Archive for the 'articles and essays' Category

The Constant Garage

The following essay was originally written for, and published in, The Comics Journal #300 in 2009, as a special instalment of my Euro-Comics column “Continental Drift”; it was subsequently published on, but on a particular iteration of that website which is no longer online. I therefore now reprint it here in minimally edited form, on the occasion of our recent episode of Radio Rackham on Moebius’ Hermetic Garage.

Spanning more or less exactly the life of the Journal, Moebius’ greatest invention, the Hermetic Garage, has been a constant in his creative life. A set of concepts to which he has returned intermittently through his career and which has found new life in his most recent book—an exhilarating return to form. Continue reading ‘The Constant Garage’


Nikoline Werdelin for the win!

It’s been a week and half since the big show, but I still think this year’s Ping awards deserve a few words for what little international audience this site still has after months of hibernation.

The Ping awards is an annual set of awards given to comics in Denmark in the manner of the Angoulême Fauves or the American Eisners. Founded by the Danish Comics Council, the awards are a revivification of a differently conceived, hall of fame-type award of the same name which was bestowed on single creators through the early nineties, as well as of the awards programme hosted by the comics biennial from 2004-2010. The Pings are named after one of the best known characters created by one of the greatest Danish cartoonists, Robert Storm Petersen, aka. Storm P. (1882-1949). Continue reading ‘Boom PING PING’

Never Just a Joke: Representations of Race in Scandinavia

Over at Hooded Utilitarian, the latest installment of my very irregular column, DWYCK, focuses on recent media controversies in Sweden over representations of race: Stina Wirsén’s empoyment of pickaninny stereotyping for her childrens book and film character Lilla Hjärtat and Makote Aj Linde’s infamous cake installation at Moderna Museet in Stockholm earlier this year.

The dicussion also touches upon the media kerfuffle a few months back over the projected removal of Hergé’s Tintin in the Congo to the adult section of the Kulturhuset library in the same city, as well as — inevitably — the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s a complicated set of issues that have implications of cultural integration and free speech and I’d love to hear your opinion, so pop over there and have a look.

Erik Fischer 1920-2011

Yesterday I received the sad news that the great oak of Danish art history Erik Fischer has died. More thorough obituaries will surely be forthcoming, so I just want to note briefly how important his work and example has been to myself as an art historian.

Fischer’s distinctions and honors are many: among other things, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Copenhagen in 1991, became an honorary member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 2000, and, already a knight of the Order of Dannebrog, was awarded its special Cross of Honor in 1997. This is because he, arguably more than anybody else of his generation, put Danish art history on the international map as a great humanist, scholar and teacher of the old school.

Never particularly prolific in terms of publications — he seemed perpetually plagued by a perfectionist writer’s block — the work he did publish is exemplary, both for its erudition, its sensitivity and its originality. His explication of the scientific worldview of Danish Golden Age painter C. W. Eckersberg (1783-1853) was the first really to begin explaining that painter’s remarkable approach to a nature in which he saw the divine, and his analyses of the painter’s almost obsessive geometric approach to composition application of perspective are eye-opening; even if somewhat hard fully to believe, they lay bare the deliberation of a highly reflexive artist, and suggested how, in this, some of the most rational image-making conceivable, lies a rare surreal poetry. Continue reading ‘Erik Fischer 1920-2011′

Beats, Rhymes, and Longevity

I’ve been on a bit of a Tribe quick this last week, culminating Saturday at the Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival, where Q-Tip was the headliner. It was a bravura set by a born performer: Tip’s clear delivery, whether rapping, singing (weakly, but charmingly) or beatboxing, coupled with a tighly-knit band animating the Tribe compositions with live instruments, made for a great show.

The icing on the cake was an all-star line-up of guests that included Monie Love (reluctantly performing “Monie in the Middle” before quickly absconding), an on point Sean Penn (not the mopey-faced actor), Black Thought from The Roots (spitting “Love of My Life and “The Next Movement”, tight as always, then backing up Tip on a crazy rendition of “Bonita Applebum”), Busta Rhymes (the crowd went wild when he appeared for “Scenario”, but it quickly turned into call-response; the real fyah was his insane verse from Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now”) and Kanye West (rapping “Dark Fantasy” down among the crowd, dropping a couple of his pop joints, then acting plug 2 for Tip on “Award Tour”).

For me the most enjoyable parts were elsewhere though. Continue reading ‘Beats, Rhymes, and Longevity’

Rackham: A Decade in Comics

Around ten-and-a-half years ago, in April of 2000, the first issue of Rackham was released to a mostly indifferent Danish audience. The comics market had been in a slump for a decade, very few comics of interest were being published, the underground was struggling to find its sea legs after years of neglect, the comics internet was in its infancy, and there was no comics criticism to speak of. In its own hopelessly overblown fashion, Rackham was an attempt to set all that straight. How my co-editor, co-publisher and compadre Thomas Thorhauge and myself figured that was going to work, I don’t recall, and in any case I guess the ambition was mostly unacknowledged, even by ourselves. Continue reading ‘Rackham: A Decade in Comics’

Er Roskilde stadig Orange?

