Archive for the 'comics and cartooning' Category

Danish Comics of the Year 2019


After having skipped a year, Paul Gravett is back with his annual roundup of the best comics worldwide. As usual, I’ve provided my view of what was best in Danish comics in 2019. My choices are reproduced below, but check the whole list here and here.

Tatovøren og klitoris (‘The Tatooist and Clitoris’)
by Rikke Villadsen
Fahrenheit

Rikke Villadsen will, by now, be known to American art comics cognoscenti, having had her first graphic novel, The Sea, published by Fantagraphics in 2018, with her second, Cowboy, slated for release this year. In Denmark she put out her third big book last year, the one here under review, and it’s her best, strangest, most affecting yet. It is marred somewhat by didactic and slightly rambling interspersed text pieces on sexual politics, but one quickly forgets about them while reading this intoxicating comic. The story starts with a woman fainting on a harbour pier and giving birth to a placenta-like speech balloon that grows into a broccoli tree while she is passed out. It disappears and she spends most of the story flicking about with clown’s makeup around her eyes and her jumper pulled up awkwardly to reveal her breasts. Perhaps she is looking for the lost child, perhaps not. She is at various times courted and helped by a warmly stoic man, the Tatooist of the title. They go to India where she meets an amorphic blob that becomes her therapist; she plunks down in a soldiers’ mess hall in the Korean war and proceeds to participate in an air raid in a sequence derived directly from Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. And so on. Villadsen is transcribing her dreams to decidedly surreal ends here, with equal amounts humour and horror. The atmosphere is redolent of David Lynch, while her charcoal-with-visible-palimpsests rendering style remains heavily indebted to Anke Feuchtenberger. But despite such obvious sources, Villadsen’s voice is becoming increasingly distinct. She deals with themes of female sexuality and motherhood in ways that are her own, and builds her narrative to a beautifully haunting finish.

My review in Danish newspaper Information.


Death Save
by Rune Ryberg
Forlæns

The death save is a maneuver in pinball whereby you can save a ball that would otherwise be lost down one of the board’s outlines by gently pushing the machine one way, then jerking it in the opposite direction to make the ball ricochet back up into the game. It’s a cheat, but if executed right it will give you a second chance. That’s the central metaphor for this classically conceived coming-of-age story,. At its centre is Bass—drawn as a red bird—who comes to that point in his young life where he has to make important decisions in order not to lose himself to self-destructive impulse along with his friend, the desperado Rick—drawn as a reptile reminiscent of Randall Boggs in Pixar’s Monsters Inc. Both are pinball fanatics, which provides the book with a handy symbolic device in the form of individual gaming situations—played on real, historic pinball machines—that reflect important points in the story. Rune Ryberg stages this drama masterfully, with soft and pliable character designs, swift panel-to-panel propulsion and high-fructose colouring. His training in animation serves him well, not just for his memorable character designs, but also their situation in a believable milieu. The central achievement of Death Save is its urban setting, sampling and combining elements of cities the world over, from Naples to New York, Chicago to Copenhagen. It breathes post-industrial decay, but is touched by a romantic patina. The plot may be a bit predictable and the characters rather typological, but its executed with such passion and energy that this seems secondary. Ryberg deservedly won the Ping Award for Best Danish Comic for it last year (note that Villadsen’s comic fell outside the nomination period).

My review in the Danish newspaper Information.


Dr Murder and the Island of Death
by Emil Friis Ernst
Baggaardsbaroner
More here

Emil Friis Ernst is among the talented recent graduates of the world-class Graphic Storytelling programme at the Viborg Animation Workshop. This was his graduation comic in 2017, but was released in a newly-coloured, English-language edition last year and created a bit of a buzz on the American festival circuit. It’s easy to see why: Friis Ernst has a striking sense of graphic patterning and effect and for dynamic panel-to-panel storytelling, and he tells a spectacularly expressive story rooted in pulp tropes that evokes a distinct sense of melancholia and precocious reflections on growing old. And he colours like a latter-day flower child. Friis Ernst also published his first book-length comic last year too: Reservat, written by crypto-fantasy author Dennis Gade Kofod. It’s a near-future, dystopian story of climate change and revelation, detailing the movement of five different people on a single, apocalyptic day between Copenhagen, the island of Bornholm and Mars. Unfortunately, its writing is rather purple and off-puttingly impersonal. Although slighter, more limited in scope and less visually accomplished, Dr Murder would therefore be my first-stop recommendation for discovering Friis Ernst’s work.

