19 November 1999
When Dutch people in their fifties start talking comics in a sentimental mood, they always end up bringing back to memory the 'miracle soccer player' Kick Wilstra.
This legendary Henk Sprenger comics sportsman, with his impressive physical qualities, his feeling for justice and entrepeneural skills, was a role model for many Dutch youths of the post World War II years of reconstruction. Wilstra's motto 'always straight ahead' ('Doelbewust voorwaarts' in Dutch) was the slogan for a whole generation. That is why Galerie Lambiek was proud to have Henk Sprenger's work on show from 19 November 1999 till the end of January 2000.
Henk Sprenger (born 3/1/1919 in Wormer) owes his reputation, as hinted earlier, mainly to his comic series Kick Wilstra, which was published in periodicals like Het Parool and Ketelbinkie Krant. These are very moving boys comics about a heroic soccer player named after the Dutch soccer legends Kick Smit, Faas Wilkes and Abe Lenstra. Kick Wilstra is extra attractive as a comic, since Henk Sprenger pioneered the comic form. Sprenger was one of the first artists in The Netherlands to use word balloons in his drawings instead of the then-conventional wordless panels with massive columns of text below. This format gives Kick Wilstra the characteristic dynamic feel that comix artists like Peter Pontiac and Martin Lodewijk are still fond of remembering.
Besides Kick Wilstra, Henk Sprenger also told the tales of Piloot Storm, a science-fiction series which made the hearts of many boys beat faster. In the early seventies, Sprenger one more time made his comeback in the newspaper comics section with the soccer comic Piet Keizer (among others in the Amsterdam daily 'Het Parool'). Nevertheless, Sprenger never attained the same level of popularity as he did with Kick Wilstra. Shortly after, Sprenger bids the comics form goodbye to pursue a career in aircraft design. By then his reputation as one of the big names during the rise of Dutch comics stands firmly.