Hey, it’s me.

I’m not very good at bragging. Mostly I just tell people (= blog about, post some link somewhere) about things I’ve been involved in and hope for the best, but I’m going to give it a try here, because far too few people bought CBA vol 47 that I was the main editor of (which I know because I’ve seen the orders).

I’m not even marketing my own stuff here, mostly, and I don’t make any money from the sales, so it’s self-less bragging, really. I do this for you. So here goes:

One of the things I did make in this volume was the cover, and I’m really happy with it. It’s a combination of a linocut print, a scan of the plastic sheet I used to mix the paint when I did the print, the old circuitboard I scanned and used for Piracy is Liberation after finding it at the dump in Skellefteå in the 1990s, and maybe some other random structures I had lying around. The letters of the title are left-overs from someone’s (Kinga’s?) lino cut-outs for something. Anyway, I had fun doing it and think it worked pretty well as a cover.

The first comic, by Avi Heikkinen was the winner of the comics competition in Oulu where I was one of the judges (because I got the honorary prize the year before). I really liked how it’s look of photo-based drawings worked well with the story about a camera that can look into the past, and a film-maker who becomes obsessed with it.

Next up is a comic I wrote and compiled, based on a nightmare that Kinga Dukaj had, built out of one of my favorites of her artworks. It’s one of those dreams where you dream that you wake up but then realize you’re still in the dream, then you wake up but realize you’re still in a dream and so on. Layer by layer. Scary stuff that made for a scary story that fit really well with her photomanipulation of a tree growing out of a skull.

Then there’s Danijel Žeželj. Danijel fucking Žeželj, just to emphasize, because not enough people have seen his works. And a lot have, because he’s worked on X-men, Superman and a whole lot of other stuff, self-published and at big publishers. I first heard about him from the Stripburger crew when they were visiting Malmö in 2005 and talked about Stripburger in particular and Balkan comics in general. I saw Žeželj’s stuff and immediately fell in love! First time we published him in CBA was later that year, or maybe the year after. We distributed a few copies of his book Small Hands, which is sadly out of print now, I think, but it’s one of my favorite comics. Anyway, it’s always great to have his stuff in one of our books and you should check him out if you don’t already know his works.

After discovering Balkan comics, I found Komikaze, a Croatian web-based anthology, and in Komikaze I found a bunch of artists that we also published back in the day. One of which is now a friend of mine that I meet maybe once or twice year (pre-covid, when we could go to festivals), which is far too seldom; Radovan Popović. His art style here is based on chaotic paintings/collages, evocative and dark and beautiful. In this case a story connected to Philip K Dick, inspired by the Science/Fiction theme.

Another artist originating in the Balkans but living in Canada at the time is Ivana Filipović. I may be mistaken but I don’t think I found her but rather she found us. She sent a comic to the AltCom anthology of 2018, which she said was the first comic she made in about 20 years. A great honor and I’m glad she started again because I really like her stuff. Mostly straight-up drawings, and this is no different. She picked up on the religion-related part of the theme, with a fun/dystopic sci fi twist.
Edit: Turns out she found us when Radovan shared a link about CBA. So there you go, it’s all connected somehow…

Korina Hunjak, another Balkan artist, but one that I’ve had less personal contact with, made this one. The ”where is the line between the living and the artificial” robot story is a classic, and one I often find interesting. This one is thematically reminiscent of the game Detroit: Become Human (which I replayed recently, by the way. Great game).

Francisco Sousa Lobo is a friend of a friend in Portugal. I have a couple of his books published by Portuguese comics network/publisher/association Chili Com Carne, and they’re always interesting, mostly low-key storytelling with simple lines that don’t necessarily betray the dark undertones of the stories. This one is no exception, and I think it’s a good sample of what he’s doing. You should check him out!

Last but not least, one of the founding members of CBK, Oskar Aspman, got inspired to make a new comic in his way that is often abstract in story, expressive in line-work, apocalyptic in mood. Always a pleasure.

And I also wrote a few illustrated text pieces, one about the construction of identity, one about something I’ve been thinking a lot about the last few years: how we seem to be living in an increasingly fictionalized world, in the post-truth era that former US president Trump is such a great champion for. It’s interesting and pretty frightening depending on the kind of dystopic fiction we often end up living in…

So that’s it. Maybe none of this sounds like something you’d like and then you should probably stay away. But if you’re anything like me and it sounds like something for you, give it a try (buy it here)! This is one of my favorite issues in recent years, and not just because I was so involved in putting it together, but because I think it’s really good!

