Time Tripping


That’s my man Lars in 1991 and this past Saturday, respectively. The fortieth anniversary of Fantask was a trip down memory lane for us kids, plus a milestone in Danish comics-, SF-, and gaming culture. Frederik Høyer-Christensen documented some of the day and you can see the results in his flickr stream (including a tour of the hidden corners of the store by Lars and yrs. truly.)

Dues paid: top photo by Mark Borello, bottom one by Frederik Høyer-Christensen.

Fantask at Forty


Today the Copenhagen comics-, SF- and games store Fantask celebrates its fortieth anniversary. It is the oldest continually existing store of its kind in the world and an institution in Danish Danish comics, SF, and geek culture. An operation built from the ground up by its founders Søren Pedersen and Rolf Bülow (pictured) as well as the many people who have worked there or otherwise contributed over the years. It is currently being run by Marit Nim and Kenn Andersen, who are keeping the spirit alive. One of those businesses that remain a presence, because it has heart.

Over at Nummer9 we’re celebrating forty years of Fantask. I’ve written my Fantask memoirs in shortform, while Thomas presents a gallery spanning the four decades of its existence. I’ve also interviewed Marit about the store, past, present, and future.

Oh, and if you’re around today, do drop by the store. The gang is all going to be there (plus everything is 30% off). Here’s a drink *ting!

Sowing the Wind — Nadia Raviscioni’s Vent frais, vent du matin


Autobiography has been such a defining direction in comics’ new wave of the last 20 years, its innovation so consistent, that it is mystifying still to hear repeated the cliché that most of these new ‘indy’ comics proffer little more than solipsistic tales of melancholy and masturbation. If one considers the work, it is hard to find actual justification for this reactionary attitude—at best it describes a very brief period in the mid-90s, when the genre was dominated by that Canadian foursome of Julie Doucet, Chester Brown, Seth, and Joe Matt, and it may have served to describe some of their since-forgotten imitators of that time, but it is otherwise almost wholly inaccurate as a characterization.

It makes even less sense in a European context, where autobiography was established early on as a kind of proving ground for innovative cartoonists and continues to be at the forefront of progressive comics.

The Week

The Week in Review (a.k.a. the feature formerly known as Picks of the Week).

Over at Hooded Utilitarian this week, there’s been an interesting discussion of Orientalism in comics, prompted by the publication of Craig Thompson’s mammoth graphic novel Habibi. It’s an interesting issue and one that warrants attention like Nadim Damluji gave it here, but several HU writers’ sensitivity to offensive material — mostly racist or xenophobic in nature, but to an extent also sexism — is turning a bit predictable. There’s a tendency there to conflate ethics and aesthetics, which is threatening to make a contentious and thought-provoking site something it never was: boring.

One of the sad consequences of this is that the good tends to get more attention than the better. Ng Suat Tong wrote an intelligent, but rather strongly-worded piece on Habibi, which irked cartoonist Eddie Campbell so that he raised the issue of decency in criticism on his blog. I understand and sympathize with this reaction, but don’t really agree with it — sometimes harsh language is the right way to go for a critic, although I’m not sure it was in this case. Anyway, this is my very long-winded way of calling attention to Suat’s other, and far superior recent piece at HU, an essay on Anders Nilsen’s Big Questions — one of the most interesting comics releases this year. So far it has netted all of four comments, and presumably far fewer readers, than the one on Habibi. I wish people would pay more attention to this kind of writing, even if it doesn’t push the hot buttons in the same way.

All right, with that out of the way, here’s some other interesting stuff I came across this week:

  • Alex Pappademas on DC’s New 52. The best piece I seen so far on DC’s succesful new bottling of their old, stale wine. Hilarious and informative, even — I think — to readers unfamiliar with the minutiae of mainstream American comics publishing.
  • Jeffrey Kurtzman on the crisis of the humanities. A professor of musicology and recent visiting professor at Aarhus University, Kurtzman writes passionately and cogently the rise of theory and the devaluation of high culture in contemporary Western society. Highly recommended. (Via).
  • Scheherezade’s Longbox

    Just got word from Paul Gravett that his massive 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die is out in the UK, with the American edition to be released on 25 October and other national editions to follow.

    Many will be familiar with this popular series covering everything from books to wine. The remarkable thing about the comics one is that it is the first convincing attempt to define an international canon for the art form. The book is of course skewed in favor of work available in English, but Paul has interpreted that limitation in the widest possible way, including an amazingly diverse and international field of comics from Töpffer to the present, including a fair amount never (or not yet) translated into English.

    Individual national editions will make replacements, I’m told, which is really to the detriment of a remarkably coherentbook. Paul recruited 67 comics experts from all over the world, making it a wonderfully rich resource. And this is only enhanced by his decision to order the entries chronologically, adding an eye-opening historical dimension to the presentation. In addition to being a great reference, it’s thus also a short (” “) history of of world comics. I really encourage you to take a look at it.

