Magnus Engström made his debut in 2011 with the graphic novel Luftspår (Air Track), an experimental detective story with existential dimensions. Skuggfärd (Shadow Road) is a kind of sequel, in the sense that it once again contains a detective/thriller story used as a tool to discuss other issues, in this case, what happens after death.
This is the tenth chronological collection of the classic Belgian adventure comic Spirou and Fantasio, and includes three albums from the early 1970s.
The creator of this epoch, Fournier, inherited the comic from André Franquin, whom most view as the master artist of the series. Fournier’s style is not quite as dynamic, but is clearly based in the same school and works surprisingly well for these comics. Not the least does the somewhat more rigid style fit these typical, somewhat didactic 1970s stories, in which Fournier tries to remedy the fact that the previous comics with Spirou and Fantasio took place in a traditional boys adventure world by introducing a strong female supporting character, a number of believable colored characters as well as a more modern view of life in the third world.
The classic Belgian album series Spirou and Fantasia was created in the 1930s and since then a number of different comics artists have shouldered the responsibility of creating this humorous adventure comic. After a number of years when the series was less artistically interesting, the creative duo of Tome (Philippe Tome) & Janry (Jean-Richard Geurts) took over the reins in the early 1980s and restored the comic to its former glory, and not at least made it more contemporary. This volume contains four of their best albums, in which the two adventurers and journalists travel around the globe.
The most interesting story is set in in Russia just after the Berlin Wall fell. A story that despite or perhaps because of the humorous tone and the caricatured style, really feels like a historical document about this now long lost era.
As for the art, Tome & Janry have here really hit their stride with their modern take of the classical Marcinelle style. This volume is complemented by a long preface that puts the comics in their historical contexts and also contains an abundance of photos, alternate covers, illustrations and other interesting material.
Entertaining, well-made comics, which despite the humorous adventure genre often contains serious themes.
The second volume of the Spirou writer and artist Tome’s crime comic Soda. This is an improvement compared to the first volume, both in terms of the script and the art. The story mostly comprises of a flashback, a so-called origin story, in which we get to know why the protagonist became a police officer but insists on pretending that he is a priest to his worried mother. This story has some pretty big logical holes in it but it is entertaining, not least thanks to all the depraved inhabitants of the dilapidated house the main character lived in when he arrived to New York. Had this series been published when I was a kid and devoured everything that was published in the French-Belgian album format, I probably would have loved it. Today, several decades later, this comic feels historically interesting as it colours my perception of Tome & Janry’s Spirou, but it is probably mostly my love for the Marcinelle style that has me reaching for the next volume.
The fourteens volume, and still an adrenaline rush… You’d think that Kirkman would have milked this post apocalyptic zombie concept for all its worth by now, but he still manages to get me involved in the lives of the characters, and making me quite exhausted after finishing reading. And with that cliffhanger (SPOILER ALLERT) of having Rick’s son’s life hanging in the balance, you can bet I’m reaching for volume 15 as soon as I stop typing.
The first volume of the Spriou artist and writer Tome’s “other” album series, Soda. In France, there are so far thirteen albums since the debut in the late 1980s and the comic is on its third artist by now. Soda is based on the standard story about the not too clever but honest and energetic New York Police officer who solves cases by running, jumping and chasing around. Positive, non-stereotypical traits in this, the very first volume is the fact that the main character lives with his elderly mother and in order to to reassure her dresses up as a priest each time he goes home, and that one of the more important supporting characters is a strong and intelligent woman. Warnant’s drawings end up on the slightly more realistic side of the scale for Marcinelle-artist, but a Janry (the artist working with Tome on the Spriou series), he is not…
Charlie Christensen is back with the twelfth collection of the cult comic Arne Anka. These volumes are nowadays only partly collections of the short comics that Christensen makes for a Swedish newspaper, which as always contain satirical comments about our time, presented as a dialogue between the main protagonist and his friends as they stumble from bar to bar. Most of the book, however, contains a longer stand-alone comic made especially for this book. This time Christensen addresses the terrorist attacks that has shook the world in the last few years, and in particular the attack against Charlie Hebdo, and how we react to these threats. This difficult question is discussed from a philosophical perspective and a large part of the comic is set in Europe in the 15th century, where the operations of the Inquisition are contrasted with what is happening now. An interesting contribution to the debate on freedom of expression, by a master of comic art. This should really be translated into other languages, as it deserves a larger audience.
