For this year’s wrap-up season, Paul Gravett repeats last year’s great idea of asking comics connoisseurs and professionals all over the world to write a few words on the year’s most notable comics from their respective country. He graciously asked me to talk about the best in Danish comics, so my selections appear in part one, now online, along with ones from Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, & Sweden. Stay tuned for the followup.
Here’s my selection, by the way:
by Thomas Thorhauge
I am biased: Thorhauge is a friend and long-time collaborator, so make of this what you will, but this is a remarkable achievement, upping the ante for Danish graphic novels. A funny animal take on social realism, it is a traditional out-and-home-again story of a single mother who has a sudden change of heart and leaves behind her humdrum life in Copenhagen, along with her young son, to seek a new way as part of an activists’ collective in Britanny. Thorhauge brings to this a finely-tuned understanding of the formal properties of comics, which he combines with acute attention to the reality of everyday life. The storytelling is breezy, the idiom clear and the plot deceptively simple, content to suggest rather than enunciate its complex metafictional underpinnings and the rich emotional life of its characters. If you read Danish, here’s my extended conversation with Thorhauge about the book.
The 676 Imprint
Edited by Steffen P. Maarup
In emulation of L’Association’s fabulous Pattes de mouche imprint, the enterprising and quality-conscious Danish comics publisher Steffen P. Maarup’s line of cheap, saddle-stitched pocket-sized comics has done more to revitalise the Danish comics scene than any other single publishing effort of the past decade. Intelligently edited, they present comics both by established cartoonists and artists from outside the world of comics, often with spectacular results. Each 22-page comic showcases a different talent and they are released in batches — or ‘collections’ — of four twice a year. 2009 thus saw new work from 8 artists, of which especially the contributions of Allan Haverholm, with the lyrically cartooned rock song Resistansen (‘The Resistance’), Philip Ytournel, with his hilariously parametric variation on a theme Date and Mikkel Damsbo, with his delirious exploration of an architectural funhouse space, Forlystelseshuset (‘The Funhouse’), stand out as some of the best Danish cartooning of the last few years.
by Jakob Martin Strid
This is the largest single work so far by one of Danish comics’ greatest if also most erratic talents. A collection of short fables of exploration and wonder for readers of all ages, it takes us through lushly rendered natural environments, as well as quirkily mysterious domestic ones, frequently in elegantly designed, and diagrammatically presented, vehicles. Unfortunately, the book suffers more than usual from some of Strid’s signature weaknesses: fine drawings given lacklustre finish, energy wasted on throwaway ideas, and a penchant for sentimentality, and it is overlong and marred by production errors. Nevertheless, it is a highly generous showcase of an extraordinarily imaginative and instinctively funny cartoonist.
Yes Is More:
An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution
by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
The most offbeat and imaginative comic of the year, this is, simultaneously, an architect’s monograph, an artistic manifesto, and a utopian vision for building the future by one of Denmark’s most remarkable young architects, Bjarke Ingels, and his studio. Published in English to accompany and document an exhibition of their work at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen, it presents the history, projects and visions of BIG in comics form, synthesising photos, diagrams, plans, and 3D models with the idiomatic language of comics storytelling and exposition. The book’s somewhat self-impressed tone might annoy some, but is at the same time part and parcel of the infectious creative joy that animates it. This book came out from Evergreen in the USA and is coming out in the UK in February 2010 from Taschen.
Image from the Yes Is More exhibition at Arkitekternes Hus, Copenhagen, earlier this year.