Comics History

Lambiek at Lambiek.net (2005-present)


Bas and Kees at the Utrechtsedwarsstraat studio in 2004.

The Kees & Bas years (2005-2010)
In late 2005 Kees Kousemaker retired from active store duty, which left him with more spare time to dedicate to the site. In his old age he even became an accomplished scanner and editor of images. Margreet de Heer, on the other hand, left her web editor position in order to focus on her own career as a comic artist. In the next decades, she would publish various educational graphic novels in her 'Discoveries in Comics' series, on topics such as philosophy, religion, world domination and love. These books proved successful enough that they were also translated in English and other languages. Margreet was an avid promotor of young comics talent, and in 2018 was appointed to a three year term as the first "Comic Artist Laureate of the Netherlands." Proofreader Dan Schiff, after completing his third time through the alphabet, decided to depart the Comiclopedia along with Margreet, who was his Comiclopedia contact. Margreet and Dan continued to keep in touch, and he has since then proofread and editted the English language versions of Margreet's books (a job that he still enjoys doing to this day). It wasn't until 2020 when Dan returned to the Lambiek-team.

Bas Schuddeboom, on the other hand, stayed with the Comiclopedia. By now, he was already a professional comics writer and web editor for the Dutch Disney magazines, but he liked the Comiclopedia project so much that he continued helping out each week. His expertise and loyalty made him indispensable to Kees. Both men enjoyed discovering obscurities on the comics medium, and building an international network of contacts. Each worked at home preparing articles and images, which were added to the site on every Friday in the office of the new Lambiek location at Kerkstraat 132. For Kees,  this was also a social occasion, as many of his old friends, such as Hansje Joustra, Aart Clerkx, Windig & De Jong and Joost Pollmann came to visit him as he worked. Bas kept on typing, seemingly undisturbed by the "wise old men", whose conversations and laughter became louder and louder as the wine was poured lavishly.


Rick in the Kerkstraat 132 office in 2005.

Non-commercial goals
The Comiclopedia once again showcased Kees' philanthropical side. He invested much of his time and money in the project. After his retirement, he paid Bas and Rick from his own pocket for their work. But even though it would compensate him for his investments, he refused to run banners or other advertisements on the Comiclopedia pages. Of course, he allowed links to our own short-lived webshop, but this hardly made up for the costs. When a prominent auction site for comic art proposed us a collaboration and sponsorship, Kees reluctantly agreed to hear them out. But when he saw their first mock-up, showing over half of our site filled with their own search engines, Kees declined any further negotiations. Luckily, some money came from the Stripmuseum in Groningen, which leased an offline version of the Comiclopedia in its permanent exhibition beginning on 21 April 2004. In one of the  museum's halls, visitors could page through the Comiclopedia, which was projected from a computer screen on the wall.

Resources
The interest of the museum was a sure indication that the overall quality of the Comiclopedia had improved. Our writing and the information we provided also got better over time. Older articles, which initially were quickly written, had to be updated to keep up with the standards of the newer ones. "The dialectics of progress," as Kees used to call it. Over time, more and more resources became available to us. Our two major sources in the early years were the standard works 'World Encyclopedia of Comics' (1976-1983) by Maurice Horn and Patrick Gaumer, and Henri Filippini's 'Dictionnaire Mondial de la Bande Dessinée' (1994-1998). Kees also managed to obtain books about Portuguese, Danish, Japanese, Korean and Mexican comics, which enabled us to provide information about artists otherwise unknown outside of their home countries. New online resources provided useful information as well, especially specialized weblogs like Dirk Arend (Striptekenaars, about Dutch artists), Ger Apeldoorn (The Fabulous Fifties), Allan Holtz and Alex Jay (The Stripper's Guide, about early American newspaper comics) and Steve Holland (the Bear Alley, about British comics), to name but a few. Portals like BDParadisio and Bedetheque (France), Tebeosfera (Spain) and uBC Fumetti (Italy) offered a treasure of information about artists from these respective countries, and the Comiclopedia's English language translations gave these comic artists additional exposure. Other valuable online reference sites included Inducks, which offered a large database about Disney comics and a cross-linking partnership with our site, Jerry Bails' Who's Who of American Comic Books and the Grand Comics Database at comics.org. And of course, wonderful information magazines like The Comics Journal, Historia de los Comics, Stripschrift, Stripnieuws and Brabant Strip Magazine provided information on a spectrum of comic artists.