By the way, if you want a wide variety of comics in style and content, why not get a subscription? It’s an extra good idea to get it now, before we will have to to raise the price due to increased postage costs. If you’re like me, you like things that are high-quality and low-price, so if you make sure you get your subscription before mid-April, you’ll get a better deal (not that it’s going to get super expensive after that, but still)!

Placeholder?

January 30, 2021

Possibly a sketch for something I’m planning for CBA vol 53: PLACEHOLDER.

But it might also end up as nothing more than what it is now…

You will also soon be able to see the drawing process as a video on my Instgram.

CBK just announced a call for submissions for two new upcoming volumes the other day. I’ll be main editor of one of them.

Here are theme descriptions and deadlines for both of them. You can find submission guidelines here. We’re looking for comics as well as text articles.

CBA vol 52: BURNOUT
Main Editor: Mattias Elftorp
DEADLINE: Feb 15
Burnout has become an increasingly normal part of everyday life for many of us since the term was getting widespread use in the late 1900s. From hospital staff to comic creators to basically any job in the gig economy. Anyone who doesn’t have a steady income, or who is expected to do more work in less time than is reasonable, can feel this. So who is to blame? Could we create a situation, a systemic change, to avoid the conditions that cause burnout?
What we’re looking for aren’t necessarily stories of depressing social realism, but artistic expressions of that feeling, suggestions for solutions, wishful thinking and visual abreactions. Expressions of rage rather than apathy, insurrection rather than complicity. Something to read for strength in times of austerity.

CBA vol 53: PLACEHOLDER
Main Editor: Leviathan
DEADLINE: Mar 31
The pandemic paused the world for an indefinite time. What does that mean practically? What does it do to our consciousness and how we experience our existence? Some places see recovering wildlife and cleaner air. Which other phenomena appear to replace our old routines? We’re waiting, and in our wait, we imitate the “real” we hope will soon return. We are like placeholders in our own lives.

New year old year

January 1, 2021

Was planning to publish the usual list of things I’ve read/seen/played this year, but I’m mentally tired so it’ll come later.

By the way, the theme for CBA vol 52 will be BURNOUT. Look for a call for submissions to be published in the coming days…

Hey, remember when everyone thought that 2016 was the worst year ever? Those were the times… I never really got into that way of looking at it. Years are artificial and things getting worse or better is a process. Even though 2020 has been exceptional in many ways, it’s not an isolated thing but a culmination of several processes and probably the start of others. Maybe the best thing we can learn from this year is that the short-sightedness and profit-maximization that Capitalism encourages are things we need to grow out of.

So good luck and I’ll be back with some escapism in a little while.

Jornal de Natal

December 28, 2020

I made this illustration for Portuguese illustrated christmas paper, Jornal de Natal (The Inspector Cheese Adventures, Xerefé, Flagrantetítulo – Associação Cultural) organised by Ana Biscaia and André Ruivo.

Typical X-mas 2020…

Right now, two digital CBK exhibitions, Nedjem and Origin of Life, are going on at Hybriden. This is my contribution to one of them:

It comes from CBA vol 48: Nedjem, which you can buy here.

Here’s the text that accompanies it in the book. I wrote it earlier this year, but it’s of course still current since some change comes reeeaaally slow, if at all.

ALL CATS ARE BEAUTIFUL (or ACAB)

So it happened again, on May 25 of 2020. Another name added to the list of people who were murdered by Police. I won’t mention his name here because I won’t mention any names because there are too many. I won’t mention his skin color because he was a human being first and foremost, but also because you already know. We still remember him and his last moments.

I should perhaps mention here that I am White and I live in a segregated little country called Sweden. I may not be completely segregated personally, not completely socially unconnected to the groups of people who are usually the victims of Police violence, but I don’t think I personally know anyone who has been killed by cops.

Abused in some way by police? Sure, lots of people, including friends, friends of friends, family, loose aquaintances and myself at one point. Most of it political, some of it in enforcement of what I’d call racist legislation concerning migration (which is also political) and some for other reasons.

But murdered by Swedish Police? Not as much. I think the closest one was a relative of an ex of mine. They don’t do that as much in Sweden as in some other countries, even though it’s not unheard of. But the thing is that US culture is also our culture in many ways. The current US president may wage an internal culture war against anything left of the Republicans at the moment, but internationally, they won years ago. We in the rest of the world watch US TV and movies, eat food from US food chains, play US games, read US books and comics, it’s everywhere. I even use mostly US English even though the one I learned in school was the British one. Sure we miss a lot of nuance and we only get the surface of it. Most of us don’t know what it’s like to live in the US, we haven’t felt it in our bodies. But we identify with US culture, and part of that comes in the form of transferred race relations.

