Tag Archive for 'Paul Gravett'

Danish Comics of the Year 2015


Paul Gravett is back with his annual roundup of the best comics from around the world. Once again, I’ve contributed my selection of the best Danish comics of last year. It is reproduced below, but check out the whole list here. Continue reading ‘Danish Comics of the Year 2015′

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.

Danish Comics of the Year 2013


Once again, Paul Gravett has taken a trip around the globe for his annual survey of the best in world comics. And as usual, I’ve contributed a small list of what I consider the best/most notable Danish comics of last year. Read the full list here and here, but just in case, here’s my contribution: Continue reading ‘Danish Comics of the Year 2013′

Danish Comic of the Year 2012

As he does every year, Paul Gravett has rounded up proposals for the best national comics of the year from an international panel of experts. This time around, he asked us to name just one comic rather than several, as we usually do — not everyone followed this direction, but I did. Here’s my pick, but do go to Paul’s site for the entire list.

Stig & Martha
by Mårdøn Smet
Aben Maler

This slim, tall tome collects one of the hidden gems of Danish comics of the past twenty years. Since it first saw the light of day in the seminal anthology magazine Fahrenheit in 1992, Mårdøn Smet’s (e)scathological gag strip has led a liminal and rather intermittent existence in Danish comics, providing small revelations for the intrepid few. Now a wider, if still discerning, audience gets the chance with this near-complete collection. Smet has jettisoned a few early efforts and redrawn a few others in glorious watercolour, fashioning a seamless whole of what was always a shatter of fragments.

Eponymously titled, the strip centers on two characters: short and tall, male and female, ambitious and sensitive, rational and emotional. In Smet’s hands, this classic formula becomes a vehicle for sacred reflection through profane humor. Smet’s line was built as a pastiche on Dutch masters Fred Julsing and Daan Jippes, but has long transcended its paragons to become an almost cryptogtaphic idiom, where buoyant dynamism is encoded in multitudinous swoops and curls. An embodiment of the failure of language, appropriately set in pantomime – everybody can read it, if they are willing to brave the line. Smet himself describes it as a kind of ‘waste product’, the art shed by his despair. It is grim, but very human, centering on irrepressible if always vain aspiration. Tense and beautiful.

Here’s a preview:

For previous lists, here are mine from 2009, 2010, and 2011.

Scheherezade’s Longbox

Just got word from Paul Gravett that his massive 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die is out in the UK, with the American edition to be released on 25 October and other national editions to follow.

Many will be familiar with this popular series covering everything from books to wine. The remarkable thing about the comics one is that it is the first convincing attempt to define an international canon for the art form. The book is of course skewed in favor of work available in English, but Paul has interpreted that limitation in the widest possible way, including an amazingly diverse and international field of comics from Töpffer to the present, including a fair amount never (or not yet) translated into English.

Individual national editions will make replacements, I’m told, which is really to the detriment of a remarkably coherentbook. Paul recruited 67 comics experts from all over the world, making it a wonderfully rich resource. And this is only enhanced by his decision to order the entries chronologically, adding an eye-opening historical dimension to the presentation. In addition to being a great reference, it’s thus also a short (” “) history of of world comics. I really encourage you to take a look at it.

Full disclosure: I was one of the 67, although my contribution is rather small. I wrote the entries on the Danish comics included: Storm P.’s Peter & Ping, Palle Nielsen’s Orpheus & Eurydice, Claus Deleuran’s Rejsen til Saturn, and Nikoline Werdelin’s Homo Metropolis, as well as (somewhat randomly) on Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Strikes Again (aka. DK2).

Check out Paul’s website for more information on the book, its contributors and the comics. He plans to update it regularly with reviews, interviews and supplementary material. For Danish readers, here’s a notice on it for which I provided some comments a couple of months ago.