This is a little gem of a graphic novel. Set in Russia after a world war in the near future that seems to have wiped out most of humanity (here made up of anthropomorphic pigs…) and most of the technology. A small group of survivors have built themselves a true communist society and are trying to make do, while they are all slowly dying from radioactive poisoning. The protagonist is a former soldier who deserted and are now trying to make himself useful by biking around, helping out, solving disputes etc., while coughing worse and worse. It’s sad, beautiful and touching, and really far from many other, more chaotic, action filled post apocalyptic dystopias. I do hope we will see more stories from this world in the future.
The Finnish artist Tommi Musturi creates wordless, symbolic comics, often with four square panels per page and images brimming over with imaginative details and richness of color. Inspiration can be discerned from Hergé and Joost Swartes ligne claire, but also from Jim Woodring’s whimsical, hypnotic comics. The main character is a simple, stylized white figure which rarely shows any emotion despite being exposed to everything from traveling backwards from the tomb of the womb, to the artist’s hand literally, and forcefully intervening in the storyline. The short comics contained in this book are not clearly linked, and are divided with what appears to be individual, non-sequitur illustrations. Overall, the book’s content, however, creates a unified feeling that lingers after reading.
Yet another volume in the album series Les Tuniques Bleues (The Blue Tunics), and as per usual, it´s a traditional, well-made comic in the classical French-Belgian album tradition. The plot is pretty thin – someone within their own ranks is trying to assassinate General Ulysses S. Grant, and as he becomes more and more paranoid, the rest of the camp is trying to figure out who might be behind it all. Cauvin delivers yet another OK script, but it’s Lambil’s artwork that lifts this album above the average. Not the best album in the series, but well worth reading.
Åsa Grennvall is back with a sequel to the critically acclaimed Deras ryggar luktade så gott (Their backs smelled so good). In a sense, this book starts right where the previous one ended and deals with how Grennvall starts her own family and how this leads to her finally dealing with the relationship with her dad and his (non-existent) role as a father. It is, as always with Grennvall’s comics, emotionally exhausting to read, and you just want to beat up her seemingly emotionally crippled father for what he has done and not done during Grennvall´s childhood. But the book also contains a great deal of warmth and optimism in the new-found family life, which makes reading the story bearable although it fittingly enough ends with a discussion between the character Åsa and Death … Grennvall is one of the sharpest, most personal comics artists we have in Sweden, and her last two graphic novels are among the best, most literary ever made in Sweden.
I’ve stayed away from blogging etc. for the summer, focusing on family and my thesis, so I completely missed out on the fact that my latest review was published in the Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
As those of you working as comics artist, journalists, editors or authors know, there can be long bouts of work with little or no obvious payoff. And then there’s periods when everything just comes together and your mailbox (physical and digital) is filled daily with new publications. That has been the case for me these last few weeks.
It started with my latest academic article, Comic Studies in the Nordic Countries – Field or discipline? being published in the great Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics. This has been in the works literally for years now, so seeing it in print was really satisfying.
Yet another album with Les Tuniques Bleues (or Blåfrakkerne as they are called in Danish). There are 59 albums so far, and even if the creators are aged by now it seems they are not about to quit producing an album a year, like clockwork.
When it got this new graphic novel by Max Andersson, actually the first since Pixy, which was published an astonishing 25 years ago, I was really elated. For me Pixy was one of the major eye openers to the potential of comics and I have followed Andersson’s career ever since. But he has mostly created shorter comics, and though highly interesting, not quite matching the more epic qualities of Pixy. So, it was with some trepidation that I took on reading The Excavation, although I had read some of these comics before, in various publication including the comic book Death and Candy.
A story that begins promising and has great potential, which unfortunately is sorely misspent by scriptwriter Cauvin at the end. The idea of alternative, subjective versions of the chaotic reality during a battle is inspired, although no one who reads this long-running series would ever believe in the possibility that Blutch, one of the comic’s two main characters, actually would have died. Despite this, entertaining and well done, if not ingenious.
This is the 38th album of the Les Tuniques Bleues and the artist Lambil is as good as ever in his somewhat more realistic version of the dynamic Marcinelle-style. Sometimes I feel, however, that the script writer Cauvin has lost some of his edge thorough the years. In this particular album, though, he rises to the occasion. A battle between the North and the Confederate soldiers is contrasted with a protracted childbirth. Life and death. This has of course been done before, but Cauvin manages just the right balance between nonsense and seriousness. The pacifist end of the story is also spot on.
