‘Eiland’, by Dutch artists Stefan van Dinther and Tobias Schalken is an occasional avant-garde comics anthology filled with mesmerizing formal experiments — and a kind of visual poetry that is bemusing and ravishing in equal measure. Eiland is protean, free-minded and unbeholden to comics tradition — in fact startlingly original. Every issue has a cluster of stories that vary wildly in style and tone.
It's an alternating current of chaos and confusion... or so it looks at first. A careful reading reveals a quietly wrought order beneath the cacography and a set of firm, if grandiose, convictions -- like the malleability of time and space -- that the comics' recurring motifs and lateral presentation convey with baffling clarity. Every time you read an Eiland story, you discover something new: another detail, another pattern, another way one panel relates to the next or to the whole. The correlations are dizzying.

With their self-published debut 'Eiland' (1997), Tobias Schalken and Stefan van Dinther instantly made their name. It was clear from the start that they preferred to go their own way. On the level of content, Eiland stood out in comparison to other comics.
With the first Eiland, expectations were raised that were more than met by the follow-up second (self-published, 1998) and third Eiland (Bries, 2000). With every new Eiland, Schalken and Van Dinther kept on growing to new heights.
The inventiveness and maturity that characterize the Eiland comics can also be seen in the duo's other works. Ever since their years at Breda art school Sint-Joost, Schalken and Van Dinther have been involved in other disciplines, like web design (Van Dinther) and sculptural installations (Schalken).
Perhaps it's only natural that their climb to the heavens began outside the comics field. Though both eventually enrolled in art school, van Dinther first studied computer science. His website displays his Boolean tendencies. It's full of lofty, logic-twisting comics and animation, and games, including one that kills your avatar if you don't leap hurdles, shake hands and kiss feet as fast as possible.
Schalken's methods are more tactile. His unsettling sculptures sport the same corpuscular flesh as his paintings and strips, his installations use the tawny metals and stained wood of his comic scenery. His voice is the gristle -- roughly the Lennon to van Dinther's whimsical, if nowhere as syrupy, McCartney.
Their extracurricular work sets the stage for their comical tinkering, their constant futzing with the medium's strictures to isolate then override its circuitry. Time, place, perspective, character, story -- the medium's sacred components -- are mere signposts.
The pair plow headlong through the objection that comics are unfit to juggle with profundity. R. Crumb once wrote, "To imbue comics with serious literary subtlety seems absurd to me." Toob and Steef beg to differ.

Charles Hatfield, Guy Leshinski

On Collaboration:

Tobias Schalken: "Once in a while Stefan and I collect some of the more comics-like material we have been working on and try to balance it out into an issue of Eiland. We might decide to put some stuff in that perhaps didn’t really work out, but which we think is interesting enough as an experiment. We’re more interested in heroic failures than in safe successes, I guess. Eiland develops along with us, since it is not a fixed format in any way."

"Stefan is a very, very good friend. I’ve known him for quite some time now - I was still in my early teens when we met- and somehow our friendship survived all the changes in our personal lives. It just grew right along with us, adapting. There is a mutual respect, we take each other seriously, but not too seriously, we’re critical of each other, and we have a lot of fun. He’s a great guy.
Stefan and I met in a comic book store, near where we both lived. It was a small store visited mainly by regular customers, kind of like the music store in ‘High Fidelity’. After we had been there only a few times the owner, who rather went out to have a few drinks, asked us to run the store. We didn’t even know how to open the register.
Of course we talked about comics a lot and became very good friends. We did our first collaborations during that time. We started off with the traditional writer / illustrator approach but soon got more interested in breaking away from that.
We’ve always had our personal projects, but we’ve collaborated regularly since then, most frequently the years just after I’d left art school and we started doing Eiland. But at a certain point our collaboration started interfering with our friendship. We had done a lot of things together, had constantly been in each other’s neighborhood, and we both felt we had to let things breathe. We figured our friendship was more important than our working relationship. Our work had grown very much apart because we were developing more personal approaches, also in our work outside of Eiland. The last years we’ve only done individual works, but we discuss each other’s work intensely. And because we have grown more different, it enriches the input."