My review of Dr Death and Reservat in the Danish newspaper Information.

Kirby versus Lee

Kasseret side af Kirby fra Thor 169, med hans noter i margin, skåret fra af Lee


Jeg er beæret, i dag, over at deltage i Morten Søndergård og Kim Schous fornemme podcast Supersnak i en samtale om Marvel-universets oprindelse i de tidlige tressere og særligt spørgsmålet om hvem, der skabte hvad — Jack Kirby eller Stan Lee… eller Jack Kirby og Stan Lee. Det evige, umulige spørgsmål. Vi kradser i overfladen og det er en anelse rodet, men jeg var enormt glad for at deltage og få snakket om nogle af de mest vidunderlige tegneserier jeg kender. Hent der, hvor du lytter til podcasts eller hop ind og lyt via Nummer9, Supersnaks hjemmeside eller podcastets Facebook. Tak til Morten og Kim for invitationen, og god jul!!

Reservat i Information


Emil Friis Ernst og Dennis Gade Kofods spektakulære, lyriske fremtidsdystopi Reservat anmeldes af undertegnede i fredagens bogtillæg til Information. Hermed et uddrag:

Vi taler om et dystopisk billeddigt, der forener overstyrede japanske actionbrag som Katsuhiro Otomos Akira (1982–90) med Andrej Tarkovskijs fugtigt sansede melankoli i film som Solaris (1972) og Stalker (1979). Vi følger fem karakterer på en skæbnesvanger dag i året 2165, mellem København, Bornholm og Mars.

Klimaforandringer har oversvømmet store dele af verden, herunder Amager, men enorme vandværn holder Indre By tør. På den anden side er et amfibisk samfund af klimaflygtninge opstået, og rebellen Omar søger at nedbryde muren. Bosat indenfor brødføder Ursula sin datter ved i en motorbåd at tøffe til Bornholm – som, efter at en Risø-filial nedsmeltede, er blevet et baggrundsbestrålet naturreservat – for at indsamle værdifulde artefakter fra præapokalypsens populærkultur.

Læs hele anmeldelsen i avisen, eller her, hvis du har abo.

Blueberry i Information


I fredagens bogtillæg til Information, og på nettet, kan man læse min anmeldelse af Cobolts to nys udgivne samlebind af de tidlige album i Jean-Michel Charlier og Jean “Moebius” Girauds westernklassiker Blueberry.

Hermed et uddrag:

Hjertet er på rette sted, men helt fri af stereotypen går Charlier og Giraud ikke – indianerne omtaler sig selv i tredje person og råber i flæng »Hooka hey!«, når de angriber. Det er i den sammenhæng interessant at opleve den unge Blueberrys fordomsfulde blik på dem: ligesom alle sine hvide frænder omtaler han dem som »røde djævle«, »feje hunde« og lignende.

Dette kan virke overraskende hos en mand, som vi forstår indrullerede sig i Unionshæren i Borgerkrigen, til trods for at han hidrørte fra Syden, fordi han ikke kunne tolerere slaveriet (i øvrigt et af de mest markante blinde punkter i serien som helhed).

Samtidig er det interessant hos en helt, der, som læsere af seriens senere album vil vide, ender med at blive indlemmet i en navajostamme. Det er imidlertid et vigtigt greb, både fordi det umiddelbart forankrer Blueberry i sin tids virkelighed og på den længere bane viser, at han er en person under udvikling.

Læs det hele her, hvis du har betalt.

Tatovøren og Klitoris på Informeren


Check ind på Informeren her og læs min anmeldelse af Rikke Villadsens nye og ret fantastiske tegneserie, Tatovøren og Klitoris. Og læs tegneserien — en af de mest bemærkelsesværdige danske tegneserieudgivelser de seneste år.

Ivalu i Information


I ugens bogtillæg til Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af Morten Dürr og Lars Hornemanns Ivalu, en ungdomstegneserie om incest i Grønland.

