6 April 2011

Recommendation: Utopi

Title: Utopi vol. 1, number 1
By: Anthology
Language: Swedish
132 pages, color, magazine
Kolik Förlag, 2011
ISSN: 2000-687X

A brand new magazine publishing original Swedish comics, and comics in the spectacular, fantasy, horror and adventure genres to boot, that is not something I get to write about every day. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever written that since I started out as a journalist specializing in comics about 20 years ago. Anyway, that is exactly what Utopi (Utopia) is all about. Publishing new comics by Swedish creators who want to work in genres that entertain at the same time as they make you think about life, society and the world.

Behind this bold statement lies the still rather new (to me at least, who tends to keep a longer perspective on things) publisher Kolik Förlag, who are starting to make a difference in the Swedish comics culture. They started out by publishing alternative comics by Swedish artists, more or less in the same vein as several other Swedish publishers, but have since branched out in several new directions, including the aforementioned Utopi.

A video of the artists of Utopi making a comic on stage.

Utopi makes me think of the old Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal magazine in its heyday. I haven't read Heavy Metal for more than 20 years, but I remember the vibrant colours, the exciting adventures, the slick production and that is the same feeling I get from Utopi. The cover is also in that same, symbolic and rather tasteless tradition of Heavy Metal...

One of the artists of Utopi, Karl Johansson, commenting on the debate of 
Utopi being a contender to the more established magazine Galago.

But its all about the content and there Utopi is, if not king then at least very satisfactory. Eight Swedish artists have contributed new and original comics and have done so at a surprisingly high level. Well, considering that I know most of these artists and their work, "surprisingly" might be a bit of a misnomer, but the overall effect of having all of these new comic under one cover is still a bold statement about the comics culture of Sweden in the 21st century. The publisher doesn't beat about the bush when it comes to their goals either, and have even issued an official proclamation, stating that they want to show us how the world really is through the escapist tradition, or as they themselves put it: "In escapism we can see ourselves in a new light, in the adventure, we can exceed our weaknesses, in the epic stories we are limitless."

Of the comics, I'm most impressed by Lina Neidestam's Huldran, part of the graphic novel Maran, which Neidestam is producing right now about age-old Nordic beliefs, with a definite sex theme. Neidestam has evolved greatly as an artist and these pages are really vibrant.  

Another favourite is Stora A (Capital A) by Lars Krantz. About time someone started publishing Krantz' comics regularly. He's a one of a kind artist just waiting to be picked up internationally with a very specific use of black and white and stories that will leave you thinking about them for a long time.

Fabian Göransson's Blenda & magnoliamysteriet (Blenda & the Magnolia Mystery) was also a bit of fresh air. A Swedish reinterpretation of Tardi's classic heroine Adele Blanc-Sec. Hilarious!

These were my favourites in the inaugural issue, but there were of course several more, like the above shown sci-fi spoof Kronprinsen av Zolmax (The Crown Prince of Zolmax) by Göransson and artist Jan Bielecki, or the new version of Lisa Medin's Medley (below), another artist who has really developed a lot since I last saw her artwork.

So, overall, I'm impressed, and a bit surprised that I am impressed. Utopi really does have the potential to not only reach a new segment of Swedish readers, but also of developing Swedish comics and Swedish artists into new directions. The more fantastical genres seem to have the possibilities to reach and move large portions of the population and thus Utopi just might have a commercial future. I hope so, as this first issue really does promise a lot for the future.

PS: I have recently made an interview with the chief editor of Utopi, Fabian Göransson, which will be published in the next issue of Bild & Bubbla (187).