Kees at the Lambiek.Net studio in the Utrechtsedwarsstraat (2004).

Mission
With new sources available, and each entry leading us to a web of related artists, it became impossible for us to stop after the planned 3.000 entries. It was a shame that so many cartoonists remained unknown, unrecognized, belittled or forgotten. A good number of them were accomplished graphic artists and writers outside their comics career. Novelists, advertisers, political parties, humanitarian organisations, rock bands considered these comic artists talented enough to create material for them, but to the general public, those who worked producing comics were people without a "real job". Art critics didn't consider their work capable of any depth, simply because of the medium they worked in. Only a select few of the the total number of comic artists have ever enjoyed great fame or success, and there are many reasons why these cartoonists slipped away from the public's consciousness. Some had only been published in one obscure magazine, others were only phenomena in their own country and were never translated. Many were associated with one particular signature comic, while their other work remained largely overlooked. More than a few combined their syndicated comic strip with a more lucrative nine-to-five job to make ends meet. Some were forced to quit because they couldn't keep up the pace, or because editors cancelled their comic. Others kept going for decades, but were rarely decently paid. Some cartoonists were pigeonholed because they made "infantile" children's comics, "violent" action comics or "vulgar" erotic cartoons. Others were "just an assistant" to a more well-known original creator. While certain comic artists have remained in the mind of today's public, thousands of others sank into obscurity once they no longer appeared in syndication. The Comiclopedia team felt it was their mission to save these cartoonists from oblivion.

Bas Schuddeboom
Bas and Kees working on the Comiclopedia, while Boris and Klaas are inspecting the new printer (2009).

Setting up criteria
The first step was defining what a "comic" is. Kees took advice from his good friend and comics legend Will Eisner, who felt that a comic is a "succession of drawn images which tell a story." One-panel cartoonists would have to have at least one or more example of an illustrated narrative sequence to be included in the Comiclopedia. Comics with speech balloons (balloon comics), with text beneath the images (text comics) and/or with just images, no words (pantomime comics) were all to be included. To prove that the medium is just as versatile as any other art form, all genres were represented: children's comics, adventure comics, knight comics, pirate comics, western comics, fantasy comics, science fiction comics, funny animal comics, humor comics, gag comics, parody comics, satirical comics, political comics, propaganda comics, advertising comics, historical comics, religious comics, educational comics, underground comics, autobiographical comics, superhero comics, graphic novels, manhwa, manga and, naturally, erotic comics.

Quality wasn't an issue. Pulp, mass production, high art or eccentric weirdos: they were all included in our definition of the "comic." Some have marvellous artwork but formulaic writing. Others have primitive drawings but great stories or gags. Kees was not always enthusiastic to see biographies of certain types of artists, like members of large production studios working on licensed characters. But he realized that they were also part of the history of comics. The Comiclopedia made a stance for an often neglected branch: assistants and ghost artists. We went through great lengths to find out more about these unsung creators, who worked in the shadow of a more legendary artist and/or studio. Kees' only standard for acceptance was that the comics had to be printed in an official publication: a newspaper, a magazine, a book, an advertisement or album cover. This included small press and self-published works, but people whose comic career consisted only of work for a school, social club or political party were not chosen. While the Comiclopedia put its main focus on comic artists, some very productive comics writers and publishers have also received a page. As time went by, Bas and Margreet convinced Kees to also add some webcomic artists, provided they were successful encouraging  to be more than just an amateur posting a one-shot comic strip online.


Vincent and Rick, 2008.

