24 hour comic day at the world's oldest comic shop

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at https://www.rnw.org/about-rnw-media.

From the royal palace on Dam Square, to the Old Church in the Red Light District, it’s impossible to walk through the streets of Amsterdam without being confronted with the city’s rich history. But tucked away on the Kerkstraat is perhaps one of Amsterdam’s most significant historical sites, significant that is if you have an affinity for graphic artwork, such as comic books. Gallery Lambiek is Europe’s first comic shop and this past weekend celebrated 24 hour comic day.

Founded by Kees Kousemaker in 1968, Gallery Lambiek takes its name from a popular Willy Vandersteen comic character. Lambiek may well be the oldest existing comic shop in the world. Over the past 40 years, Lambiek’s art gallery has featured expositions by some of Europe and America’s leading graphic artists.

24 hour comic day
This past Saturday, the gallery was host to the yearly 24 hour comic day, an event which takes place in 85 locations, in 19 countries around the world, including 30 states in the US, Brazil, Cambodia, Estonia and South Africa.

During 24 hour comic day, graphic artists meeting in select comic shops and challenging themselves to create 24 pages of artwork in 24 hours. 24 hour comic day was begun by renowned comic theoretician Scott McCloud. Gallery Lambiek’s Boris Kousemaker (son of the store’s founder) explained the purpose of 24 hour comic day:

“[It’s] just for fun, and a bit of a challenge of course. Can you stay awake for 24 hours? Can you still even concentrate after eight hours of drawing?”

If the artists are successful in creating an entire comic book story in 24 hours, they will have effectively accomplished weeks of work in just one day.
A sort of therapy
Klaas Knol has worked at Gallery Lambiek for 25 years. He began collecting comics at a young age and was one of Lambiek’s loyal customers. But he decided to turn his passion for collecting comics into a career. 

“I think it’s the best job in the world. What’s so nice about it is that I’ve never had one single day that I had the idea that I was going to my work. It was always fun to do it and so now I get paid for it. I used to pay for the books and I thought, if I am clever, I will work there.”
Klaas says he once had a large collection of comics but when he began to work at Lambiek he gave it up because he had access to thousands of books. He remembers that before he worked at Lambiek, he would get frustrated when he could not find the books he was looking for, but now his job has acted as “a sort of therapy” freeing him of the compulsion to collect comic books.

You can find more information on Gallery Lambiek by visiting their site. There you will also find an extensive Comiclopedia, an encyclopedia of comics which includes information on all major comic books, comic artists, and comic writers. And for more information on 24 hour comic day, visit the site.

Listen to interview with Lambiek owner Boris Kousemaker

Listen to interview with Lambiek employee Klaas Knol