Archive for the 'comics and cartooning' Category

Danish Comics of the Year 2014

From Halfdan Pisket's Desertør


Same procedure as every year, Paul. In January Paul Gravett posted his “Books to Read: an International Perspective”, in which a plethora of comics specialists and afficionados from around the globe offer their selection of the best comics published that year in their respective countries. As I’ve done now for a number of years, I contributed the list of Danish comics. It is reproduced below, but do go and check Paul’s full list: part one, part two.

Desertør (‘Deserter’)
by Halfdan Pisket
Forlaget Fahrenheit

Among the most promising Danish comics debuts in a decade, this is the first volume of a trilogy telling the story of the cartoonist’s father. His youth in the borderlands between Armenia and Turkey is described with the kind of vividness that comes not only of a man with a good memory, but also of an attentive storyteller with a great sense of telling detail. Half-Turkish, half Armenian, the protagonist embodies the uncertain, untethered state of his hometown, circled as it is by Turkish soldiers guarding the peace, and haunted as it is by the bones of the Armenian genocide, still lining the roads. Central to the story is Pisket’s father’s short stint in the Turkish army, from which he deserts with fatal consequences. His motivation is partly political, but runs deeper, and Pisket is to be commended for trying to probe further, examining the more troubling aspects of his father’s personality and the sense of betrayal he clearly carries around.

Pisket’s approach is poetic, almost dreamlike—far from traditional realism, but clearly rooted in lived reality. His digitally executed line work, with its dramatically spotted blacks, is reminiscent of Didier Comès’ dreamy comics symbolism, while his use of visual metaphor—the Turkish solders all wear threatening, anonymising white burlap hoods, for instance—takes a page out of David B’s playbook. Pisket is possessed of a real talent for narrative drawing, however, composing pages that combine the visceral with the mysterious, and his prose is at times exquisitely evocative. While Pisket still struggles somewhat with the clarity of his storytelling, he is clearly a remarkable new voice in comics. The second volume, Kakerlak (‘Cockroach’), which describes Pisket’s father’s arrival as an immigrant in Denmark, will be published imminently. Read an eleven-page preview is available on issuu here and check out this interview with Pisket at Opaque Journal.

Fimbulvinter (‘Fimbulwinter’)
by Søren Glosimodt Mosdal
Aben maler

Based on the Norse sagas, this is a retelling the colonisation of Greenland by the Icelander Erik the Red and his relationship with his son, Leif the Lucky, the Christian convert who would subsequently ‘discover’ America. It is a portrait of a man who loses his grip in conflict with his son and becomes a symbol of the collapse of an old order in the face of a new one. Historic facts are interwoven with divine visions in an effort to evoke the spiritual milieu of the time, while the author’s oneiric inference in several impressively rendered sequences contributes additionally to what is essentially a darkly lyrical meditation on the thin line between power and marginalisation. Mosdal has always been interested in the outsider, or in people who consider themselves as such—see for example the compilation of his early stories in Gash (Slab-O-Concrete 2001) or his and Jacob Ørsted’s recent, hilarious generational satire Rockworld (Fahrenheit 2013; Hoochie Coochie, 2014).

His portrait of the marginalised patriarch Erik is by far his most ambitious work to date. It is, in part, also a failure: it was originally planned as a trilogy, which would also have covered in more depth Eric and the young Leif’s journey to Greenland, as well as the latter’s American adventure. Mosdal cut this sprawling project back to a single, fat volume, which makes for a confusing, unresolved read in places, exacerbating the difficulties with plotting and panel-to-panel continuity that characterises all his work. Nevertheless, this is a beautifully cartooned, haunting piece of work well worth the effort. Also available in French from Casterman. And here’s Mosdal’s tumblr.

Et knald til (‘One More Bang’)
by Rikke Villadsen
Aben maler

In this, her second book-length work, Villadsen continues the examination of male archetypes and genre conventions started in 2011’s Ind fra havet. Her framework here is the western, with most of her characters plucked from Sergio Leone’s casting catalogue. However, this is a kind of psycho-sexual genre-bender, with two women—a whore and a young girl with transgender aspirations—at its centre. The various cowboys surrounding them strut around with their phallic implements, and one of them even gets to penetrate the whore with a fly on his member—something which Villadsen depicts from the inside!

Sounds gross, perhaps, but it’s actually rather hysterical, for Villadsen is a funny cartoonist, tempering her psychoanalytic insights with freewheeeling humour and inventive visuals. The dialogue is partly in Danish, partly in English, but it really is not all that important to know both languages to enjoy the book, which works in large part because of its expressive, painterly artwork. Villadsen, who relied heavily on the example of Anke Feuchtenberger in Ind fra havet, has matured considerably and has adapted her still-dominant inspiration to a sensibility that is actually quite different from that of the German master cartoonist. Rendered in ink wash with corrections and reinforcements left visible to the reader, this is lively, process-oriented storytelling brimming with ambition, if also rather heavy-handed in passages. A disillusioned statement on the biological underpinnings of gender that feels like a lively romp until it hits home. Here is Rikke’s tumblr.