External aid
The Comiclopedia received much help from outside our store. Since 2006, our loyal customer Vincent Polverino has been regularly providing us with valuable information and scans, especially about artists from the indie scene. Other Dutch people who frequently came to our aid were Dirk Arend and Bert Meppelink, who in particular gave us a treasure trove of information about Dutch comic artists from the Toonder Studios. Our articles about foreign artists were greatly expanded thanks to a huge number of enthusiasts. Between 2002 and 2005, Eduardo Urrutia provided many Spanish entries, and Giancarlo Malagutti helped out with a great many Italian comic artists over the years. Marko Ajdaric from Brazil faithfully kept reporting about new South American listings in his Neorama dos Quadrinhos newsletter. The mysterious "Imperador Zurg" (who wishes to use a 'Toy Story' character for a pseudonym) regularly sends us information about Brazilian cartoonists. Another important contact is the Canadian André Fournier, who since 2008 has provided Kees and Bas with many scans of comics published in Quebec newspapers. Israeli Elihai Cnafo assisted us out with various articles about Israeli and Palestinian artists, as well as North African comics creators. Nikos Nikolaidis kept us up to date about Greece. Eastern Europe has been well represented by Dodo Nita (Romania), Ferenc and Szabolcs Kiss (Hungary) and Vladimir Nedialkov and Stiliana Thepileva (Bulgaria). Nedialkov even wrote us a History of Bulgarian Comics, which was later expanded by Thepileva!


The francophone section of Lambiek.Net was online from 2002 until 2012.

We even experimented with non-English pages for a while. In August 2002, Belgian Michel Heynen translated 170 articles about Franco-Belgian artists into French. Unfortunately this section of this site only remained online for about a decade, as it became too difficult to keep it up to date. Cuauhtémoc D. Martínez from Mexico translated several entries about Hispanic artists into Spanish, but unfortunately we never managed to present his efforts online. To see a list of wonderful people who helped us out with the Comiclopedia, check out our Colophon.


Spanish section of Lambiek.Net, which no one has ever seen... until now!

Kees' final projects
Kees and Bas ("Die Hobbyfreunde," as a German site used to call them) also continued to complete and fine-tune the overview of Dutch comics history. They added pages about different types of stage shows based on comics, including shadow plays, as well as Walt Disney's conquest of the Netherlands in the 1930s. Kees' final project was a history of comics published in Indonesia, back when the country was still under Dutch colonial rule (17th century-1949). It was nothing much more than scans and a few notes when Kees passed away from cancer on 27 April 2010, but Margreet de Heer eventually managed to write a full article about the history of comics published in Indonesia, which was published on our website on 8 October 2010. While Kees was still alive, Margreet had written a short biographical article of Kees for the Comiclopedia, feeling he deserved it for his continuous contributions to the promotion of comics. After Kees' death, Bas and Margreet dealt with their grief by revisiting the article, adding more detailed information and rare photographs to the page. Kees' biography became so long, that we had to add chapter headers to it. This is now common practice in the Comiclopedia.


Margreet de Heer and Bas Schuddeboom revising Kees' Comiclopedia page in May 2010.

On Kees' computer, there were still several files with unfinished articles and loose scans. Bas put them on the site posthumously. However, some of the images Kees had collected were missing identification of the artist or the publication he originally scanned it from. In hope of finding more information about these images, Bas listed them all on a new Comiclopedia page called 'Identificatie Verzocht' ('Identification Needed'). 

The Comiclopedia after Kees' passing
For five years after Kees Kousemaker's death, Bas Schuddeboomwas the only editor and content provider for Lambiek's Comiclopedia website. Luckily, Lambiek's new owner, Boris Kousemaker, wanted to protect and continue his father's legacy. He also wanted to connect the Comiclopedia to his new webstore. Without Kees' financial backing, Bas decided that in addition to his daytime job he would continue working on the Comiclopedia as a volunteer. Many people from all around the world sent in questions, remarks, corrections, praise (and occasional criticism) about our articles. Some suggested names of new comic artists to investigate and write up. Thanks to these helpful suggestions, the site continues to be updated, corrected and expanded. The Comiclopedia team always welcomes input from its readers.


