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Tom Poes — Peter Vos
(Tom Puss by Peter Fox)
Imagine a website like this, presenting info on European and Dutch strips and never even mentioning Marten Toonder! I'm ashamed to say this was the case here. Maybe because he's so obvious. Tom Poes is the best-known and longest-running strip in Holland, as far as I know. I was quite literally brought up with it.
Tom Poes has been appearing in Dutch newspapers and magazines at least from the end of WWII till now. Collections have been published in book form. There have been animated cartoons, rare for Holland; and even a Tom Poes weekly. Toonder has also produced regular full-color balloon-type strips, but I never thought they quite made it: He needs text. Like all cartoon characters, The Puss went through several changes of appearance while retaining the same character. His stooge is Bommel, and this is the character the strip really revolves about. Tom Poes is much too smart to be sympathetic; a wise guy — so, naturally, Bommel's the one we identify with.
A widely varied cast of supporting characters was developed through the decennia. Below is a selection of the major ones, but there are many more. From the descriptions you may conclude that the strip does not keep away from social comments. If anything, this is what made it less popular over the years, except with hi-brow intellectuals. Personally, this simpleton still prefers the earlier efforts, but who cares? The strip still kept on being funny, albeit in a different, much more (and maybe much too obviously) metaphorical way. See what I mean, below?
John D. Stooge takes a fall Olivier B. Bommel, Heer
artistocrat con artists, business men—what's the difference? artistic artist Marquis de Cantecler Hiep Hieper & Bul Super Terpen Tijn authority government bureaucracy commissary Bullebas mayor Dickerdack civil servant Dorknoper happy goof one bear, two pussies bourgeois Wammes Waggel Neighborly Pussy, Bear, Puss grocer Grootgrut
faithful servant evil magician Captain Wal Rus
Help! Another smoker!
servile to the core
(WWII dump equipment, during all of his and Toonder's career)
you have to know,sickmeans beard in DutchNo Sex Interest
The only female I've ever seen to appear in Tom Poes is Bommel's neighbor Doddeltje. She's Tom's spitting image, and just as sexless. Tom has rightly been calledthat sterile white little wise guy, and dressing him in drag didn't help much. This is so obvious I'm embarassed even to mention it. The Kappie strips never had any female at all. In Toonder's Koning Hollewijn strip, that character did have a sort of female sidekick called Wiebel Wip; a typical 1950s teenager. To me, she was yet another Tom Poes, only twice as long and slim, and maybe just about as sexless; but at least she did carry tits. Hollewijn is much like Bommel physically, often even sporting the same sort of coat, but don't let that fool you.
I wouldn't dare jump to the conclusion that Marten Toonder was not interested in sex himself; you might as well start thinking Carl Barks or Harvey Kurtzman were neuters! Toonder was married to illustrator Phiny Dick. I have not tried to find out anything about his biography; maybe later. I can tell you that he lived in Ireland for a very long time, like John Huston and, for a year or so, my brother Wim. You have to know Ireland is one of the most civilized countries in the world, in that artists do not have to pay income tax there. Maybe the Irish feel artists have it tough enough without bugging them with those hassles; or maybe they're just grateful for their existence, weird as that may sound to some people...
Holland's Glory Kappie
(not Andy) - separate strip
yet another Con Artist
Toonder also made at least one animated cartoon, De Gouden Vis [The Golden Fish]. I never saw it, but the very first book on animation I read was his Tekenfilm [Animated Cartoons], in which he remarks about Max Fleischer's Gulliver that the rotoscoping, agreed, was not everything. (But my brother José told me Toonder had no right to complain.)
And I have to tell you, sometimes I suspect the guy was color blind. Not my taste at all.
Toonder, De Telegraaf and World War II
Marten Toonder used to publish in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, which was strongly pro-Nazi. It has been held against him that he continued working for them after Holland had been occupied by the Germans. He himself did not agree, and neither do I. When the newspaper was taken over by the SS, Toonder quit. Just have another look at how this man depicted aristocracy, police and other forms of authority and you will have to agree; such a man couldn't possibly have been a Nazi. But, just like with P.G. Wodehouse, the story never really died and was raked up again when Toonder himself died in July 2005, age 93. What I always hate about this sort of thing is the hypocrisy of it all: De Telegraaf still is the largest Dutch newspaper and it has hardly changed its spots.
Marten Disney - Walt Toonder
You don't have to look long at Toonder's work, especially the background renderings, to discern a strong Disney influence. His very signature resembles Walt Dizzy's. Nothing wrong with that... we've all been influenced by that work. And it stops there, anyway; Toonder certainly is not a mere Disney imitator. To the contrary, his characters are often very different from the standard types found in animation. Wammes Waggel may be a classic Goofy type, but he's always happy. And, what I like best, all his dummies are potbellied. I just can't agree with his a priori mistrust of scientists, whom he gives the same treatment as evil magicians.
For some reason, many character names in the Tom Poes strip work out better in English than in Dutch. A tom cat is called a kater in Dutch, with ample punning possibilities in itself (it means hangover as well). Bommel is Bumble; the Dutch has a different meaning, analogue to the German Bummel as made famous by Jerome K. Jerome; Koning Hollewijn, in Dutch reminiscent of Halewijn, in English Halloween; and so on.
Kvetsch, kvetsch, kvetsch.
Apart from the few balloon-type strips I mentioned earlier, all Toonder's work I have seen consisted of a strip of drawings with text below. For some reason, publisher De Bezige Bij reproduced this in a vertical format, with the drawings much reduced in size. What a pity those hidebound conservatives could not see their way to adapting the book format to the original strip, so you could enjoy the drawings better. Also much less waste of paper.
Hey you, dumb drones
have a look at this example
and amend your ways.
Kees van Velzen kindly sent me a range of Hocus Pas, Wal Rus, Joost, Panda and Joris Goedbloed pictures - he's still at it;
Toon Verstappen helped me out with Kappie, Sickbock and Koning Hollewijn.
A Megabit of Thanks!
The resemblance between Bul Super and Dutch animation producer Joop Geesink is not coïncidental...
Geesink, like and for a while even with Toonder, had an outfit at Cinetone Studios, Duivendrecht (Amsterdam) called Dollywood.
I don't know much about him, but what I've seen of his work suggests a strong George Pal influence.
Amazing how (hardly) anybody ever mentions Pal's time in Holland.
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