THE PROSTRESS SERIES, 2008–ongoing

An online comic strip, a series of hardback publications

Originally, this online series and series of publications featured Hoogerbrugge as the central character. More recently, however, he has stopped hogging the limelight, and shares it with current or former political leaders such as Libya’s Gaddafi, Italy’s Berlusconi and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, as well as famous figures from the world of entertainment, such as the Pope, Iggy Pop, Lemmy from Motorhead, Jamie Oliver, Karl Lagerfeld, Batman and Barbie. David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino always make an appearance on Mondays and discuss their weekends with oblique humour (Lynch’s weekends are generally ‘Just dandy’). Hoogerbrugge is an avid fan of their films and he particularly enjoys David Lynch’s weekly weather forecasts on his own site. Is Hoogerbrugge hoping to provoke a response from one his idols?
Regular visitors are accustomed to Hoogerbrugge’s skewed look on the world, but it sometimes takes a few days or weeks for newcomers to get used to it. Hoogerbrugge obviously has a preference for flawed characters, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, and the Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders. Says Hoogerbrugge: ‘The more I sympathise or identify with someone, the harder it is. Flawed people invite ridicule, especially if they are world leaders or luminaries who everyone expects to set an example – everyone has something wrong with them, but power amplifies it.’
As with many of his works, Prostress exudes a Lynchian atmosphere by operating according to an internal logic that doesn’t necessarily apply to reality. In line with his style, characters are portrayed with exaggerated postures and there are minimal changes to the figures in each of the three panels, allowing the text or their attitudes to convey whatever ‘nugget of wisdom’ drifted into or through Hoogerbrugge’s mind.
Prostress is created using a process similar to its predecessor Modern Living,(*) whereby frames from filmed live action are further processed using digital techniques. Unlike Modern Living, however, which overcame language barriers by incorporating as little text as possible, Prostress frequently relies on language to convey the message, whatever it may or may not be.
The website: Three-panel, non-interactive comic strips are posted on the Prostress website five days a week; weekends feature special items (currently the Prostress portraits, see below). Hoogerbrugge starts each day by creating an episode that is frequently inspired by the very latest world news. Some storylines continue over a few days, keeping abreast of a particular event. Daily episodes are posted around 10 in the morning. The beauty of the site is that visitors have very little to do to be gratified. Enjoyed by thousands of regular visitors, the Prostress site also entertains hundreds of unique visitors each day.
In the last quarter of 2012, Hoogerbrugge – somewhat frustrated by not being able to share local absurdities in Dutch political or social events with the rest of the world – began a Dutch-language Prostress series, which is published on the newspaper, de Volkskrant’s website from Mondays to Fridays.
After trying a variety of different approaches for the weekends (because that’s when Hoogerbrugge rests in peace), he came up with idea of a portrait gallery of diehard Prostress fans with the call: ‘Send me a photo of yourself in a Prostress situation’. Suitably inspiring images that are fit to print are interpreted as a drawing. There are more than 100 portraits in this series so far.
The books: Two books documenting the first two years of the online Prostress series have been published to date. Volume 1 (2010) reproduces the first year of comic strips on the Prostress website (2008–9), volume 2 (2011) the second year (2009–10).(**)

Links: prostress.com, Michael Minneboo article (Dutch)

(*) Modern Living: ml.hoogerbrugge.com. The first Prostress cartoon appeared on page 58 of Modern Living, The Graphic Universe of Han Hoogerbrugge (BIS Publishers, 2008).
(**) Published by BIS Publishers, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (bispublishers.nl). ProStress, vol. 1: ISBN 978-90-6369-234-6; ProStress, vol. 2: ISBN 978-90-6369-273-5.

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