On the origin of Eiland:

Schalken: " Stefan and I had had less contact in the period he went to Amsterdam to work for a multimedia company, while I was finishing art school in another part of the country. Right after art school I had started working on a new comic. I had graduated as a sculptor but I was still trying to set up a studio. For making comics you don’t need a lot of space or tools.
Stefan had also started doing comics again. We were asked to do a few comics for magazines, one pagers, a little booklet, etc, so comics were becoming increasingly important again after hardly having done any for years. Also one of our mutual friends, Eric van der Heijden, was doing gags and cartoons, and we occasionally discussed putting out a magazine together.
Stefan and I had done some work for a printer and we were offered to have some printing done in return. Stefan designed a cover for a magazine that did not exist yet, which he called Eiland. That cover was the beginning of the Eiland series really, because we had it laying around, and it compelled us to do something with it.
The multimedia company Stefan was working for at the time had no problem with us using their equipment after working hours, and Stefan and I often went back there in the evening hours to use their computers and empty their fridge. They also owned a high quality laser printer, so we started to select comics we had done that were in black and white, and in a very primitive way we composed the first issue of Eiland, printed on this laser printer. We used an awful lot of toner which we got from a small company in exchange for some drawings. We folded it and stapled it with a befriended printer, and that was it.
We wanted to do the second issue a little better, higher quality. My dad, who is an artist too, came up with the idea to ask people to sponsor a page from the book. In exchange for a small amount of money, their name would be at the bottom of the page they’d sponsored. We approached all kinds of people with a dummy of the book and gathered enough money to have it printed.
Publisher Ria Schulpen from Bries picked up this second issue and asked us to continue Eiland with Bries. We decided to switch from Dutch to English to try and reach a wider audience. Our good friend Eric van de Heijden started doing other things, so he withdrew from Eiland, but we remain very good friends up to this day."

"I don’t think we really had any expectations about what the response on Eiland would be like. We just want(ed) to make these books, and get on with new stuff. The joy of getting positive reviews and feedback is great but it is always short-lived. It doesn’t make the doubts you have when working on something new any less. When at work, you’re on your own again."


"One of the most original and exciting comics I have read in a very long time. These are artists completely unaware of the concept that talent has limits. I have never been so disappointed to come to the end of a comic as I was to close this one"
The Comics journal #228 - Bart Beaty

Le Monde

"Tobias Schalken en Stefan van Dinther zijn hot."
De Standaard

"Breathtaking. Stunning."
The comics journal

"Experimentele strips van wereldklasse."
Focus Knack

"All art forms, including comics, have their avant-garde, places where the rules and traditions are bent or left behind in exploring the possibilities of the medium. These journeys often leave most of the audience behind, but occasionally an artist brings us along and comes up with just the right amount of edginess and entertainment.
[Eiland] succeeds in this."
Time Magazine - Andrew D Arnold

"You’re suddenly aware of what the medium could be if artists approached every blank pages as mysterious, unexplored territory."
Wired - Maurice Martin

"Eiland est le titre de la publication la plus excitante qui nous soit parvenue des Pays-Bas ces dernières années."
Neuvième Art - Thierry Groensteen

"Stories within stories would not begin to describe the pieces of sequential art in the third issue of Eiland, however the twists and turns are by no means created in a conscious linear fashion.
Eiland is a dense and sumptuous book that by necessity requires the reader to spend time with it, to study it, and to submit to it. Every panel sparks channels of narrative to other spaces and times. Flip through it, or blink once, and you’ll ground it’s electricity.
The Comics Journal - Gregory Zura

"Back in 1993, a sound like a silo full of popcorn popping resounded throughout comics. That sound was of people reading ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #1 and having the tops of their heads blown off.
Interested in having the top of your head blown off again?
Seek out EILAND, a Dutch anthology from Belgian publisher Bries. Issue #3 incorporated everything from photography to clay figurines, and was so overwhelmingly innovative that I was startled to see it credited to only two cartoonists. Mere words, especially mine, cannot convey the brilliance of this book."
Ninth Art - Chris Ekman

"Somewhere between the experiments of the avant-garde filmmakers of the early 20th century and a good old fashioned acid trip."
The comics journal - Gregory Zura

"Is het een strip? Is het een IQ-test? Is het kunst? Wel, de laatste editie van 'Eiland' is dat allemaal tegelijk."
Zone5300 - Marcel Ruijters