At one point, it was difficult to find the computer in the office at Kerkstraat 132... (2015).

New website
One of the major goals of Lambiek's owner, Boris Kousemaker, was setting up a new webshop. After all, Arjan Vlaming's initial version had been offline for several years. It was the logical to to connect and cross-reference works by artists presented in the Comiclopedia with items available in the store. This meant that thousands of individual html files had to be poured into a database. In 2007, the first person to give a website redesign it a try was Tony Slug, who had also built the website for Hansje Joustra's publishing house Oog & Blik. A year later, another attempt came from Ronald Zeelenberg, creator of www.stripdatabase.nl. Both did their best, but couldn't figure out how to import the current website's colossal amount of biographical data. In addition, it was difficult to meet all the specifications the Lambiek team desired. We had more luck with Dirk Zaal (of Digizaal), who started working on an entirely new website in early 2012, in collaboration with web designer JW Nieuwenhuizen of Grafx MFG. The classic blue design was dropped, although it remained the main color of the new Comiclopedia, which was renamed "Kees Kousemaker's Comiclopedia". The rest of the site got a red theme, in line with our ZIP sign. Dirk managed to scrape each individual Comiclopedia page and split the content into separate database fields. He later did the same for the Dutch comics history section. Naturally, Bas kept a close watch, to make sure no information was lost. The connection with the webshop was established, and on 2 October 2012, the new Lambiek.net went online. In the next couple of months the bugs were solved.


Boris Kousemaker with web developer Dirk Zaal and regular customer Paul van Dijken after working hours (2013).

Unfortunately, the French-language section of the site was removed during the entire process, despite all the hard work of Michel Heynen. While his efforts were certainly appreciated, we had no way of keeping the French section up to date, making it fall behind the English and Dutch-language sections. With too much articles to check and too many new names to keep up the tough decision was made to drop this section altogether.

Zaal's work made the website a lot easier to navigate and up to date with the latest Internet developments. Since the new site was working with a Content Management System, Bas could do most of his Comiclopedia work from the comfort of his own home. This enabled him to do more updates than ever, including the renewing of older articles, particularly the images. Many were scanned in better quality and larger formats. To promote the renewed Lambiek.net, Joost Halbertsma designed a promotion flyer in his own unique way. It depicts the store on number 132, where various seedy versions of comics characters appear. In 2015, the site underwent yet another technical make-over to make it responsive to mobile devices.


The gallery transformed into the back office of the webshop in 2012.

Kjell Knudde
In the 2010s, Bas received enforcements from the Netherlands' southern neighbor. Belgian Kjell Knudde first mailed Lambiek on 2 March 2013 to request an article about Hugo Leyers, and 31 August 2015, he contacted our site again, asking about information which hadn't been added yet to the site. A weekly correspondence grew between Kjell and Bas. Kjell frequently sent in corrections, updates and new suggestions, and began proofreading all newly launched articles. Eventually, he started writing new (and rewriting old) articles. On 21 April 2016, Kjell's first complete articles, on Gal and James Gillray, were posted on the website. Kjell also thought out new criteria for the Comiclopedia, focusing on longer and more extensive biographies. Older articles were short and written in a dry, terse style. Kjell pushed for a more vivid writing style, which analyzed artists' lives and work. The new articles bridged the gap between experts and people unfamiliar with a particular comic artist's oeuvre. Each biography received a small introduction and listed graphic influences - both the artists' own and his possible influence on spiritual successors - linking these names to other comic creators on the site. As the pages grew longer, Bas suggested using captions. After a while, Kjell and Bas made this new approach the standard, for articles written alone or in tandem, and dubbed their collaboration "Knuddeboom" productions. This "New Deal" of biographical style, with more in-depth articles, has given the Comiclopedia increased stature in the comics community, as our site offers much more than the barebones information available now on other online sources, such as Wikipedia.


