Danish Comics of the Year 2016


Here’s my contribution to Paul Gravett’s annual review of international comics: the best Danish comics of 2015, in my opinion. A bit of a fallow year, but the ones that were good, were really good. Here they are:

Hvad føler du lige nu? (‘What are you feeling right now?’)
by Philip Ytournel
Aben maler
Ytournel is the brightest and probably funniest newspaper cartoonist in Denmark. At their best, his strips break the old, long-established boundaries in terms of format, medium and — most importantly — humour, demonstrating that editorial cartooning can be different and creative, in spite of prescriptive tradition. And he is just plain funny, blending political with keenly observed, social satire. He has an eye for the absurdity and vanity in the banal details of diction and posture that other cartoonists either don’t notice or find too shallow to mine for commentary. This book collects his best work from more than a decade’s worth of work at the daily newspaper Politiken, including his brilliant 2013 comics inset on Søren Kierkegaard, written and drawn on the occasion of the world-famous Danish philosopher’s bicentenary. In it, he not only provides an ‘Existentialism for Beginners-type intro, but also comments hilariously on recent reception history and attendant controversy, and most poignantly situates Kierkegaard’s relevance to the average life of an average person wanting to be a football coach.

Dansker (‘Dane’)
by Halfdan Pisket
Fahrenheit
The third and final volume in Pisket’s poetic and hard-hitting biography of his Armenian-Turkish immigrant father focuses on his slow and always imperfect settlement, not only in Danish society but into his role as father. Here are links to my reviews on this site of the first volume and . Through his David B-esque blank writing and suggestive, symbolist chiaroscuro, Pisket achieves a remarkable feat of hermeneutic empathy in portraying his own young self externally — through the eyes of his traumatised, criminal and in many ways irresponsible father. We come to understand, even sympathise with him, and we sense that the cartoonist himself does too, through the act of writing and drawing it out. While this means that the more ambiguous feelings expressed through his portrayal in the more powerful earlier volumes are somewhat neglected, it is beautifully moving.

Here are my picks for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, 2014, and 2015.

The Big 3 at The National Gallery


With the Michelangelo and Sebastiano exhibition closed at National Gallery we are privileged to hold on to Michelangelo’s marble Taddei Tondo from the Royal Academy until the end of January, while they complete the bicentennial refurbishment. This has given us the opportunity to show the sculpture along with a number of paintings from our collection by Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael, the three foundational figures of what we have come to know as the High Renaissance.

The display is on in room 20 of the North Galleries, smack dab in the middle of our new display of Dutch and Flemish seventeenth-century paintings, incongruously but necessarily because of logistics. If you’re in London, I encourage you to visit what I think is a compelling display telling the story of the creative and, to a lesser extent, personal interrelations of these three very different giants of art.

If you wish to know more, do check my introduction to the display via Facebook Live.

Kirby at 100


Today, Jack Kirby, one of the great artists of the twentieth century and a visionary of the comics form, would have turned 100. For those unfamiliar with this extraordinary person and artist, or merely wanting to brush up, here’s a good primer and here is the touching and informative reminiscence by Kirby’s friend and erstwhile employee Mark Evanier, and here are a couple of really good pieces on his work reposted today by two great comics critics, Ken Parille and Andrei Molotiu.

I myself will be contributing a piece to the rolling celebration taking place all week at Danish comics site Nummer9, masterminded by my friend and occasional collaborator Henry Sørensen, whose feature-length 2009 essay on Kirby leads a variety of homages and critical takes. He posted the first part of it today, soon to be followed by the second, as well as the first of a series of tributes by Danish cartoonists. Meanwhile, Danish afficionados Morten Søndergård and Kim Schou have posted a two-hour podcast on Kirby. All of this, regrettably is only available in Danish, but if you do read the language stay tuned for more, including an article by yours truly which will feature the image above (from New Gods #5, 1971) and will subsequently be posted somewhere (probably here) in English, I hope.

Oh, there have of course also been a few posts on Kirby on this site. Among them are my thoughts on Kirby’s extraordinary transitional work on the Challengers of the Unknown in the late 1950s, my take on his last Fantastic Four story with Stan Lee, and my review of Evanier’s 2008 monograph, which has just been re-released to mark the centenary. Also, there is the provocative 2007 article by aforementioned Søndergård on his possible involvement not just in the creation of Spider-Man, but the execution of some of the first comics pages featuring the character. I don’t really believe it, but it is worth your attention, as is the debate it sparked, which features Evanier (again!) as well as Blake Bell, expert Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, and others.

