Spike and Suzy (Dutch: Suske en Wiske) may still be the biggest selling comic in the Netherlands, but a sales drop of 75% in 16 years in their native country Belgium has urged Studio Vandersteen to look at ways to renew the franchise.
The result is a spin-off comic called Amoras in which all the popular characters have aged about eight years. Spike and Suzy are now in their late teens and the target audience is in that same region. Publisher Johan de Smedt told 7sur7, “Amoras remains faithful to the spirit of Willy Vandersteen, whose heirs have agreed to the project. But it is more brutal, more violent and it does not always end well.”
Suske en Wiske have always been the flagship comic of the Dutch language. Their popularity in the Netherlands led creator Willy Vandersteen to even change names to make them more palatable to a Dutch audience. Ragdoll Schalulleke (Antwerp dialect for ‘scallion’) for example became Schanulleke.
In this story, Spike and Suzy accidentally use professor Barabas’ time travel device to ‘flash’ to the island of Amoras, Spike’s original home land, but to the Amoras of 2046. The future Amoras has been colonized by the evil Krimson who believes that “history is a playground and a treasury”. The story ends on a cliffhanger and it’s quite a biggie as far as cliffhangers go, so be prepared to also buy the next album which should appear in November.
*) French: Bob et Bobette; American: Willy and Wanda. They sell almost a million albums each year in the Netherlands. In their home country they have to had to give the sales crown to Kiekeboe.
(Image: Standaard Uitgeverij / Charel Cambré)
Tags: Amoras, Antwerp, Belgium, Spike and Suzy, Suske en Wiske, Willy Vandersteen
Doctor (‘Medicine man’): ‘Jambalayla, Jambayla’ (= nonsense words, nothing to do with cooking)
Patient: Thank you… I feel much better already.
Caption: It should be easier for foreign doctors to practice here.
I personally know doctors and nurses with perfectly good diplomas from Eastern European countries that cannot or could not find work in the Netherlands, as their diploma was either not recognised or highly devalued.
After 14 years in the Netherlands, a land that generally hates to be politically correct, I can imagine that this cartoon didn’t even raise an eyebrow for most people. I’m not saying I agree, but I do understand why people didn’t have a problem with it: it’s a ‘far-from-my-bed-show’, the Dutch equivalent of ‘it doesn’t really concern me’, after all the medicine man is just a caricature not a real person, someone would say.
However, I also understand why some people would be offended at the depiction of a tribal sounding African-like Black person portrayed as a quack. I just think the cartoon is not that great (Hein de Kort does have his moments), but it does have a racial slant that could have been avoided.
The media have enough Dutch doctor mishaps to report about. Just today a Dutch doctor hit the presses for unnecessarily removing a man’s prostate in Leiden (in Dutch). The man had the same name as someone else. ‘Jambalayla, Jambayla’ to you, too.
(Link to more info, in Dutch: www.parool.nl)
Tags: doctors, Leiden, racism
Comics magazine Zone 5300 celebrates its hundredth issue with 40 extra pages, although half of those are taken up by a long article looking back at all those issues.
The Lamelos collective join in the festivities with four birthday stories (illustration), but the rest of the issue is, luckily, business as usual. Here you can see Mr Doody Head looking to turn his friend Mr Cheese Head into a collection of party snacks (“look behind you…”).
Other longs stories are Cool Jazz by Paolo Vicenzi (about how different generations of musicians see their craft), Alone in the Crowd by Nina Bunjevac (love = sex, sometimes, in the bathroom of run-down bar), Papa Zoglu by Simon Spruyt (a twisted fairy tale), a Ray Murphy story by Fufu Frauenwahl and Bartje (illustration) by Belgin writer and artist Frederik van den Stok. In the last story a lonely young student tries to see if a one night stand can be turned into something more, against all odds. The art looks like it is still a draft but is surprisingly effective, and the story is tight and shows great insight. The scene where the alpha male leaves a city bench and the betas size each other up is brilliant.
There are also interviews with comics artists Brecht Vandenbroucke (Belgium) and Fufu Frauenwahl (Germany) and singer/songwriter Mark Lotterman (Rotterdam). A short story by Murat Isik tells of the career of a comics collector cut short. Vic’s Dip Parade consists of a compilation of ten songs that do not fit into any compilation, including a sing-along in which De Zangeres Zonder Naam takes on American hate monger Anita Bryan.
In a two-pager Kenny Rubenis looks at some of the problems those of us experience who just don’t care that much for music. It’s got a nice twist at the end, and you can read it all because Rubenis put the comic up on his website (Dutch). (“[You miss out on] making a mix tape for that cool girl from 8th grade to let her know that I like her. She never knew.”)
