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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Farewell Kees



I was saddened to hear about the death, earlier this week, of the great Kees Kousemaker, the founder and owner of the legendary Dutch comic store/gallery Lambiek. Kees was years ahead of his time, opening a world-class comic store in 1968 at least a decade before any such thing existed. When I first visited Lambiek in 1989, I was impressed by the scope and depth of their stock (and by the fact that they carried books in several languages). I formally met Kees in 1996 when Lambiek hosted a Drawn & Quarterly exhibit in their gallery and, as anyone else who has met can attest, he was a man who exuded kindness, enthusiasm, and generosity in his very particular high-spirited manner. He was truly "one of a kind" and I'm still having a really hard time imagining the streets of Amsterdam without his passionate and exuberant presence.


Kees and Julie Doucet at the Drawn & Quarterly opening at Lambiek, June 1996.


Kees toasts a pre-L.A. Joe Matt


Kees and Maurice Vellekoop

Adrian Tomine was kind enough to write the following note about Kees:

When I had the privilege of visiting Holland with Drawn & Quarterly back in 1996, I remember being acutely aware of my neophyte status. Not only was I considerably younger than the rest of the gang, the work that I had published at that point was clearly deficient in both quantity and quality. I felt like I'd been allowed to tag along with the real cartoonists, ride their coattails for a bit, and hopefully no one would notice. I'll never forget the fact that Kees made all these neuroses evaporate the minute I met him, treating every one of us exactly the same, which is to say, like we were all geniuses, celebrities, and dear old friends. In my mind, he would've been perfectly within his rights to say, "This apartment above the shop is for cartoonists. So Joe, Seth, Chester, Maurice, and Julie...you're in. Adrian, let me point you in the direction of a nice youth hostel." I got the sense that, for whatever reason, he just loved cartoonists, all of them.



Adrian Tomine's sketch of the famed cartoonists' apartment above Lambiek (yes, that's a giant cut-out of The Spirit in the back, along with a life-size Tintin model in front). For more on the Lambiek apartment and on Kees, read Eric Reynold's tribute from yesterday, as well as Tom Spurgeon's article from The Comics Reporter.

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