"Every issue has a cluster of stories that vary wildly in style and tone, from maundering musings to cold silence, from freehand swirls to suffocating realism. It's an alternating current of chaos and confusion... or so it looks at first. A careful reading reveals a quietly wrought order beneath the cacography and a set of firm, if grandiose, convictions -- like the malleability of time and space -- that the comics' recurring motifs and lateral presentation convey with baffling clarity.
Every time you read an Eiland story, you discover something new: another detail, another pattern, another way one panel relates to the next or to the whole. The correlations are dizzying.
Dutch cartoonists Tobias Schalken and Stefan van Dinther are poster boys for the front lines."
The cultural gutter - Guy Leshinski

"It is entirely clear that Van Dinther en Schalken are blowing the lid off of what we know to be comics right before our very eyes. Each new installment of Eiland is better than the one preceded it- more challenging, more compelling, more arresting. In four issues of Eiland Van Dinther en Schalken have pushed the limits of the commix form harder than any cartoonist currently working. Indeed, they always seem to be on the verge of creating a whole new language of comics, or a whole new way of thinking about the issues that comics raise."
The Comics Journal #250 - Bart Beaty

"'Eiland' is de projectnaam van twee (voorheen drie) jonge grafisch kunstenaars, die zichzelf een beeldtaal hebben aangeleerd waarmee zij beeldverhalen maken die de gouden regels van het klassieke stripverhaal ver te boven gaan.
In korte verhalen die volstrekt losstaan van elkaar scheppen zij de meest uiteenlopende fantasiewerelden, die allen aan een geheel eigen logica gehoorzamen. De auteurs Tobias Schalken en Stefan van Dinther maken het de lezer niet gemakkelijk, maar wie Eiland 3 leest en herleest, ontdekt ingenieuze visuele verrassingen en vondsten."
Mirck Comicbase - Jeroen Mirck

"la série Eiland arrive enfin en France! Eiland 3 provoque chez le lecteur la même impression de déroute que ces étranges rêves gorgés de sensations et bariolés de couleurs que nous faisons parfois et qui nous trottent toujours dans la tête des heures après le réveil."

"Zelden heeft een Nederlandse strip zo veel internationale weerklank gekregen als Eiland, de gezamenlijke bloemlezing van de jonge auteurs Tobias Schalken
en Stefan van Dinther." Knack

"En tournant les pages de Eiland, on glisse comme Alice d’un monde à l’autre, dégringolant dans des chausse-trappes ou élevés vers des paysages stellaires. Car Tobias Tycho Schalken et Stefan JH van Dinther jouent avec les possibilités de l’art séqentiel en laborantins surdoués, créant des univers surréalistes, poétiques, ou tourmentés, avec une virtuosité technique impressionante."
BD Express - Sophie Ravaux-Zoëll

Zone 5300

"verbazingwekkende visuele hoogstandjes."
Vrij Nederland - Carel Peeters

"Poëtisch en mysterieus."
de Volkskrant - Joost Pollman

"Eiland is arty, maar razendknap gemaakt en bovendien vaak erg grappig. Subtiel verteld maar niet vaag."
Zone 5300 - Marcel Ruijters

"Devastatingly brilliant. Each page pushes the limits of the comics form. Looking at this book there can be no doubt that comics can be high art. "
Matrix magazine

"Schalken and van Dinther produce formally innovative, eerily resonant, and meticulously designed comics. These are true gems."
Marc Singer

"ongebruikelijk abstract."
NRC handelsblad - Gerard Zeegers

"Een sensatie. Prachtwerk. Jubel, jubel, jubel."

"Wonderlijke en suggestieve beelden. Een duo op zoek naar de grenzen van de strip."
HP de tijd - Erik Spaans

" In some ways the most apt comparison would be to the work of Chris Ware insofar as the work is daringly innovative on a formal level, but also captivating in narrative terms. But Van Dinther and Schalken are working from so many differing approaches at once, their book is so innovative and experimental, that ultimately the comparison may serve as a disservice to these Dutch authors. I mean that in the most generous manner."
The comics journal

"Schalken en van Dinther banjeren met zevenmijlslaarzen door de ongeschreven wetten van het klassieke striplandschap."
Brabants Dagblad - Anja van den Akker

The comics journal

De Gelderlander - Werner Bossmann

"Ouhhh que c'est beau!!!"
Professeur Tatane

"The artwork is extremely inventive, but still used in the service of storytelling, not just experimentation for its own sake. It does demand some involvement by the reader. It repays that involvement though, giving some real emotional pay off."
Borderline, British Comics Magazine - Owen Erasmus

"Eiland is een visueel genot."
De Standaard

"Daringly innovative on a formal level, but also captivative in narritive terms."
The comics journal