Escapism 2020/2021 pt1c: Even more things I read

So Karen Berger is back, editing a new imprint at Dark Horse since a while back. Now and then I think about how she is one of those individuals who have a massive impact on something that would have been completely different in their absence. Without her there would (probably) be no Sandman, no Hellblazer, no Invisibles, no Preacher, no Transmetropolitan and so much more since she was running DC Vertigo where all these came from.

Anyway, the imprint is called Berger Books and so far I’ve read two series from it, both written by Ann Nocenti, who used to write, for example, Daredevil, Kid Eternity, Typhoid Mary etc. These two books are The Seeds and Ruby Falls. The first of which is a kind of experimental dystopian story with aliens and people in gas masks walking around in wastelands and stylish black/white art by David Aja.
Ruby Falls is more straight-forward, drawn by Flavia Biondi, about a woman trying to solve an old crime in the small town where she lives.
I recommend both, but The Seeds appealed to me the most.

The publisher I probably follow the most ongoing comics from these days is Image Comics, so let’s talk about some books from (mostly) them:

Did you watch the TV version of Deadly Class? It was cancelled after one season which is too bad, because it was a pretty good adaptation of a very good comic by Rick Remender and Wes Craig. They’re currently up to 10 collections.
Another one by Remender, with beautiful art by Greg Tocchini, is Low, which was finally finished. It took a while before the final part came out, but it was well worth the wait. It’s about a future where the sun got too big and hot so humanity had to move down under the sea, but the remaining civilizations are dying and the only hope is a probe returning that might contain information about an inhabitable world that we might move to. One of the main characters has adopted a kind of religion based on wishful thinking, like in The Secret, a book that is popular in certain circles of mostly rich people. The secret is that positive thinking can make you successful, basically. I don’t believe in that crap, but that doesn’t mean the comic doesn’t work. It is sci fi, after all, and the drawings are fucking gorgeous.

I finished Jeff Lemire‘s Black Hammer (with Dean Ormston) and Gideon Falls (with Andrea Sorrentino). I kept reading Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and I also read Rucka’s The Old Guard, with art by Leandro Fernandez, which you may recognize from the Netflix film adaptation. I liked both the film and the comic. I think I enjoy things that put our lives into perspective, like a story about a bunch of immortals can do if it’s done well.

Monstress deserves a special mention. As I wrote in my last post, I enjoyed Marjorie Liu‘s Astonishing X-men very much. Monstress is her own story, drawn by Sana Takeda in a pretty unique, manga/fantasy-inspired style. Interesting characters, impressive world-building in a story about a girl who is more than she seems. That’s a very understated description, but I also don’t want to give away any of the story, so…

Michael Gaydos is one of those artists I count as working in the same style category as I do. Not saying that we’re on the same level or that we’re drawing exactly the same, but I believe we have much of the same influences and we’re trying to reach the same or similar feeling in our lines and shadows. He’re worked well together with Brian Michael Bendis on a couple of occasions, like Alias (that the Netflix series Jessica Jones was based on) and now Pearl, from DC comics. It’s a pretty short, finished story collected in 2 books. It reads more like an action film than a superhero story, which makes sense since it’s not even trying to be a superhero story even though it’s part of the normal DC publishing.

Another artist whose work is a huge inspiration to me is Danijel Žeželj. As you probably know if you’ve followed CBA where we’ve published some of his short stories. Unfortunately, much of his books haven’t been published in English (yet, hopefully), but there was at least one last year: Cyberpunk 2077: Your Voice, with script by Aleksandra Motyka and Marcin Blacha. As you might guess, it’s a cyberpunk story set in the world of the Cyberpunk 2077 game that was controversially released about a year ago (that’s a whole story in itself, which I guess I’ll have something to say about after I’ve actually played it myself. Short story: it was release before it was completely finished and the internet people got angry). Beautiful, dark, dystopian cyberpunk, as it should be.

Another pair of creators who worl well together is Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. At the moment, they’re mostly working on their latest series of graphic pulp novels, Reckless. If you’ve read their Criminal, this is kind of similar but also different. It feels new and fresh. Pulp is a good description of the genre. Pulp is also the name of the story they made just before Recklass started coming out. Kind of a stepping stone to that from Criminal, about a former professional criminal who is talked into doing one last job even though he’s retired. Set just before the second world war, about a character who is old enough to have been around during the wild west era. As I was saying, I like stories that put things in perspective, and it fascinates me just like it did Brubaker that those two things took place during the span of one lifetime.