UPDATE: here’s my essay in Danish at Nummer9 and in English at The Comics Journal.

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Rafael i Weekendavisen


I dagens udgave af Weekendavisen anmelder jeg den store — og fantastiske! — udstilling af Rafael-tegninger på The Ashmolean Museum i Oxford (til 3 september) og gør mig nogle tanker om hvad Rafaels tegninger fortæller os om hans særlige geni — et, der har gjort ham til det nok bedste bud på den vestlige traditions kvintessentielle kunstner.

Læs anmeldelsen her, eller i avisen hvor den er bedre illustreret. Og se udstillingen hvis I kan!

Sortkridtstegningen ovenfor er fra ca. 1519–20 og tilhører The Ashmolean Museum. Jeg diskuterer den i anmeldelsen.

Trump i Doonesbury i Information


I denne weekends Moderne Tider-tillæg i Information står min anmeldelse af den særlige Trump-opsamling af G.B. Trudeaus Doonesbury at læse. Jeg gør mig i den forbindelse nogle tanker om det at satirisere Trump — noget, der tydeligvis ikke er så nemt som man skulle tro. Hermed en smagsprøve:

Det bliver taget for givet, at Trump er en gave til satirikerne. At han serverer deres levebrød på et sølvfad. Jeg er ikke så sikker. Ja, særligt de amerikanske aftenshowværter har kronede dage : med Stephen Colbert og Trevor Noah i spidsen : men de koncentrerer sig i højere grad om den politiske og mediemæssige kontekst der muliggør galskaben, end om manden selv. Dem der gør har det svært: at Alec Baldwin er blevet lagt for had af præsidenten kalder nok på kollegernes misundelse, men hans Saturday Night Live-portræt af præsidenten er hverken særligt præcist eller særligt sjovt. Han udkonkurreres i dén grad af den ægte vare.

Læs mere her

Flygtningekrisen i danske tegneserier

Fra Lars Hornemans bidrag til Uledsaget


Information har endelig trykt en anmeldelse jeg skrev for flere måneder siden, om hvorledes flygtningekrisen og immigrationsspørgsmål mere generelt er begyndt at vise sig, rent tematisk, i danske tegneserier, her konkret antologien Uledsaget, der rummer bidrag af Lars Horneman, Tom Kristensen, Adam O., Halfdan Pisket, Karoline Stjernfelt, baseret på fem uledsagede flygtningedrenges historier; Morten Dürr og Lars Hornemans ungdomsserie Zenobia, der fortæller historien om en druknende flygtningepige; og ikke mindst Johan F. Krarups verité-fiktion Styrelsen, om en blød mands forfald til korruption som sagsbehandler i Udlæningenstyrelsen. Anmeldelsen kan læses her (advarsel: paywall den første måneds tid) og her er et uddrag (om Styrelsen):

Den bløde mand, Laursen, inkarnerer en dansk kultur, hvor tilliden til medmennesket er høj og korruption en sjældenhed. Hans manglende evne til at sige fra udstiller systemets sårbarhed overfor pragmatisk udnyttelse, mens hans patetisk morsomt skildrede moralske kvababbelser antyder styrken i det anstændighedens imperativ, han trods alt lever under. Krarups tegninger er en anelse skematiske og bliver over så mange sider monotone, men at han forstår nuancens kunst ses i bogens sidste billede af Laursen.

Hype: New Reviews

Krazy Kat Sunday page 6 October, 1940


Over at The Comics Journal I’ve just had my rather long, unfocused… er, discursive review of Michael Tisserand’s major new biography Krazy: George Herriman, A Life in Black and White published. Herriman’s Krazy Kat is widely, and for pretty good reasons, regarded as one of the greatest comics of all time, and really should also be considered on of the great, distinct works of art of the twentieth century, in my opinion. I have some thoughts about the strip, as well as assorted other comics embedded in the review. Anyway, check it out.

Oh, and in the latest issue of The Burlington Magazine you can read my review of Claudia Bertling Biaggini’s book on Sebastiano del Piombo, Felix Pictor.