Så er denne signatur atter kommet hjem fra Roskilde Festivalen i god behold. Som sædvanligt med følelsen af at være totalt mørbanket efter dage med musik og fest i overdådige mængder, og med farvelråbet ”vi ses til næste år!” Continue reading ‘Er Roskilde stadig Orange?’

Raymond Macherot RIP

I meant to write some words on the passing of the great Belgian cartoonist last week earlier, but then figured that since I was going to Paris over the weekend, I’d pick up a couple of his classic comics to reacquaint myself with some of those stories that meant so much to me as a kid and which I’ve only ever read in Danish translation. To my not inconsiderable indignation I discovered, however, that the French-language market, despite overflowing with product these years, apparently still can’t support extensive reeditions of its classics. It appears that only very little of Macherot’s work is in print, and none of it was available at the otherwise reliable stores I frequent in the City of Lights.

On the other hand such utter mediocrities as Jean Graton’s Michel Vaillant, Tibet’s Ric Hochet and Eddy Paape’s Luc Orient are available in archival editions. It’s depressing. Macherot is a
a master on the level of his distinguished colleagues Peyo, creator of Johan et Pirlouit and the Smurfs, and Morris, the co-creator and artist of Lucky Luke. His best work is not only immaculately crafted, but intelligent, personal, fun and not a little unsettling. Continue reading ‘Raymond Macherot RIP’

Biksen som Bastion

Tegneserie-, SF- og spilbutikken Fantask overgår til ny ledelse pr. 1. oktober. Det er netop blevet annonceret, at stifterne Rolf Bülow og Søren Pedersen fra den dato trækker sig som ledere og overdrager faklen til Marit Nim, der efterhånden har arbejdet i butikken i 14 år og har administreret spilafdelingen en væsentlig del af den tid.

Det lyder som en fornem løsning på den helt naturlige situation, at der måtte komme et generationsskifte i denne, en af de ældste og væsentligste institutioner i dansk tegneseriekultur. Rolf og Søren fortsætter i butikken nogen tid endnu og kan nu se frem til at se deres forretning videreført, også når de velfortjent trækker sig tilbage.

Jeg tænkte jeg ville skrive lidt om, hvor meget Fantask har betydet for mig, og for dansk tegneseriekultur, men har ikke det store at føje til den tekst jeg skrev i anledning af butikkens 30-årsjubilæum tilbage i 2001 (oprindeligt trykt i Rackham #4), så den bringes hermed i ganske let redigeret udgave.

Tillykke Rolf, Søren og Marit! Alt det bedste i fremtiden. Continue reading ‘Biksen som Bastion’

Isaac Hayes 1942-2008

Isaac Hayes is gone. And not to Phoenix, this time. It’s a hard goodbye for this listener. Inspired by the great artists who sampled him — Public Enemy on “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos”, Big Daddy Kane on “Smooth Operator”, The Jungle Brothers’ on “Behind the Bush”, Massive Attack on “One Love”, Compton’s Most Wanted on “The Hood Took Me Under”, The Geto Boys on “Mind’s Playin’ Tricks on Me”, etc. — I started seeking him out sometime in the early 90s, and his music became formative to my appreciation of soul music.

Hayes was the whole package. A writer of great songs, especially the early sixties when he and co-writer David Porter provided Sam and Dave with their two biggest hits, “Soul Man” and “(Hold on) I’m Coming.” A fine instrumentalist, especially on the keyboard. But first and foremost he was a composer, arranger and producer, notable for taking often relatively banal material and crafting soul masterpieces from it. And then there was his voice. Though never a singer of great nuance, he brought a form of high pathos to his love songs that imbued the emotions expressed with an epic sense, without ever losing that loving feeling. Continue reading ‘Isaac Hayes 1942-2008′

Continuous Creation — Titian’s Nuova Natura

This 2006 essay, posted here to supplement the review of the Spring 2008 Titian show in Venice, is an attempt, firstly, to analyze the loose finish of Titian’s late pictures as a natural development in his art with roots as far back as the beginning of his career, and, secondly, to provide a contemporary theoretical framework for it in order to assess its aesthetic implications for the cinquecento beholder. Continue reading ‘Continuous Creation — Titian’s Nuova Natura’

Worlds of Difference — Thoughts upon Gary Gygax’ Passing

gygax.jpgGary Gygax, who just passed away, changed my life. Indirectly but still. He was one of the great imaginary enablers of our time. His creation, along with several others, not so much of Dungeons & Dragons itself, but of the role-playing game as an immersive storytelling form, has been central to the development of my imaginary since I was about ten. I never knew much about the man, other than the fact that his name was eminently fitting — I always imagined him as a kind of warlock existing somewhere between fact and fantasy. The ancestor of the waking dreams my fellow travelers and I have shared for so many years.