Tags: Kenny Rubenis, Lamelos
Comics writer Thom Roep (61) has announced in an interview with nu.nl that he will quit as Editor-in-Chief of one of the country’s most successful magazines of the past 50 years, Donald Duck.
Roep said the growing importance of the Internet for the franchise was his reason for leaving. All the major Disney characters have Dutch Twitter accounts and Roep feels that “it is no longer credible that I lead a team that is concerned with, and enthusiastic about, things that just do not mean as much to me. I am so old-fashioned that I read tweets from paper. I am a paper man. That is why it is time for a younger person to take over, somebody who is interested in the digital side of things. I do not want to be a pretender.”
Donald Duck was founded in 1952 as a weekly when other countries already had Disney magazines. The magazine managed to sell at least 300,000 issues each week until recently, mainly because it relies on subscriptions. Roep thinks its success stems from the fact that “[the magazine] is passed from generation to generation. Parents want to give their children the same pleasant childhood memories as they had. Let’s be honest though: if the magazine did not exist and it was started now, it would not manage to sell 10% of what we sell now. Would a white duck in a sailor suit be successful?”
Sales figures have been dropping—currently they are at 278,000 issues—and publisher Sanoma have been producing themed issues to get more advertisers on board. Today a special issue about the inauguration of the new king was released (see illustration). It contains a story, Abduckation, that according to Roep refers to a famous saying that was popular around the time Beatrix became queen. I am guessing this refers to ‘geen woning, geen kroning’ (no coronation when there is a shortage of houses), the slogan under which squatters disrupted Beatrix’s inauguration.
Roep wants to return to writing comics. In the past he has written the Douwe Dabbert series which was drawn by Piet Wijn.
See also: Students prefer Donald Duck magazine over serious newspaper.
Disclaimer: I have written stories for Donald Duck magazine.
(Image: Donald Duck)
Tags: Donald Duck, King Willem Alexander, Queen Beatrix, squatters, squatting, Thom Roep, Walt Disney
The 99th issue of Zone 5300 has hit the stores and it opens with Marcel Ruijters’ history of Lidwina of Schiedam (illustration, top), one of the few Dutch saints, who lived from 1380 – 1433.
Other longish comics are by Tom Gauld (Scotland), Rik Buter, André Slob, Ckoe and Stijn Gisquière.
Martijn van Santen wrote and drew a four pager (illustration) in which a Tux-like penguin runs a Microsoft-like corporation that tries to halt the introduction of personal quantum computers. Guest appearances by politicians Geert Wilders and Mark Rutte.
The magazine also has a five pager by Joseph Lambert about a kid trying to halt the four seasons (illustration below).
There are interviews with cartoonists Floor de Goede, Tom Gauld and Olivier Schrauwen and with story board artist Jim Cornish (Harry Potter, The Dark Knight).
Tags: Marcel Ruijters, Martijn van Santen, Zone 5300
This year is the 100th birthday of Marten Toonder, the godfather of the Dutch comic, and many events and publications mark the occasion, such as De Toonder Animatiefilms, a comprehensive history of the Toonder Studios’ animations.
The book by Jan-Willem de Vries contains over 500 illustrations and includes a DVD with many of the films.
Holly Moors says about the book:
The DVD contains quite a number of commercial animations [...], but the films [that the studio made for itself] are by far the most interesting. Among them De Gouden Vis [The Golden Fish---Branko], a beautiful, quiet animation with wonderful Oriental looking artwork, magnificently subtle colouring and a rather vague, Oriental story.
The entire DVD turns out to be a treasure trove of such surprises.
Toonder (1912 – 2005) was mostly known for his comics though, and his flagship strip was the Tom Puss/Oliver B. Bumble series.
After Belgian comics creator Hergé (Tintin) had introduced text balloons for speech, most European comics artists adopted that style. Toonder however stuck to comics that looked more like illustrated texts, which allowed him to fully explore his literary style. That style, combined with the use of fables to parody Dutch society must have made him hard to translate, yet he was one of the very few Dutch comics authors who saw success abroad.
Several of his neologisms are used to this day in the Dutch language:
- Minkukel: an inferior person.
- Zielknijper: psychiatrist, literally ‘soul pincher’ (i.e. analogous to ‘head shrinker’).
- Grootgrutter: supermarket, literally ‘large-scale grocery’.
- Denkraam: something like intellect, but also frame of reference and paradigm, literally ‘thought window’.
A lot of writers who later became famous in their right worked for Toonder Studios, such as Lo Hartog van Banda, Paul Biegel, Thé Tjong King, Piet Wijn, Dick Matena and Jan Kruis,
(Illustration: still from The Dragon That Wasn’t, the first Dutch feature animation film.)