Next time, I’m going into some more history and also some books from the more indie publishers and classic artists…
Also, if you missed them, I wrote more about what I’ve read in 2020/2021, linked in the bottom of this post.

Escapism 2020/2021 pt1b: More things I read

So I guess I need to address this thing before we start…

I really like most of what Warren Ellis has written. I din’t think this post is the time/place to talk about all aspects of cancel culture, but since he’s currently sleeping on the couch I think some things need to be said.
Has he done some things he isn’t proud of, that hurt some people? Yes.
Does that mean we all have to stop reading all his stuff? No.
The things he did aren’t encouraged or defended in his works, so in that way they are separate things. He also doesn’t defend them as a person but has stated that he’s working to change (unlike some others who have been uncancelled faster).
But even if that wasn’t the case, you could still read and enjoy his works with a good conscience. It is possible to read things where you don’t wholeheartedly agree with every detail. You just need to sort things out for yourself, accept that there are things you don’t agree with and if the work is otherwise good enough to keep reading/watching etc or not. That’s how we had to consume more or less EVERYTHING back in the days (and still). You can still enjoy Harry Potter even if you’re not a TERF (I mean if you for some reason like it, you don’t have to if it’s not your thing, I’m completely uninterested in Harry Potter myself). You can still enjoy Lovecraft even if you aren’t extremely xenophobic (in his case the fear of most things/people is even probably the basis for what makes his cosmic horror so interesting, but you can still enjoy it without agreeing with him).
All that said, here are some really good comics by Warren Ellis:

So one of the things he was involved with was The Wild Storm, a reboot of Jim Lee‘s Wildstorm part of the original setup of Image Comics in the early 1990s, with titles like WildC.A.T.S, Stormwatch etc. In the mid-late -90s, Ellis wrote Stormwatch and built it up to transform it into The Authority which was a big part of taking the superhero genre to the next level. With The Wild Storm, his job was to update those characters, tone down the superhero stuff a bit while still preserving a lot of the more original concepts that have been developing in various Wildstorm titles over the years. One of those concepts is what he did with another of his titles on the imprint, Planetary, where the main characters met and fought paraphrased characters from other parts of various genres, from superheroes to secret agents to pulp-style adventurers etc. With The Wild Storm: Michael Cray, written by Bryan Hill (based on a basic concept and plot structure by Ellis), they’re doing something similar again, pitting the main character against alternate, eviller versions of classic DC superheroes like Wonder Woman, Green Arrow and others. It’s all fun and enjoyable, especially Ellis’ run on The Wild Storm. Sadly, it looks like that whole reboot project may be hibernating for now and I don’t know if, or in what form, it will wake up again.

I’ve also read some other Ellis things, like Trees, The Batman’s Grave, Dark Blue and a re-read of his main 90s work: Transmetropolitan, which still holds up, maybe even more relevantly than when it first came out, with its dystopian cyberpunk setting and its murderous cops and corrupt politicians… Ok, maybe some things are just more or less constant?
Anyway, I also read one of his very early comics, Hellstorm, which was much more interesting than the ettmpted TV version that came and went without much notice. Hellstorm has that 90s gritty cynicism that can still be refreshing sometimes, and also features art by a Leonardo Manco that is much less refined than his later works, but still expressive and full of dirty lines.

Speaking of The Authority, I have to mention something that has disturbed me. When Northstar got married in Marjorie Liu‘s Astonishing X-men, it was hyped in some places as the first gay superhero marriage. I don’t know what was actually the first one, but there’s AT LEAST the marriage of Apollo and Midnighter (who are pastisches of Superman and Batman, created by Ellis, married during Mark Millar‘s run). And that was in 2002, a bunch of years earlier than the X-men one.
Both comics are great, by the way. My only problem with the whole thing is the ignorance in news media and the view that nothing is important enough to be newsworthy unless it’s the first time it happens.

