Sunday, April 30, 2006

Good Morning from Copenhagen

Ah, well, no more mystery: Here's where I am this weekend:

I was last in Copenhagen 13 years ago, September of 1993. I had only two days, and was in a bit of a fog the entire time between the jetlag and my having departing home on the heels of a rather traumatic life change. Nevertheless, it was a marvelous experience, thanks in large part to the kindness and generosity of everyone I met in this excellent city. I did my utmost to earn such kindness, including a rather claustrophobic presentation of my four-hour version of the Journeys Into Fear slide lecture on horror comics in the now-absorbed (or so I'm told) Copenhagen comics library of that time (apparently it is now incorporated into one of the city's larger libraries, no longer the autonomous entity it was in '93). I recall, due to the incapitability of my slide trays with those of the library, frantically moving the complete slide lecture (literally hundreds of slides) into new trays -- it all worked out, though, and as many people physically able to cram themselves semi-comfortably into the library seemed to enjoy the talk, and it seems from the comments I received during my signing time yesterday that I'd left a good impression from said labors.

It was the least I could do! My host that weekend was Teddy Kristiansen, who with his wife (then pregnant with their first child) Hope and their circle of friends saw to it I had as fine a time as possible. I don't believe I'd ever been treated so hospitably at any comics-related event, though I see now (with a second, extended trip to Copenhagen and in much happier times, traveling with Marge) that much of what I experienced was simply the warmth of the city and its people. If you ever have the opportunity, do yourself the favor and make the trip.

That warmth and hospitality has been flowing for some time now leading up to the trip itself, from the initial inquiry from Arni (who'll I'll write about later, when I've more time -- thanks for suggesting this as a possibility at all, Arni!) to the rapid response from organizers Jan and Kim; in fact, Kim Jensen immeasurably sweetened the experience this time by offering Marge and I the use of his entire apartment (the suggestion, he tells me, of his girlfriend Regina), which has afforded us an expansive "home base" which is particularly inviting come evening, when our feet are worn out and we're ready for sleep. I'm going to miss coming up this street I'm looking out on this morning from the computer keyboard Kim set up for us in his dining room. Before leaving VT, I made sure to have some original sketches in hand for all who made this trip possible, including cat drawings for Regina and Arni's girlfriend Mie, and Marge made sure we packed some maple syrup and maple candy for all, too. I also cut and prepared two sets of prints from the Year in Fear calender Mike Dobbs and I did (with Mark Martin's considerable hand ensuring amazing production and reproduction) to make sure all the volunteers behind this year's event also went home with something for their walls.

Jan, Kim, and everyone have pulled together quite an event this year, and I'm stunned to be part of it. Schuiten & Peeters, Warren Ellis, Leah Moore, John Rellion, Marv Wolfman, Jose Villarubia, Gilbert Shelton and many others are among the guests, and it's been great to steal whatever precious time has been available to talk to just a few of these amazing folks. Though it had over a decade since I was here, it was amazing how many familiar faces I recognized when Marge and I first walked into the cafeteria: I immediately recognized Henrik Andreasen, who seems to knows every cartoonist in the world. He was our entree into conversation, inviting us to join his table where we quickly met Egmont editor Thomas Schroner and others.

Among the many new faces this trip have been Paris-based writer Erik Svane, eagerly seeking artist to collaborate with and sharing some rather spectacular pages from an upcoming pair of graphic novels he's scribed (one on Leonardo Da Vinci and the other a western in the style of Jean Giraud and Charlier's immortal Lt. Blueberry, drawn by an artist Giraud himself had recommended to Erik). I finally got to meet Michael Thomsen, with whom I'd exchanged many words via virtual conversation on the internet via the late Kingdom board "The Swamp" and email; a couple of years ago, Michael had blessed me via snail-mail with my own copy of the Danish DVD release of the uncut 1962 Sidney Pink monster epic Reptilicus, so I did up the finest sketch possible in short order upon meeting him face-to-face at last!