I’m not saying this to exonerate us in any way. We have contributed lots to the ingrained racism ourselves, we can’t blame Hollywood for that. But when we see cops murder Black people in the US in the news and social networks, we feel kind of like it’s happening here. In part because the same things are also happening here on a smaller scale, but also because we’re all affected by US politics. Through wars and the tentacles of their capitalist practices and reproduction of the class system they’re so good at maintaining (even though we at least still have comparatively free health care).

So it happened again. And again. And again. And it felt like it happened to us, because Sweden isn’t all White, you know, just largely segregated, and our history classes probably taught us more about slavery in the US than US children learn in school. And this time the name and the reactions got bigger. This time it was the drop that made the glass spill over, just like it was those other times. The name and the reaction got so big this time that maybe. Just maybe. Maybe this time was going to be different. Maybe something would actually change. Even though it didn’t in any of those other cases.

But even after that last big name, there were more people killed. Some of it was political, people getting shot to death at protests. Some of it were traffic stops or other misdemeanors. Driving while Black. Breathing while Black. The names kept piling up and for each one the newsworthiness diminished and most of them probably went completely under the radar for the people whose local communities weren’t directly affected.

Because All Cops Are Bastards. And by that I mean that they largely get away with whatever they do. They can use excessive force with no repercussions. They can harass innocent people with no repercussions. They can kill with no repercussions. The exceptions to this rule are too few to make a difference.

As I started writing this text there was an incident in Sweden where some truck driver got a cop’s baton shoved up his ass, and it was ruled that it had to have been either an accident or a warranted police action. The court didn’t determine which one it was but it didn’t matter as long as the cop and his commanding officer were innocent. Which only seems likely in a world where anything a cop does is automatically defensible. Too bad that’s the world we live in.

All Cops Are Bastards. It may sound like a harsh statement, but let me explain:

Even if the bad ones really are just a number of individual cops, that means that the rest of them are either quietly approving or, in at least a few cases I hope, actively resisting. And the ones that are approving of racist or violent behavior, or even quietly disagreeing, are part of the problem. The ones that are resisting (though I hear that’s really hard to do from within the corps) will be aware enough that it’s a systemic problem that they will know what we mean when we say that All Cops Are Bastards. As the saying goes: a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

Because it is a systemic problem, which means that it’s not enough to punish a couple of cops who went too far. No amount of measures are enough until Black people don’t need to be afraid of being killed by cops for existing on the streets, at work or even in their homes. It’s not enough until some nedlessly upset White people can no longer use a 911 call as a potential murder weapon. Which goes for both the US and for Sweden.

Some people seem to believe that there is no racism anymore, because slavery was officially abolished in the US, because the Nazis lost the second world war or because most countries (looking at you, Israel) don’t have any official laws demanding racial segregation. But it’s only possible to still believe that while looking at, for example, the statistics for incarceration and police killings in the US if you see those numbers through a lens that says that Black people by nature are more likely to commit crimes. Same goes for the unequal distribution of wealth. And I’m sorry to break it to you, but that is by definition a racist lens.

Combine racism, a disdain for the poor and widespread misogyny with a police force that not only is immune to repercussions but in many ways has the same mentality as a criminal gang or a bunch of bullies, and what do you get? A situation where All Cops Are Bastards and where Black Lives don’t Matter. Which means that All Lives don’t Matter. Which is something that everyone should care about, even those who aren’t personally directly affected in their daily lives.

White people aren’t of course immune to violence from the police. White people are just not subjected to violence or suspicion BECAUSE they are White. Which is an important distinction that does not contradict that we all have everything to gain from joining forces to make changes, because maybe another world is possible. One without class differences, without racism and without police brutality. One where that list of names doesn’t keep growing.

The Word – exhibited now

November 25, 2020

Right now, two digital CBK exhibitions, Nedjem and Origin of Life, are going on at Hybriden. These are my contributions to one of them (click images for bigger size):

They are two pages from a longer story. If you want to read the rest of it, you can get CBA vol 49: Origin of Life here!

Check back here tomorrow for another exhibition sample and a complete text I wrote for CBA vol 48 (All Cats Are Beautiful).

