Ben Abas: Pioneering Dutch Illustrator and Comic Artist

Ben Abas: Pioneering Dutch Illustrator and Comic Artist

Ben Abas, a talented Dutch illustrator and comic artist from the mid-20th century, left an indelible mark on pulp illustrations and comic books. Although relatively obscure, his work on iconic series like “Spot Morton” and “Lex Brand” garnered attention and appreciation during his career. In this in-depth article, we will explore the life, contributions, and legacy of Ben Abas, shedding light on his artistic journey and his impact on the world of Dutch comics.

Early Life and Artistic Beginnings

Ben Abas embarked on his artistic journey in 1947 when he started working as an illustrator for the “Spot Morton” series, published by the Amsterdam-based Periodiek. The success of this series inspired his father to venture into the world of “beeldromans,” or picture novels. Consequently, Ben and his brother collaborated on the “Lex Brand” series, with his brother providing the texts. This marked the beginning of Abas’s notable career in comic books.

IMG 6266 - Ben Abas: Pioneering Dutch Illustrator and Comic Artist

In addition to “Lex Brand,” another series called “Tom Wels” was introduced as a monthly science fiction offering in the late 1940s. However, by 1948, picture novels faced criticism and scrutiny from various quarters, including the Dutch government and educators. This backlash against comic books posed challenges to the publishing industry, leading to a decline in their popularity.

Despite these challenges, Abas’s contributions to the world of Dutch comic art continued to evolve.

Bell Studio and Multiple Series

1952, the Abas family established the Bell Studio, initially in Haarlem and later in Lunteren. This creative hub became the platform for Ben Abas to produce various comic book series. His primary focus remained on “Lex Brand,” a detective series for which his brother provided the accompanying texts. The series continued until 1955, contributing to Abas’s growing work.

IMG 6265 - Ben Abas: Pioneering Dutch Illustrator and Comic Artist

During this period, Ben Abas also ventured into other comic series, including “Karl May” and “Texas Ranger,” showcasing his versatility as an illustrator and comic artist. “Kara Ben Nemsi” and “De Groene Straal” were additional “beeldromans” published by Bell Studio.

Abas was remarkably prolific during this phase of his career, with an average output of two monthly picture novels from the summer of 1947 to the summer of 1949. The second “Lex Brand” series was introduced in 1952 and ran until 1954.

Challenging Times for Comic Books

The late 1940s and early 1950s proved challenging times for comic books in the Netherlands. Public opinion, fueled by concerns about the influence of comics on children and concerns about “reading laziness,” led to growing criticism of the medium. This backlash against comics led to a decline in their publication.

IMG 6267 - Ben Abas: Pioneering Dutch Illustrator and Comic Artist

As a result, Bell Studio faced difficulties, ultimately leading to the discontinuation of comic book series such as “Lex Brand” and “Tom Wels.” It was not until the 1980s that “Lex Brand” and “Tom Wels” were reprinted, reviving interest in Ben Abas’s earlier work.

“De Strijd der Gaucho’s” and Collaboration with Lo Hartog van Banda

In addition to his work on various comic series, Ben Abas ventured into balloon strips. In 1950, he illustrated the balloon strip “De Strijd der Gaucho’s,” which appeared in the magazine Okido of Neerlandia in Utrecht. Abas’s versatility as an artist allowed him to explore different formats and styles within the world of comic art.

IMG 6264 - Ben Abas: Pioneering Dutch Illustrator and Comic Artist

Ben Abas’s collaboration with scriptwriter Lo Hartog van Banda is a notable chapter in his career. Together, they created four issues of the science fiction magazine “Fantasie en Wetenschap” in 1948-1949. This collaboration showcased Abas’s ability to bring imaginative and otherworldly concepts to life through his art.

Toonder Studios and “Martin Evans”

From 1953 onward, Ben Abas became affiliated with the prestigious Toonder Studios, a renowned animation and comics studio founded by Marten Toonder. This association marked a significant milestone in his career, allowing him to work on prominent projects within the Dutch comics industry.

Ben Abas: Pioneering Dutch Illustrator and Comic Artist

One of the projects initiated during this period was “Baron van Tast,” featuring artwork by Ben Abas. Although this comic was ultimately rejected, its plot was later repurposed for the “Baron Bluff” comic in the 1960s, drawn by Jan van Wensveen.

Abas also contributed to the famous “Tom Poes” balloon strip in the Donald Duck weekly, showcasing his adaptability and versatility as an artist.

However, his collaboration with Lo Hartog van Banda on the sci-fi comic “Martin Evans” garnered significant attention. Abas played a pivotal role in bringing this science fiction story to life through his illustrations. The first story in the series, “Het Venuskruid,” was published in Scandinavian newspapers and the Belgian magazine “t Kapoentje.” In the Netherlands, it appeared in “Echo” in 1958.

Challenges at Toonder Studios and Departure

Despite his promising start at Toonder Studios, Ben Abas encountered challenges during his tenure. By 1952, Hartog van Banda had approached the studios with several projects, including “Baron van Tast,” which featured Abas’s artwork. However, the comic was not approved.