Det Sarahkastiske hjørne (‘The Sarahcastic Nook’)
by Sarah Glerup
Self-published webcomic

This online diary consisting of comics as well as text pieces is a deceptively powerful, honest day-by-day account of the life of a self-described “Lesbian, radical leftist, big sister-humanist nerd with muscular dystrophy”. Her condition makes Glerup’s point of view an unusual one, and one senses it informs her dry humour, but it is really just gravy in a strip which is plain funny, and not a little insightful. Glerup’s honesty is of the raw variety, but never becomes overbearing. She brings to material that in other hands might have been rather dour (such as being fitted with a respirator) a refreshingly cheeky, kinky gleam in the eye. The art is digitally wrought using vectors and is decidedly unlovely, reminding the reader of the motoric constrictions of the artist. A rather touching, paradoxical index of the artist’s hand. Its garish colouring and angular contouring also serve the material well—brutal and quite beautiful. [Sample strips above, prefaced on the Glerup's website with the heading “People tend to think that belonging to two minorities is hard. But in many ways being a cripple prepared me for a life being queer (and vice versa)..."]

Here are my picks for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Copenhagen Now


It feels – crushingly – like it was inevitable. Before, Copenhagen felt like it was somehow exempt from this kind of barbarism. That was an illusion, of course, but this is still a rude awakening.

That’s an image of the presumed target of the attack, Lars Vilk’s masterwork Nimis, the flotsam city on the edge of Kullen, in southern Sweden.

Angoulême 2015 at the Comics Journal


As mentioned a few weeks back, I was once again covering the Angoulême comics festival for The Comics Journal this year. It as a strange, beautiful and slightly oppressive experience being there, three weeks after the Paris killings. This dominates my reports, I’m afraid, but tune in also for views on artists as diverse as Bill Watterson, Alex Barbier, and Taniguchi Jiro, and for thoughts on French comics right now, the state of the Angoulême festival, and the award winners. Onsite reportage parts one and two plus the usual more in-depth aftermath analysis.

Charlie Hebdo and Paris: Post-Mortem


It’s been up for a few days now, but I just wanted to note that part two of my examination of Charlie Hebdo and the significance of the murders in Paris is online at The Comics Journal. Part one is here.

Desertør i Information


Information har netop publiceret min anmeldelse af Halfdan Piskets imponerende tegneserie Desertør, der er første bind i en trilogi om hans fars liv. Desværre er den kommet i avisen en anelse forsinket. Jeg afleverede den i begyndelsen af juli. Men bedre sent end aldrig, og jeg forstår, at andet bind i trilogien er lige på trapperne, så om ikke andet kan anmeldelsen læses som opvarming og -frisker. Her er den!

Angoulême!


After a couple of years off, I’m back in Angoulême. It’s raining and the ghost Charlie Hebdo is everywhere. Follow my updates at The Comics Journal.

Charlie Hebdo at The Comics Journal


I recently published a review of the latest, 7 million print run-issue of Charlie Hebdo over at The Comics Journal. I have a second article, which delves further into the contentious and complicated issues surrounding the massacre, the cartoons and journalism of the magazine, and a bit of everything else, so stay tuned.

Charlie Hebdo anmeldt i Information


I dagens udgave af Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af ugens med spænding ventede nummer af Charlie Hebdo med den bemærkelsesværdige forside ovenfor. Jeg skrev teksten til en meget stram deadline, så bær over med den lidt stakåndede præsentation, den manglende reflektion og en lidt brutal redigering. Jeg håber at skrive noget mere dybdegående snart.

Nous sommes

Charb (RIP) channels Dostoyevsky's "Grand Inquisitor"


Today witnessed a mockery of the values of human dignity and community, fundamental concepts in all the major religions, not least Islam. It has already been repeated much today, but this really does feel like an attack on us all, and not just in the West, but much more broadly.

My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims, while my hopes are with our societies to handle this outrage in the right way. There must be a robust response to the perpetrators and, more broadly, the mindset that motivated them, but ultimately the solution is more democracy and more freedom of expression for everyone, not less. Insha’Allah.

Habibi i Information


I ugens bogtillæg til Information kan man nu læse min anmeldelse af Craig Thompsons storværk Habibi, nu udgivet på dansk af Fahrenheit. Der er blevet redigeret lidt i teksten, men den er stadig ok. Læs den her.

