14 July 2011

Recommendation: Swedish anthologies

Title: Swedish Comic Sin 2
Editor: Natalia Batista
Language: Swedish
400 pages, b&w, soft cover
Published: Nattserier, 2011
ISBN: 978-91-633-8432-5

Title: Serier mot rasism
Translation: Comics against racism
Editors: Henri Gylander, Sofia Lindh, Robert Pettersson & Emelie Stigwan
Language: Swedish
134 pages, b&w, soft cover
Published: Optimal Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-91-85951-35-2

Things are changing in the Swedish comics community. There are more and more comics artists out there, not the least due to the many schools and courses in the making of comics, present all over the country by now. Other important changes are the ease with which you can produce professional-looking books with the aid of computers, lower printing costs, lower print runs etc. We have a long tradition of underground fanzines in Sweden, but thanks to these factors, we see more and more professionally produced books, published by artists themselves.

Sample page from Swedish Comic Sin 2, by Elise Rosberg.

The two books above are examples of this. Swedish Comic Sin 2 is, as the title reveals, the second volume of an anthology collecting original comics about sex. Most of the artists are young, and the anthology has an explicit goal to showcase their work for a larger audience. As such the book is great, as it lets many up-and-coming artists show their stuff.

Preview to one of the comics in Swedish Comic Sin 2, by Anna Rosenkrans Birkedal.

The comics are mostly rather sweet, showing a tender, romantic, slightly naïve version of human sexuality. Many of the participants come from the manga camp – not surprising, since there is in general a more relaxed attitude to sex in Japanese comics. The second volume is almost twice the size of the first one, showing that the attention garnered by the first volume have made more artists interested in producing erotic art. And sure enough, there are some more experienced artists in this volume, some of whom do give a more mature view of sex as well as add other styles. I do hope this development continues and that this anthology continues to be published, as it has the potential of becoming really good, and important for Swedish comics culture.

Serier mot rasism is somewhat the same as Swedish Comic Sin, an anthology focused on a theme and created by artists, but still slightly different. It was published by a traditional publisher, Optimal Press, but was conceived and edited by a group of artists (at my school no less – official disclaimer...). The idea was hatched the day after the latest general election in Sweden, when a new and publicly racist party was voted into parliament.

Sample art from Serier mot rasism, by Fanny Bystedt.

The content is of course political, and the art styles are more varied than in Swedish Comic Sin. Again, most artists featured are from a younger generation, but there are also representatives from older generations, such as David Liljemark, Gunnar Krantz and Joakim Pirinen. The comics are mostly fairly short, and of course full of indignation. Some have taken this a bit further, with more of an analysis of the state of affairs in Sweden and of the phenomenon of racism. As always with an anthology, the level of the comics included is varied. I especially liked Den moderna rasisten (The modern racist) by Maja Lüning, which really delves into the concept of who is prejudiced and who is not.
Sample page from Serier mot rasism, by Henri Gylander.

So, there you have it. Two interesting, contemporary anthologies. Not perfect in any way, but their very existence is indicative of the state of Swedish comics today.