2014-08-27

Blammo!

Both the husband and I are die-hard comic fans. We have a cupboard upstairs filled with old comics, everything from "Donald Duck" (dating as far back as the 60´s), to Swedish comics like "91:an Karlsson" (set in the Swedish army), action-adventures in "Agent X9", and of course, "Fantomen" (= the phantom). When my little sister started university here in Lule√• some 20+ years ago, one of her hazing assignments was to find a Donald Duck comic from 1967. She came straight here and got one - no problem.

Lately, I have been enjoying the comics of Noah van Sciver. I am not sure how I discovered him, but somehow I happened upon his blog and was immediately hooked on his diary-comics (love this!), which he does a month at a time, when he feels like it, I guess. He does autobiographical really good, because he doesn´t make the character Noah van Sciver particularly heroic or cool or anything. He is basically a looser who struggles with a lot of things in life, and who can not relate to that? I say character, because even if it is autobiographical, an autobiographical self is a subjective portayal. I am sure everyone has a slightly different image of themselves than other people has.

In April he started doing a comic about a character called Fante Bukowski, a struggling Next Big American Writer of His Generation, living in ratty hotel rooms, hammering out his stories on an old typewriter, feeling misunderstood and sorry for himself - and naturally, he sucks at writing. This was just brilliant! I wrote van Sciver fan mail. I think any artist can identify with Fante - if not, I suspect there is some serious hubris going on!

I ordered a couple of his Blammo comics, number 6 and 8 (reading them was a bit like being a little girl again and having the latest issue of  Fantomen, as they are roughly that size), from his Etsy store. They took a few weeks to arrive, having to pass through customs and all that. I was charmed to find a drawn thank you note on yellow note paper. Wait, I thought, is that like, Yellow Legal Paper? I googled it and no, it doesn´t have the right size, but for a European like me, Yellow Legal Pads belong to the mythology of Great American Writers. Perhaps saying they write their first drafts on it signals humility in the US, where you no doubt can buy this stuff in any supermarket, but for us... I tell you, if Fante Bukowski was Swedish, he would import Yellow Legal Pads from the US, to get in the proper creative mood. The only Swedish artist I ever heard used yellow notepaper is Ingmar Bergman; perhaps he had a Fante Bukowski deep inside, too? 

The stories in Blammo are a mixed bag, some of them are a bit absurd, like a Monty Python skit, some are touching, and some satirical. Having thus whet my appetite, I ordered "The Hypo" (which is sold in Sweden, I bought mine via bokus), a very ambitious work about Abraham Lincoln in his younger years, struggling politically, professionally, socially, and battling severe depression. This is a powerful story, and a side to the revered president I certainly had never heard of. It is very impressive how van Sciver does it all himself: story and drawings. I am impressed by his skill in both areas.

Damian Melven has recently made a short film about van Sciver´s work in his series "Sketched Out". And I have not had enough of it - I just ordered "The Lizard Laughed" from Oily Comics.

"The Hypo" can be found in one Swedish library (Malmö) but any local Swedish library can borrow from them if you request it. I am considering donating my copy to the local library, if they will have it. I think more people should have a chance to discover van Sciver. I just have to get over my possessiveness about it, so give me a few days...

Random page from "The Hypo".

This paper doll of Lincoln´s wife is just too charming! 


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