Et uddrag:

Morten Dürr og Lars Hornemans seneste tegneserie Ivalu handler om incest og børnemishandling. Den er henvendt til yngre læsere, som designet til klassesæt, med ambition om italesættelse af et vanskeligt, tabuiseret emne uden at blive didaktisk. Formatet er ordknapt, indre monolog og luftige opslag, som med deres flydende penselføring og svale farvelægning formidler handlingen på baggrund af det grønlandske landskab, i hvilket den udspiller sig. Det er tydeligt, at Horneman har været på studierejse der og har samlet sig stærke indtryk.

Hele anmldelsen her (men penge).

Mad Magazine i Information


I dagens udgave af Informations bogtillæg kan man læse mine mindeord over Mad Magazine, der som bekendt nu er på vej imod bladdøden. Efter 67 år som det mest tumpet-skarpe indslag på kioskhylderne. Læs her (kræver abo).

Høj Høstrup og Rørholm Davidsen i Information


Efter lidt tid i limbo er min anmeldelse af de to Ping-honorerede danske tegneserier, Det rette element og Lonely Journey, af hhv. Line Høj Høstrup og Ida Rørholm Davidsen blevet bragt i Information. Det skete i bogtillægget sidste uge, men du kan læse anmeldelsen online her, hvis du er subskribent.

Dominique Goblet at The Comics Journal


My latest column at The Comics Journal is an extensive examination of Belgian artist and comics maker Dominique Goblet’s work over the last ten years and how she has made collaboration an essential part of her practice. Here’s an excerpt from the lead-in:

…Dominique Goblet is intensely concerned with life as lived by others, and life as a communal experience. She is among the most empathetic of artists working in the comics form, with each project pushing further the boundaries of interpersonal hermeneutics. Goblet is of the generation that emerged in the ’90s and helped consolidate ‘the graphic novel’ and ‘art comics’ in broader cultural terms—the first, arguably, to unabashedly self-identify as artists.

It is probably unsurprising, therefore, that she made autobiography—the genre that centered that movement—her proving ground. But she differs from most of her peers in that she has consistently looked beyond herself, in the process redefining for reality-based comics the way of working that has determined so much of the historical evolution of comics: collaboration.

Death Save i Information


I fredagens bogtillæg til Information kunne man læse min anmeldelse af Rune Rybergs overskudsprægede ungdomsfortælling Death Save. Og man kan stadig læse den på nettet, lige her, hvis man betaler.

Hermed et lille uddrag:

Præmissen er ganske traditionel, og det er ikke, fordi plottet byder på de store overraskelser undervejs, men Ryberg iscenesætter det med overbevisning og nærvær. Den storbyverden, han bygger op om sine figurer, emmer af postindustrielt forfald, men også af romantisk patina — den kombinerer, hvad der kunne være Napolis bakkedrag og trappeforløb med Lower Manhattans hængebroer, Chicagos højbanetog og Københavns brokvarterers boligkarreer.

Snuskede baglokaler, nedlagte fabriksområder, vindblæste indfaldsvejsrabatter og mennesketomme skurvognsdiners — det hele hænger sammen som beåndet åsted i Rybergs blødt svungne streg og fruktoseholdige farvelægning. Kun den lidt utilpassede computertekstning er en hæmsko.

Titian’s shitting dog


That got your attention, I hope? Yes, Titian drew a shitting dog, which he inserted into one of the most monumental compositions of his early years, the twelve-block woodcut of the Submersion of Pharaoh’s Army in the Red Sea (c. 1517), right next to the figure of Moses! (detail above) In the latest issue of Art in Print, I examine the meaning and sources of this coarse insertion into what on first sight seems a grad and heroic composition, but — while it is certainly that — upon further inspection is inflected with a realism that is almost unprecedented in Venetian Renaissance art, informed as it must be by Titian’s possibly traumatic experiences of war during the struggle of Venice against the powerful League of Cambrai. Read more at your local art library or, if you’re a subscriber or would like to become one, online right here.

