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The Patron Saint of Superheroes

Chris Gavaler Explores the Multiverse of Comics, Pop Culture, and Politics

When not touring art museums and participating in Modernist Studies conference panels while in Amsterdam earlier this month, I was checking out comic shops. I found four. Best name prize goes to “C.I.A.” (“comic imports”), where, not surprisingly, I didn’t find many Dutch works. Someone did pull out a box of translated reprints for me though, and I grabbed two gems from my youth:

That’s the last issue of The Avengers (or “de Vergelders”) I bought as an eleven-year-old back in 1977.  It reached the Netherlands in 1980–though the reproduction quality is so bad I fear it might be pirated.

I was in high school when the X-Men classic “Days of Future Past” hit stands.

The Dutch translator was less subtle. According to Google Translate, “Sterven in de Toekomst!” means “Die in the Future!” But at least the reproduction quality had improved three years later:

Though these were fun to revisit, I was hoping to see original Dutch comics too. So the next store owner handed me “The Ultimate Geek’s Guide to Amsterdam” and circled “Lambiek” on the map. It was just a couple of canal blocks away.

According to my Geek Guide: “Lambiek is Europe’s first comic shop and probably the oldest existing comic shop worldwide. It has been a hallmark in the world of comics since the opening in 1968.”

The owner offered me a coffee (the delicious equivalent of espresso here) and pointed me toward two tables stacked high with Dutch graphic novels, some translated, some not. It’s not surprising I found myself drawn to the wordless ones–though that’s true of English-language comics too. Words can get in the way of the pictures. I grabbed one by a local artist:


I thought the stark black and whites worked especially well with the subject and paneling effects.

And the owner suggested I try one by Jeroen Funke.

According to the front-matter, Text free “contains comics that were made during the international 24 Hours Comics Day in the oldest existing comics shop in the world, Lambiek in Amsterdam on October 20th 2007, October 18th 2008, October 3rd 2009, and one self-organised 24 Hour Comics Day on January 9th 2010.”

As I was leaving, the owner also gave me the shop’s calling card, a tiny comic based on Chris Ware:

Apparently, alcohol, sex and comics can’t make you happy–unless you do all three simultaneously.


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