It’s been 13 years since I last published anything in the Piracy is Liberation series. I made the two collections of books 1-11 in 2013. Since then, it’s always been my intention to continue the story directly in a third volume rather than conrinue with book 12. The problem is that, as it turns out, making one 400+ page book is much more difficult than making 5 smaller books. So now I’m going back to what I used to do; publish a chapter as a self-contained story, for example in an anthology such as CBA. Fittingly, this will be my contribution to CBA vol 50, a volume dedicated to comics by members of the past and current editorial collective of CBA. Especially since the first two stories connected to Piracy is Liberation were published back in C’est Bon #1 and 2 (in 2001).

It’s a bit like coming home now when I return to this world I haven’t visited for so long. Rumor has it that every cell in my body will have been exchanged by new ones during that time. Does that mean that I’m a copy of myself? And if so, what does that mean, since the structure of my brain or whatever it is that forms my consciousness is more or less the same?

This one will be a story of Purple, set during the fight for copy rights, probably a few chapters into vol 3. It should be no problem to read it as a stand-alone comic, but if you have read the old ones, you’ll have a much greater grasp of the context surrounding the events in this one. I think that’s all I can say about it at this point. The story is called ALGORHYTHM and CBA vol 50 is planned for release by the end of this year.

If you haven’t yet read the old ones, here’s where you’ll find them. Books 001 and 002 should also still be available for download via The Pirate Bay.

The Last Of Us part II

July 13, 2020

The Last Of Us part II
by Naughty Dog
Review/thoughts (no spoilers)

First, stay away from spoilers as much as possible if you plan to play the game, because it will affect your experience of it. Also, I wrote the first part of this before I had finished the game, so I had to add a second part afterwards to address some of what I said from a different perspective. Both the game itself and the discussions surroudning it have many layers and are a bit hard to condense. I had stayed away from leaks and spoilers but seen enough to know that some people seemed to really hate the game. So if it seems like I’m strawmanning a bit in the first part, it’s because I hadn’t looked too deeply into the criticism that I addressed, I just knew it was there.

The game was released a while ago by now, but I think that rushing through the game just to get an early review out would be a disservice to the experience. I wanted to give it time, take breaks now and then to process the story beats, and I’m glad I did. As I do these final revisions I’m close to finishing the game for the second time (NG+).

I’m not normally writing about games, but this one was special, so here’s my views on The Last Of Us part II:

This is an amazing game! Probably the best one on PS4, as far as I’m concerned. Gamers and reviewers have been divided. Almost everyone seem to agree that it looks amazing, that the controls and playability are improved from the first one. And the story is well told. Even the gay stuff looks like it works for most people, even if some feel oppressed by a love story that isn’t heterosexual. But most of the people who actually played the game do seem to like it. The main negativity seems to be about the feel-bad aspects of the game. And there are a lot of those. This game is an emotional horror story that hits harder than most movies trying to do the same thing. I don’t really know why people are surprised since the first The Last Of Us started with a real gut-punch, and ended with one as well, with a few more thrown in during the game. But I think people forgot that and only remembered how great the game was, just as they forgot the somewhat (comparatively) clunky gameplay because the story was so great. But if there’s one thing the developers were open with before releasing the sequel, it’s that if the first story was about love, then this one is about hate. And they weren’t kidding. This is definitely an exploration of hate and even more about revenge.

So of course this isn’t for everyone. Most players want their digital murdersprees to come without guilt or emotional consequenses, and this game denies them that. This is a rollercoaster with a few ascents but mostly descents into darker and deeper territories, a spiral of vengeance begetting vengeance. An eye for an eye for an eye, and in the end everyone is blind, clicking away in the darknes, flailing for someone to sink their teeth into to spread the disease of hatred. There are nice moments in this game, because how much worse isn’t Hell if you can still dream of Heaven (to paraphrase The Sandman)? You think it’s as dark as it can get, having played through one shocking turn of events after another, and then it hits you with something new. And then it stabs you with something that turns everything you’ve already done even darker. And then it twists the knife a few times extra just because. And I love it for it!

As in most of the best zombie stories, the threat of the zombielike infected in The Last Of Us are secondary, almost an environmental obstacle. It’s the human individuals and groupings in the postapocalypse that are the main actors.

