The Žižek Show

trokhimeko_stalin.jpgGot my first Žižek experience yesterday. I was simultaneously impressed and underwhelmed. My only exposure to his work until today had been through the plethora of other authors citing him these days, and through a friend who enthusiastically appreciates his iconoclasm and originality, and also does a killer impression of the man. I have been meaning to read something by him for a while, and will probably get around to it sooner rather than later now.

Anyway, Slavoj Žižek was lecturing at Birkbeck College in London, as is his wont. The theme was “The Uses and Misuses of Violence”. Basically he was tackling the question of why normal people inflict atrocious violence on others when they, by all accounts, are caring and considerate of their comrades and family. He started with former Maoists turned Zionists and ended with Stalin (one of his favourite subjects), and made many entertaining and often enlightening digressions along the way. The basic idea was that idealists are invariably aware of the imperfection or even downright infamy of the people they idealize, in this case Mao, but revere them even more because of that fact, because it lends their aspirations a kind of empyrean air. Had Mao been a benign ruler, he would not have inspired such zealous idolization, but languished in history book obscurity instead, he argued.

How I Spun the War

cw_punch_top.jpgContrary to large parts of the comics intelligentsia who dismiss it by default, and the masochistic fans who dis it but keep coming back for more, I do not want to dump unreservedly on Marvel’s Civil War. Sure, it is easy to make fun of, what with its ineptly handled attempts at political allegory and its amateurish lack of coherence as a story. But, flipside, it actually started out as a rather ambitious effort at creating an intelligent superhero story that did not just preserve the status quo, but actually moved something. This did not really work, but I still think the people behind deserve some credit for trying.

Grass Roots

bighungryjoe.jpgJust thought I’d take a little time out to plug a couple of good folks back home, in the Deekay. First and foremost, there’s Big Hungry Joe, the newly formed old times orchestra. They play American folk music with enthusiasm and brio, and they have an album coming from Danish comics publisher Brun Blomst. In the orchestra are two Danish cartoonists, Jesper Deleuran who is a veteran of the Danish underground comics scene of the 70s (read my review of the recent reedition of his and John Pedersen’s classic Ftatateetah, in Danish, here), and Tobias Enevoldsen, who graduated from the Joe Kubert School a few years back and released his first comic, Sidste år som MakulatorOperatør (which translates roughly to “My Last Year as Office-Shredder Operator”) at Brun Blomst last year (read Rackham‘s review, in Danish, here). Check Big Hungry Joe’s new website, which has plenty of their music, here.

Also, one of Denmark’s premier comics critics, literary editor and author Benni Bødker, recently launched his website, which contains samples of his work and other nice stuff. Check it here.

The Cambridge Cartoon Crisis

claregate.jpgFor the past weeks, our very own cartoon crisis, here in the academic bubble of Cambridge, has been rolling. In the first week of February, the Clare College newspaper Clarefication put out a special satirical issue entitled “Crucification” that amongst other things printed one of the Danish Muhammed cartoons, which last year had people going apeshit all over the world.

I have unfortunately have not been able to locate a copy, but it appears Clareification published the cartoon in just about as moronic a way as Jyllands-Posten did in September of 2005. Apparently, it was part of a “look-alikes of the week” feature, where the cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, which I assume was the emblematic one of the Prophet with a bomb in his turban, was juxtaposed with a photo of the President of the Union of Clare Students. The caption below the cartoon of the Prophet had the President’s name, and vice versa. Underneath the captions was a supplementary text apparently insinuating that one was a “violent paedophile” and the other “a prophet of God, a great leader and an example to us all”.

Debat? III

simon_p.jpgDer er heldigvis andet at hente end tungeknuder, krumspring og udenomstale på Comic Zone Seriejournalen disse dage. Selveste Simon Petersen har for nylig postet seneste udgave af sin klumme, hvori han kommenterer Rackham.dks lukning. Han skriver:

“Så er Rackham.dk lukket ned, og det er grund til at flæbe over det tab. En meget stor del af den åbne og seriøse debat om tegneserier her i landet er forsvundet, og står i fare for at blive reduceret til en omgang “circle- jerk” inde på den nye side, metabunker.dk. På den nye side er det nemlig sådan, at man kun kan deltage i debatten hvis ens bidrag (pr mail) bliver fundet godt nok til at optræde på siden… Må Tobias på 14 så ikke fortælle, at han har udgivet et fanzine? Og hvad er en kvalificeret kommentar? Fra min klumme-pind skal der lyde et ønske til metabunkeren om ikke at være for strikse med offentliggørelsen af de tilsendte mails. En for streng kvalitetskontrol kunne få den effekt at nye “stemmer” ikke har en chance for at deltage i debatten.”

