fermin. The book would be published 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, while Jilles Bijsterveld, Hans Edink, Fred de Heij, Noël Ummels and Robin Vinck all discussed the potential choice. The award eventually went to Marcel Ruijters. After the Charlie-Hebdo terrorist attacks and Pontiac's passing 2015 continued its macabre route with the visit of U.S. comics artist Derf Backderf on 17 February to autograph his captivating graphic novel 'My Friend Dahmer.' The comic book is a psychological reflection on the teenage years of notorious serial killer, cannibal and necrophile Jeffrey Dahmer, who used to be a pupil in the same school as Backderf. Backderf was never close with him, but observed him often enough at school to provide an interesting point of view about his deranged behaviour. A year later Backderf would return for another book signing in our midst.

On 23 February Joost Swarte returned to Lambiek for his fifth official visit. He presented his portfolio 'La Bédé est dans la Rue'. This was a project for which 20 Dutch artists travelled to Angoulême, France, to create daily posters about current events. These posters were made available on silkscreens, glued on various walls across the city and posted on the website of the French magazine Libération. Swarte's portfolio provided a selection of the 25 best posters, combined with illustrated reports from a special edition of Libération and 24 pages from Maaike Hartjes' comics diary about the entire experience. Apart from Swarte several of the contributing cartoonists were present at Lambiek as well. Between 3 and 25 April Gabriel Kousbroek and René van Asselt held the exposition 'Asselt vs. Kousbroek' in our store. The exhibition was meant as a visual dialogue about various topics, all illustrated inside huge speech balloons. On 15 April U.S. cartoonist and comics expert Scott McCloud, author of the influential comic book 'Understanding Comics' and its follow-ups, held a speech in our store. He lectured his audience about comics and his latest graphic novel 'The Sculptor'. Afterwards he signed copies for customers. McCloud would be our final book signing for a year. In a way a comics expert like him was the perfect swan song.

Scott McCloud with Jeroen Funke.

The past five years had been rough on our store. We not only lost our founder, but also our home cartoonist. And now rising rent prizes forced us to either close Lambiek or perhaps move to a different location. To make room and raise money we held a huge stock sale on 30 April 2015. We sold many albums from publishers like Glénat, Dupuis, Lombard, Dargaud and Silvester at discount prizes up to 50 per cent. Luckily we received the good tiding that we could relocate Lambiek elsewhere, but it would be in a completely different street...

Not much fun anymore...

Next chapter: Koningsstraat 27 (2015-present)