Thoughts about Blogging and Marriage

Since I started this blog, I’m paying more attention to other bloggers and the choices they make. There are promotional blogs, ranting blogs, look-at-our-kids-blogs, look-at-our-cats-blogs. Blogs with endearing content in gruesome, flashy designs, with or without soundtracks. Blogs with superficial content in very slick layouts. And ever since Blogging became all the rage, there is an increasing amount of stranded blogs.

Blogs have lifespans. A blog like this, essentially started to help sell my book, will probably peter out in about a year. Blogs by doting parents on their firstborn usually don’t survive the birth of the second child. Blogging artists get burned out or lose interest after their addiction to “the stats” fades away.

There’s one blogging author that I’ve followed for a while with great interest now: Neil Gaiman.

He was one of the first to start, in 2001, and has been going steadily ever since. What’s his trick, I wondered, how does he do it? Well, I guess he is first of all a writer who loves to write – be it novels, comics or blog entries. And second of all, there seems to be a transparency and innocence to his writings – he genuinely likes sharing stuff from his life, about his kids, his dogs, his bees, and in recent years about his wife Amanda Palmer, who is equally accessible in all kinds of online accounts of her exciting life as a performer/artist/musician.


Fearlessness, is a word that comes to mind.

In an age where warnings about putting personal information on the internet are part of children’s education (& rightly so), some people don’t hesitate to share their intimate thoughts, feelings and experiences with the whole wide world. These are probably the same people who greet strangers in the street. Who exchange pleasantries when you wait with them in line. Who will return your wallet when they find it. Social people.

It touches me and gives me hope for mankind.

(Could I be such a person…? Oh no, I’m way to anti-social – I prefer to hide away in my secret sanctuary, working on secret projects; and then, once in a while, I’ll jump out shouting TA-DAAH! and show the world what I’ve made – before I slink off into the shadows again…)

(It’s a good thing I married someone who is the same way – and now I’ve made a perfect link to the second part of this blog-entry, which contains Thoughts about Marriage:)


Yesterday, Neil Gaiman wrote on his blog about how he reads to his wife, and how she often falls asleep when he does.

It seems like a harmless enough thing to mention – yet it struck me with the raw intimacy of such a moment. The image somehow reveals the heart of their marriage: the interest in each other’s work (he is reading her his newest book), the feeling of ease and familiarity (falling asleep to the sound of husband’s voice) and the atmosphere of trust and understanding (evidently the fact that she falls asleep while listening to his work does not invoke a row – “Well thank you for this blunt reaction to my work – if it bores you that much why don’t you just say so!”).

The essence of a marriage captured in one image.


I have such an image for my marriage with Yiri, too. It’s this:

Yiri wears clunky, unyielding army boots which he laces up real tight – they give him the necessary support, we walk a lot. Getting them on takes a while, but taking them off, with feet swollen, and often exhausted from whatever adventure we had Outside, can be a regular Ordeal. So I take them off for him. We sit on the bed, his leg on my lap, and I unlace his shoes while we chat a bit.

Of course he could do it himself. Of course I have better things to do (I’m always involved in some all-important project, or so I think). But I go out of my way to make life a little easier for him. To add just that little bit of luxury of being “waited on”. To have a very basic, physical interaction – which to me, to us, has become very intimate.

That is the essence of our marriage for me – at least, my half of it.

(Yiri’s half involves handing me lots of cups of tea and chocolate. Oh, and coloring my books for me, although he says he does not do that for Love but for the World, which he thinks will be a better place with my work in it. See why I love him?)

Marriage is: making your spouse's work look better!


Note that I don’t say: Essence of Marriage, but of OUR Marriage – I think the meaning of a marriage is different for everyone. People sometimes seem to think that Marriage is a kind of concept you have to conform to when you tie the knot. My (our) experience is that marriage takes shape over the years – exactly because of little interactions like the one above, which we consciously cultivate.

(I think there should be more kinds of marriage available to people. It’s nice to aspire to a marriage-until-death-do-us-part, but it’s much more practical to focus on clearer goals. There should be Marriage-until-the-children-leave-home, and Marriage-until-the-sex-is-gone, and Marriage-for-just-the-summer. People could get extensions if they both wanted to. This way, they would probably pay more attention to each other in the long run)

(But I digress)


So, what I’m trying to say is: Blogging, like Marriage, is a very personal thing and takes shape only according to the rules that we ourselves set by them.

And since my blog started as a promotional tool, I’ll end with the admonition to Go Buy My Book! this September. Philosophy – a Discovery in Comics – it’s funny and thought-provoking and a Labor of Love, conceived, gestated and colored all within the holy bonds of matrimony.

The Trilogy Part Three

‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’ is actually the first of three books I’ve made in the past three years. The second was on Religion, and the third one is on Science. This third one is now in the last stages of being finished and will come out in Dutch around the same time the Philosophy-book will be published in the US. Right now, I’m wrapping things up and starting to think about the upcoming promotion.

