Chief of Danish Broadcasting ‘Deeply Hurt’ by Caricature

By no means breaking news, but still a curious and interesting cartoon-related Danish incident: A few weeks ago, Director General of DR (Denmark’s Radio, the state-sponsored public service radio and TV network), Kenneth Plummer, was offended by a cartoon by Roald Als, published in the daily newspaper Politiken. The cartoon depicts Plummer as a lazy watchdog in chains. The sign on his doghouse reads ‘The Dog Bites – not’, and indicates that Plummer is hired to obey the Danish Liberal-conservative Government (but doing a bad job of it). Next to him, with the whip, is the Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen, while Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, dressed in a caveman outfit (as always in Als’ cartoons), says: “He’s a lousy watchdog! A pinko lackey just passed him!” (this refers to the government’s long-held perception of DR as a left-leaning organization).

Plummer felt so offended by this that he emailed Politiken‘s editor-in-chief, Tøger Seidenfaden, to complain about it, asking the latter to instruct the cartoonist to refrain from depicting Plummer that way again. Daily tabloid Ekstra Bladet (same publisher as Politiken) got hold of the email and now claims that Kenneth Plummer feels offended by the depiction of him in chains because his family apparently descends from slaves (Plummer refuses to explain this aspect to Ekstra Bladet‘s reporter, but says his children are having a hard time because of the cartoon)

Hype: Toupet/Kriloff

paul_toupet_de_rien.jpgIf you’re in Paris, tomorrow’s the opening of my buddy, sculptor Paul Toupet’s latest gallery show at Galerie l’Art de rien in the 18th arr. He is exhibiting with painter Axel Kriloff. Go check it out: the opening is from 6-10 PM and the show runs till May 6. On April 20, there’s a special event, “Lapins en folie” going down there between 8 and midnight. Here are the flyers: Toupet, Kriloff. More info at the gallery’s website and at Paul’s site & Kriloff’s site.

Re: A Certain Tendency in French Comics II

lupus3.jpgMore reactions to my article on French nigh-mainstream comics (read the first batch here):

Hi Matthias-

I really enjoyed your article on the French authors.

After writing and erasing a zillion responses, I have decided to just think about it some more.

In the meantime, I’d like to chime in and also recommend that you finish Lupus. I gave up on it for a while after the first two, but I eventually broke down and I really enjoyed it as a whole in the end.

Did you like La Volupte at all? It doesn’t seem like Blutch is really interested in writing straight narratives, unless they are short humor pieces. Is a straight narrative what you think is necessary to creating important works?

I agree with you about some of the other authors mentioned (Baudoin for sure), but what do you want from Blutch and Blain? What subject matter would you have them approach if you had your druthers?


dialog_kw.jpgKurt Westergaard, the cartoonist behind the infamous bomb in the turban from Jyllands-Posten, revisited the controversy a few days ago when he illustrated the printed version of Norwegian writer Hege Storhaug’s speech to the editor responsible for the original printing of the 12 Muhammed cartoons, Flemming Rose when he was awarded the newly-instated, so-called Sappho prize by the Society for Press Freedom. While the society seems to mostly consist of xenophobic cranks for whom scimitar-wielding Ay-rabs rewriting Danish law seems a tangible threat, the cartoon in itself appears to me a much more justified statement of anger and frustration on the part of a cartoonist who was threatened on his life for his provocative and insensitive, but essentially non-xenophobic cartoon. Justifiably angry at this outrage, his latest cartoon is anything but conciliatory in its attack on the even less conciliatory forces he angered by putting a bomb in the Prophet’s turban. Much less iconic than that memorable image, it consists mostly of text and is, frankly, rather sloppy, but I find the indignation that feeds it both compelling and sobering.

Translated, it reads: “DIALOGUE?” “Or what do you think is on the drawing board?” On the inkwell it says “Freedom of speech”, while I believe the Arabic writing on the bomb reads “Muhammed” and “The Koran”.

