If it ain’t broke — OCX 2010

Posted by on June 1st, 2010 at 8:07 PM

Jim Woodring and Bendik Kaltenborn outside Serieteket

The Oslo Comics Expo saw its fourth annual iteration this past weekend. The formula established at the inaugural festival in 2007 remains pretty much in place — a day-and-a-half of programming, concentrating mostly on Norwegian creators, a small-but-interesting-and-somewhat-eclectic roster of international guests (Jim Woodring and Becky Cloonan headlined this year) — a pleasant, laid-back atmosphere, and a big party to round everything off.

The comics library, Serieteket, Schous Plass, Oslo

The festival is centered around the city’s comics library, Serieteket, which is situated in a green public square, Schous Plass, in the bohemian Grünerløkka section of the city. This year, the library hosted two exhibitions — a display of original pages from the guests, and a spectacular showcase for the Finnish anthology Glömp, which consisted of work in the territory between comics and installation art, much of it three-dimensional comics and cartoons.

Outside in the square were the publishers’ tents, where mostly the small press and individual cartoonists had set up booths. Norwegian comics can be divided into two main constellations: the newsstand-distributed magazine press, which primarily publishes comic strips, some of which — Nemi, Pondus, M — are hugely popular, but also regularly venture into graphic novels. Most of these weren’t officially present at the festival, though they had representatives there, cultivating their contacts, looking out for new talent (one assumes), and probably just having a good time.

The other domain consists of smaller publishers, led by the veterans Jippi and No Comprendo Press, who focus mostly on comics in book form, as well as a number of alternative anthology magazines, such as Jippi’s Forresten. Add to this a diverse minicomics scene and you have a strong community.

Like Sweden and Finland, and to a lesser extent Denmark, Norway offers strong governmental support for homegrown comics. In addition to this, the library system is very supportive, with libraries obligated to acquire a decent number of every Norwegian publication. This in itself guarantees a remarkable number of comics publications, but the country’s unique (for Scandinavia) mainstream industry is surely also a major enabler in that possible commercial interest makes publication easier to achieve as a cartoonist.

Among the notable new releases was upcomer Bendik Kaltenborn’s Serier som vil deg vel (“Comics that Mean You Well”), which collects a host of short strips created over the least few years. Formally inventive and almost invariably hilarious, Kaltenborn is a talent to watch. Another emerging talent is the Mozambican transplant Rui Tenreiro, whose oversized Museum is a spectacular formalist showcase of cartoon styles. And Håvard Johansen, an alumnus of the Kubert School, is ready now for primetime with his ambitious book debut STOP.REC.FFWD, which contains a selection of thematically linked, powerful short stories.

1990s veteran Lars Fiske — who works in an angular, constructivist style and is best known for the gonzo-biographies of various of the great modernists, made in collaboration with Steffen Kverneland — has just released a collection of his rambling late ’90s/early ’00s short stories about the hapless, if somewhat cunning, poet superstar Matje, to which he has added a brand-new short story, taking his hero back to his small-town roots. And the artist and illustrator Vanessa Baird, who collaborates with writer and cartoonist Mette Hellenes on the irreverent, borderline-bad-taste satire Kebbelife (published in the weekly newspaper Morgenbladet), has recently released a compilation of her powerful, at times disturbing, illustration work, You Can’t Keep a Good Rabbit Down. Last, but not least, the great ’80s pioneer Christoffer Nielsen returns to his underground roots with the latest issue of his series Weltschmerz, which starts of with a trio of shorts on the themes of unsavory pussy obsession, a great asshole in the sky, and the author’s own humongous dick. No sellout!

Boxed comics by Amanda Vahämäki in the Glömp exhibition

Baird and Hellenes hosted a cheekily understated, frequently funny presentation of their work on stage in the nearby bar Mir on Friday night, while several of the others appeared on panels and onstage interviews in the programming tent on Schous Plass on Saturday. The international guests, amongst whom one also found the German autobiographer and humorist Mawil and representatives from Glömp, were also given the chance to talk about their work here, and Jim Woodring delivered a short, well-considered autobiographically inflected presentation of his work, rich on early drawings and evocative detail from a life lived in both terror and fascination with the world.

Across town, a small gallery, Briskeby, is showing a selection of prints (digital, lithograph and engraving) by Woodring, alongside original pages by the surreal humorist Øystein Runde, which runs till the end of the month. It is well worth visiting if you are in town, although this writer would have preferred to see comics pages or drawings from the master. Although compelling, there’s a neatness and occasionally a slight stuffiness to the prints that one does not encounter in his lucidly visionary comics work.

All in all, OCX was a very enjoyable experience. While one might wish for a more diverse and interesting roster of international guests, a bigger exhibition space, or a stronger critical presence on some of the panels, it is nice to see that the organizers have retained the solid concept with which they started and have not gotten too big for their britches. There is an effortlessness to the festival and how it unites a relatively small vibrant cartooning scene, giving it a window to the world.

The annual Norwegian comics awards, the Sproings, were handed out at the party on Saturday night — see the winners here. And check out the Metabunker’s photos from the festival.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: , ,

One Response to “If it ain’t broke — OCX 2010”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Iselin Røsjø Evensen, No Studio. No Studio said: Oslo Comics Expo featured in The Comics Journal http://www.tcj.com/international/if-it-aint-broke-—-ocx-2010 […]