Inktpots’ Guide to Historical Utrecht

It was great to be able to touch base with Utrecht comic writer Nico Stolk. He has set up Inktpot with illustrator Niels Bongers and together with a team of artists, they have developed their latest project, a history of Utrecht and some of its iconic buildings through the eyes of young and old characters. a unique view of the city, beautifully written and beautifully drawn in De Dwaalgids van Utrecht.

Their company, “Inktpot” was established in 2003 to publish free work by Utrecht comic artists.

The Inktpot owes its name to the nickname of the old brick main building of the Dutch Railways, after the Dom Tower the most famous building in Utrecht and of course the traditional instrument of artists.

Publications of the Inktpot focuses on the city of Utrecht, with comic strips that play against a Utrecht background. Between 14 November 2003 and October 2007, 14 issues of the magazine De Inktpot appeared. Since 2007 De Inktpot has published one-off book publications.

De Inktpot has also organized various group exhibitions and festival presentations over the years. In 2010 De Inktpot Utrecht presented in comic strip form at three exhibitions in Utrecht’s sister city Brno of the Czech Republic.

In 2012 De Inktpot made Turkartoon, a traveling exhibition about the contemporary Turkish comic, commissioned by the municipality of Utrecht.Above we can see their logo with Niels Bonger and Nico Stolk as the two heads of a dragon killed by Maarten, their Metaphysical Superhero guarding the city of Utrecht.

Tell us a bit about your book.

“The story is about two children who, during a city walk, end up with their grandparents in the past of the houses they visit. The guide of grandfather seems to magically transport the children to the past. There they attend events from the history of the buildings and the city of Utrecht, and they talk with people who play a role in those events. In the course of the story the children discover that they can navigate through time with the guide and can even influence the course of time. The comic gives a glimpse into the history hidden behind ‘ordinary’ historical façades. Not the well-known monuments, but less noticeable houses and shops – buildings with a long history as a carpentry workshop, pharmacy, shelter, hospice, printing shop. The strip shows elements from the history of the individual houses, between 1550 and 1950, often as part of the development of the city.”

Are you a writer or illustrator?

“Nico Stolk is the writer, together with Niels Bongers who is also one of the illustrators.

Niels and Nico are the board of the Inktpot organisation.

The other illustrators are: Wilbert van der Steen, Brigida Almeida, Niels de Hoog, Joshua Peeters, Pascal Oost and Wilma van de Bosch.”

How did you decide upon the subjects, was this difficult as you had so many to choose from?

“We got in contact with the “Utrechtse Monument Fonds”. They take care of the monumental heritage in Utrecht. The history of  several of their house is recorded in small books and magazines with the name “Steengoed”. The idea came up from Brigida Almeida to make a comic on several of these houses.”

How did you get into comic books?

I started when I was a kid and I never got rid of if ever since.

The book is a partnership, how did that work out, with so many contributors?

The story is drawn by six artists from De Inktpot. The children’s journey through time is visualized by the fact that the different periods are drawn by as many illustrators. The style thus changes with the transition to another time. The children, however, remain themselves and are  drawn by the same artist in each of different periods.

Because of this set-up, the book required, even more than previous editions of De Inktpot, close collaboration between the various artists.

“The most important source are the publications of Steengoed magazine from the Utrecht Monuments Fund, about the seven buildings. The strip has been drawn as historically accurately as possible, in consultation with the Historical Research Working Group of the Monumentenfonds and with experts from the Utrecht Archive, among others.”

Does Utrecht inspire you?

“Yes. I have lived here since 1976. Utrecht’s history is very rich and therefore very inspiring.”

Any plans for a new book?

“We want to make books on Wilibrord, who brought the church to Utrecht, about Everard Meyster, a strange writer and noble man from the 17th century, that lived in Utrecht and the history of Utrecht and sports.”

In the future will you write alone or in partnership again?

Depending on the subject. Most scenarios are written in cooperation between Niels Bongers and Nico Stolk.

Here in the Netherlands where do you see the place of the comic books/graphic novels?

“It’s a niche market, so it’s not really very big, but there are some hard core fans.”

A great opportunity to see a unique view of Utrecht, whilst also learning some Dutch for you non-native speakers.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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