This is the cover of the Dutch ‘Wetenschappen in Beeld’:

With a bit of luck, it will also be available in the US in the future, as ‘Science: a Discovery in Comics’.

My brother Maarten (him with the big nose from my last blog entry) found it very inspiring and unleashed his amazing powers of animation on it – he made it into a moving, chugging, huffing & puffing machine that you can activate yourself: just click on this sentence and it will take you to his site where the animation is.

Have fun – I know I did!

The Autobiographical Self

My upcoming book Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics could be called “educational” (and I’m very flattered when people do) – but it’s just as much “autobiographical”. Ever since I started in comics – in 1998, I was a late bloomer – I wanted to draw about myself. It so happened that at that time there was a surge in Dutch comix of female autobiographies, with the publication of three women comic artists, who were called “The Big Three” for a long time:

Gerrie Hondius, Barbara Stok and Maaike Hartjes.

I loved their comics, so if I wanted to do something in the same genre, I’d have to make sure it was sufficiently different from what they made. And with that thought, a journey in search of my Autobiographical Self started.

This was my first depiction of myself, walking into the studio of Maaike Hartjes, where I drew my first self-published comics. At that time I was 26 years old, thin and pretty clueless about where to begin when starting my own comic.

For the first few years, I tried drawing all kinds of different styles. I copied styles I liked. I drew myself realistically one day, cartoony the next. It was almost a therapeutic process, expressing not only different emotions but also coming to grip with my self-image.

See what I mean? That’s Bitchy Bitch from Roberta Gregory, a comic I absolutely devoured.

And then, in 2002, a new relationship brought step-children into my life, and my comic character changed to a more sedate young woman who (usually) stayed calm in all the dramas of family life.

I grew, as a person and as a comic character. Literally. I started putting on weight and although I was quite comfortable with it, I had to re-invent my comic persona: no longer young and thin, but mature and “filled out” (and blond for a while!).

At the same time my comics changed from being purely autobiographical (like the webcomic I did in 2005) to being more educational. I made “comic reports” for national newspaper Trouw, so my character became a reporter. This meant a more cartoony approach, which I still use in my books. It’s very convenient: my comic persona is ageless, easily identifiable and still looks like me (thanks to my unconventional hairdo, which I’ll never change unless I want to be “incognito” of course).

The self-image and identity of an autobiographical comic artist is a very visible thing, and it’s exactly that which makes it my favorite genre. Making autobiographical comics is a brave and vulnerable undertaking, which is rewarded in the end by finding oneself on the pages of the Book of Life (Ooo, that’s deep!).

That being said, a few weeks ago I met up with my little brother (he lives in Berlin, so we don’t see each other very often). He grabbed me brotherly by the neck and exclaimed: “My god, Sis! You have a hump!”

I do, I know it’s there, it’s the badge of honor of a serious cartoonist, always bent over her work.

But having it pointed out by my younger (and gorgeous) brother struck a chord. It made me wonder if I shouldn’t re-draw myself. So that people who know me from my comics who meet me can exclaim: “Oh, you’re so much prettier in real life!” And I can rub that in my brother’s face. With his big nose.


NBM gets 2 on the BEA “Hottest Graphic Novels of 2012.”

abelard1 200x265 Coming Attractions: Book Expo America: The Hottest Graphic Novels of 2012!

Abelard by Renaud Dillies (2 time Eisner nominee for Bubbles & Gondola), we’re happy to report,  was nominated by the BEA panel of booksellers, librarians and critics as one of the best graphic novels of 2012! The book is coming in November ansd will be up on our website soon in the Coming Up section.

Also receiving an Honorable Mention is Margreet de Heer’s ‘Philosophy- A Discovery in Comics’ which one of the panelists noted for its very personal journey into the world of philosophy, indeed one of the most appealing aspects of her book.

A Pre-review of ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’

I admit: I regularly google the title of my book to see where it pops up on the web – a few weeks back, I stumbled across this on the blog Comics and… Other Imaginary Tales:

I had never heard of Action Philosophers and was intrigued, so I ordered it. It arrived a few days ago and I have not read all of it yet, but I love it already. It is funny and quite thorough.


Action Philosophers, by Fred van Lente & Ryan Dunlavey


So the big question is: if you enjoyed Action Philosophers, should you still buy my book?

My answer is of course: Yes!

Both books cover some of the same ground, but they do so in different ways. Action Philosophers is very much an “american” comic in that it plays off of the old superhero-genre. As the title suggests, it has a lot of action in it, lots of POWs and SMASHes. Which is wonderful, because it immediately smashes the idea that philosophy is stuffy, dull and slow.

Plato in 'Action Philosophers'


Plato in 'Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics'


My book has a different approach – it has less philosophers (11 in mine against 46 in AP!) but more general philosophy that tries to involve the reader personally, with questions like: What Is Reality? What Choices Make You Who You Are? What Does Your Own Free Will Look Like? My aim throughout was to show that philosophy is something personal, something that starts with knowing who YOU are. In that sense, my book takes a more educational approach. Plus, it’s all in color!