Tags: Dick Matena, Jan Kruis, Lo Hartog van Banda, Marten Toonder, Paul Biegel, Piet Wijn, Thé Tjong King
Illustration: MK Perker
The celebration of 400 years of diplomatic relations between Turkey and The Netherlands
might tempt a magazine’s editors, looking for fresh angles, to dedicate an issue to the topic… Zone 5300 did, and struck gold.
The thing about European comics is that the genre seems to have just a few torchbearers, Belgium being the Mount Olympus and The Netherlands, France, Spain and maybe Italy the foothills. Discovering that there is another country on the continent with a rich comic traditions (and a narrative of adversity to boot—censorship being a day-to-day reality in Turkey)? This is just the thing I am reading Zone 5300 for, baby!
Illustration: Bahadır Baruter
has comics by MK Perker
, Bahadır Baruter
, Memo Tembelçizer
, Betül Yilmaz
(who writes and draws for Bayan Yanı, a magazine filled only by female cartoonists), Kenan Yarar
and Ersin Karabalut
. The issue also contains a six page history of Turkish comics and an interview with Dutch illustrator Gijs Kast about his drawn portraits of the streets of Istanbul.
I especially liked Ersin Karabulut’s comic Under the Skin about a skin disease that manifests itself as a life form that can speak. It does this by forming letters on the skin of its carrier. Although Karabulut does not shy away entirely from the farcical possibilities his idea offers, the comic really is an exploration of how the carriers respond to their new predicament, specifically how they change under the pressures of their environment… or do they? I really don’t want to give away too much, but this comic alone packs a lot of punch in only six pages. I would not mind reading more from Karabulut to see if he can keep up this level of story telling.
Illustration: Gijs Kast
Illustration: Ersin Karabulut. The disease says: "Why don't you ever make filled eggplant?"
Tags: Ersin Karabulut, Turkey
Zone 5300 is an indie comics magazine that also contains reviews, columns and interviews. It is one of my favourite magazines, which is why I write about it a lot.
Issue #97 contains comics by Charlotte Dumortier, Jasper Rietman, Tobias Schalken, Joseph Lambert and Didi de Paris & Serge Baekens, and interviews with Peter van Dongen, Zak, Leonard van Munster and Judith Vanistendael.
Zak is a Belgian cartoonist who has been plying his trade for almost 40 years (he started out as a bookkeeper). He is published in newspapers in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Says Zone: “I am not a political cartoonist, Zak [...] states emphatically. Even though he publishes his cartoons daily. He only draws the sediment of politics, the small consequences of perhaps not even very important decisions.”
(Illustration: “This patient who has been in a coma for fifteen years would like to pay in guilders.”)
Tobias Schalken uses ‘boring’ postcard-like images to illustrate a monologue about hormone filled early teens: “After dinner dad drives me to Pim’s birthday, so I do not have to bike all the way in the dark. Pim’s party is in the garage, his father has parked the car in the street today.”
There are no depictions of humans in those nine pages, it’s all blank walls, close-ups of brooms and lamp posts, which is a bit eerie, but it also enhances the sense of reminiscing.
Jasper Rietman’s “Tri/ps” are three-panel strips in which the last panel is always a surprise. I think the format works well, although there is some repetition between panels.
Tags: Jasper Rietman, Tobias Schalken, Zak, Zone 5300
Created in 1952, the Donald Duck weekly magazine has just been translated into Frisian, the language today’s kids would associate with speed skater Sven Kramer and supermodel Doutzen Kroes. After just three days, Donald Duck is almost sold out, with only 10,000 copies left of the original 40,000, enough to supply one tenth of the Frisian-speaking population. Donald is still speaking Dutch here, but he is doing something typically Frisian: fierljeppen (far-leaping). Frisian, as well as English, German and Dutch, are part of the same language group of West Germanic languages.
As of 27 April, they’ll print more magazines to meet the rising demand, which I would imagine also makes it a collector’s item. Just this year, we had the First ever national advert entirely in Frisian and if cutie pies like Sven and Doutzen speak Frisian, it’s bound to be increasingly trendy.
Tags: Donald Duck, Doutzen Kroes, Frisian, Sven Kramer
If you look closely, you may recognise a famous duck.
Niels Kalk lives and works in Berlin, but is from the Netherlands and studies at the Minerva Art Academy in Groningen. In 2004 he drew a four-pager for Zone 5300. His Flickr collection is extensive and also shows off his love for collage.
(Link tip: Remco Polman)
Tags: Berlin, collage, Groningen