Kjell Knudde and Bas Schuddeboom at Lambiek in 2018.

Kjell also suggested more controversial inclusions, such as the painters Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, who could be considered prototypical comic artists who strongly influenced the medium. Kjell's proudest moment came on 28 August 2016, when he heard his completely revised article of his favorite cartoonist, Marc Sleen, was read by Sleen's wife to her elderly husband in the final months of his life. As a huge fan of Frank Zappa, Kjell is also very proud that his article about Zappa's album cover illustrator Cal Schenkelwas liked and commented upon by Mr. Schenkel himself. Kjell Knudde has a wide interest in comics, but specializes in Belgian and British comic artists. In terms of genres, he enjoys writing about underground comix, erotic comics, political cartoonists, painters, engravers, book illustrators, animators and artists associated with Mad Magazine and Hara Kiri/Charlie-Hebdo. Much like his writing partner Bas, he also has a fondness for peculiarities and comics from unexpected corners of the Earth.

Return of Dan Schiff
In 2020, proofreader Dan Schiff also returned to the team. In May 2020, Margreet surprised Dan in a Zoom video call, reuniting him with his former Comiclopedia co-worker Bas Schuddeboom. After Margreet left the Zoom call to get some sleep, Bas and Dan continued talking about comics for a few hours in a lively and enjoyable conversation about European comics and the Comiclopedia. Within days of this Zoom session, Schiff decided that the Comiclopedia had grown and changed enough since he had quit, that it would be interesting to him, and beneficial to the site, if he rejoined the team once more to go through all the entries one more time. That way, he could help develop a style sheet (the "Comiclopedia Manifest") to standardize the language of the biographies. Starting in June 2020, Dan "the Man" was back on the job, once again working his way through all the articles, while discussing common grammar and style errors with Bas during weekly Zoom meetings.


Promotional drawing for Lambiek.net by Herwolt van Doornen (2013).

Feedback
Over the decades, Lambiek has received correspondence with comments from artists themselves. Some wrote us to correct something, while a rare few requested us to remove their articles from the website, ashamed of their early endeavours in the "inferior" comics medium, but overall, we've had nothing than pleasant memories. Some cartoonists have asked us if they could be included in the Comiclopedia, and send in personal samples of their own artwork. (Great) grandsons and granddaughters of ancient cartoonists complimented the Comiclopedia for keeping the memory to their family member alive. Cartoonist relatives have also provided us with valuable information never told before, such as the definitive identification of the original creator of the American comic book character 'Blue Beetle'. For decades, the original creator was believed to be Chuck Cuidera, who even claimed the credit himself. In an e-mail to Lambiek, Joe DeGiuseppe provided proof that his uncle, Charles Nicholas Wojtkoski, was the original "Charles Nicholas", the creator of the feature. The confusion rose from the fact that several early American comic book artists used that pen name. It filled us with joy that we could give credit where credit is due.


Henri Cassiers' autograph. Seriously, it says "Hlassies", doesn't it?

Tales of a tell-tale signature
The Comiclopedia shed light on many formerly anonymous cartoonists. With the help of the members of a German comics message board, we were the first website to list information about the anonymous artists who worked for Hannes Hegen's Mosaik and Rolf Kauka's Fix und Foxi, the most important comic magazines from East- and West-Germany, respectively. Kees and Bas spent many hours straining their eyes trying to make out the signatures on many early 20th-century French comic strips. Once, they couldn't decipher a name that looked like "Hlassies". By sheer coincidence, Bas noticed a drawing of a clog in his home town Zaandam, with the exact same signature. In a plaque by the picture, the museum mentioned the artist's name, clearing up the mystery: it was Henri Cassiers. Another mystery solved was the identity of the original artist of the Dutch 1970s newspaper comic 'Horre, Harm en Hella'. It was always believed that the cartoonist was a Brit called "S. Candell". However, Bas recognized (part of) the signature on one of the strips, and figured out that the artist was actually one of the many Spanish studio workers, Juan Escandell. He contacted Escandell's current agency, Comicon, who confirmed his suspicions. The two strip's writers, Andries Brandt and Patty Klein, were never aware of the fact that the "Brit" they worked with was actually a Spaniard!