And mixed in with all this is a love story (more than one, actually) that works really well, at least narratively. But it’s a world full of death and it’s a story full of hate and both of those things make it hard for lovers to just lean back together and enjoy each other. Any nice moment is weighed up by a bunch of horrible counterparts, and it takes its toll on the characters. As it should. This isn’t a game about Nathan Drake (the Indiana Jones/Lara Croft-like protagonist from Uncharted, another game series from Naughty Dog) running around killing hundreds of people and then living happily ever after with his family. The murders in this game have consequences. In fact, even the consequences have consequences. Don’t do this at home, kids!

And why shouldn’t there be games like this? And why shouldn’t they be acknowledged as the masterpieces they are, as is often the case with movies or literature that break new ground while showing us things in a new light?

In short: my experience with this game has been great at times, horrible at times, and I’m loving every bit of it.

And now that I’ve finished the game, I have some things to add: When I wrote the above, I still had a few hours left to play. I still stand by everything I wrote about what I liked about it, but I hadn’t actually seen a lot of what people were saying about the game since I didn’t want to spoil it for mayself. Which means that while I had picked up that some people didn’t like the game, I wasn’t completely clear on why. Now I know better and it seems to be mainly two or three points. First, some of the people who like almost everything about it have some issues with the story structure or some elements in the storytelling, which I’m not going to get into because it really comes down to a question of personal taste. For me it works perfectly. It managed to play all of my heartstrings like a guitar, and even more so now that I’m playing it for a second time. Because now I know things I didn’t on my first playthrough which makes me notice a few extra heartbreaking details that went over my head the first time. If it didn’t work for some people that’s fine, nothing to do about that.

Otherwise it seems to be about an event in the beginning of the game and one at the very end. I’m not going to get into details about any of them, but it seems to me that people had such an attachment to the first game that they just took this one too personally. It’s not so much about the game being shocking or emotionally brutal in general, but about what’s happening to certain characters and the way it happens. Which is maybe understandable but also a bit too reminiscent of that old Stephen King story, Misery, about a writer who is kidnapped by his biggest fan who tortures him to get him to rewrite a book so that the main character doesn’t die. Sometimes you just have to accept that fictional characters don’t always get to live the lives you think they deserve.

Some of the negative feedback also came from people who hadn’t played it at all but based their opinions on leaked details which didn’t give the whole picture, which is just bullshit and not really worthy of comment.

It is noteworthy, however, that about 45% of the people who played it have now finished the story (according to the trophy list). 30-40% is a pretty normal number for similar games. And considering how many copies they’ve sold, that speaks to the fact that a lot of people seem to enjoy it enough to go through all the heartache.

As usual, it’s good to remember that the voices that can be seen/heard online may not be representative of the general view of the thing, it may just be that some people are very vocal about it and the proponents of certain views (the so-called anti-SJW people, in this case particularly the homophobes, that were most active before the game was even released) are quite good at taking up a disproportionate amount of bandwidth in order to try to seem like the voice of the mainstream.

Speaking of whom, I’d also like to change what I said at first about this game being about hate, because that isn’t exactly true, it just feels that way during most of it, and it is a feeling that’s being explored. But there are more layers to it, which I’m reluctant to go into here (because spoilers)…

For me, I like both the ending and the rest of the game more and more the more I think about it, and some of the discussions I’ve seen about it just make me more convinced that this is something truly special. It’s more emotionally advanced and engaging than most movies on a level that I’ve never seen before in games. It’s not the first game to go that route. Both Hellblade: Senua’s sacrifice, God of War and the first The Last Of Us come to mind as examples of psychological storytelling, but this one just goes further with it. And it’s amazing.

If you did play it and need something to help sort out your traumas, I’d suggest watching some interviews with the creators and actors of the game. They do care deeply about the characters and there are reasons for everything that happens in the game. And stop sending death threats to the actors just because they did such a good job of making you care.

The Police

June 18, 2020

Reposting this as kind of a contribution to the current discussion about racism and police violence.

It’s a chapter from my graphic novel Me & my Daddy & Zlatan. I started working on this story back in 2009, trying to capture the feeling in some parts of Sweden (which is NOT a perfect country where Police are great and serviceminded to everyone and racism is a thing of the past if it ever even existed here, no matter what some people seem to think). Hope you enjoy it. I really wish it would have been outdated by now, but sadly it isn’t.

Click images to make them bigger/more readable:

zlatan-eng_a5-58 zlatan-eng_a5-59 zlatan-eng_a5-60 zlatan-eng_a5-61 zlatan-eng_a5-62 zlatan-eng_a5-63 zlatan-eng_a5-64 zlatan-eng_a5-65 zlatan-eng_a5-66You can order the book, ins Swedish or English version, from the Hybriden webshop.