Four Dutch cartoonists of the early 1970s, four approaches to exaggerated cartoon physics, action, and staging, all within a common cartooning language though with slightly different reference points for each.
- Bernard Voorzichtig: Twee voor Thee by Daan Jippes, script by Martin Lodewijk
- De Broertjes Samovarof & Co.: Het Wolvenjong by Fred Julsing
- Blook: De Ruimtepiraten by Johnn Bakker, script by Dick Matena
- Grote Pyr: De Zoon van de Zon by Dick Matena
All taken, for consistency’s sake, from their original appearances in the magazine Pep rather than from the album editions, some of which used different colors or none at all.
I’ve been tagging my posts about Dutch comics of the late 60s and early 70s #the children of tom poes, and I suppose I might as well note here that Tom Poes is to Dutch comics what Pogo would have been to US comics if Pogo also occupied the same space as the Walt Disney Corporation (and maybe, like, King Features to boot) in US cartooning. Marten Toonder is the name to start your Lambiek dive with; like Walts Disney and Kelly, he was a funny-animal cartoonist turned middlebrow philosopher, but more to the point, he hired a lot of people to churn out his studios’ product — more and more Disney-inflected over the years — beginning in the 50s. Two of those people were Julsing and Matena; Jippes and Bakker never worked for Toonder, but were deeply influenced by him, as well as by the Disney brand. (Carl Barks is perhaps the ultimate common denomintor here.)
The stories these samples are taken from vary widely in tone and content, but what they have in common is a unified desire to push past the traditional Belgian modes of adventure cartooning, whether ligne-claire, Marcinelle, or réalistique, which had been the standard European model since the 40s. The first wave of auteurist comics-makers (Pratt, Breccia, Crepax, Forest) and the Pilote generation of thoughtful, idea-heavy adventure storytelling (Blueberry, Valérian, Philémon) were firing ambitions all across the continent. The way Jippes, Julsing, Bakker and Matena grappled with the challenge to make it new was to push classic Euro (and Disney) cartooning to extremes: of motion, of character design, of line and composition and perspective.
You can see Franquin in Jippes and Bakker and Uderzo in Julsing an Matena but squished and stretched into absurdist territory. When you look at a whole page of any of these comics (particularly in the black-and-white editions) for the first time, it can register as visual cacophony, so dense with perspective switches, competing textures, and expository dialogue that those of us reared on U.S. or Japanese comics can feel subconsciously repelled by the surge of detail. They read very easily once you get into the rhythm and go panel-by-panel, of course — these are still comics aimed at the juvenile market — but the sheer brio with which these comics bounce and swerve, chock full of closely-observed detail even at their most outlandishly cartoonish, is unexpected and slightly overwhelming to a sensibility (mine) reared on more sedate heroic fantasy slash jokey strip cartoons.
I’m not sure I’ve gotten at what really appeals to me about these artists (and the comics don’t really excerpt well; their effect is cumulative, not modular), but I’m hitting publish anyway. More possibly to come if I work out what else I want to say.