Jan Friends is the ‘Nation’s Comedian’ and has legions of young fans

Foto: Omroep Brabant

Jan Friends is the nation’s new comic book artist. De Helmonder is best known for his Roos Vink comic strips in the girls’ magazine Tina and JanJaap in AD. Friends see his mission as drawing attention to “the craft of comic making.” “I want to show how beautiful and complex this profession is. It’s more than just Suske & Wiske and Donald Duck.”

written by

Arnold Tankus

On Saturday afternoon, on the first day of the two-day Breda Comic Book Festival at the Chassie Theater, 53-year-old Helmunder received the “pencil” of the title of National Storyboard Artist. “I could draw before I could write, and when I could write, I could draw comics,” Friends says. His comics appeared in the alternative comics magazine Zone 5300 in the early 1990s, and he has been drawing JanJaap for advertising since 1997.

Vriends is best known for his comic strip Roos Vink, which appears in the girls’ magazine Tina. This is no coincidence, because his sisters always read to Tina. Moreover, he is the father of five children, four of whom are girls, so “this is my natural habitat.” Ross is very popular and the friends are very busy when there are autograph sessions: “Then I’m busy from nine to five. I get to sign not only the books and Tina’s books but also the T-shirts, the hats and everything really. Great fun!”

An episode of the Friends sitcom Ross Fink of Tina.
An episode of the Friends sitcom Ross Fink of Tina.

Vriends was chosen “because he is full of ideas about how to make the profession more professional,” says Robin Fink of the All About Comics Foundation, which made the hire. He also knows how to appeal to a “young and atypical audience.” “You don’t know what you’re going to see when you come to Tina’s festival, rows of 10- or 11-year-old girls wanting to get a signed copy of Ross Fink van Jan.”

Friends succeeds Herman Rosen, who primarily worked to make comics more inclusive and prominent in the library. As the nation’s comic artist, de Helmonder will primarily focus on the career of “comic maker.” Friends say: Because it is a craft. “There are a lot of things and I want to show that process, from story idea to execution. It shows why there is a certain price.”

“No, I’ve never lived outside of Brabant, because I’m too busy.”

He also wants to see how comics can be used to communicate and wants to find 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 probably only twenty people in the Netherlands who can do this. I am happy and lucky to be part of that.”

That’s why he wants to organize a “Comic Artist Day” next year where potential clients and comic creators can meet each other. It should take place today in Helmond, where the artist was born and raised. “I lived in Breda for a year, always in Helmond. “No, I’ll never get out of Brabant, because I’m too busy.”

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