On 29 November the country celebrates Sint Pannekoek (Saint Pancake), notably the people of Rotterdam.
These people will take photos of each other wearing pancakes on their heads, and of course they will eat pancakes. In 2014 (NOS.nl reported back then) hundreds of people took to social media to share the photographic evidence of their pancake wearing ways, and the Koninskerk in Rotterdam organised a pancake feast, the proceeds of which went to charity.
Interestingly, there is no actual Saint Pancake. He and his tradition were made up whole cloth by Jan Kruis for his comic Jan, Jans en de Kinderen (John, Joanie and the Kids) and in turn by his character, grandfather Gerrit, who wanted to get out of having to eat boring beans.
In the strip, grandfather tells the children a strong tale about a cherished childhood tradition: “Mother bakes a huge stack of pancakes and then when the man of the house comes home, everybody puts a pancake on their head and shouts: ‘Dear father, we wish you a happy and blessed Saint Pancake.'” Joanie replies: “I love old traditions!” and changes the dinner she had planned.
Author Jan Kruis, whose comic has been published for decades in leading women’s magazine Libelle, hopes that one day he can get the royal family to wear pancakes on 29 November. “That is my ultimate hope for this tradition”, Kruis told RTV Drenthe two weeks ago.
(Illustration: crop of the comic that started it all by NOS.nl / Jan Kruis)
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.
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’).
Is it possible to speak of the advantages of a dying medium? Right now comics don’t seem to be in particularly good shape. Where magazines like Eppo and the new Dutch Mad used to be made for kids, they now appear to be produced mainly for the grown-ups that used to be kids when they last read those magazines.
On the other hand, a mature audience for comics can lead to mature comics. A good TV series about comics did not seem viable one or two decades ago (Han Peekel made a valiant but ultimately not too successful attempt with Wordt Vervolgd, To Be Continued), but last Saturday cartoonist Jean-Marc (Fokke & Sukke) successfully took up that dusty gauntlet and started a new documentary series about comics called Het Beeldverhaal (The Comic). In this first episode he introduced us to the world of the Dutch autobiographical comic, talking to Jan Kruis, Gerrit de Jager, Maaike Hartjes, Barbara Stok, and others.
Van Tol’s boyish enthusiasm works infectiously. In the seventh episode, he is full of admiration for Willy Linthout whose Jaren van de Olifant (Age of the Elephant) is a personal comic about the death of his son. In the episode about superheroes, he is surprised to learn that a copy of the first Superman story was sold for more than one million dollars.
One of the advantages of having Van Tol as a presenter is that he knows what he is talking about, being a comics artist himself. “Many of the authors we talked to thought that was refreshing,” says [editor Pieter] Klok.
Seven more episodes have been produced that discuss amongst others Belgian comics, superhero comics, manga, newspaper strips and underground comics.