I was first introduced to the idea of the roleplaying game by a good friend who was not only more streetwise than I, but had an older brother and through him a bunch of hoodlum-in-the-making big friends that also happened to enjoy imaginary worlds. What they were doing at this time was edgy, not nerdy. I simply didn’t get how all this was possible, but it sounded cool. So he invited me along to one of their D&D sessions, as an onlooker and -listener, and that was all I needed — everything clicked. The very next day in school, I drew up a map of a fantasy world in imitation of the one I’d seen the night previous and recruited a bunch of my friends as players to my gamemaster, establishing the pattern of most of my roleplaying since then. Continue reading ‘Worlds of Difference — Thoughts upon Gary Gygax’ Passing’

One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest — Comics Between Old and New

This essay was originally published in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition Comix — on the contemporary intersections between comics and the fine arts — at Brandts klædefabrik, Odense (Sep. 22 2007 — Jan 6 2008). Now that the exhibition is over, it is presented here in a slightly edited version. The catalogue is available in both English and Danish through Brandts bookshop here.

Comics are both an affirmation of something old and an offer of something new in art. During the early modern era in Europe, comics became separated from the ancient narrative and pictorial practices to which they belong and with industrialization, and modernity they began a new, turbulent life as one of popular culture’s most obstinate bastard children. This existence outside the perimeter of high culture relegated comics to a relatively limited range of expression and genres, which they however cultivated in a way that ensured their survival as an independent and powerful art form. At the same time, comics served as one of the most fertile hibernation grounds for figuration and archetypical narration in times when these were having difficult times in high culture. Although the distance between them has always been short and it has been a long time coming, we have in recent years been seeing a confluence of comics and fine art so pronounced that the traditionally rather clear boundaries between them will have to be re-positioned, if not eliminated altogether. Not surprisingly, this all leads to highly interesting new work. Continue reading ‘One Flew Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest — Comics Between Old and New’

A Fool’s Flashback

This season’s commonly one for retrospection, and appropriately I’ve lately been reminded of one of my youthful follies, a road not taken. An old friend, Anders Bøgh, has unearthed one of the comics he, I and two of our classmates did back in fourth grade, from whatever bottom shelf of lost recollection he keeps (PDF here; sorry, it’s all in Danish).

The Super F.O.O.L.S, produced in 1985-1986, wasn’t the first comic I drew, but at the time seemed like an ambitious step forward — a team-produced comic, “published” by our own structure, AJKM, and hawked around the corridors of our school and at family gatherings for 5 DKr. (a steal, even at that time). It was even available at the nexus of all Danish comic book realities, Fantask, where they have always supported the fanzine scene, no matter how little promise the product showed. Continue reading ‘A Fool’s Flashback’

Konrad Oberhuber RIP

oberhuber.jpgI’ve only just now been made aware that the great Renaissance scholar Konrad Oberhuber passed away on September 12, aged 72. I never had the pleasure of meeting the by all accounts charismatic and gregarious scholar, but have found great inspiration — and also at times frustration — in his work. It’s sad to see him go so relatively early, and — paranthetically as well as selfishly — to know that now I’ll never get the chance to discuss Venetian drawings with him.

Born in Linz, Austria, Oberhuber studied the history of art, archaeology, psychology and philosophy at the University of Vienna, earning his doctorate in 1959. He worked for a decade at the Albertina after which he spent a number of years as a curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. In 1975, he became curator of prints and drawings and professor of fine arts at Harvard. He left in 1987 to return to the Albertina as its director, a post he held until his retirement in 2000. The last years of his life were spent in California. He was by all accounts an inspiring teacher and has clearly been a great influence to the considerable number of his former students now in top positions in the art world.

His greatest, and concomitantly most problematic scholarly contribution to his field is surely his large body of work on Raphael, especially on his drawings. His long list of publications on the master from Urbino of the 60s and 70s, culminating in the 1983 monograph Raphael — Die Zeichnungen, which he co-authored and clearly dominated, has been seminal; an invaluable expansion upon the foundational work by Pouncey and Gere of the early 60s. This work however led him to a considerable muddying of the waters in subsequent publications, giving to Raphael a large number of drawings previously attributed to his assistants, eventually bloating the oeuvre into the vastly expanded corpus of the 1999 exhibition catalogue Roma e lo stilo classico di Raffaello. Continue reading ‘Konrad Oberhuber RIP’