Anders Nilsen (b. 1973) is coming into his own as one of his generation’s simultaneously most intellectually inquisitive and intuitively astute comics artists. Since the debut of his ongoing, “core” series Big Questions (9 issues published so far, 1999-2007), he has been unswerving in his exploration of, well, some of the big questions of life, all the while developing his at times scratchily harsh at others innocuously perambulatory, but always searching line, experimenting with different kinds of narrative.
Beginning with small, autonomous vignettes, Big Questions soon started growing into a grand ensemble piece that follows a number of small birds, a stray halfwit, a lost pilot, and others around, and under, an open landscape in search of answers. Nilsen’s world seems simultaneously absurd and fatalistic, but never entirely bleak. The bleaknehttps://metabunker.dk/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=847ss is leavened by the warmth that often exists between his protagonists, and occasional humour, and : perhaps more than anything else : the sense of purposeful exploration the animates all of his stories.
In addition to Big Questions, Nilsen has released the story of a young freak’s self-mutilation, The Ballad of the Two-Headed Boy (in minicomics form 1999, as a book 2000), the dreamlike narrative of a man traveling across a war-torn landscape, Dogs and Water, the alternately nonsensically silly and ontologically probing collection of gags, Monologues for the Coming Plague (2006), as well as contributed notable work to a number of anthologies such as Kramers Ergot, Blood Orange and Mome.
In the spring of 2005 tragedy struck in Nilsen’s life. His fiancée, Cheryl Weaver, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. She succumbed to it the Fall of that same year. For a while, his loss naturally came to dictate his work. In 2006 he released Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, which assembles letters, photos, short comics and other documents of their time together to create an alternately funny, humbling and harrowing slice of lived life. Private life made public in a way that makes you flinch, but ultimately take notice. In the more analytical The End (2007), Nilsen explores the state of mourning and memory, in search of something approximating the cathartic.
The following interview is a combination of two separate interviews, made several years apart. It consists of four parts: 2, 3, 4. The first two parts were conducted at SPX 2004 in Bethesda MA when Dogs and Water had just come out and Nilsen was looking forward to new challenges. The latter two parts were conducted via email from June-September 2007 and finds Nilsen essentially asking the same questions, further on up the road.