Guess this is as good a time as any to talk about the current X-men era, beginning with House of X/Powers of X written by Jonathan Hickman. Hickman has previously tackled both Fantastic Four and Avengers in longer runs that redefined both titles, at least for a while after. Now Marvel gave him the X-men to do the same thing but on an even bigger scale.
So he took some elements that have been recurring for a long time and saw what he could do with them, such as:
-Resurrections. Since Jean Grey/Phoenix died in the early 1980s and then returned a while later, first as what turned out to be a clone, then as herself, there have been multiple instances of X-men dying and returning with different explanations.
-Mutants as an allegorical tool for talking about racism. Even if it’s kind of a retcon that Professor X and Magneto were originally meant to represent Martin Luther King and Malcolm X respectively, there have been instances where they have been used that way, and different takes on racism have been the theme of most of the best X-men stories, from the future concentration camps in Days of Future Past to the mutant slaves in the fictional nation Genosha’s first appearance to what’s currently going on.
-Sci fi. When Chris Claremont took over as writer in the mid-70s, the sales numbers were really low, which meant that he and his artists had free reign to do basically whatever they wanted. So one of the things they did just because it might be fun was taking the mutants to space. Mutation in itself is a sci fi theme and they’ve been fighting mutant-killing robots since forever. There are also alternate timelines, time travel, freaky technology etc. The comic has been around for a long time and they’ve had time to do a lot with it. Slight spoilers ahead.

So Hickman took these things and some other concepts and did something new with it. So the current state of affairs is that mutants are basically immortal since they can all be easily resurrected if they die.
They live in the only timeline they found where they have a chance to survive as a species, IF they can beat the competing AI/robotic strain of evolution. Kind of like the two strands of posthumanism in Bruce Sterling‘s classic cyberpunk novel Schismatrix.
And they dropped the old dream of living togehter with humans and instead started their own nation, on the living island Krakoa, for mutants only.

All very interesting and I’m sure most of it will turn out to be something different from what it looks like. But they’re also doing something kind of new with the publishing. House of X and Powers of X were two mini-series running parallel to each other, with one story running through both titles. After that, they rebooted all the X-men-related titles (usually somewhere between 5-10 titles/month) and started collecting them all in monthly trades. Of course it’s a profit-driven move to make it easier to follow ALL the titles instead of having to choose some, but it’s also kind of weird that it hasn’t been done this way before. Ok, I guess it has been done, but seldom exactly like this. So there are various titles driving the overarching story forward by concentrating on different characters or aspects of this new mutant society. Different writer/artist constellations on each title makes the quality fluctuate a bit and some of it isn’t as good as the rest while some are better than most. The overall story could’ve been done more interestingly and some characters could have been written better and so on, but as I said earlier, you can’t expect a work of fiction like this to be perfect. It’s still interesting enough to keep me hooked. The first 16 collections after HoX/PoX were called Dawn of X, then there was a crossover event called X of Swords and now they’re calling it Reign of X until the next crossover event that will bring the whole thing to its third phase. Hickman is now rumored to be leaving the whole thing before it’s finished, due to the rest of the writers wanting to drag it out longer before things change too much. It seems they have more stories to tell in the current setting. I hope Hickman will stay involved somehow since it’s his vision that started the whole thing, but either way I look forward to seeing where they’re going with it.

What else do I have to talk about from the world of superheroes? Oh, right. Remember the outrage when Captain America came out as a member of Hydra and there was this whole thing about it, mostly based on ignorance? Since Hydra are bascially nazis, I guess the anti-SJW croud thought it was a statement from woke Marvel about the US being racist or something, so they were up in arms (because the US can never be racist enough for them and everyone who says so is a liar). Not sure if anyone else really made a big thing out of it? Most people who are the least bit comics literate would understand that when a comic has been around that long (since the 1940s when he was created by two jews wanting the US to take a stand against the nazis), you have to do something with it to keep it interesting. So why not make it seem like the main character has been on the side of his enemies all along? Everyone knows that it’s going to be a temporary thing, just like the time when Thor was a frog, Spider-man was a clone or the Hulk was gray. It’ll pass, don’t worry about it. But while it lasts there might be a good story. So I read the Secret Empire story by to see what it was really about (wanna bet that most of the internet storms took place before it was even published?). It was ok.

Speaking of internet outrage… I wanted to read Divided States of Hysteria by Howard Chaykin based on a few reviews by internet idiots. They said this comic was 1: offensive to SJWs because they couldn’t see that depictions of racism and transphobia are not the same as actual racism or transphobia, and 2: depicting the USA in a bad light.
So I thought: I like dystopic stories that are critical towards the US, so maybe I should finally check out this Howard Chaykin guy? I’d read just a little of him and I liked the art but hadn’t read any of his writing. And you know that people who use the term SJW to describe people who don’t agree with them are idiots, so I thought those reviews were a good sign.
However, I didn’t like this story at all. It might have been interesting, but the storytelling was stiff and stale, and its depiction of racism was too exaggerated, like everyone in the near future US is super racist AND they have good grounds for being racist because everyone in the comic more or less live up to their stereotypes. More or less.
And let me be clear: I’m not offended by depictions or racism/transphobia. Those things are real and we need to talk about them, BUT I want my stories well-written. And this one is filled with boring stereotypes and also in the end with boring patriotism as well, so it’s just boring.
I’m also aware that you shouldn’t judge a comics writer by just one of their works. I think sometimes: what if people judge me by THIS story that I’m not particularly proud of and it prevents them from reading THAT one that I do feel is some of my best work? If it’d be unfair to me, it’d be unfair to anyone else too. On the other hand, I’m not made of money. So maybe I’ll give Chaykin another try in the future if I find some of his stuff from the 80s that’s supposed to be better. If it’s cheap. But I’m not actively going to look for it, as I would have if this one had been more what I hoped it would be…