Posy Simmonds at The Comics Journal


For my latest column at The Comics Journal, I take a closer look at Posy Simmonds’ latest comic, Cassandra Darke, which is a slow-burn masterpiece in paraphrase of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and in the process I have some more general thoughts on her art. Here’s an excerpt:

It is in this characterization of privileged life unsettled that Simmonds—ever concerned with the complexities of social relations and middle-class anxiety—delivers her starkest indictment to date of contemporary society. Mind you, with her trademark British understatement which ensures that satire never subverts story. Her masterful use of crayon and wash technique brings to life a posh London under snow, with its darkened windows, gated garden squares and gleaming lobbies. Her work was an exquisite, unostentatious a sense of place which rivals that of Jacques Tardi. And when Cassandra finally decides to take action and ventures into the ‘far east’ of London, Simmonds evokes a boarded-up high street—perhaps in Dagenham—of pound shops, off licenses and pawnbrokers in a short burst of dense panels, while contrapuntally noting in the voiceover “in spite of its decay, [it] has Christmas lights and bursts of laughter coming from pub doors.” In the space of a few pages she has skipped sideways from A Christmas Carol to A Tale of Two Cities.

Read the whole thing here, and stop by Cynthia Rose’s in-depth reportage from the Pulp festival, which took place a few weeks ago just outside Paris and featured Simmonds, as well as Catherine Meurisse.

Strannik i Information


I dagens bogtillæg til Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af Anna Rakhmanko og Mikkel Sommers dokumentariske Strannik, om en hjemløs mand der ernærer sig som MMA-kæmper i Moskva. Det er besk, indigneret dokumentarisme, dygtigt disponeret af den tegneseriedebuterende Rakhmanko og leveret med mere selvsikkerhed og mindre lir end vi er vant til fra Sommer. Bag den tredje dør her.

Fantask no more?


Meget tyder på at Fantask er slut. I fredag i sidste uge sendte Butikkens ejer Marit Nim en besked ud til Butikkens abonnenter om, at de lukker til sommer. Det satte i den grad fællesskabet i affekt — Benjamin Herbst fra Superhelten.dk igangsatte en GoFundMe for at støtte Butikken, i håbet om at det kunne forhindre en lukning. På under 24 timer var indsamlingen oppe på en kvart million, på mindre end en uge nåede vi en halv. Marit annoncerede som reaktion, at Fantask ikke lukker, men nok stadig må flytte fra adressen Skt Pedersstræde 18, hvor Butikken har ligget siden 1971.

Det virker helt sikkert. Fantasks stiftere Rolf Bülow og Søren Pedersen ejer lokalerne, som samtidig udgør deres pension. De har siden de afhændede butikken til Marit sikret, at hun kunne køre den på gode vilkår. At Marit så i sidste uge annoncerer at hun bliver nødt til at lukke, viser tydeligt at det ikke længere kan lade sig gøre uden større forandringer. Vi håber alle på det bedste, da Fantask jo i den grad må karakteriseres som en kulturbærende institution i Danmark — og en der har betydet enormt meget for enormt mange, herunder undertegnede, som endda en overgang arbejdede der.

Selvom det ikke er overraskende, gør det ondt at se Butikken kæntre her i den digitale tidsalder, hvor det i stigende grad er blevet vanskeligt at drive fysisk boghandel. Og det bringer alle minderne frem, i hvert fald hos undertegnede, men tydeligvis også for de tusindvis andre, der har lagt deres hårdt indtjente i hvad der nok snarere er en kærlighedserklæring til Fantask og et rygstød til holdet bag, end det er en realistisk redning. Lad os se, og Godspeed til alle de involverede, før og nu. Continue reading ‘Fantask no more?’

Pisket at The Comics Journal


After more than a year, I’m finally back on the virtual pages of The Comics Journal with a new instalment of my column Common Currency, on European comics. This time, I’ve taken the opportunity of the recent awards handed out at the Angoulême Festival to review Danish cartoonist Halfdan Pisket’s astonishing account of hi father, James’ life in the Dansker-Trilogy, the third volume of which was just given the Prix de la Série in Angoulême, as far as I know the first time a Scandinavian comic has been awarded in the major categories (do correct me if I’m wrong).

But that’s less relevant — what’s important is that this is a distinct and compelling work of memoir, empathy and history, told in comics form. I absolutely encourage you to seek it out if you read Danish or French, and if not then pester your favourite comics publisher to put it out in a language you can read. Check out my column here.