Den Verbale Ni-Millimeter er tilbage!

rehr_portraet.jpgHenrik Rehr svarer på den rejste kritik:

Punch drunk? Måske? Anyway, her er min post der kommenterer betalingsspørgsmålet:

Igen, det fremgik af konkurrencebetingelserne og alle deltagere har derfor indsendt sine bidrag velvidende at det var tilfældet. Naturligvis kan man godt mene at avisen burde ha’ betalt bidragsyderne for publiceringen, men på den anden side er fire striber først og fremmest en “smagsprøve” (ikke engang de små 15 striber som var konkurrencebetingelsen) så den er svær, synes jeg. En symbolsk betaling fra avisen ville helt sikkert have virker sympatisk, men på den anden side kan man jo mene at de har skudt kr. 40K i puljen og at det er en winner-takes-all situatuion.

Good News in Comics Academia

beaty_unpop.jpgSome interesting stuff has come our way from a variety of comics scholars recently, with more to come. Firstly, there is Bart Beaty’s long-awaited book, Unpopular Culture – Transforming the European Comic Book in the 1990s, on the new wave of auteur comics that helped transform the French-language comics market through the 90s , and which today stands as a major development in Western comics. It has yet to fall within my reach, but as a long-time reader of Beaty’s writings on comics in The Comics Journal and on Comics Reporter, I am definitely looking forward to reading it.

Beaty here laments the problems of writing about artists who are still working – especially if they are as prolific as Lewis Trondheim – but on the bright side, his book is the first comprehensive study of this important phase in the development of the medium. (By the way, the book is on special offer through comicsresearch.org).

Kulturkamp: Stegelmann og Thorhauge om ‘Verdens 25 bedste tegneserier’

Som Metabunkerens læsere vil erindre, fik det hæderkronede danske tidsskrift STRIP! for nylig et eller to borgerlige ord med på vejen, udbasuneret på den velkendte vulgære og ufølsomme facon, af denne skribent. I omtalen blev Thomas Bergers anmeldelse af Jakob Stegelmanns bog Verdens 25 bedste tegneserier undtagelsesvist rost, og det fik Stegelmann til tasterne. Hermed følger korrespondancen mellem undertegnede og Jakob Stegelmann, Danmarks vel nok vigtigste formidler af tegneserier og andre populær-kulturelle medier gennem tiden:

Kære Thorhauge,
Jeg finder det sært, at min lille bog med mine yndlingstegneserier er problematisk, som du skriver i din ros af Bergers anmeldelse. Det er jo ikke en kanon, men kun en gammel tegneserielæser/anmelder/formidlers kommenterede liste over personlige favoritter, en slags klassikerliste med personlige begrundelser. Jeg kunne da sagtens have medtaget mængder af serier, der lige nu imponerer og fornyer (hvad forordet for øvrigt også opsummerer) – men det er jo mere end svært at pege på, hvilke af de aktuelle ting, der også holder og hvilke, man som læser har glemt om kort tid. Filmfolk afviser jo heller ikke Welles og Hitchcock, bare fordi Tarantino imponerer. Det bør de ihvertfald ikke, synes jeg.

“We are not magic, We are real!” – an interview with Muñoz & Sampayo

munoz_sampayo_portrait.jpg

When Argentinian cartoonist José Muñoz received this year’s Grand Prix at the comics festival in Angoulême, he stated that he considered it as much a recognition of his friend, countryman and collaborator Carlos Sampayo, as of himself. It would indeed be hard to imagine one without the other. Though they have both worked independently of each other, in comics as well as other media, it is in the comics they have created together one finds the soul of their art, an art carried by a clear authorial voice and a stark but ultimately strongly humanist sensibility. The best of their work rates amongst the finest explorations of human emotion and behaviour in comics.

This interview was conducted by myself and my compadre T. Thorhauge back in the late summer of 2001 at the Berliner ComicFestival. They were invited as guests of the festival at a time when they had just started working together again, after a long hiatus due to Sampayo having been seriously ill for a number of years.