Contemporary Dutch Comics
In the last decade of the twentieth century, Dutch comics experienced an apparent decline . Many of the comics magazines that had thrived during the 1980s, such as Sjors and Sjimmie Maanblad, were losing readers and many had to fold. In tolerant Holland, controversial underground comix soon faded, and due to TV and computer games, many lost interest in the static comic-strip. Yet the 1990s also proved a decade in which a new generation of inventive comic artists emerged.
Newspapers printed a lot of imported strips, which were usually a lot cheaper and more dependable than engaging a Dutch comic artist to create a daily comic. Fortunately, a few brilliant new Dutch comics appeared in newspapers at this time. 'Heinz', the crabby cat by René Windig and Eddie de Jong, started appearing in several Dutch newspapers. The strip ran until 2000, and an animated movie is purportedly in the making.
Peter de Wit started his comics career in children's magazines such as Sjors & Sjimmie. He collaborated with Hanco Kolk on several succesful titles such as 'Gilles de Geus' ('Bryant the Brigand', comparable both in story and quality with the early 'Astérix' albums, this time about our 80-years war against the Spanish oppresor) and the newspaper strip 'S1NGLE' in 2000. The popular newspaper strip 'Sigmund', about a psychiatrist with a dark sense of humor, is solely his own creation though, and appears in newspaper De Volkskrant since 1994.
Another popular comics creation of the past decade is 'Fokke & Sukke', cartoons about a canary and duck who give their vision and opinion on virtually everything. This cartoon is created by the team of Reid, Geleijnse and Van Tol, of which Jean-Marc van Tol is the comic artist.
Fokke & Sukke suffer from RSI:
"According to the doctor there is only one cure..."
"... a girlfriend!"
Comic artists of the newer generation often have to fight to establish themselves, and only a few are able to make a living by just creating comics. Most have day jobs in graphic design, and self-publish their work in their spare time. Despite the barren comic field at this stage, there is still a lot of enthusiasm in the small press circuit. Some artists who started this way have been noticed by publishers, and they have found a growing audience. A good example is the small wave of autobiographical comics by female comic artists, of whom Maaike Hartjes, Barbara Stok and Gerrie Hondius are the most well-known.
Another phenomenon in recent Dutch comics are the more "artful" comics, such as the experimental work by Tobias Schalken and Stefan van Dinther, and the wordless panels of 'Gutsman' by Erik Kriek. They publish their work in beautiful, originally self-funded magazines, and have acquired a devoted crowd of fans.
Left: Erik Kriek often appears in his own comics, here to comfort his creation Gutsman (parody on American superheroes) after a fight with his girlfriend, Tigra.
A few magazines for budding new comic talent still exist, such as the colorful Zone 5300 (about comics, kitsch and curiosa) or De Stripper.
Internet has opened up a whole new way of reaching audiences for comic artists. Beautiful sites about relatively unknown productions are still popping up everywhere, making it easier for comic artists to show and evaluate their work, without having to find a publisher. Internet also serves as a place where comic artists can find each other and communicate.
The Golden Age of Dutch comics may have passed, but the Dutch comics scene is far from dead. Young artists still find the inspiration and the time to start their own comics, and it seems that newspapers are finally realizing that Dutch strips have added value over the imported newspaper strips. The Internet has revived the impulse to experiment, and fortunately there are still a lot of people out there who love to be entertained by this wonderful medium.
We hope you've enjoyed this little overview from our expanded Dutch edition, De Nederlandse Stripgeschiedenis, which provides a more complete picture of this important cultural art form here in the Netherlands.