Came back from the Helsinki comics festival that took place last weekend with the realisation that I have a lot of different books and there might be a point in making some sort of presentation to clarify what’s what.
So I wrote this (by the way, I should mention that I am currently unemployed and am available for work as artist/writer/comics creator):
You can find a more complete list of my comics-related (and otherwise) work at my main website, www.elftorp.com. Here I want to talk a bit about how I look at what I’ve done so far.
I go to a couple of different comics festivals, in various countries, over a year to sell my own books and the ones I work with as a publisher etc (Tusen Serier / Wormgod / CBK). And as the list keeps growing, I’ve been thinking that maybe I should make it a bit easier to navigate the books, understand what’s more and less representative of what i do in general, and so on. Because my approach to the different books vary a bit.
By the way, you can buy all these books at the CBK webshop. Please do, I need money.
So let’s start with what I see as my main work, Piracy is Liberation. This is my big project. Over a period of around 10 years, I made 11 books in the series, later collected in two big volumes. The plan is not to do the small ones anymore, but rather make two more books before the series is finished. In total, it will be similar in length to a 75-issue series in the US standard of publishing. So I’m more or less half-way through the series.
This is the story where I’m building a world inhabited by characters who evolve over time, with a story-arc that will deal with various topics that are important to me on its way to an epic conclusion. Elements of this story can of course be read as allegorical, but it’s also a work of fiction where you should be able empathise with the characters and follow their personal development as well as the evolution of the world they live in. In some ways, their world is very similar to ours (on a more and less symbolic level), in other ways it is its own thing.
(Most, but not all, of these covers were made by Susanne Johansson.)
But I also tell other stories that are shorter. Maybe some of them will grow later, I have some plans for sequels, but so far there are no major story arcs stretching over a whole series of books. These are what I would say the two main works of that kind:
The Troll started out as a 24-hour comic but grew into a vehicle to talk about more philosophical topics, about the nature of reality and the small part of it that we can even begin to comprehend. It’s not really based in science fact, even though it’s heavily inspired by things related to astrophysics/quantum/string theory and such things. I’m mostly having fun with it, running with ideas that are extrapolated from established facts on the verge of the unknown. With some elements of magic and psychology and horror thrown in. For example, I present a theory about what consciousness is, where each person’s memries and self-image is part of a multidimensional web of experiences from different levels of the multiverse. You have to read the story to get the whole explanation, but you get the idea. At the same time it’s a story about two persons meeting in extraordinary circumstances. So if that mix of things sounds appealing to you, then this book is for you. Some of the concepts come from, or are related to, the concept of metamagic that I use in Piracy is Liberation, and I think many of the more philosophical issues will overlap between the two series, especially if I make a sequel the The Troll. Which I plan to do at some point.
Then there’s Me & my Daddy & Zlatan. This one is a stand-alone story where I try to put a human face on something that a lot of people seem to be afraid of nowadays: the immigrant.
Well, it’s actually more of a critique of Swedish migration policies, based on a mix of stories and experiences. I explore the nationalist elements of integration/assimilation and try to focus on the human elements of an inhumane situation. I guess this is the book that’s more likely to land me in a nice cozy camp somewhere in the future. After all, it becomes clear that I don’t buy the rhetoric that there is one specific “Swedishness” that everyone living here should fit into.
I’ve also seen at least a handful of people cry while reading this book, which gives me great pleasure. I mean it makes me really proud.
Transgressions and After the ends of the world are similar in that they both come with soundtracks in the range of industrial – noise (from experimental to harsh noise walls).
Transgressions is an attempt to tell a challenging short (36 pgs) story about various ways to transgress written and unwritten rules and boundaries, from gender to national borders to sexuality to laws of physics. I’m not trying to be offensive, but I am trying to break a lot of social/mental conventions with this book. And also to have fun and be serious while doing it. So if you like that kind of thing, or that kind of music for that matter (Feberdröm made the soundtrack), this is for you. It’s at the same time some kind of compressed version of the sensibilities I express in the aforementioned works, since it touches on subjects such as national borders (as in Me & my Daddy & Zlatan), different levels of reality (as in The Troll) and gender/sexual identity (which is also something that is part of Piracy is Liberation, even if I approach it in a very different way there).
After the ends of the world is even more compressed, as most of the “stories” there are only 1 page or even a half. They’re more like distilled ideas, short presentation of concepts, postapocalyptic visions as the title implies. There are also a few longer stories by me, but no more than a few pages. This book is not just me, but also some contributions by the rest of Wormgod, Susanne Johansson and Heidi Somero.
So that’s a bunch of books with stories ranging from half a page to ca 1600 pages. But over the years I’ve also made a lot of short stories for various anthologies. These are more random. Mostly made either for a specific context or just to experiment with storytelling. Since we started C’est Bon/CBK in 2001, I’ve been using that anthology (currently called CBA) to now and then do something different. Stories between 5-15 pages just to try something, explore an idea without inserting it into a bigger story, etc. For a time, I also edited a title called Dystopia that was also an outlet for shorter stuff. Then there are the stories I made for festival anthologies such as Novo Doba or AltCom. And other anthologies.
I’ve collected a bunch of these short stories in the first volume of A Subtle Fuck You. Maybe one day when I have the money and enough material that fits together (more or less) I will make a second volume.
I wouldn’t recommend this collection to someone who hasn’t read any of my other stuff, since it’s so disparate and random, but see it more as bonus material. Short stories can be fun, but it’s hard to fit a lot of content into just a few pages.
And, to finish, there are also the Angry Animals/Arg Kanin comics. A mix of extended strip comics and political rants. Usually one or a few pages long, with this angry rabbit character going off on rants about some current topic. Usually in Swedish, but also sometimes in English. This is where you find the most concrete, least subtle stuff, which can sometimes be a very welcome release.
So now you have some kind of introduction to what I do. If this sounds interesting to you, you can buy my books at the CBK webshop. And if you’ve read the whole thing, maybe you have some idea of where to start…
I should also mention that I’ve made some stories where I only wrote the script and someone else made the art, which is another experience that can create very nice results.
One such book is Bekele (written with Raquel Lozano, drawn by Emre Özdamarlar), another one is En Andra Chans (drawn by Shko Askari, planned for release in late 2016/early 2017). These both fall into the same category as Me & my Daddy & Zlatan, so if you’re into semi-fictional depictions of the current (or almost current since we’re moving fast downhill) situation in migration politics in Sweden, these are for you.