By the way, the whole thing about “woke Marvel” is kind of pathetic, actually. There are some right-leaning people who complain that (especially Marvel) superheroes are too political now, too woke etc. And then there’s the other side with liberals who say that these comics have always been politically correct and even left-leaning. And they’re both wrong, basically because they both think that liberalism is a left-wing ideology. Of course you can find examples, both now and back when, of comics taking left-leaning stances. As I said, Captain America was created as an antifascist statement, BUT it was also created in a context that was very nationalist and very very capitalist, which limited what it could express and how far it could go. Marvel is now owned by Disney, and is anyone for real thinking that they are progressive for any reason other than making a profit? Yes, there is some space for messages that are at least humanist and sometimes even socialist or socialist-adjacent, but that stuff is still far from taking over the whole genre and whoever thinks otherwise is probably willfully ignorant or just stupid.

Yes, gay marriage sometimes occurs in superhero comics. Yes, stories can be made that deal with the complexities around mutants as allegory for racism and some comics are more progressive than others. And yes, even women and Black people can be superheroes now, as has been the case for a long time. But do you really feel that you have to look too hard to find an apolitical (as in: defending the status quo which is liberal capitalism) white cis straight male superhero?


I think there’s going to be two more posts about comics and other reading material, so stay tuned for those. After that I’ll be going into movies and tv…
All these posts will be linked from the one about my own comics and illustrations.

Escapism 2020/2021 pt1a: What I read

So as part of my new year’s ritual, let’s talk about some of the things I read in the last two years, beginning with The New Gods by Jack Kirby. I never got the thing with Kirby.

I knew of him, I’d read a couple of his comics, I knew the huge influence he’s been on Marvel in particular, superhero comics in general, now also movies, and lots of artists (even working in other genres). I also knew how he got fucked over by the publishers he worked on. But I never got the thing. Until now. Still not sure I can put it in words, but reading one of the comics he made after rage-quitting Marvel and getting the freedom to do whatever he wanted at DC was kind of an eye-opener. The storytelling was solid, if not amazing, at least from a this-was-made-in-the-early-70s perspective, and I suddenly saw some line work that reminded me of other artists who must have been inspired by him. There’s also a general feel to his drawings that I’ve been aware of but I can now appreciate much more.

A few years ago I started re-reading the Dune series. I’ve now gone through Children of Dune and God Emperor of Dune. I’m guessing a lot more people have been reading the first book now since the movie was such a success, but I hope they don’t stop after the first book. I remember thinking back when that it was with God Emperor of Dune that it got really interesting, and I tend to agree, still, 20-something years later. Not going to go into more details than that to avoid spoilers. But I also got it into my mind that I should try some other books by Frank Herbert, which I did:

Whipping Star is linguistic sci fi at its finest, in my mind. Second in Frank Herbert’s sabotage series of one short story and two novels (The Tactful Saboteur, Whipping Star and The Dosadi Experiment), written parallel to the first couple of Dune books in the 1960s and -70s. I see echoes of this one in many other works of mostly sci fi/speculative fiction, but I had never heard of it before I stumbled upon it now. I’m very glad I did, because this should be seen as much as a classic as Dune is. The Arrival (which I’ve only seen as a movie, not read the book) comes to mind as a comparatively dumbed-down exploration of some of the same concepts. Language, how different species might experience time differently, how we might approach understanding each other. Don’t get me wrong, I liked The Arrival (even though as a comics creator I can’t see whay they wouldn’t try to communicate with images), but Whipping Star is so much more of a mindfuck. In the good way. You need a bit of patience, because everything isn’t clear from the beginning (same goes for the short story, The Tactful Saboteur, which I found in Eye, a collection of short stories by Herbert). But the main characters understand even less, and it clears up during the course of the book.
The first main conversation lasts for about 50 pages, and if you like the way Herbert writes dialogue in Dune, for example, then you need this. It is such a treat!
The Dosadi Experiment, the third and final part, brings more alien culture clash, also handled interestingly.

