Jan Vriends is the ‘Comic Artist of the Nation’ with hordes of young fans

Jan Vriends is the new Comics Artist of the Nation. De Helmonder is best known for his comic strip Roos Vink in the girls’ magazine Tina and JanJaap in the AD. Vriends sees it as his mission to draw attention to the ‘comic making profession’. “I want to show how beautiful and complex the profession is. It is more than Suske & Wiske and Donald Duck.”

Written by

Arnold Tankus

On Saturday afternoon, on the first day of the two-day Breda Comics Festival in the Chassé Theater, 53-year-old Helmonder received ‘the pencil’ that goes with the title Comics Artist of the Fatherland. “I could draw before I could write, and when I could write, I could make comics,” says Vriends. His comics appeared in the alternative comics magazine Zone 5300 as early as the 1990s. He has been drawing JanJaap for the AD since 1997.

Vriends is best known for his comic strip Roos Vink, which appears in the girls’ magazine Tina. That is no coincidence, because his sisters always read Tina. Moreover, he is the father of five children, four of whom are daughters, so ‘this is my natural habitat’. Roos is very popular and Vriends is very busy when there are signing sessions: “Then I am busy from nine to five. I not only have to sign the books and Tina’s, but also t-shirts, caps, everything actually. Great fun! “

An episode of Vriends' comic strip Roos Vink from Tina.
An episode of Vriends’ comic strip Roos Vink from Tina.

Robin Vinck of the All About Comics Foundation, which made the appointment, says that Vriends was chosen ‘because he is full of ideas on how the profession should be further professionalized’. He also knows how to appeal to a ‘young and atypical audience’. “You don’t know what you will see when you come to the Tina festival, rows of girls of about ten or eleven want a signed copy of Roos Vink van Jan.”

Vriends succeeds Herman Roozen, who mainly worked to get comics more extensive and prominent in the library. As Comic Artist of the Fatherland, De Helmonder will mainly focus on the profession of ‘comic maker’. Because it is a craft, says Vriends. “There is a lot involved and I want to show that process, from story idea to implementation. This makes it clear why there is a certain price tag.”

“No, never lived outside Brabant, too busy for me.”

He also wants to see how comics can be used for communication and he wants to look for clients, not for himself, but for colleagues. “I am successful myself, in the sense that I can make a living from it, but that does not apply to everyone. There are perhaps only twenty in the Netherlands who can do that. I am happy and fortunate to be part of that.”

That is why he wants to organize a ‘Day of the Comic Strip Artist’ next year where potential clients and comic strip makers can meet each other. That day must take place in Helmond, where the artist was born and raised. “I lived in Breda for a year, and always in Helmond. No, never outside Brabant, too busy for me.”


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