My local Omnipresence at the Stripdagen Haarlem

This weekend I will be at the Stripdagen in Haarlem, Holland’s most prestigious comics convention! Where to find me? Almost everywhere!

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First of all, there’s a big expo of my religion-related comics work in the beautiful St. Bavochurch, right in the middle of town. It features pages from my graphic novel Religion: a Discovery in Comics, but also other work, such as Reverend De Heer and this church window depicting the shared paths of Christianity and Islam, almost 3 meters high!

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The expo has been up since end of April (and will be on for another two weeks) and has already garnered lovely comments from visitors all over the world:

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Another place where my work can be found at the Stripdagen, is in De Nieuwe Vide, where the expo ¡VIVA PONTIAC! takes place, about artist Peter Pontiac who passed away last year. I made a comic about it which can be seen in print, and there’s work from my amazing yet humble husband Yiri T. Kohl as well – Yiri was heavily influenced by the work of Pontiac, and even succeeded him as illustrator for magazine Mainline in the 1990s. Here’s an example of his work that can also be found at the expo:

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Last week, I got the surprising news that my webcomic has been shortlisted for the Comik Web Award. I didn’t even know I was nominated! In the Philharmonie there’s an expo of all the shortlisted webcomics. To cash in on this exposure I ordered another print run of my webcomics collection, which will be for sale for 5 euros:

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And then, last but not least, I will manifest in the flesh – on both Saturday and Sunday, you can find me at my own table in de Grote Zaal of the Philharmonie, together with Yiri and a bunch of our books:

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I hope to see some of you there! Come by for freebies and a chat!

 

Group Behavior

What’s wrong with the world today? Hmm, unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, not much more than what was wrong yesterday or a decade ago… One of the problems is this deep-seated psychological phenomenon of group behavior.

This comic is from my graphic novel World Domination: a Discovery in Comics – only out in Dutch yet, but here’s a little preview in English.

Loss

I have not been very active online these past weeks – no blogs, no webcomics even – and the reason is the news of the death of the man I was in a relationship with from 1997 until about 2002. I met him when I was 24 and he was 60 years old – yes, that’s some age gap, but that isn’t the most controversial thing. He was an extraordinary person: ex-legionnaire, talented author, energetic bon-vivant and, alas, the cause of the death of his second wife in 1991, in the tragic culmination of a marriage turned bitter. The story of his crime has become the most widely known thing about him, and I regret that.

There was so much more to him.

Since he was a bit of a notorious figure, the Dutch media reported his death widely and of course this elicits comments from people who knew him, think they knew him, or did not know him at all. Some of the stories that emerge are true, others are total rubbish. It’s so weird to read these things about someone you know so well, almost as if total strangers come unbidden into your living room and start yelling random insults – it’s both frightening and infuriating.

But it’s nothing in comparison to the public avalanche about his person some fifteen years ago, one in which I personally got caught up because I was his girlfriend. I did get involved with the press then, just to get my story out, and learned the hard way that it’s much better for my equilibrium not to. So eventually our relationship became something I never talked about, and that was okay. He and I knew what we had had, and that was enough.

But now he’s dead, and I feel loss and grief and an inability to express it.

I loved this man. What we had was good. His crime stood not in the way of us loving each other. I always felt safe with him, and he went out of his way to take the best care of me. When I think about us, I smile: yes, we were a weird couple, but the affection and passion we had were deep and genuine, and even after we broke up we still held a soft spot for each other.

I think it’s important I say this publicly. Not only for myself, but to convey to the world that things are never that black and white. That there’s more to a person than just the things he did wrong. That love can be a real thing even when there’s vast differences in age and background.

It was during our time together that I started drawing comics. At one point I thought my debut would be a graphic novel about us, but I abandoned this plan when I realized how much that would brand me as “the girlfriend of a killer”, a label that certainly would have hindered me as I embarked on my comics career.

Still, that’s over a hundred comics pages just lying around, gathering dust. Now seems the perfect time to show some of them.