Destination: Void is a story about the first steps in the journey of a generational spaceship. You know the kind where the journey takes longer than one lifespan, so the passengers need to either be frozen or prepared to let the trip last for several generations. I’ll be talking more about the genre in a future post about movies/TV, specifically Aniara, Human, Space, Time and Human and Avenue 5. Destination Void differs in that it’s about a planned trip, not an accidental one. It’s also written by Frank herbert, so expect some interesting concepts in the relations between the small crew and the ship’s brain-based computer. There are three more books in the series, so at some point I will go on with those.

More sci fi, but much much older: The Book of Enoch is an approximately 2300(?) year old sci fi/horror(?)/fantasy story. Some would call it mythological or religious and they wouldn’t be wrong considering it’s one of the background works of Judaism/Christianity/Islam and even canon in some branches, like Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity.
To me, it was more interesting to read it as really old sci fi, and it might even have been written that way originally. In any case, it is one (of many) example of the apocalyptic genre that was a thing mostly for a few centuries around 2000 years ago. There’s some cynical politics in there, a bitterness over all the evil the writer/s saw around them, and a hope that the wrong-doers will be punished in a utopian final judgment. An event where all sins will be forgiven, but there’s simultaneously no salvation for the sinners. I guess the absolution is only available for the good guys who might also have sinned, while the bad guys are eternally fucked. A mix of wishful thinking and commentary on the times it was written.
Part of the book is the story of when a bunch of angels (100 of them, 10 main leaders who are named) decided to go down to Earth to marry human women. And of how they were punished for it. The most well-known thing about this (as mentioned in passing in Genesis) is that they had children with the human women. Children who grew to be massive giants. What’s less known is that not only did they have angel/human hybrid kids, they also taught their wives about medicine and other things. And they taught the human men how to make weapons and armor and work with metal, and astronomy, astrology and so on. Their punishment was for all this, not only the procreation. Granted, the greatest sin was that they had defiled themselves by being with human women. But the writer probably also didn’t like war. Or science. Or medicine. Or giants. Or especially women. I’m not sure if this should be read as conservative/nostalgic or as a cathartic curse on contemporary mainstream society, with their wars and all those other things.
Parts of the book can be read almost as a Lovecraft story, with dream sequences and these cosmic beings procreating with humans and names like Azazel, Araqiel, Zerachiel, Chazaqiel…
Another interesting thought: If you see this as sci fi, you might see religions as fandoms, sacred texts as shared universes. Think of the Bible as if it was the Marvel comics universe. Different writers contributing to stories about different characters and events, some dealing with supernatural powers, all set in the same universe/timeline (while for example the Olympian pantheon is an adjacent fandom within the same genre). There have been in-group discussions about what’s canon and not, how the fandom should be organised, what themes are important in the stories, who counts as a true fan etc.
When I thought of it this way, it made a bit more sense as a historical/social phenomenon within human culture. That was part of what made me interested in the Book of Enoch to begin with. I wanted to see how it would feel to read such a text if I saw it as a really old sci fi book. I must say it does work quite well.

Speaking of HP Lovecraft, I finally managed to get all of Alan Moore‘s Providence, so I re-read The Courtyard and Neonomicon, since they are all part of the same story.

Alan Moore is easily one of the best and most interesting contributors to the mythos based on Lovecraft’s stories. Providence is at the moment quite hard to find (or it was, until the compendium edition was released recently) but well worth the effort. It was frustrating but kind of fitting since much of the story is about the main character trying to find a book. Each issue of the series, at least the first ten, is part comic, part entries from a notebook/journal written by the main character. It fucks up the reading rhythm a bit, but gives some extra insight into the character when you read his after-the-fact interpretations of what you’ve just read in the comic, as well as some events that weren’t shown in the comic pages. It shows how oblivious he is to certain elements, but also gives some insight to some of the context.
For example, the main character is homosexual and has several sexual and/or flirtatious encounters during the course of the story, but even when he writes about them in a journal only meant for himself, he takes care to use neutral pronouns or insinuating that the person was female, probably because it’d be dangerous not to do so IF someone else would happen to read it, even though he comes from what seems to have been a pretty open gay culture in New York in the years around 1920.
As usual, Moore does his research and uses it in his worldbuilding, setting the story against the backdrop of a world war, prohibition, the fear of communists following the Russian revolution etc.