I find myself thoroughly enjoying the company of Icelander cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson, who Arni introduced us to and whose hilarious collection Avoid Us deserves much wider release (check it out at his publisher's website,, having already spawned a very successful play, though Hugleikur's elegantly simple delineations of some of the darkest laughs on planet Earth would seem utterly resistent to such adaptation. Hugleikur joined Marge, Henrik and Marv and Noel Wolfman and I last night for a sojourn through the misty rain into downtown Copenhagen with a vague destination our goal, which it turned out we did find: Le Le's was the restaurant, Vietnamese was the cousine, and it was an amazing meal well worth the wet wander. Good food, good company, and we emerged to find the rain had ceased, making for a pleasant jaunt to our various destinations 'home.' (Upon my return home, I plan to send Hugleikur some of Guy Maddin's films, as both his heritage and dry and morbid sense of humor invites exposure to Manitoban Maddin's faux Icelandic cinematic fables.)

One of the highlights of yesterday was catching up with Teddy and Peter Snejberg, both of whom took the time to sit with Marge and I over a beer and chat about the ensuing 13 years. What a different time it was in 1993: comics in the US in a boom bubble, the Image phenomenon still maintained the luster of its initial bloom, and DC in an adventurous mood had recently engaged Teddy to do a Superman project, making him the first Danish cartoonist to "break in" to the American market. In my own bubble, I was reaping the royalties of the 1963 series and working on what was to be Tyrant, tentatively showing a few folks the initial pages and no doubt babbling about the impending leap into self-publishing. Now, of course, I'm in this new space, seven years after my retirement from the comics industry and now into the new Center for Cartoon Studies adventure, which I've chatted up all I can. While I've malingered, so to speak, Teddy and Peter have remained incredibly productive: Peter gifted me with his solo venture Marlene (from Slave Labor Graphics; pick it up if you haven't as yet, it's a terrific horror comic -- I read it this morning) and all four volumes of his collaboration with writer Peter J. Tomasi, Light Brigade (2004, DC Comics), while Teddy kindly gave me copies of two of his recent Vertigo/DC projects I'd missed, It's a Bird... (2004, written by Steven T. Seagle) and Teddy's entry in DC's now-sadly-defunct Solo series, featuring three of Teddy's delineations of his own scripts accompanied by a Deadman tale scribed by our mutual friend Neil Gaiman and a delicious little New Guinea-set missionary parable written by Steven Seagle. But enough on comics -- it's the people who are the treasure here, extraordinary as their work is. Teddy glows with a beatific calm, and it was happy news indeed to hear that he and Hope (who's still working in animation, I'm told) are still happily married and now have three children.

Marge and I have a full day tomorrow to enjoy exploring a bit more of Copenhagen, but I'm eager to get back to this morning and spend whatever precious time is left hobnobbing with everyone here I can. I've yet to sit down with Leah & John, whom I'm anxious to chat with; Leah was a bit under the weather yesterday, so hopefully today we can make time to talk, and I'm hitting the Accent UK publisher table this morn to pick up their work in Albion, etc. I'm also hoping to talk to Warren Ellis, if only to mend any fences possible, though he's of course in high demand -- ah, we'll see. He's got a panel today, so if nothing else I'll savor that.

I've yet to find copies of the book I'm most seeking, Gare du Nord by Rolf Classon, a history of Swedish and Scandanavian comics, which no one seems to know exists (I'm looking, Elizabeth & Jacob, I'm looking!). It's a bit of a mystery thus far, though at this point I'd welcome finding any illustrated history of Scandanavian comics that might be available -- I really hope to find something comprehensive to bring back to the library and to CCS, whether it's in English or not.

That's all the catch-up I've time for this morning; more later, if time and access to computer permit... have a great rest-of-the-weekend, one and all.

(To answer the emails, the yeti walking with a man in a cage I saw was indeed "real" -- when Marge and I were bopping on one of downtown Copenhagen's dedicated shopping streets (foot traffic only, no cars), and I stood outside George Jensen Jewelry while Marge was inside, a street performer stalked by dressed in a massive costume that covered his head and arm in a cage with fake folded legs beneath his abdomen, while his legs were 'walking' for the Yeti portion of the costume (which extended up and behind the 'cage' part, completing the Yeti body and head, with the fake arms completing the illusion of the Yeti holding the cage with a man inside). Can you picture it? It was pretty amazing, and quite funny -- though he just continued on his silent march up the brick-studded street without so much as a grin betraying his composure.)

- Bonus silly online comic link, compliments of Matt Young and the CCS discussion board:
Alien Loves Predator: "In New York, No One Can Hear You Scream:"