Ønsker du mere om Habibi, kan den her 2011-serie af artikler fra Hooded Utilitarian anbefales. Jeg selv bidrog også til den med en mere grundig tekst end ovenstående.

Fandens til krig i Information


Lige her op til jul står min anmeldelse af Tardi’s Fandens til krig at læse i Information. Læs den tegneserie — det er mesterens måske definitive holmgang med værkets genkommende temaer. Årets danske tegneserieudgivelse.

Hype: Den store Storm P.-bog


Den landede for nogle uger siden, men det gør den ikke mindre aktuel. Den Store Storm P.-bog er et overflødighedshorn af den danske humorists bedste værker — valgt på tværs af tid og genre. Den dækker hele karrieren og alt fra ungdommens grove satire og ekspressionistiske maleri over banebrydende tegneserier som De tre små mænd og Nummermanden og Den kulørte side til klassiske plakater og ‘opfindelser’ og ikke mindst, alderdommens flue-bevingede visdomskondensater. Og meget mere.

Bogen er redigeret af Steffen Rayburn-Maarup fra forlaget Aben Maler i samarbejde med Storm P.-museet og Alvilda, der som bekendt i disse år har gang i en større udgivelsesrække med Storm P. Og jeg har haft æren at skrive forordet, hvilket trak tænder ud, men endte med at være en fornøjelse. Storm P. er svær at skrive om, fordi hans geni er så svært at indkredse, og fordi han bare er sjovere en dig og mig og hvad vi kan finde på at sige om ham. Men jeg har i efterhånden en del år gerne villet prøve kræfter med opgaven og her kom den så. Jeg havde givet mig selv alt for dårlig tid til at producere det gennemarbejdede essay, jeg førhen havde forestillet mig at ville skrive, men sådan er virkeligheden jo og jeg endte med at være godt tilfreds, selvom meget (‘i en perfekt drømmeverden’, som min mand Thorhauge altid siger) kunne have været bedre.

Men hul idet, det er Storm Ps. fantastiske og usigeligt morsomme tegninger det handler om, og dem har den her bog in spades. Læs den.

PS — bogen er også planlagt til udgivelse i USA, hos kvalitetsforlaget Fantagraphics. Hvornår ved jeg ikke, men du kan læse mere om det her.

De nye genreserier i Information

Fra Rybergs Gigant


I ugens Bog(Forum)tillæg til Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af en håndfuld nye danske udgivelser med forbavsende mange fællestræk. Mit postulat er, at de er udtryk for en bredere tendens blandt tidens yngre tegneseriemagere, nemlig at ny, personligt vinklet tilgang til de traditionelle genrer.

De anmeldte tegneserier er Lars Kramhøft og Tom Kristensens Inficeret, Tatiana Goldbergs Anima, Glenn Augusts Lava og Rune Rybergs Gigant.

Læs anmeldelsen her. Men bemærk venligst, at overskriften og rubrikken (som det er reglen med avistekster) ikke er mine.

Fimbulvinter i Information


I dennes uges bogtillæg til dagbladet Information kan man læse min anmeldelse af Søren Glosimodt Mosdals tegneserie Fimbulvinter, om Erik den Røde, Leif den Lykkelige og overgangen fra den gamle til den nye orden i vikingetidens Grønland. Et bjergtagende billeddigt, men også noget af en torso, der lader de løse ender flagre. Anmeldelsen kan læses her.

Soul on Fire


This review is was originally published in Danish at Rackham in 2004 and is reprinted here as a supplement to the short essay Yvan Alagbé’s comics that I’ve just published over at The Comics Journal.

The French-Belgian publishing structure Éditions Frémok, or FRMK for short, has now been in the game for ten years, initially separately, as Belgian Frémok and French Amok, and since 2002 together. They have managed one of the most consistent and challenging publishing programs in avant-garde comics. They have unerringly emphasized the boundary-breaking, the experimental, and often fine arts-oriented comics by some of the most innovative creators in Europe, people such as Thierry van Hasselt, Olivier Marboeuf, Dennis & Olivier Deprez, Stefano Ricci, Silvestre, Kamel Khélif, Vincent Fortemps, Michael Matthys, Dominique Goblet, Martin tom Dieck, Nabile Farès, Aristophane, and the Dane Søren Mosdal.

Their publications are unequivocally high art and as such expose themselves to criticism on two flanks. One is the risk of pretentiousness and postulated profundity, the other is the inevitable comparisons with other forms of visual art, comparisons which tend to put this kind of sequential painting to a disadvantage. Unsurprisingly, FRMK’s publication history is one of precarious and not always successfully negotiating these difficulties, but the fact that they persist is entirely to their credit. It is refreshing to see somebody uncompromisingly asserting their belief in the potential of the medium to fathom the wide expressive range that has traditionally been the domain of other media. Continue reading ‘Soul on Fire’