Dick Bos
Created by Alfred Mazure (1914-74)

DICK BOS was a much beloved private eye in the Netherlands from the forties through the sixties, appearing mostly in comic strips and books in the Netherlands (and later, the U.K.), as well as in film and in novels. And the story behind the character is probably even more interesting than the character himself.

Although his creator, Alfred Mazure, never had any formal artistic training, he found work as a cartoonist, writer and filmmaker most of his life. His first comic work, done when he was little more than eighteen, failed to set the world on fire. Disillusioned, he traveled through Europa and Africa from 1933 to 1938, returning to Holland just in time to watch the Nazis move in.

Older and wiser, Mazure tried again. The Dick Bos strip first appeared in 1940 in Weekrevue De Prins, a weekly magazine, but again failed to make much of an impression. The next year Mazure, undaunted, offering the comic in a brand new format: individual comic books. But this was during the World War II , and occupied Holland was suffering from a severe paper shortage. Mazure's solution was to downsize the books. These small 'picture comics', originally called beeldromans, seem to have been the Dutch equivalent of Little Big Books. They were not much larger than a pack of cigarettes and and could easily fit in one's pocket. Most pages, in fact, contained only one panel. But they still didn't sell very well, and after a couple of months Mazure still had over 10,000 unsold, unwanted copies. Desperate (or incredibly shrewd) he decided to give them away to school kids. It turned out to be a masterstroke. The giveaway drew interest in both the character and this bold new format. A fresh print run netted over 40,000 sales; three months later it was 100,000.

Bos was not only the first strip to appear in this new format, but also the most famous and the longest running, and beeldromans were soon being referred to as "Dick Bossies."

But the wild success of the Dick Bossies did not go unnoticed by the Nazi occupiers, who sought to enlist Mazure in their cause, hoping to use his detective hero as a vehicle for their propaganda. Allegedly Mazure was offered permission to have a million-copy press run, with distribution to be handled by the Third Reich.

Mazure politely declined. Soon after, the Nazis declared Dick Bos to be Allied propaganda, and outlawed the continuation of the publication.

But the character survived, in both comics and even, amazingly, in a series of short films, produced clandestinely right under the Nazis' eyes during the occupation. Talk about guerilla film-making!

And after liberation Mazure revealed that not only Dick but he himself had been members of K-22, the Dutch resistance movement.

* * * * *

With all that back-story, it's sort of disappointing to point out that Dick himself was a pretty generic -- although exceedingly popular -- comic strip private eye. Oh, he was a P.I., alright, but because he was independently and fabulously wealthy, he rarely accepted a fee for his services. Evidently he didn't need to go down those mean streets to afford his fancy cars or private planes -- it was more of a hobby than anything. He originally worked out of The Hague, but after the war he followed his creator to London in the Swinging Sixties. It didn't matter where he called home though -- what the pipe-sucking P.I. offered was not gritty, hard-boiled action à la Chandler or Hammett , but larger-than-life escapist thrills right out of Batman or Dick Tracy.

And like his comic strip cohorts, Dick could certainly take care of himself -- he knew ju-jitsu and judo, was a crackshot, spoke half a dozen or so languages and had enough gadgets to make Batman envious.

In fact, Dutch comic expert Theodoor Westerhof suggests that "The best way to describe Dick Bos (is) to imagine that Bruce Wayne... did not need a disguise to hunt the criminals, forgot he ever thought about one and would have started to fight crime as Bruce Wayne, Private Investigator, so people could call him if they were in trouble. That is about the concept of Dick Bos. Dick Bos is a great detective, a man of considerable means, a martial artist and above all, a one-man-army against crime."

But like any good gumshoe of the era, he had a police contact,rivate Investigator (to get involved with crimes, rather than to make money, it seems) Inspector/Commissioner Bruins and in later years bos also struck up relationships with an assortment of other law enforcement officers around the world, including Sheriff Hank (of Dust City, Texas); Chief Inspector Hunt (UK); Sir Peter Moss (M.I.5) and Sir Wilfried Houghton (British Foreign Affairs).

In the late sixties, he also acquired a secretary/assistant and sometime-partner, Sheila, who could more than hold her own, being almost as adept at martial arts as her boss. Also along for most of the run was Maurice van Nieuwenhuizen, Dick's ju-jitsu trainer and friend.

And Dick certainly needed all the help he could get. His adversaries were also right out of the Tracy/Batman rogues gallery, and included such colourful villains as The Scar, Nemesis, de Schorpioen (the Scorpion), de Spin I (the Spider), de Spin II (unrelated to Spin I), de Moker (the Sledge Hammer), de Raaf (the Raven), Jock (his doppelganger) and Hastings, the Man with a Thousand Faces.

* * * * *

Unfortunately, despite the success of his creation, Mazure never really got the chance to cash in, the result of a bad contract with one of his first publishers. Disillusioned, he had relocated to England after the war, where he worked as an illustrator, writer and comic artist, continually trying to revive Dick, eventually succeeding in the sixties. Among the comics he created or worked on for the British market in the meantime were Dad and Egbert, Sam Stone, Jane -- Daughter of Jane and a couple of other detective strips, Bruce Hunter and Romeo Brown (whuch he worked on with Peter O'Donnell).






Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Slammin' Steve Lewis of The Mystery*File for the lead, and Bob Wierdsma for the heads-up.

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