The Ping Awards gala last night? A success, no doubt about it. Sold out, full house, crowded and fun! The young event team had pulled out all the stops and were almost entirely stress-free. Things just worked.
Anyway, this was a major event in the small subculture that Danish comics, and one we hope will continue for many years. It was done on a shoestring budget and came off looking like, well, not like a million kroner, but really neat. And there was a real atmosphere of enthusiasm for comics, even from the media who have covered the event surprisingly soberly and smartly.
As for the Danish prize winners, they were remarkable not only for their quality, but also for what they tell us about Danish comics right now. I’ve written at some length about each of the nominees for Best Danish Comic for Paul Gravett’s Best of 2011 rundown, and the general conclusion bears repeating here: this is perhaps the strongest showing in a single year of the last decade or more. A long time.
Finally, it seems that Danish comics are shedding years of polished euro-mainstream fetishization of craft at the expense of ideas and expression. These comics have heart, they want to tell you something. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, the majority of them are by women.
With Danish comics culture having been male-dominated for way longer than those even of our closest neighbors in Sweden and Finland, it seems women understandably have stayed away. The great Nikoline Werdelin has been the main exception to the rule for years. But now women creators are making waves like never before with strong, original work.
That’s just one factor of course, but perhaps the most spectacular one right now. More generally, however, a new generation of cartoonists less concerned with the trends of the past is emerging, and considering the fact that the two big and longstanding big publishers, Carlsen and Egmont fused and went on more or less to implode a few years back, a surprising number of excellent comics from around the world are still being translated and published in Danish.
There’s still much room for improvement of course, and it remains a rather small fragile comics culture, but things are looking up!
Here are this year’s Ping winners:
Best Danish Debut: Post-it monstre by John Kenn Mortensen Best Comic for a Younger Audience: Ankomsten by Shaun Tan Best International Comic in Danish: Speedy Ortiz dør by Jaime Hernandez Best International Comics : Habibi by Craig Thompson Best Danish Online Comic: Signe Parkins & Drawings by Signe Parkins The Hall of Fame Award: Rolf Bülow and Søren Pedersen, founders of Fantask Best Danish Comic: Glimt by Rikke Bakman
Photo above by Niels Larsen. Check his Flickr set from the night here.