Also as usual, he uses the sequential nature of comics to enhance the storytelling, which I won’t go deeper into here. If you read it you’ll understand. He incorporates the prejudices of the zeitgeist and of Lovecraft himself and lets it enhance the horror. Lovecraft did this as well, but Moore flips the perspectives. Instead of the otherness of everyone except White men being one of the sources of horror, here it’s the process of othering that is part of an oppressive background to the more cosmic elements. Which is a simplification, but I believe that to be a basic intention in the way Moore deals with those topics while adapting someone like Lovecraft.
A friend of mine, French artist Alkbazz, posed the question at one point: what would the world be like without Lovecraft? It made me realize how far his influences reach. How many writers and artists haven’s been influenced by him? No, not by him but by his works. An important distinction considering how much he was a child of his times and how racist/sexist/homophobic those times were (think the 1980s but much worse, less insightful and closer in time to some massive examples of genocide. If you grew up in the late 1900s you’ll probably know what I mean). But the contributions Lovecraft made to the horror genre, in many ways grounded in the fundamental realization of how insignificant we are in the cosmic scheme of things. Insight that probably derived in part from the scientific discoveries of the time and how the public consciousness moved in a more secular direction. We had to come to terms with a world where we weren’t chosen by God, where we weren’t at the center of the universe and if Gods existed they either didn’t care or had no respect nor concern for us because we were like tiny faceless inhabitants of their fleeting dreams.


I think that has to be enough for today. I have things to say about more things I’ve read, but I’ll let you rest a bit before continuing. So…

To be continued…

2019 is over, and now it’s … 2022?

Time is weird lately. I normally make a couple of blogposts in the end/beginning of the year to let you know what I’ve been up to, stuff I’ve made, stuff I’ve read/watched/played etc, but I didn’t manage to do that last year so I have some catching up to do.

Seems I have more to talk about than I really have the time to write, but I’ll do my best in the coming blogposts, beginning with

What I did in 2020-2021

I didn’t actually do much this last year. Mostly since I’m not allowed to do too much due to the unemployment insurance rules. Even the amount of pro bono/non-profit work is restricted (as it turns out, even more restricted than I thought, but that’s a story for another time. I can hopefully talk about it after I’ve managed to sort out the whole mess OR after I’ve given up on fixing it). But I did some stuff in 2020, and even if I didn’t actually produce all that much in 2021, I got some stuff published during the year.

I’ve written about some of it earlier in the blog, so this is more of a list to sum things up. Links to more info are in the captions.


To start with, you can get all my available stuff through Hybriden by ordering (books, prints, anthologies, zines) from the webshop there.


COMICS

ILLUSTRATIONS / COVERS ETC


I’m not doing a post about upcoming stuff this time because I’m mainly going to try to have an income in some form or other and I’m not sure yet what that will mean. Right now I’m living on money I managed to put aside last time I had an employment, plus a couple of grants I got, so hopefully I can fix this situation before I run out. If/when that changes I’ll let you know…

Coming up soon(?):
-Escapism 2020/2021 pt1a: What I read
-Escapism 2020/2021 pt1b: More things I read
-Escapism 2020/2021 pt1c: Even more things I read
-Escapism 2020/2021 pt1d: Further readings
-Escapism 2020/2021 pt2: What I watched
-Escapism 2020/2021 pt3: What I played

Comic Strip World Championship launch stream

Last Tuesday, Fanzineverkstaden hosted a video panel introducing the 2021 Comic Strip World Championship.

Harri Filppa and Sami Nyssölä came from Oulu, picking up Mari Ahokoivu and Peter Snejbjerg from Copenhagen on their way to Malmö, and we had a really nice talk in front of the cameras.

The deadline is already over as I post this, but the stream remains. Hope anyone who wanted to join got a chance to do that, and may the best strip creator win!

In case you don’t know…

Mari Ahokoivu was published by CBK a few years back (Find me in this city and a bunch of issues of CBA). She also recently released Oksi, which looks really nice.

Peter Snejbjerg has worked on lots of stuff for DC/Vertigo, such as Starman, Books of Magic, The Dreaming etc, as well as his own Marlene (Mareridt in Danish).

Sami Nyssölä made books like Learn Finnish without studying, 24 days – a Refugee’s Journey (which we have a few copies of for sale, just not in the webshop yet) and most recently Be Finnish Without Suffering.

