From our continental correspondent – Shake up in Dutch comics publishing
Only two years after Oog En Blik, the prime publisher of literary comics and graphic novels in the Netherlands, became part of literary publishing giant De Bezige Bij, the honeymoon seems to be over. Hansje Joustra, Oog en Blik founder and beloved guest at comics festivals all over Europe, was fired in an attempt to save on expenditures, and the publishing schedule was seriously reduced to a bare minimum.
As a reaction, Joustra has joined forces with investor Wiebe Mokken and advisor (and illustration genius) Joost Swarte to start a new publishing house, Scratch, the Dutch daily NRC reports (link in Dutch). Scratch plans to publish some twenty books every year, and already have been able to attract a couple of the more star creators away from Oog en Blik, among whom are Erik Kriek, Ever Meulen, Guido van Driel and Typex. Joustra is currently still in talks with more creators, and expects to be able to lure most of the creators currently with Oog en Blik away to his new venture.
While Joustra has proven himself to be a well-loved publisher who cares about the talent he surrounds himself with, the question remains whether Scratch will also be able to continue the added value that De Bezige Bij was able to bring to the table. As creator Erik Kriek tells it in the article, “De Bezige Bij was good in distribution. All of a sudden graphic novels were reviewed in the newspapers”. However, as Swarte noted the larger parent company for Oog en Blik considered the Dutch language comics market to be fairly small and not so much worth the investment. Scratch, he says, will pay more attention to the Flemish market and to international rights sales, while Erik Kriek observed that when the choice is between passion and profit, for most creators the former wins.