It’s a very nice review by Fredrik Strömberg. Took him a while to get around to it, but when he did it, he did a thorough job with it. Some of my favorite passages:
The story behind the making of Mattias Elftorp’s magnum opus Piracy is Liberation is quite unlike anything in Sweden. Elftorp has worked on this project since the beginning of the 21st century, handling the production, publishing and marketing parts mostly by himself (first through C’est Bon now through Wormgod), never making much money out of it (and the little there is, is always put into the next printing) and, most importantly, never compromising with his artistic integrity. And this he has. Lots of it. I know, I have been involved in the making of several of these stories, reading them through, giving advice knowing that most of it will be ignored…
Oh, what the hell. I’ll just publish the whole thing here (high-lighting the important stuff)… Still worth the trip to his blog. Frequently updated and lots of interesting comics-related stuff.
Then there’s Elftorp’s penchant for mixing in several different influences into his genre crossing comics. He himself describes them on the project’s website as: “Political theory, filtered through autobiography, masked as fiction in the form of cyberpunk postapocalypse…” Well, for the postapocalyptic part, The Matrix is a quite obvious influence, with a lot of cyberpunk thrown in for good measure. Then there’s the political part, where already the title indicates the anarchistic tendencies. And the autobiographical parts… Well, the main character is quite obviously based on the artist himself, at least visually. And that the political part of these stories are a real and genuine part of Elftorp can be seen by the fact that he himself has uploaded the first volumes of the series as torrents on The Pirate Bay.
Anyway, I have read most of these comics in various stages, but never all in one go, which I just did. An interesting experience.
The art is expressive, sometimes to the point of being unintelligible. Elftorp has an uncompromising attitude towards his art, where the initial feeling of a drawing is more important than making a certain character look exactly the same, panel after panel. When reading Piracy is Liberation I can never really decide whether this is good or bad, or both. After a while I get really into it though and as with other good auteur comics, the story and the art meshes together to a unity where one could not exist without the other.
The story line is a bit complicated, but never for the sake of being complicated. Sometimes it is very straightforward action, sometimes it messes with the mind of the reader and jumps backwards and forwards in time, playing with the whole cyberpunk theme of being able to upload your consciousness to the net. As a voracious comics reader I of course like the part in volume four, where Elftorp plays with the form of comics and mixes metahumor with cyberpunk and lets the characters actually travel across the comics pages, aware of being part of a comics and able to walk backwards and forwards in time – echoing the creation process of the comic in itself.
Very shortly put, the story in Piracy is Liberation takes place in a post-apocalyptic world which resembles ours in many ways, but where the whole world is made up of a city where the population is kept in a state of subdued subordination through indoctrination mainly via TV (and yes, V for Vendetta does spring to mind, as does Alan Moore’s own inspiration, 1984 by George Orwell, of course). Fighting against the corrupt corporate system is a small group of pirates using the internet to access iformation, attacking the authority, orgnanising rebellion. It’s all on one level a political metafor for the lives we live today, but never to the point of killing the story, which is engaging, sometimes fast paced and often very clever, with the main characters having to copy themselves into reality due to being locked up in a virtual prison, and the ramifications this entails when there are several version of them walking around. Here Elftorp actually does several things I haven’t read or seen before, which is inpressive as the whole post-apocalyptic/cyberpunk genre has been flogged to death many times over, as far as I’m concerned.
But it’s the genuine feeling of the political convictions pulsating thorugh Piracy is Liberation that keeps my interest going and that is what will make me keep reading in the future. Knowing that Elftorp has this series planned to at least 20 volumes I’d be surprised if there isn’t a film made somewhere along the way. I just hope the whole idea of Piracy is Liberation won’t be lost in a Hollywood production (which in itself is the negation of the message of the story). Anyway, until then, do read this strange combination of action and political philosophy and make up your own mind. That’s the main message Elftorp is trying to convey.
Ok, ok. Long time no blogging. I’ll try to make it up in the days to come.
So. What’s new?
Today, I’ve made the translation of Dystopia04: Reclaimed into Swedish. Everything except the title, which I will have to figure out during the evening. Something that retains the double meaning of the English one, if possible. But the best I’ve come up with so far is “Dagen då vi spöade snuten“. I’m not sure if that’s good enough.
Dystopia04: Reclaimed. Cover (and contents) by Mattias Elftorp.