    Full disclosure: I was one of the 67, although my contribution is rather small. I wrote the entries on the Danish comics included: Storm P.’s Peter & Ping, Palle Nielsen’s Orpheus & Eurydice, Claus Deleuran’s Rejsen til Saturn, and Nikoline Werdelin’s Homo Metropolis, as well as (somewhat randomly) on Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Strikes Again (aka. DK2).

    Check out Paul’s website for more information on the book, its contributors and the comics. He plans to update it regularly with reviews, interviews and supplementary material. For Danish readers, here’s a notice on it for which I provided some comments a couple of months ago.

    The Week

    The Week in Review (a.k.a. the feature formerly known as Picks of the Week)

    Jobs. I’m somewhat ambivalent about the mass adulation directed at the late Apple co-founder this past few days. No doubt he and his company revolutionized the way we interface with technology, even if he didn’t come up with the component parts now often credited to him: the mouse and desktop interface; and no doubt that his autocratic and autonomous stance helped further a vision that might otherwise have crashed and burned like so many Windows operating systems.

    But admirable as these characteristics are in a creative, individual businessman, and even perhaps in a small company, they take on an insidious edge when they become the governing principle of a large corporation. It amplifies human shortcomings in a way that leads to rotten ethics and ultimately limits the freedom of consumers.

    Look, I dig my Macintosh computer, even if I don’t care much for the weak, impossible-to-change batteries that come with most Apple products. I haven’t once regretted switching away from the ongoing disaster that is Windows. (And Linux is just too damn bothersome). Oh, and Pixar’s pretty fantastic.

    Trouble is we’re talking a corporation that behaves increasingly like Jobs reportedly did to the people around him: tyranically censorious and blind to the people around it. As if their disturbing record of outsourcing production overseas weren’t troublesome enough, their record of innovation — transformative as it has been — carries troubling perspectives.

    Apple’s takeover of the music industry (couldn’t have happened to nicer people!) has proposed some interesting solutions for digital delivery, but is basically an overpriced quasi-monopoly concentrated on a crap format, the mp3. Other industries seem to have learned not to but all their eggs in the Apple basket, but it seems inevitable that the company, with their arbitrary censorship practices and Chinese box approach to user participation (as opposed to friendliness), is going to be at the center of digital delivery technology for the foreseeable future.

    Apple’s achievement, however, goes beyond the transformation of user interfaces and content delivery. They’ve built a new type of brand. We’re not talking mere consumer loyalty, or even identification — people seem to regard their products as a kind of personal, even spiritual fulfillment, as if they were an extension of themselves. This is mass cybernetics, people. Psychological interface.

    An amazing achievement, no doubt. And Jobs was at the center of it. He made consumerism a personal matter. Which I guess makes sense, now that corporations are defined as people. RIP.

    My Jobs list: Mike Daisy: “Against Nostalgia”, James Surowiecki: “How Steve Jobs Changed”, Vaclav Simil: “Why Jobs Is No Edison”, Ryan Tate: “What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs”.

    Establishing Shots — Judith Forest’s 1h25

    This review was written for The Comics Journal in July 2010 before it was revealed that Judith Forest was a hoax, a clever ploy by cartoonist William Henne and 5e Couche’s publisher/provocateur Xavier Löwenthal to subvert people’s expectations and understanding of confessional autobiography — and more broadly the representation of “truth” — in comics. For more, please read Bart Beaty’s 2011 examination of the state of comics autobiography at the Journal. As is obvious from the review, I completely fell for it. It’s a good book!

    It’s taken a while, but a new generation of European cartoonists building upon what the new wave of the 90s created is slowly, but surely coming into its own. Unsurprisingly, the genre that arguably defined those trailblazers more than any other, autobiography, still occupies a central place in the repertoire of today’s up-and-comers, along with other reality-based approaches, such as biography and documentary.

    Picks of the Week

    The picks of the week from around the web.

  • Music! So as I wrote, good to be back. And there’s a bunch of new, homegrown music out. Up there’s my man Ras Money’s first stab at deejaying on wax. He’s no Sizzla, but he represents his neighborhood Nordvest 2400 fresh as can be. Cop the 7″. The big event, of course, is the retun of local heroes Malk de Koijn with their first album in nine years. It’s a little conservative for my taste, but they still sound like nobody else, and the opening track “Nalk” goes hard.
  • One of my last shows in New York was Nas performing at Rock the Bells on Governor’s Island. A mostly triumphant return to form, if one steeped in nostalgia. One of the most talented if also erratic MCs of all time, it is rewarding to revisit his back catalogue via Complex Magazine’s “100 Best Nas Songs” feature. Ludicrous premise, but great and extremely thorough showcase with plenty of obscure gems featured, and some good writing to boot. (Old link, I know, but good).