From our continental correspondent – 100 years of Marten Toonder

Published On November 9, 2012 | By Wim | Comics, Continental Correspondent

It would seem that the festivities celebrating the 100th anniversary of Marten Toonder’s birth are finally taking up pace.  Even though 2012 was the Toonder year (after all, he was born in 1912), most events seem to have focused on the fall.

Toonder, named by many as the founding father of Dutch comics, was best known for his Heer Bommel series, which ran for many decades in Dutch newspapers.  The strips were famous for their formalism and their technical perfection.  Toonder never saw the benefits of word balloons, and instead stuck to the older format of a strip of pictures, with accompanying text below them.

He used a very intricate, detailed drawing style, which has been compared to Walt Kelly’s Pogo.  Also not unlike Kelly, Toonder used his comics to comment on the topics of the day and to satirize the hang-ups of his contemporaries.  Finally, his elaborate writing, and the sheer joy with which he created new words, made him one of the most identifiable contributors to the Dutch language in the past century.

Two earlier exhibitions were organised in the Belgian and Dutch comics museums in Brussels and Groningen respectively, but last month the literary world caught on with Een Dubbel Denkraam in the Literary Museum in The Hague (until January 31st, 2013).  For this exhibition, which focuses on Toonder’s creative process as a literary creator, one of the contributors to this show is friend of the blog Erik De Graaf, who created a large mural depicting key elements in Toonder’s life and work.

Erik also contributed to an earlier hommage to Toonder in the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad (which for a long time ran the Heer Bommel strips), recreating the classic De Bovenbazen with new art by twenty contemporary cartoonists (amongst others, Joost Swarte, who created the cover)

A special Toonder App has been released on the iTunes app store, with pictures from Toonder’s family album, artwork by Toonder and his wife, Phiny Dick, ephemera ranging from children’s drawings to commercial work, and a special section on Toonder’s work as an animator, and the founder of the Toonder Studios, which basically was the Dutch animation industry.

Toonder biographer Wim Hazeu presented his biography on October 12th,  as a useful companion piece to Toonder’s own autiobiography, which ended in 1965 (thus leaving out Toonder’s life in Ireland), and was very one-sided when it came to other periods (such as the Second World War).

More info (in Dutch) can be found on the Toonderjaar website. Toonder’s own site is also only available in Dutch, but thankfully there’s a Wikipedia page that offers a short biographical sketch, and a quite extensive biography.

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