So my advice is: if you read and liked Action Philosophers, get my book to complement it. And if you haven’t read Action Philosophers yet, buy both books! Hours and hours of philosophical fun and insights guaranteed!

Comic Con Haarlem

No, that’s not Harlem, but HAArlem with 2A’s – a picturesque village less than 10 miles from Amsterdam. The NY neighborhood was named after it in the time that New York was still New Amsterdam.

The town of Haarlem hosts the biggest and nicest comics festival of The Netherlands. Every two years, the whole inner city is buzzing with artists, expositions and comic-related activities.

Poster for the Stripdagen Haarlem, by Peter van Dongen


Of course I will be there – in a few places at the same time, even! I have my own special booth in theater De Philharmonie (stand 23, on the first floor), but I’m also present in the window of bookstore Coebergh in the main shopping street. This year, over 70 comic artists have been hooked up with stores and shops in Haarlem to provide window-dressing – a great way to make the city more “comicky” and bring artists and retailers together!

Me & my window at bookstore Coebergh, Haarlem


My husband Yiri T. Kohl, who is also a comic artist, was linked to tobacco-store Havana House. A great match, since Yiri’s underground comic characters, often likened to the Freak Brothers, have been spotted in the past with all kinds of addictive substances…

Tobacco-related art by my husband Yiri T. Kohl


In another comic incarnation, I am present at the exhibition ‘Ook van Jou’ (‘Love You Too’). This is a group exhibition featuring all kinds of relationships in comics. My long-running comic character Mijntje, a wild bisexual girl, was invited to join and she will be giving out kisses to everyone who comes to visit.

Kissable comic character Mijntje at the Haarlem comic festival


Most of the time, I will be at my booth selling my comics about philosophy, religion and friendship, and bragging about how “my publisher in New York” is promoting my book at the BEA, and showing original pages of my newest work, about science, which will be published in Holland in October.

So if you’re in the neighborhood, come and visit Haarlem this weekend! It will be a comic experience you’ll never forget!

For the Pros: meet us at BEA

We’ll be in booth 3466, sharing it with sister co. Papercutz and we’ll be inaugurating our gorgeous little free sampler/catalog with many pages of previews on our books forthcoming this fall.

Besides the sampler, we’ll have full book previews to leaf through of Stan Mack’s revised revival of his GN on the American Revolution, the new Louvre collection entry, Margreet de Heer’s fun intro to Philosophy, Eisner nominated Dillies’ (“Bubbles & Gondola“) new lyrical GN “Abelard” and…

The very intriguing “The Ignorants” where the artist, a leading French graphic novelist, exchanges jobs with an organic vintner just to see what it’s like and compare notes. Both get to present their art and craft, both get to find out the essential similarities in their life-consuming devotion to being the best at what they do. WE get to find out how both are done! It’s going to be a beautiful 272 page hardcover. We’re very excited by it, come check it out! as well as the rest of course!

Looking forward to seeing you there.

True Age: 33

(This entry is not about my upcoming book ‘Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics’, but it does pose a philosophical question)

What is your true age? And I don’t mean in the sense of “If you smoke, you are really ten years older than you are”, but as in: “How old do you truly feel inside?” Men nearing 40 usually answer: 18. Women over 50 often say: 9. Both answers have to do something with the Child Within, I guess. Sometimes though, for some people, True Age is dictated by the Adult Within.

As for me, ever since my teenage years I have felt about 33 years old. This idea stuck with me after I read Lord of the Rings: 33 is the age at which hobbits reach maturity. The years before 33 are referred to as the Irresponsible Tweens – an individual has reached physical autonomy but not yet the wisdom and maturity of adulthood.

I had my share of the Irresponsible Tweens – but when I turned 33, I felt as if I had reached the age that has been appropriate for me as a person all along. 33 to me means that I have some experience, and the common sense to have learned from it. It also means not feeling pressured so much about What I Should Become, because I have found a place in life. 33 is immensely old when seen from the point of view of an 18-year-old, and incredibly young when you are 50. It is the perfect “free place” between youth and seniority. I don’t have to prove myself that much, and yet my existence is still full of promises and possibilities. And the best part: people started taking me seriously.

When I was in my early twenties, it often bothered me that my voice wasn’t heard, since I was a rather young and naive looking girl. When I reached my thirties, more people started to address me in a formal way, and looking to me for my opinion on things. I like that. I always have. For I was always truly 33.

This year I will turn 40 and I’m happy about it. Aging and maturing is an interesting process that we can steer and influence every day with our thoughts and behavior. Although I still feel 33 inside, I hope one day, when I reach 50 or so, the part of me that feels like a Grande Dame will awaken. Then I will recline on my sofa in my elegant home and receive many interesting visitors who long to hear my wit and wisdom… Ah, wouldn’t that be lovely!