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Comic Book / Tom Poes

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Olivier B. Bommel and Tom Poes, if you understand what we mean...

Tom Poes (also known as the "Bommelsaga") was a long running Dutch newspaper comic strip written and drawn by Marten Toonder (1912-2005) from 1941 to 1986. The series take place in an antropomorphic animal fantasy world. The main protagonist is Tom Poes, a kind-hearted, courageous and intelligent little white cat and his best friend, Olivier B. Bommel, a vain, cowardly, but good natured bear who claims to be a lord and lives in a large castle, with his own butler, Joost. The series was a text comic (comic strips without text balloons and the text below the images), but has been published in text balloon format too.

Tom Poes was not the first Dutch comic strip, but is generally considered to be the one that inspired all other comic strip artists in the country. It started off as a children's comic strip, but quickly transformed into stories with a Parental Bonus. It's also one of the few to have a considerable impact on Dutch popular culture, with many phrases and characters inspiring everyday Dutch words and expressions. In the Netherlands Tom Poes is highly regarded as clever satire with exquisite art work, very creative storytelling and lots of Antiquated Linguistics. For years it was even one of the few comic strips in the Netherlands to be considered literature. Creator Toonder received countless awards during his long and fruitful career and built the only comic strip studio the Netherlands ever had.


In 1983, an animated film was made: "Als Je Begrijpt Wat Ik Bedoel" ("The Dragon That Wasn't (Or Was He?"note )). Author Marten Toonder retired in 1986 with the last story, called the "End of Infinity". It ends with Bommel marrying and finally settling down, Tom Poes leaving the setting and the author himself addressing the readers, thanking them for their support throughout the years. Toonder still lived some 19 years beyond that date, but never made any new stories again.


Some eenvoudige, doch voedzame (simple, but wholesome) tropes:

