December 4, 2013

Finnish edition of Zone 5300

Filed under: Comics by Branko Collin @ 4:35 pm

zone_5300_103-1The Rotterdam-based comics zine Zone 5300 has dedicated its last issue of the year to comics from Finland.

Pretty much all of the larger comics in the issue are by Finnish authors. Tiitu Takalo (illustration) wrote and drew It’s a Wonderful Life, a feel good tale about an aspiring writer who is down in the dumps and who gets her spirits lifted by a friend.


zone_5300_103-3-petteri-tikkanenOther comics are Microkosmos by Jenni Janatuinen and Petteri Tikkanen (illustration), Tea and Beer by Jarno Latva-Nikkola, Post Mortem by Emmi Valve and Toivo by Tommi Musturi. Terhi Ekebom produced a beautiful story called What If, in which every panel takes up an entire page.

Interestingly, it felt like I knew these artists. I have the feeling that Finnish and Dutch comics artists perhaps use a similar visual language or have a similar sense of humour, it’s hard to determine exactly what the likenesses are.

There are also interviews with painter Elina Merenmies and regular Zone 5300 contributor Maria Björklund.

Ville Pirinen tells the story of high school gym teacher (illustration) who seems to suffer from short circuits that lead to regular injuries for himself and the occasional injury of others.


Fool’s Gold tells the story of black Amsterdam-based singer Big John Russell and his 1960′s band The Clan, which featured instrumentalists in Ku Klux Klan outfits.

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September 28, 2013

The gifts her neighbour brings her

Filed under: Comics,General by Branko Collin @ 11:02 pm

Merel Barends is a cartoonist from Amsterdam. Her neighbour, J., “visits us almost every day. Sometimes he is drunk. Sometimes he is not. Often he brings a small gift.

Sometimes that gift is an old newspaper or a roll of peppermint. Sometimes he brings fenugreek or chocolate, because he feels Merel is too thin. Once it was statuettes: “if you look up on the Internet what they are worth, then we will split the profits.”

Link and photos: Merel Barends.

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June 24, 2013

Ninety-nine years of Tour de France in comic book form

Filed under: Bicycles,Comics by Branko Collin @ 2:11 pm

Next Saturday the hundredth edition of the toughest bicycle race on the planet will start, the Tour de France.

Dutch comics artist Jan Cleijne has written and drawn a book called Helden van de Tour (Heroes of the Tour) in which he reviews the past 99 editions.

Het Friesch Dagblad notes that with the hundredth Tour ahead of us, the market is about to be saturated with bicycle racing books. “But it looks like Helden van de Tour will be one of the winners. [...] A jewel of a graphic novel.” writes: “Comics artist Jan Cleijne visits all the historic highs and lows, from World War I to the scandal surrounding Lance Armstrong, and talks about what the Tour is all about: endurance. He lets us experience the blizzards, the puddles, a 70 metre drop, glorious victories and molten asphalt. His drawings take on the colours of the stories, ochre during the climb of an arid Mount Ventoux, gray during the hellish ride of 1926 through the Pyrenees.”

“The book is an homage to a race that is worthy of its legends, but it also puts the focus where it hurts,” Zeit Online writes. “The author, born in 1977, is an enthusiastic amateur rider himself and it shows. His voice is critical throughout the book but also emphatic. Precise and loving are the brush strokes with which the Dutchman paints both the drama of the famous riders and the small anecdotes that take place near the sidelines. [...] It is a funny but also a serious book.”

You can find a couple of sample pages at under the ‘Klik dan hier’ link.

Illustration: “In 1951 the yellow jersey was worn for the first time by a Dutchman. His name was Wim van Est. He had never seen a mountain before in his life. The ascent was very slow. The descent was much too fast.” (Miraculously Van Est survived.)

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May 20, 2013

Spike and Suzy re-imagined

Filed under: Comics by Branko Collin @ 4:34 pm

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)

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May 6, 2013

Dutch doctor cartoon: tasteless, funny or who cares?

Filed under: Comics,Science by Orangemaster @ 5:17 pm

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:

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April 20, 2013

Zone 5300 turns 100

Filed under: Comics by Branko Collin @ 4:07 pm

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 Belgian 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.”)

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April 16, 2013

Thom Roep quits as Donald Duck editor after 39 years

Filed under: Comics by Branko Collin @ 2:14 pm

Comics writer Thom Roep (61) has announced in an interview with 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)

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October 21, 2012

Zone 5300, of saints and silicon

Filed under: Comics by Branko Collin @ 3:03 pm

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).

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August 11, 2012

Dutch animation classics by Toonder Studios

Filed under: Comics,Literature by Branko Collin @ 4:22 pm

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.)

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June 27, 2012

Turkish special Zone 5300

Filed under: Comics by Branko Collin @ 7:19 pm

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

Issue 98 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?"

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