Later, I will talk a bit about Dystopias 02, 03 and 05. I might also mention AltCom, but that should probably wait a while longer. And if I could just find the time to actually sit down and continue drawing Piracy is Liberation 008: Spiders pt 2, I’m sure I’ll have something to show and tell about that (more than this one, which is a page from the second chapter):
This bit about Piracy is Liberation, CBK and Wormgod. In Swedish:
Think outside the city
Mattias Elftorp är helt rätt i tiden. Och han har något som inte alls beror på timing eller trend; hängivelse.
Han har gått alla tre steg (år 1, år 2 och kreativt friår) på Serieskolan i Malmö med några års mellanrum. Han startade upp C’est Bon Kultur tillsammans med Oskar Aspman, Jacob Kindstedt och Daniel Novakovic. Denna alternativa seriekulturförening kan med sina antologier numera konkurrera med klassiker som Galago. Mattias är också mottagare av en rad stipendier, bistånd som utan undantag går rakt in i hans konst igen.
Mattias kombination av konst, populärkultur och politik skapar ett unikt stilgrepp som hittills främst fått sitt uttryck i hans mastodontprojekt cyberpunkserien Piracy is Liberation. Den 7:e delen kom ut nyligen och hans mål är 20 stycken. Med tanke på hans ovan nämnda engagemang tvivlar jag inte en sekund på att han kommer att nå dit. Det som framförallt övertygar mig om att Piracy is Liberation är en serie att hålla ögonen på är att den inte liknar något som jag vanligtvis gillar i bildberättarväg. Men jag kan inte lägga ner den när jag börjat läsa och ser fram emot att läsa varenda del. Den är mörk och dystopisk, queer och radikal. Det politiska perspektivet är konstant närvarande utan att väga tyngre än intrigen. Som läsare sugs man in en liten bit till för varje sida som vänds.
Mattias håller sig konstant på fronten. Han är inte rädd för nya grepp. Han lämnade nyss C’est Bon Kultur för konstprojektet Wormgod som han driver tillsammans med Susanne Johansson. Wormgod har redan hunnit med en handfull utställningar och utgivningen av 007 Spiders ur Piracy-serien. Ni kan vänta er att se Wormgod poppa upp lite varstans inom kort, och var inte rädda för att leta i ett mörkt skrymsle nära er… Det är därifrån bilderna, musiken och berättelserna kommer. Alla potentiella portaler till en dystopisk och otrolig framtid eller parallell värld.
The new Piracy is Liberationbook is almost finished. Just a little bit of postproduction left to do, then it’s off to the printer.
It will be out as planned in time for the Helsinki comics festival, September 12-13. And it’s just been decided that the publisher will be Wormgod, which I’m very happy with. It means keeping the book all in our own hands (me and Suss who makes the covers and is the other half of Wormgod).
Sample pages will be up at the site soon. Until then, here’s Suss’ cover:
The gods are real, but most of them are dead. Pirate learns this and many more secrets from the anarchists in the desert as he gets his new assignment. Something is moving on the net. Some kind of entities seem to be interfering with its users. Are these signs of the birth of a new god, or is it something else entirely? And how does it affect the plans for the Information Upgrade that the anarchists are planning? We also get some insight into everyday religious life in the City through the surveillance cameras of a Shopping Temple…
There are also some other upcoming projects, not the least of which coming from Wormgod. Stay tuned…
This may be my own personal opinion, but have you noticed how there’s never anything good on? And still you can get stuck in front of the TV screen for hours, then finally get up and turn it off and feel kind of dirty inside. Like your mind has been infected by something. TV is a media form that tends toward a kind of entertainment that is more concerned with profit than content.
Which is, of course, nothing new. Which in turn makes it even harder for me to understand how it can still hold such influence over our society. Now, before I continue, I should say that I can’t deny there are some TV things that I do enjoy watching. But those things can always be found in other places than the actual TV set, where you can watch them whenever you want instead of at one specific time. But that’s another story.
Television in my cyberpunk postapocalypse is a bit exaggerated. In the City, people don’t just watch TV, they jack into it through their TV ports, with cables going directly from the TV into their brains. Indoctrination taken to a whole new level. So the TV transmissions in the comic symbolises more than the role of the actual television in our world. When they cut the transmissions in the comic, it means that they cut the entire means of distribution for the entire machinery of cultural mainstreamification (is that a word? It should be).
Which is what makes it so dangerous. As dangerous as it seems to be to squat a building in sweden, for some reason. And the authorities treat it in much the same way too, with extreme prejudice (re: Piracy is Liberation 006: Violence).
We live in a society that is very much based on the individual, but a lot of what happens, especially when it comes to events with the potential to change things, are happening on a collective level. It’s all about mass movements (which is probably why the current culture is so centered on the individual, because it makes the status quo easier to maintain).