  • Alliterative Name: The characters Wammes Waggel and Garmt Grootgrut.
  • Anachronism Stew: The series takes place in the mid to late 20th century, but medieval fantasy elements and 18th and 19th century fashion styles also pop up from time to time.
  • Animal Jingoism: Subverted. No jingoism seems to exist between the animals. Tom, a white cat, gets along fine with Joost, the dog butler and Bullebas, the dog police chief.
  • Animal Stereotypes: Bommel is a dumb bear, butler Joost is a kind and trusty dog, Marquis de Canteclaer is a proud cockerel, Tom Poes is a clever cat, Wammes Waggel a silly goose, Officer Bulle Bas is a police bulldog, Wal Rus is a sea captain walrus.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: Marten Toonder enjoyed playing around with language and introduced many new words and expressions to the Dutch language. It's also one of the reasons his work cannot be easily translated. Some of his words were archaic Dutch words and expressions, however.
    • Professor Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky speaks pseudo German.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: In one story the characters travel back to the Stone Age, where dinosaurs and antropomorphic animals share the same ground.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Commissaris Bullebas who always misunderstands a situation and especially mistrusts Bommel.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Some characters walk barefoot, others don't.
  • The Barnum: Joris Goedbloed.
  • Beary Funny: Olivier B. Bommel is a bear who lives in a castle. Despite always calling himself brave, cunning and strong he always chickens out whenever danger is about and it's always his Sidekick Tom Poes who has to save him.
  • Break Out Character: Olivier B. Bommel
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Olivier B. Bommel, who isn't taken seriously by the other villagers.
    • Garmt Grootgrut, a sheep who owns a store and frequently complains how "small shop keepers are always unlucky."
  • Catchphrase:
    • "Als je begrijpt wat ik bedoel."- Olivier B. Bommel ("Provided you understand what I mean")
    • "Een eenvoudige, doch voedzame maaltijd."- Olivier B. Bommel ("a modest yet nourishing meal" - given that he lives in a castle, these tend to be elaborate and extravagant)
    • "Zoals mijn goede vader zei." - Olivier B. Bommel ("Like my good father used to say")
    • "Verzin toch eens een list, jonge vriend!" - Olivier B. Bommel ("Will you finally think of a ploy, young friend!")
    • "Hihi, wat enigjes"- Wammes Waggel ("Hihi, how preciousish" - this is a bad translation, but the phrase is almost untranslatable. "Enig" means "only" and can be used endearingly, hence "precious". "-jes" puts the word in the diminutive, which doesn't work in English, so "ish" will have to do. It is an expression of delight from a character who is very childish or mentally underdeveloped in nature.)
    • "Fi Donc"- Marquis de Canteclaer (a French expression of shock)
    • "Wie is er weer de dupe? De kleine middenstander!" — Garmt Grootgrut ("Who is the victim once more? The small proprietorship!")
    • "Ei Ei Ei"- Joachim Sickbock (The sound made by an evil scientist character who is intrigued by something. Similar to "my, my, my")
    • "Ik ga je opschrijven, Bommel! Wat is je naam?" — Bulle Bas ("I'm going to write you down, Bommel! What is your name?")
    • "Met uw welnemen"- Joost ("With your permission")
  • Civilized Animal: Bommel claims to be a lord and the Marquis de Canteclaer is so snobbish that he uses French and Latin expressions to look more posh.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Wammes Waggel. Also, to a lesser extent, Bommel.
  • Cool Car: Bommel's car, "De Oude Schicht"
  • Cowardly Lion: The bear Olivier B. Bommel who always panicks in every situation.
  • Cultural Translation: The stories have been translated to other countries, but have never been so succesful as in the Netherlands.
  • Cunning Like a Fox: Joris Goedbloed.
  • Dogs Are Dumb: Officer Bulle Bas is a bulldog who always draws the wrong conclusions about suspects.
  • Dub Name Change: In Swedish, the characters are called Oliver B. Bumble, Tom Puss, Greatgrit, and in short, pretty much nobody's name remains the same as in the original.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Hocus P. Pas
  • Feather Fingers: Wammes Waggel, a goose, has them.
  • French Jerk: Marquis de Canteclaer, who is a very snobbish rooster. He speaks in French loanwords and always looks down on Bommel.
  • Funny Animal: Nearly all the characters are talking animals who wear clothes some of the time.
  • The Ghost: The Ghost in "Het Spook van Bommelstein"
  • Giftedly Bad: Bommel tries to take up painting in the story "Eh... dinges", but is ridiculed for his lack of talent.
  • The Good Captain: Captain Wal Rus, though he is grouchy and also mispronounces Bommel's name.
  • Gratuitous English: The Swedish translation often uses English names instead of Swedish ones or the original Dutch names, for no clear reason. For instance, Grootgrut is called Greatgrit.
  • Gratuitous French: Marquis de Canteclaer uses a lot of French expressions to appear more chique.
  • Gratuitous German: Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky throws in a lot of German loanwords and grammatical sentence structures.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: The language is always very colorful.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Olivier Bommel only wears a coat, nothing else.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Tom Poes frequently stays over at Bommel's castle and always sticks up for him. Yet they are clearly just good friends. The strange aspect of their friendship happens in the final story where Bommel finally marries his long love interest Doddeltje. For no particular reason Tom Poes decides to leave and walk the Earth, thus ending the series.
