Apocalypse Now

Not that I want to jump on the silly media bandwagon or anything, but this End of Days affords me the opportunity to post the video above, for seminal Danish hip hop group Malk de Koijn’s “Braget” (‘The Boom’), written and directed atmospherically by Tobias Gundorff Boesen, alumnus of The Animation Workshop in Viborg — the school which has just announced a new educational track for comics makers. From the Gilliamesque vistas of a Copenhagen apocalypse to the Tarkoskyesque finish, it shows a keen visual talent and a sure directorial hand.

Happy Apocalypse. Next.

Never Just a Joke: Representations of Race in Scandinavia


Over at Hooded Utilitarian, the latest installment of my very irregular column, DWYCK, focuses on recent media controversies in Sweden over representations of race: Stina Wirsén’s empoyment of pickaninny stereotyping for her childrens book and film character Lilla Hjärtat and Makote Aj Linde’s infamous cake installation at Moderna Museet in Stockholm earlier this year.

The dicussion also touches upon the media kerfuffle a few months back over the projected removal of Hergé’s Tintin in the Congo to the adult section of the Kulturhuset library in the same city, as well as — inevitably — the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s a complicated set of issues that have implications of cultural integration and free speech and I’d love to hear your opinion, so pop over there and have a look.

The Week

The week in review

So, the Raphael drawing I mentioned back in September was sold at Sotheby’s London this week for a whopping £29.7 million, breaking even the astonishing record set by the previous Raphael drawing sold at auction, back in 2009. This is the highest sum ever paid at auction for a work on paper and the second-highest ever paid for an old master.

The prices of art are a nebulous issue, and this is clearly an incredible sum, but we are dealing with a masterwork of the highest order by one of the greatest artists of the Western tradition. In other words: if a drawing had to fetch this price, it could be a worse one. As I wrote in September, this drawing, preparatory for one of his greatest and most iconic works, the late Transfiguration (finished 1520), shows the master at his peak for this type of highly rendered study. To me is clearly of higher quality than the Head of a Muse sold in 2009.

There’s plenty of speculation online as to who bought it, with the famous Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich apparently being the main candidate. That Raphael should join Fernando Torres in Abramovich’s trophy room I find a little sad, especially considering that the drawing was previously available to the public at Chatsworth where it was part of the Devonshire collection. This is to great a treasure to have disappear from public view, but one can at least hope that whoever acquired it will be generous toward loan requests.

I can only kick myself for not having been able to get down and see it when it was on display in the Late Raphael show in the Prado this summer. I saw the exhibition in its current incarnation at the Louvre the week before last, and there they had unfortunately not been able to retain the section devoted to the Transfiguration. It is still a fantastic show however, that I urge you to go and see.

  • Andrew Nosnitsky on Nas’ classic album Illmatic (which will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year) and the forming of an hip hop album canon. Teaser: he regards Nas’ effort as a limited if brilliant one.
  • Very cool interview with visual futurist Syd Mead on his seminal work on Blade Runner.
  • Kailyn Kent on Bart Beaty’s new, exciting book Comics vs. Art, on the comics world and its uneasy relationship with that of fine arts, and on the great cartoonist Saul Steinberg’s equally uneasy positioning within same.
  • Oh, and Dave Brubeck RIP

    Educating Comics Creators


    It’s been several years coming, it has taken a lot of hard work, but now it is here: the first professional educational track for comics creators in Denmark. Today, The Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark, announced their new four-year bachelor in graphic storytelling. And thus, a new chapter in Danish comics history seems to begin.

    I believe this may well be a watershed for comics in Denmark. In our neighbouring country, Sweden, they have had two such programmes for over a decade and it has made a huge difference to local comics production, both in terms of quality and quantity. Although other factors have contributed, people in the know attribute the relative health of Swedish comics in large part to the schools in Stockholm and Malmö. So the potential here in Denmark seems evident.

    For more than a decade, the Animation Workshop has been educating animators at a high level. It is an institution that enjoys great respect internationally, not the least because of its excellent guest lecturer/master class system. It is a primarily craft-oriented school, but the comics track is expressly defined as both market-oriented and auteur-driven. The idea is to educate cartoonists to develop their vision in comics form for application across as variety of media and platforms.

    Director Morten Thorning and his team has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to have the programme approved by all the relevant instances. And we in the Danish Comics Council — particularly chairman Thomas Thorhauge along with Allan Haverholm, Lars Horneman, Kim Hagen, and Cav Bøgelund — have been along for the ride as consultants, instigators, and fellow advocates. Fruit of our labours and all that.

    To read more about the new programme, please visit the website of The Animation Workshop. Non-Danes are more than welcome! And if you’re not already a member of The Danish Comics Council, please consider joining. Your membership makes a big difference to our work.

    Illustration by Thomas Thorhauge.

    Cool Comics Opens Today


    Gl. Holtegaard, a quality-oriented small museum north of Copenhagen introduces its most recent innovation, Cool Comics, today. Conceived as an annual mini-festival it encompasses an exhibition of comics and animation art to which I’ve acted as a consultant/curator on the comics section, as well as a series of workshops and talks over the next month. The opening is today at 5pm and the exhibition runs till 16 December. Come tonight (added “incentive”: I’m opening the exhibition along with long-time comics critic Jakob Stegelmann), or visit over the next month for a fresh perspective on Danish comics and animation right now!