Harri Filppa is working with the Oulun Sarjakuvakeskus (comics centre) and is one of the main organizers of the Oulu Comics Festival. He’s also made the graphic novel Death Did Us Part.

And of course there’s me

Arg Kanin & Hybriden

Yesterday, an exhibition opened that features a bunch of local comics creators in order to highlight Malmö as a comics city. Including me and Kinga Dukaj, as representing Hybriden and Fanzineverkstaden. You can find the exhibition at Norra Parkgatan, along Folkets Park in Malmö.

The description I got for my entry was that it should both represent me as a comics creator and the part of the comics culture that I’m part of, in this case CBK and Tusen Serier. So I made a collage creature out of cut-up cover images from CBA and various Tusen Serier books, and gave it a dialogue with my recurring character, the Angry Animal, called Arg Kanin (Angry Rabbit) in Swedish.

The theme of my comic was provoked by some of the latest outbursts of stupid neonationalism from the politically brown part of Swedish politics, where they thought that busdrivers should only be allowed to play purely Swedish music. Not because they normally play music on buses but because it was an opportunity to make a point designed to appeal to anyone who feels uneasy when they see a busdriver that is anything other than super White, or when they happen to hear music that was made in another country than Sweden (or USA, UK, Denmark or whatever else they count as Swedish/familiar/safe).

And also the general tendency nowadays for politicians and people to want to illegalize anything that doesn’t fit into their narrow tastes. Nationalism really doesn’t promote any kind of intellectual growth. It’s truly a culture of inbreeding.

Here’s my contribution to the exhibition:

Title: Anrgy Animal & Hybriden on Cultural Inbreeding
Animal: If they get things the way they want, I guess the only music that’ll be allowed will be Ultima Thule* and folk music.
Hybrid: As if they even like folk music.
Animal: It’s all such obvious bullshit. The only thing they like about it is that it’s mostly made by white people.
Hybrid: Look at my face! It contains traces of Poland, Bosnia, Chile, Chine, Croatia, Mexoico and Sweden.
And there’s even more in my body! How is that supposed to be wrong?

*Ultima Thule is an old Swedish band from the white power movement with connections to the Sweden Democrats…
Animal: It’s such a trend these days with politicians who want to use laws to get rid of everything they don’t personally like.
And by that I don’t mean trans people who stopped liking Harry Potter. I mean politicians who want to ban not only clothes and art but also people.
Hybrid: The kind of people who want to solve social problems by adding more cops and security guards on every street corner, and cameras in every apartment building and probably every home as well…
Hybrid: …when everyone actually knows that what’s needed is better schools, social safety nets and economic equalization.
Animal: But some people don’t give a shit because they just want to be able to get rich and not have to see anyone who doesn’t look like them.
Inbreeding politics is what it is!
Hybrid: Yeah, their talk about “culture” is so obviously not about cultural expression at all, they just want to get rid of some people.
Animal: All according to the principle: “No one can call you a racist as long as you pretend to just talk about culture or religion”.
Hybrid: As if we’d fall for that? As if we didn’t recognize that they talk about Muslims now in the same way the Nazis used to talk about Jews. And we already saw how that went.
Animal: Fucking racists.
Mine and Kinga’s contributions in their natural(?) habitat…

Don’t forget to visit Hybriden, check out the exhibitions, webshop etc!

The project that this exhibition is part of is called Seriestaden Malmö (Malmö, the comics city). Seriestaden is a concept that’s been around since the late 90s, just before the comic school was started, and we who are active in the Malmö comics scene have used it now and then as a way to highlight the great variety of comics, cretors and comics-related projects, collectives, associations, publishers and activities that are around. So this is the latest in that line, this time organized by BID. BID is an association of landlords in the area and is a concept borrowed from other countries. Their purpose is to make our streets ”safer”. In many cases that has meant a combination of repression, gentrification and cultural work. So let’s hope the Malmö variant focuses more on the cultural projects rather than the repressive gentrification stuff and that they understand that making an area more expensive doesn’t help the people living there, only the owners of the buildings. This exhibition is a good start by supporting the local comics culture.

DUNE (2021)

The line between those who love the new Dune movie and those who didn’t much enjoy it seems to often go between the ones who read the book/s and those who didn’t.

What does that say? Did the movie do a bad job of introducing a new audience? Or is it that the ones who read the book/s see details in the movie that others miss because they’re not used to looking for such details in a standard movie these days? I don’t know, but probably the second option.