  • Home Base: Bommel's castle in the village Rommeldam.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The series makes uses of a lot of word play and puns.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Despite being the protagonist Tom Poes is treated as a sidekick by Bommel, even though Tom always has to save him.
  • Inter Species Friendship: Bommel, a bear, and Tom Poes, a cat.
  • The Jeeves: Joost, who is Bommel's faithful servant. Although he resigns his position about once per story, only to come back at the end.
  • Jerkass: Marquis de Canteclaer who acts really snobbish, especially against Bommel. This is because Canteclaer is real nobility, and Bommel is pretend nobility - i.e. just a rich idiot who owns a castle, but no class.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Wammes Waggel, who is a literal silly goose who enjoys having fun and never understands any real danger.
  • Magic Mirror: Plays an important role in the story "Tom Poes en de betoverde spiegel".
  • Manchild: Wammes Waggel, who is so carefree and naïve that he seems to be mentally challenged or at least very infantile.
  • Mature Animal Story: This looks like a general "funny animals" comic strip, but the language, themes and allusions are very much adult.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The town's psychiatrist is named "Zielknijper" (literally translated: "Soulpincher"), which became a Dutch neologism later.
    • Wal Rus is a walrus.
    • Hieper is the small villain, while Super is the large one.
    • Professor Sickbock is a goat, therefore his name (which literally translates into Goateegoat.
    • Hocus P. Pas, an evil wizard, whose name alludes to a typical magic spell.
    • Marquis de Canteclaer. He is a rooster, so it's fitting that he is named Canteclaer, after the rooster in Reynard the Fox.
    • Garmt Grootgrut is the local grocer, so his last name (literally "Great Groceries") really fits his profession.
    • Wammes Waggel is a silly goose, who are known to "waggel" ("walk like a duck/goose").
  • Meddlesome Patrolman: Police officer Bulle Bas.
  • Mirror Match: Officer Bulle Bas, the local police offer and Bul Super, a local criminal, are both similar looking bull dogs.
  • Neologism: The comic strip introduced a lot of neologisms in the Dutch language like "kommer en kwel", "denkraam", "grootgrutter", "minkukel", "zielknijper",...
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Captain Wal Rus always mispronounces Bommel's name.
  • Only Sane Man: Tom Poes.
  • Overly Long Name: Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky.
  • Pantsless Males, Fully-Dressed Females: Bommel only wears a coat, but no pants. His love interest, Doddeltje, wears a 19th century style dress and bonnet.
  • Parental Bonus: Tom Poes can be enjoyed by both children and adults.
  • Police Are Useless: The local police force always suspects Bommel, who is usually innocent.
  • Print Long-Runners: From 1941 until 1986.
  • Properly Paranoid: Officer Bulle Bas, who always suspects Bommel of any crime that takes place in Rommeldam.
  • Punny Name: Most of the characters, including the main protagonist Tom Poes, whose name is a pun on the food "tom pouce". Some of them became puns later, as the neologisms in their name caught on.
    • Wal Rus, a pun on walrus.
    • Hieper and Super, puns on hyper and super.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Bommel.
  • The Rival: Bommel and the Marquis de Canteclaer have a rivalry going on. The Marquis is so snobbish that he always belittles Bommel whenever he can (because the Marquis is a noble and Bommel is not). This is not mutual: Bommel is generally friendly to the Marquis, and sometimes tries to impress him.
  • Running Gag:
    • Marquis de Canteclaer looking down upon Bommel and insulting him every which way he can.
    • Wal Rus mispronouncing Bommel's name.
    • Garmt Grootgrut complaining that the small proprietorship is once again the victim.
    • Bommel always boasts about his talents, achievements and aristocratic background, but nobody seems to take him seriously. Also, he is rather incompetent and whenever danger is about he chickens out.
    • Police officer Bulle Bas always suspects Bommel is guilty, while usually he is not.
  • Satire: A mirror of our modern society.
  • Scenery Porn: Toonder's drawings are rich with details.
  • Shapeshifting: The dragon, "Zwelbast", is a tiny creature, but can grow to enormous size when he is mad.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Marquis de Canteclaer, whose last name is a reference to the rooster Chantecler in Reynard the Fox.
    • Van Kooten En De Bie: When de Vieze Man (The Dirty Man) drives through a pool of water he wets the poor shy Mr. Foppe. He then tells him he should take off his wet pants and walk around without them, like Bommel does.
  • Slapstick: A lot of comedy is people hitting and falling about.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Marquis de Canteclaer is a snobbish rich nobleman who sees himself above everyone else.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Professor Sickbock and Professor Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Professor Zbygniew Prlwytzkofsky ("with a 'z' in der middle").
  • Talk Like a Pirate: Captain Wal Rus.
  • Time Machine: Tom Poes, Bommel, Hieper and Super travel back to the Stone Age in one story.
  • Walking the Earth: In the final story of the series Bommel marries Doddeltje and Tom Poes leaves the party to walk the earth.
  • World of Funny Animals: Subverted, some characters are inexplicably human.