So another thing I’m trying to do with Piracy is Liberation is to tell the story from a slightly different perspective. Of course, it’s very much about individuals. As a reader, you need characters to relate to in order for the story to work. But my characters are also parts of a greater collective. A collective that may not be visible as such at alla times, but one that is always present. When major changes take place, individual characters may be acting as catalysts, but there is always a collective that makes the real difference.
This is something that may not be obvious, but I want it to run in the background, surfacing now and then in the climaxes as seen through the eyes of the individuals taking part in the movements of the story. I’m also trying to convey the feeling of working as a collective. The feeling that anything can be achieved, in a way that I would say you’ll never feel on your own.
There were a lot of issues that I had to consider when I began turning Piracy is Liberation into what it is today. Things I thought I’d like to speak about in the series, but I think that some things can be spoken about by not speaking about them. War is one of those things (how does a world where the concept of war doesn’t exist differ from ours?) that I might go into later. Gender issues is another, and that is what I’d like to talk about now.
I was thinking, should I use Piracy to talk about gender issues that we all live with here today by having the Piracy world be similar to ours, or should I take another approach. I’ve never tried to market Piracy as a feminist comic, but I’ve heard from people who think it is, and I can understand why they think so. Of course, it was my intention, but I wasn’t sure people would notice it and I’m glad they did.
The thing is that there are a lot of stories, fictional and otherwise, that describe our gendered society and talk about inequalities and all that, but there are very few that show what things could be like without that shit. There are also some that turn the tables and present a world where men behave like women and women behave like men, but I’m not really interested in that either. I also have problems with drag sometimes, when it confirms stereotypes rather than question them. It doesn’t really change anything. Quite the opposite, almost.
So I present a world where men and women work under very similar conditions. They are able to do the same things, think the same thoughts, act on the same level. Because physical sex shouldn’t matter and gender (its mental/social counterpart) shouldn’t exist, and I wanted to see what would happen with my story if that was actually the case.
I still wanted the society in the City where the comic takes place to be hierarchical and conservative, but in other ways. It can be conservative when it comes to how we manage our relationships even if it’s gender equal. After all, relationships tend to be hierarchical in one way or another, no matter if they are heterosexual or homosexual, so I don’t think that heterosexuality or gender differences is a prerequisite for that.
After reading this, some may wonder why the opening phrase of the entire series is:
That’s it, stay still, bitch!
with a woman lying under the heel of a man’s boot, but the point in that scene is that the man is a policeman who could just as easily have been a woman. So it has more to do with power and violence and not so much to do with gender.
One final point I’d like to make is that the way I treat the subject in Piracy is Liberation, even though it’s pretty far from most other ficitonal stories produced in this society, is probably more similar to actual reality. Because the image we have of women as passive and men as the acting subjects throughout history can’t possibly be true. I thinks that’s simply another fictional story…
The description of my part of HackNight at Utkanten on Saturday:
I’ll be talking about the world of Piracy is Liberation, my cyberpunk postapocalypse series of graphic novels, where I got the idea for the original concept and how it progressed from there. By looking at the story and describing the City where it takes place, I hope to paint a picture of how the comic mirrors the reality of sweden in particular and capitalist society in general. I’d also like to talk a bit about how I’ve handled different story elements, like gender, media and collectivity/individuality when I’ve constructed this fictional world.
I may write something about any of these topics here on the blog during the week, if I’m not busy working on the new book.
It is also a Wormgod image and will be available as a print at the upcoming Wall 001 exhibition (when and where that will be remains unknown, so check the site in the near future for more info as it comes).
Becky Cloonan put in som very nice words for me at her blog after MoCCA. I’ve admired her work since I first saw it in her and Brian Wood’s Jennie One, so I think that’s very cool.
Piracy is Liberation by Mattias Elftorp- Mattias caught me at the end of the day on Sunday, and I felt pretty bad because I didn’t remember him right away from last year- but that changed once he showed me his work! He gave me books 3 through 6 of his series, to match 1 and 2 which I got last year. He’s working on volume 7, so I hope he can make it again next year so we can trade 🙂 Or maybe I’ll just have to hit a convention in Sweden!
I just wish I’d have time to do some kind of report about my new comics too. Then I’d let you know that I liked her art book (Burn Your Treasures) and Pixu 2 (I just need to find a copy of Pixu 1, because that was a really cool book).
Maybe I can do it after Crack!… Then I’ll probably have some more books to talk about. Now I mostly need to sleep to recuperate from Punk Illegal…