So here’s the condensed version of the life of Richard K., up until 2001:

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This layout is inspired by Joe Matt, especially his early comics in Peepshow. I liked the “in a nutshell”-concept, the black and white grid and how much you can fit into it.

We corresponded a lot when he was in jail, and this is a letter he wrote to me in 2002, and which I turned into a comic. It’s a lovely letter, it shows so well how linguistically versatile he was, and it’s also a rather nice love letter, touching humorously upon our issues of flirtatiousness and jealousy and also, I think, expressing much tender fondness between us. I know he displayed this comic on a wall in his house up until the day he died:

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He also makes an appearance in my book Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics, as “Gerrit, an old family friend” – explaining how Nietzsche’s work has influenced his life:

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Rest in peace, dear Richard K., my Klink – although I doubt that your vivacious spirit will have much use for eternal rest. May you live on forever in Dutch literary mythology for the whole person that you were – and let it be known that you were loved.

Shakespeare competition entry

This year it’s 400 years ago that William Shakespeare died. Teesside University has launched a special Graphic Shakespeare Competition, calling upon all visual artists to shine their light on his work.

Here’s the comic that is my entry – it has literal lines from the original balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet, though not in the original order:

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Interested in participating? Then check out the Call for Entries here. Winner gets to go to a castle in Denmark!

Christmas is coming

It’s that time of year again! The twinkling lights, the frantic buying of gifts (why not purchase a few comics for under the Xmas tree? You’ll be the hit of the party!).

My alter ego Reverend De Heer is having a hard time with all the festive preparations…

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(This comic was published in magazine Predikant & Samenleving in 2012)

And for those who are wondering “What is Christmas really all about?” here’s a page from my graphic novel Religion: a Discovery in Comics, with a very brief summary of the life of Jesus:

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Drawing on Glass at The American Book Center

This weekend I got to draw on the huge glass window of The American Book Center in the center of Amsterdam, the one that displays all my Discovery in Comics-books and especially Religion: a Discovery in Comics, which I will be in conversation about this Thursday with Stijn Schenk of soon-to-be-launched graphic journalism site Drawing The Times.

I was quite nervous as I showed up at the store. I have never before drawn on glass and did not know what to expect. I am used to drawing while people are watching, but somehow doing it on a store window with all my books in it felt like a huge, scary exposure.

To be somewhat prepared, control freak as I am, I had drawn out my plans on paper and came armed with this:

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I was especially worried about the execution of the row of people at the bottom – could I reach it? How comfortably could I draw, hunched on a small strip of window sill…? At the store, it turned out I didn’t have to. There was a huge bin of empty cardboard boxes I could help myself to, and plenty of space in their store room, so I decided to paint this bit on cardboard.

All in all, it took me 3 exciting hours to fill the window as I had planned. The actual glass painting I did on the outside, with acrylic paint, on a positively balmy autumn afternoon with cheerful tourists passing by and even a few fans turning up. Stijn Schenk, who will ask me all kinds of questions about my work on Thursday at the ABC Treehouse, helped out and shot this delightful impression:

 

If you’re in Amsterdam and pass through the center, please check it out, it will be up for almost two weeks. And if you’re in Amsterdam and free on Thursday night, why not drop by at the ABC Treehouse (in the Voetboogstraat, almost across from the store) to hear me and Stijn talk…? I promise I’ll try to make it interesting.

Window Shopping: a Discovery in Comics

In anticipation of next week’s event, The American Book Center in Amsterdam has dressed one of its windows with all the books in the “Discovery in Comics”-series! This is what it looks like:

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I never dreamed that one day great graphic novels like Maus, Fun Home and Logicomix would be displayed in the margin of my own humble edu-comics… it is definitely not in the right proportions, but I’m going to enjoy it anyway.

This Saturday, from 1pm, I am going to claim this window even more by making drawings on the glass. If you want to see me in action, maybe cheer me on – the store is at Spui 14 in Amsterdam. Be welcome!