"S. Candell" and "Escandell".

Scoops and breakthroughs
Thanks to our loyal customer George Mulder, we were able to write the most complete article about an obscure artist, Billy Cam. Mr. Mulder spent many hours trying to find out more about this U.S. cartoonist, who lived in the Dutch Indies for several years, drawing the weekly feature 'CAMouFLAGES' (1935-1939). It was unsure what happened to the cartoonist afterwards. Did or didn't he return to the States? Mr. Mulder checked with shipping itineraries and managed to fill in the blanks in Billy Cam's timeline.

In 2017, Kjell Knudde managed to identify the original British artist behind a 1920s comic which was once extraordinarily popular in Dutch translation: 'Jopie Slim en Dikkie Bigmans.' For decades, it remained unknown who created the original strip and what its title was. We uncovered it was Harry Folkard's 'Billy Bimbo and Peter Porker'! Kjell also found out that one of his managers at his dayjob was related to Jos Speybrouck, an art deco-era Belgian illustrator and graphic artist. Kjell learned that Speybrouck also made religious sequential art. His colleague gave him an old museum catalogue with Speybrouck's drawings, and took the effort to scan rare prints and posters for us.




Nice feedback on Twitter in 2018.

Kjell also remembered an obscure comic strip, 'Max, de Heldige Hond' (2013), that ran in Humo magazine. Only when he checked it in the city archives, he realized it was drawn by famous Belgian comedy writer Hugo Matthysen! In 2018, after watching an episode of 'Last Week with John Oliver' about the satirical book 'A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo' (2018) by Jill Twiss, Kjell discovered the illustrator E.G. Keller was actually Gerald Kelley. When Mr. Kelley saw his Comiclopedia page, Mr. Kelley wrote to congratulate us with our fine detective work.

One of Bas' longest quests was including Joost Rietveld in the Comiclopedia. For years on end, he looked for evidence that this artist had made sequential drawings. Bas knew Rietveld had published comics in Olidin magazine during the 1950s. The same week Bas finally found some of Rietveld's cartoons at the Special Collections department of the University of Amsterdam, he discovered in his hometown of Zaandam - only 2 kilometres away from his house - there had been a retrospective exhibition about Rietveld's art! Bas was also surprised to learn that Rietveld had actually designed the cover of the 1970 book 'Strip voor Strip', written by none other than Lambiek founder Kees Kousemaker!

The Comiclopedia team also found sequential drawings by some unexpected artists. When Bas visited the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, he noticed that a young Walt Disney had created a comic strip, 'Mr. George's Wife', which never found a syndicate. He found it interesting to add this information to Disney's Comiclopedia page. In 2016, Bas paged through the humorous calendars compiled by Dutch satirical duo Van Kooten & De Bie, and discovered that Wim de Bie had made a few minimalistic comics for them. Over the years, we've discovered comics created by such celebrities as rock musicians Kurt Cobain, Herman Brood, and Frank Zappa, hip hop artists Def P and Schoolly D, painters Andy Warhol, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso and Anton Pieck, directors David Lynch, Sergei Eisenstein, Federico Fellini, Jim Henson and Terry Gilliam, animator Seth MacFarlane, novelists Remco Campert and Jan Cremer, actor Martin Landau, outsider artists Daniel Johnston and Jotie T'Hooft, 19th century photographer Nadar and Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner.

Larry Whittington had the honor of being the Comiclopedia's 10,000th entry on 11 July 2008. On 10 April 2013, Thomas Nast became number 12,000, followed in November 2015 by Dean Miller as our 13,000th article. As of late 2020, the Comiclopedia counts over 14,000 articles and many new ones are still to be written. If there was ever a sign that comics aren't dead, Lambiek.net is the living proof!

Marc Sleen page before and after Knudde:

Next chapter: Comiclopedia timeline