My comics

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. As the list of titles 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 generally do, and so on. Because my approach to the different books vary a bit.

By the way, you can buy all these books at the Hybriden webshop. Please do, I need the money and, even more, I want you to read my stuff.

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 to continue the story pretty soon(?). In total, it will be around 1600 pages, 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 empathize 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.)

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The latest entry in the Piracy is Liberation series is a stand-alone story set a good while after book 011; Piracy is Liberation zine 0001: Algorhythm. Like book 010, it’s an experiment in storytelling as it can be read as an association-based hypertext, kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure book, if you remember those.

You can read more at the dedicated site, elftorp.com/freeinformation, including quotes about the comic from other creators I admire a lot.

Outside of Piracy is Liberation, I also tell other stories that are a bit 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 main works of that kind:

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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 to the The Troll. Which I plan to do at some point.

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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 1 & 2 are similar in that they all come with soundtracks in the range of industrial – noise (from experimental to harsh noise walls). They’re also in one way or another collaborations with Susanne Johansson.

Transgressions is an attempt to tell a challenging short (36 pgs) story about various ways to transgress against written and unwritten rules and boundaries, from gender to national borders to sexuality to the 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 most of my 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).

The (so far) two After the ends of the world books are even more compressed, as most of the stories there are only 1 page or even a half. They’re more like distilled ideas, short presentations of concepts, postapocalyptic visions as the title implies. There are also a few longer stories, but they are short stories. The soundtracks to these books include CONCRETE THREAT, KHMER NOIR, NIMAM SPREGLEDA, KOEFF, TRAUMA COMMAND and more.

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The ones I’ve talked about so far are all creator-owned comics where I was both writer/artist, but I’ve also made some stories where I wrote the script and someone else made the art, which is another experience that can create quite nice results.

One such book is Bekele (written with Raquel Lozano, drawn by Emre Ă–zdamarlar), another one is En Andra Chans (drawn by Shko Askari, released as a bilingual (Swedish/Arabic) book). 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.

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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 the anthology 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 (Alkom’X, Workburger etc).

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I’ve collected a bunch of these short stories in the first two volumes of A Subtle Fuck You. The second volume was made as a very limited (10 copies) edition artist book, hand-sown, with copied insides and a linocut cover. Maybe one day when I have the money and enough material that fits together (more or less) I will make an unlimited/expanded edition, and also continue the series with more volumes.

I think I wouldn’t recommend these collection as a starting point to someone who hasn’t read any of my other stuff, since they’re more disparate and random, but see them more as bonus material if you like what you’ve seen already and want more. Short stories can be fun, but bigger stories feel more meaningful to me.

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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’ll 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 Hybriden webshop. And if you’ve read this whole thing, maybe you have some idea of where to start…

/Mattias