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April 28, 2010


Kees Kousemaker, 1942-2010

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Kees Kousemaker, the European comics expert who opened up that continent's first comics store, the legendary Galerie Lambiek in Amsterdam, potentially the world's longest continuing running comics shop, died yesterday. Kousemaker was a prolific writer about comics who both self-published and published works on the form; he also contributed to group efforts in writing about the form.

He founded Lambiek in 1968, one of the exemplars of comics retail generally and maybe the best- and best-known combination shop and art gallery. The store has yielded a high-traffic web site that with its biographical entries on so many cartoonists, in both French and English, came to reflect and perhaps embody the international view of comics with which the store engaged the medium. The web site's story is described here. The store would win awards such as the Will Eisner Spirit Of Comics Retailer Award (1995); the 2500th issue of Donald Duck featured a story about the Disney character searching for a rare back issue at Kousemaker's shop. The retailer himself made an appearance as a character with a name slightly altered from his own. In 2006, Kousemaker took home a Royal Decoration for his contributions to the medium.

It's unclear if elements such as combining an art show space with areas devoted to comics retail or hosting events at a comics shop originated with Lambiek, although such concepts tended to at the very least have an early expression there. One element perhaps unique to the store in its original location is that Kousemaker owned the building and kept an apartment there where cartoonists visiting Amsterdam would stay, complete with a wall where the various cartoonists would leave artistic evidence of their having been there.

In 2008, Margaret de Heer presented Kousemaker with a comic book featuring Lambiek-related comic strips from her own pen and from those of several other Dutch cartoonists. De Heer's cartoon and a few random photos of the shop being used for events can be found here with a bit of digging around. A profile of the store on 24-Hour Comics Day can be found here, including a great photos of some social space within the shop. There are a few photos here as part of a general tour of unique Amsterdam retailers that give you an idea of the treasure trove aspect of the store.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe at some point Boris Kousemaker took over the general operation of the store, with the support of longtime employees. I also think that the store moved locations some time in the last few years.

Kees Kousemaker was 68 years old.

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posted 6:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
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