BLÆK Selected Amongst the Books of the Year by Danish Bookbinders

There was some nice news waiting for me as I arrived here in Boston today: Rackham’s big Danish comics anthology BLÆK, published almost exactly a year ago, has been selected amongst the books of the year 2006 by the Association of Danish Bookbinders! Every year, the Association singles out a number of books published in Denmark that year for special praise as works of art/craft and mounts an exhibition of them at the Danish arts and crafts museum, Kunstindustrimuseet, in Copenhagen. These books will later in the year go on to the book fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig where they will compete in an international selection of book design.

It gives us, the editors, great pleasure to receive this honour, which we primarily see as a recognition of all the beautiful work delivered by the 29 contributing artists, as well as designer Frederik Storm. Good looking out!

Marshall Rogers RIP

marshall_rogers_batman.jpgIt is sad to learn that somebody who brought you joy in your childhood has gone before his time. I dug Rogers’ work on Batman, and later Silver Surfer, a whole lot when I was a kid. On Batman he had a lot of the same appeal that Todd McFarlane would later have on Spider-Man: A fresh, dynamic and decorative style. Not great draughtsmanship, but lots of attitude and mood. The grand architectural framework he provided for Batman’s antics, the long ears and impossibly extensible/retractible cape of his costume, and his sultry love interest Silver St. Cloud – all pretty effective to this 10-year old. Later, his elegant classicism on the Silver Surfer offered a calming refuge from the frenetic style of McFarlane and his ilk, which I by then had encountered, enjoyed immensely, and was beginning to have my first second thoughts about. No, none of this work has aged particularly well. Went back to Rogers’ Batman a couple of years ago and had a hard time even recognizing it – the images I had in my head were so much more potent than the enthusiastic, but rather inept comics that had provoked them. Here’s to those images!

Thank you Mr. Rogers.

Boston Bound

boston_dog.jpgTime to head to Boston! Looking forward to seeing the city again — it’s always a pleasure! Looking forward to trekking along Beacon Street, basking in Brookline and trawling the Harvard Square area, and dropping in at one of my favourite comics stores, Million Year Picnic. Looking forward to seeing Europa at the Isabella Stewart Gardner again, and there’s a certain Titian drawing at the Fogg that always lifts my spirits. Here we go.

Re: A Certain Tendency in French Comics

blutch_mitchum.jpgComics critic Xavier Guilbert (of the excellent du9) responds to my recent critique of aspects of contemporary French cartooning, I answer him, and we have a conversation. Read on!

Hello Matthias,
I’ve read with much interest your latest note on the Metabunker blog, and while you make an interesting point, I beg to differ.

As a reader, I do look forward to reading the next book of an author I admire, and I have been disappointed when that next book didn’t prove as breathtaking as the previous one. Novelty wearing off, sometimes, but also sometimes the author going in another direction that does not resonate as much with me as the previous one. I think it is in the nature of authors to try different things, and it is in the nature of readers to be sometimes put off by this.

Trifles, you say? I could reply by saying that Baudoin, of whom you say that he is “fueled by a genuine ambition to convey something about the world” has become increasingly boring to me, while I was very enthusiastic about his work in the first place. Yes, unintentional self-parody, to the point that a Baudoin book sounds, well, like another Baudoin book. Beautifully crafted, but predictable, with the consequence that it ends up leaving me unmoved. In this light, I much prefer reading Gus or the most recent Blutch.

A Certain Tendency in French Comics

gus_t.jpgJust read Christophe Blain’s latest comic, the western romance Gus. Beautifully drawn, well-told, cool 70s-style colouring, nice poetic mood, utterly unambitious. Blain is one of the most naturally graceful draughtsmen of current French-language comics and amongst the prime movers in what has been regarded as the revitalisation of the traditional album format over the last ten years or so. His award-winning series Isaac le Pirate has been one of the more significant successes of the kind of genre comics for adults that has characterised this “nouvelle bande dessinée.” Yet, his works : for all their grace and charm : are essentially trifles. Why bother putting such wonderful energy into work of so little consequence?