IMG 6262 - Ben Abas: Pioneering Dutch Illustrator and Comic Artist

Subsequently, Abas was allowed to work on the “Tom Poes” balloon strip, but his journey at Toonder Studios faced setbacks. The studio eventually informed affiliated newspapers that they were discontinuing the “Martin Evans” comic, citing concerns about its theme and quality. Disheartened by his treatment, Abas decided to part ways with the project.
This departure created tension between Abas and Lo Hartog van Banda, as the latter was unaware of the issues that led to Abas’s exit. Unfortunately, the two friends never had the opportunity to reconcile or resolve their differences.

Emigration to Australia and Later Career

In what marked a significant turning point in his life and career, Ben Abas emigrated to Australia in September-October 1955. This move to a new country marked a fresh chapter in his artistic journey.

In Australia, Abas continued to pursue his passion for art and illustration. He became a drawing teacher in Perth, sharing his knowledge and skills with aspiring artists. Additionally, he worked on illustrations for a series of school books titled “New Living English,” authored by Roy W. Grace and published in Perth in 1974 and 1975.

Legacy and Impact

Ben Abas’s legacy endures through his artistic contributions and the recognition he received for his work, particularly in Dutch comics. Although his career faced challenges and controversies, his talent and versatility as an artist are undeniable. His collaborations with notable figures like Lo Hartog van Banda and his involvement with Toonder Studios attest to his significance within the Dutch comics industry.

While Abas may not be a household name in the world of comics, his dedication to the craft and his willingness to explore various genres and styles left an indelible mark. His work continues to be a source of inspiration for contemporary artists and comic enthusiasts.

In memory of his contributions to the world of comics, we can celebrate Ben Abas as a pioneering Dutch illustrator and comic artist who pushed artistic boundaries and persevered through the challenges of his time. His artistic legacy lives on, reminding us of the enduring power of visual storytelling.

Read alsoPeter Pontiac (1951-2015): A Dutch Cartoonist, Comics Artist, and Illustrator

FAQs about Ben Abas:

1. Who is Ben Abas, and what is he known for?

Ben Abas was a Dutch pulp illustrator and comic artist known for his work on “picture novels” like ‘Spot Morton’ and ‘Lex Brand,’ as well as his collaboration on the sci-fi comic ‘Martin Evans.’

2. When did Ben Abas start his career as a comic artist?

Ben Abas began his career as a comic artist in 1947 when he worked on the ‘Spot Morton’ series.

3. What are “beeldromans,” and how were they received in the Netherlands?

“Beeldromans” are small illustrated “picture novels.” They were popular in the Netherlands in the mid-20th century, but by 1955, they faced criticism, and public opinion turned against them.

4. What was the significance of the ‘Lex Brand’ and ‘Tom Wels’ series?

‘Lex Brand’ and ‘Tom Wels’ were two notable series created by Ben Abas. ‘Lex Brand’ featured detective stories, and ‘Tom Wels’ was a space-travel-themed series.

5. Who were some collaborators and writers Ben Abas worked with during his career?

Ben Abas collaborated with his brother Leo Abas on the Lex Brand series and worked with writer Lo Hartog van Banda on the sci-fi comic ‘Martin Evans.’

6. What led to the decline of comic books in the Netherlands in the mid-20th century?

Comic books in the Netherlands faced criticism and backlash from the Dutch government and educators, who believed they negatively influenced children and promoted “reading laziness.”

7. Why did Ben Abas emigrate to Australia, and what was his life like there?

Ben Abas emigrated to Australia in 1955, becoming a drawing teacher in Perth. He also worked on illustrating school books.

8. What happened to the ‘Martin Evans’ comic after Ben Abas left the project?

After Ben Abas left the ‘Martin Evans comic, an unknown studio co-worker completed the original story. Different artists and writers later continued it.

9. Is there a legacy or recognition of Ben Abas’s work today?

Ben Abas is remembered for his contributions to Dutch picture novels and his role in the mid-20th-century comic book scene in the Netherlands.

10. Are there any tributes or dedications to Ben Abas’s work?

In the Dutch city of Almere, a street was named after the character Tom Wels as part of the “Comics Heroes” district in 2004.

This post was created with our nice and easy submission form. Create your post!


Do you like it?

Avatar of Tor Alosson Participant

Written by Tor Alosson

I am a passionate writer with a deep love for exploring diverse topics. My writing endeavors span a broad spectrum, allowing me to delve into various subjects enthusiastically and curiously. From the human experience's intricacies to the natural world's wonders, I find joy in crafting words that bring these subjects to life. My creative journey knows no bounds, and I embrace the opportunity to share my thoughts, stories, and insights on everything that piques my interest. Writing is my gateway to endless exploration, a realm where I can freely express my thoughts and ideas and connect with others who share my appreciation for the written word.

Leave a Reply

IMG 6271 - The Influence of Comics on Pop Culture

The Influence of Comics on Pop Culture

Mobile Gambling in 2024: A Winning Bet on the Future

Mobile Gambling in 2024: A Winning Bet on the Future