    Comics at the Copenhagen Book Fair

    Kinda unrelated: yrs. truly interviewing Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, and Charles Burns along with Paul Gravett, at Komiks.dk 2010. Photo by Frederik Høyer-Chr.


    This weekend sees the Copenhagen Book Fair, or Bogforum — the book event of the year in Denmark. This year, the fair has moved to Bella Center in Amager to accommodate the crowds. Let’s hope people who have gotten used to the proximity afforded by the traditional venue, Forum, at border of Frederiksberg.

    Comics have always been represented at the fair in some measure, but this year sees an unprecedented amplification of their presence, in that the Danish comics grass roots organizations have been given a large area in which to set up for free. The Danish Comics Council and the festival organisers in Copenhagen Comics have teamed up with The Association of Danish Comics Creators, the Ping Awards, the Blågård library, and the Goethe Institute to create a nexus of all Danish comics realities at the fair.

    We provide extensive programming consisting of live drawing by a range of Danish artists throughout the whole event, as well as interviews with creators, workshops for children, a relaxing reading area, and other surprise goodies. To see the whole programme, please visit the website of the Danish Comics Council, and please drop by — we’ll be in area e-006.

    Thomas Thorhauge on Jørgen Leth in True Story


    Also, Thomas Thorhauge, chairman of the Danish Comics Council and sometime Bunker contributor will be participating in the general programming, being interviewed by the great Jørgen Leth — writer, critic and filmmaker (The Five Obstructions) — at 3.40 pm on Friday ‘under the clock’ in area C2-023. They will be talking about his newspaper strip on film, True Story, which was collected in book form last year as Det sidste ord. Not to be missed.

    With writer Benni Bødker, Thorhauge is also participating in an interview on the recently published YA book Djævlens øjne, which he illustrated. That’s Saturday at 3pm at the childrens’ stage, after which the two of them will be signing their book in area C3-038. Check out the whole programme here.

    I hope to see you there!

    Nordic Conference on Comics seeks papers

    The Nordic Network for Comics Studies (NNCORE) has been going strong for a year now. The inaugural conference in Odense last year brought lots of promise, bringing together dozens of scholars with an interest in comics. Many of these are now working in individual groups, some of which have held smaller seminar and colloquia over the past year, but next year’s the big one: a large-scale Nordic conference on comics to be held in Helsinki, on May 23-25. Everybody is invited, not the least you, especially if you have a paper to give. Read the call for papers here and here.

    The conference marks the end of the network’s start-up period and of its initial funding obtained from the Danish Research Council. It will be an opportunity for the members to take stock and plan its future, as well as to open up further the field of comics studies in the Nordic countries. I hope you can make it!

    On The Mount — An interview with Gary Panter

    Jimbo in Purgatory


    This interview with Gary Panter was conducted over a crackling phone line in New York in the spring of 2004. Panter had recently released his magnum opus Jimbo in Purgatory, a reading via comics of the middle part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Purgatorio , via Boccaccio and a host of other classics of European literature — particularly of the medieval and renaissance eras — dressed in pop culture drag.

    Surely one of the most unusual works of comics of the past couple of decades, it is an incredibly dense and (let’s face it) difficult work. layered as it is in intertextual reference. But it rewards the committed reader, providing an oblique viewpoint upon the classical tradition, and not the least its humanist iteration as born in the late middle ages and developed through the renaissance to shape Western culture as we know it. Although its particulars may largely be forgotten today, Panter insists upon its currency and situates it at the heart of contemporary culture in what is merely the most hubristic manifestation of his ongoing efforts to break down the barriers between so-called high and low culture. By demonstrating that the two were always of a piece, fruitfully synthesized in multifarious ways through the early modern period, and alive and kicking today.

    The interview was originally published in Danish at Rackham back in 2004, and was followed by my review of the book, which we also reprinted here recently. We named Jimbo in Purgatory Book of the Year back then, and the interview and review were at least in part an effort to get behind the scenes a little bit in order to unpack the work for the first-time reader, as well as to provide a little extra for Panter connoisseurs. I hope we succeeded, even if Panter’s subsequent edits never made it to my inbox, leaving a few lacunae in my transcript exposed and unelucidated. A pity, but in a way not inappropriate.

    I’d like to start out by asking you about how the project came about. What prompted you to embark upon Jimbo in Purgatory? Which thoughts and ideas did you bring to it initially?

    Two things happened. The first was that I started reading Finnegans Wake along with the footnotes to it. Secondly, I started thinking about why I had named my first Jimbo collection, the Pantheon book, Jimbo in Paradise. It clearly had to do with Dante, but I’d never actually read Paradise, I hadn’t read the Comedy. The reading of Joyce and the footnotes to it lead me to all this medieval stuff, all this satirical stuff, which really appealed to me, while Dante lead me to Boccaccio…