Anyway, here’s an illustration from someone who did read the books and who definitely enjoyed the movie:

Ok, there were things I missed in the movie, like that dinner party in the beginning, and also a small scene with a fountain that highlighted the arrogance of flaunting riches in a context where those riches aren’t luxuries but necessities of life. I would also have added a funeral before ending part one, but I do understand that the movie is still long enough and just because I wouldn’t have minded if they added another hour, everyone might not enjoy it as much.

And the visuals in combination with the music and sound design kind of made up for the details I thought were missing. It also got a lot of nuances just right (can’t say which ones because spoilers).

My personal history with Dune is that I read Frank Herbert’s 6 books 20-25 years ago and they’ve been a huge inspiration for me since. I’m currently re-reading them (will soon get into God Emperor of Dune).
I didn’t like Lynch’s movie, but the TV series worked better. My main problem with it is that it ended before they got into the final 3 books, which to me are the most interesting parts.
I would have liked to see the Jodorowsky version, but I’m also glad it never got made since it would have been a massive misrepresentation of both the book and the point of the whole series.

I just found out there’s a place in the Sahara desert called Arrak.

It is a complicated series of books to turn into movies. it’s very much driven by dialogue and inner thoughts, often both at the same time, from multiple characters in the same scenes. Could a combination of dialogue and voice-over work in film? Plans within plans, conversations within conversations? Probably not.
Could the politics of body fluids and water as both life-sustaining and currency be handled as subtly and still an ever-present concern in film? They make attempts that I think work fine in the movie, and there’ll be more room for that in part 2 where Fremen culture will be more of a thing.

I hear that part two has now been officially greenlit, which is of course good news. I also heard that the second part would be more focused on Chani, which is an interesting approach. It’s not exactly how it’s done in the book, but it might be a useful way to do it.

I must also recommend that you check out more of Frank Herbert’s writings. There’s another, shorter series, starting with the novella The Tactful Saboteur and continuing in the books Whipping Star and The Dosadi Experiment. It’s also great, but I won’t talk about that now.

Den Onödiga Flyktingkrisen

Den Onödiga Flyktingkrisen (The Unnecessary Refugee Crisis) (Migra förlag) has come from the printer!

My contribution to this book is that I made some interior illustrations and they used a color version of one of them for the back cover. So I havenät been very involved in it, but it feels like an extremely important book right now.

I do have some reservations to the perspective of parts of it, that it focuses on the years since 2015 which may misrepresent the situation before that, but they also acknowledge that in some chapters of the book, so that’s ok. It’s nothing that should dissuade anyone from reading it.

Release events are coming up. I may go to the one in Lund if I can make it. Check out the event schedule and ordering information at onodigaflyktingkrisen.se.

Here are a couple of my illustrations:

And a bonus one that didn’t make it into the book:

Was it a car or a cat i saW

Deadline: October 31 for comics/texts for the upcoming CBA vol 54|55: Was it a car or a cat i saW

Have you ever just had to stop what you’re doing and go “wait, is this a dream?”
When the unknown starts bleeding into reality and you are forced to question your sanity, if just a little bit.
You know the sort of thing that happens in dreams that makes you sure it’s just a dream? How do you cope when it happens in the waking world?

In this theme we’ll explore the dreamy and the bizarre, the uncanny in the mundane, the creepy in the dark corners of everyday life. Magical realism with a twisted flair, comics that invoke a mystical, surreal, dreamlike state of mind, with a tinge of discomfort… Think of the movies by Lynch, for example…

Note that it’s not a theme about dreams. We’re not after dreams specifically, just that feeling you can get when you don’t know if something is real or not. Think of Lynch or Cronenberg and that eerie feeling some of their films are very good at evoking.

Main editor for this issue is Kinga Dukaj. You’ll find instructions/specifications here.

CBA vol 50 in the Supertoon selection + samples

CBA vol 50 was included in the official selection for the Supertoon animation & comics festival of 2021 (July 19-23).

We’re accompanied by some other CBK-related friends/artists, like Komikaze and Stripburger in the magazine selection and Radovan Popović and Igor Kordej in the book selection.

And of course the festival poster was made by Danijel Žeželj.

We won’t be at the festival, but a copy the book will be there!

CBA vol 50 is available at Hybriden, as is CBA subscriptions.

The above was reposted from the CBK website, so as an extra, here’s a bonus sample of my comic from the issue (Algorhythm, a new Piracy is Liberation story):

This one is also available as a separate zine.