Le Petit Spirou is a spinoff of the classic Belgian comic Spirou and Fantasio, about the protagonist as a child, probably set somewhere during the 1950s and actually more successful than the main series. Le Petit Spirou is made by the duo Tome (Philippe Vandevelde) and Janry (Jean-Richard Geurts), who for a period of time also were the creators behind Spirou and Fantasio. The comic mostly consists of one pagers with a joke at the end and is clearly geared towards boys in their tweenies.
Everything is right now coming together, after months of working all hours, all days of the week. Here’s the brand new issue of SJoCA, with a beautiful cover illustration by the inimitable Nina Hemmingsson.
A new teacher’s guide by yours truly was just made available online. It’s in Swedish and geared towards teachers in Swedish primary school, containing sections on why comics should be used in the classroom, how this matches the instructions in the government’s policy documents etc, as well as more practically oriented tips on workshops for different levels and different school subjects. Do spread the word, as this is free of use for all teachers.
A brand new interview with your’s truly (in Swedish) about the work I do to establish comics in my home town.
The Danish-Swedish publisher Mooz continues the publication of hardcover collections with the classic French children’s comic Spirou. This volume contains three albums from the 1980s by Tome and Janry. This creative team was clearly the heirs to the undisputed master among Spirou artists, André Franquin, both in terms of the art, which has the same expressive, fast paced feel to it, and in the storylines, which are often linked to Franquin’s characters and comics.
More brand new books with contributions by yours truly. This is the second book from the Swedish Comics Archive, focusing on the comics culture in Sweden in the 1960s. I’ve contributed an interview with pioneering comics historian Sture Hegerfors, and an article about the likewise pioneering female comics artist Ulla van Rooy, who illustrated a graphic novel as early as 1960.
And here’s my talk with the impressive creative couple Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, the jet-setters of the international comics culture.
It’s that time of the year when all the hard work that you have put in throughout the winter/spring comes to fruition. There are no less than five publication with material by your’s truly out or about to be published, and now the artist talks that I did at the comics festival in Stockholm are available online. Here’s my talk with the incredible Rutu Modan.
The second graphic novel with Li Österberg’s contemporary take on the Greek gods, and a much better, more coherent story than that in the first, Nekyia. We here follow the young woman Persefone, a minor goddess who is the daughter (and granddaughter…) of the god Zeus and the goddess Demeter. Persefone is a goddess, but is very much depicted like a woman of flesh and blood, and her thoughts and feeling feels more based in the modern world than in ancient Greece.
The Danish/Swedish publisher Mooz continues the publication of hardcover collections with the classical French album comic Spirou and Fantasio. This volume contains the first three albums by Franquin’s successor, the then young and inexperienced Jean-Claude Fournier. Taking over after the recognized master was surely no easy task and both art and storytelling are quite clunky at first, but gradually gets better.
Ariol is quickly becoming my favourite children’s comic. Guibert constantly delivers scripts that really feel like they depicts the reality of children, as opposed to all those stories about children, written by adults from a safe distance. In this volume, for instance, I loved the little story of how the hesitant Ariol tries hard to impress the resolute and confident girl he loves, or the one about the obsession of collecting cards that can transcend generational gaps.
This is a weird and wonderful original Polish graphic novel, which title loosely translates to “In a foreign skin”. It’s an eerie, silent story of a wolf in a forest populated with a combination of traditional animals and what looks like huge fantasy creatures.
Lars Sjunnesson is one of Sweden’s most internationally well-known and respected comics artists, which is not surprising. Since his debut in the 80s, he has consistently created provocative and distinctive comics with high artistic integrity. Sjunnesson’s most famous characters are the permanently agitated anarchist Åke Jävel and the more phlegmatic Tjocke-Bo. The latter is part of the story in Den svarta undulaten (The Black Budgie), the eighth book in Sjunnesson’s slow but steady production, which picks up where the last book, Möte med monsunen (Meeting with the monsoon) from 2010, left off.
Palimpsest is an autobiographical graphic novel about a Swede who was adopted from Korea searching for her origins. Sjöblom has previously made shorter comics and illustrated children’s books, but this is her first full-length graphic novel.