Tag: graphic novel
9 April 2015 | Articles
It’s impossible to put Finnish graphic novels into one bottle and glue a clear label on to the outside, writes Heikki Jokinen. Finnish graphic novels are too varied in both graphics and narrative – what unites them is their individuality. Here is a selection of the Finnish graphic novels published in 2014
Graphic novels are a combination of image and word in which both carry the story. Their importance can vary very freely. Sometimes the narrative may progress through the force of words alone, sometimes through pictures. The image can be used in very different ways, and that is exactly what Finnish artists do.
In many countries graphic novels share some common style or mainstream in which artists aim to place themselves. In recent years an autobiographical approach has been popular all over the worlds in graphic novels as well as many other art forms. This may sometimes have led to a narrowing of content as the perspective concentrates on one person’s experience. Often the visual form has been felt to be less important, and clearly subservient to the text. This, in turn, has sometimes even led to deliberately clumsy graphic expression.
This is not the case in Finland: graphic diversity lies at the heart of Finnish graphic novels. Appreciation of a fluent line and competent drawing is high. The content of the work embraces everything possible between earth and sky.
Finnish graphic novels are indeed surprisingly well-known and respected internationally precisely for the diversity of their content and their visual mastery.
Life on the block
Kaisa Leka is a thirty-something graphic artist who is into yoga and cycling, among other things. With her husband Christoffer they have pedalled, as ‘cyclotourists’, around in Iceland, eastern Europe, from Porvoo to Nice.
Cycling without calf muscles is not plain sailing though – Kaisa lost her legs to (voluntary) amputation in 2002, as her feet were malformed from birth and walking was getting more and more painful. She feels completely at ease with her technologically advanced new legs.
In their graphic novel Cycling around Iceland (2012) Kaisa and Christoffer describe their adventure (1,385 km, in 18 days). Not plain sailing, either: the wind in Iceland goes against you more often than not. In these extracts Christoffer gives a talk about the journey and shows slides to a small mixed audience. In Kaisa’s comics she herself is a mouse and Christoffer a duck. In this good-natured, humorous story they always support each other, come rain or shine.
The father is woken up in the middle of the night because his small daughter suffers from nightmares. He asks her to tell him about them so they won’t frighten her any longer. Giant bunnies wearing high heels chase little Aino, a scary three-eyed gnome pours apple jam onto her, Daddy has turned into a dog….
Graphic artist Ville Tietäväinen began writing down Aino’s dreams when she was three, and together they illustrated them. The result is a graphic storybook entitled Vain pahaa unta (‘Just a bad dream’, WSOY, 2013).
Visible in the background are selected quotations from books on dreams and nightmares.. Aino’s nightmares are certainly produced by a lively imagination, making this an excitingly quirky book.
It was selected as one of the six runners-up of the Finlandia Junior Prize 2013; the winner will be announced on 26 November. (We tend to think, though, that Vain pahaa unta is definitely a more interesting read for daddies than kiddies.)
Comics? The Finnish word for them, sarjakuva, means, literally, ‘serial picture’, and lacks any connotation with the ‘comic’. The genre, which now also encompasses works called graphic novels, has been the subject of celebrations this year in Finland, where it has reached its hundredth birthday. Heikki Jokinen takes a look at this modern art form
Comics are an art form that combines image and word and functions according to its own grammatical rules. It has two mother tongues: word and image. Both of them carry the story in their own way. Images and sequences of images have been used since ancient times to tell stories, and stories, for their part, are the common language of humanity. The long dark nights of the stone age were no doubt enlivened by storytellers.
One of the pioneers of comics was the Swiss artist Rodolphe Töpffer. As early as 1837, he explained how his books, combinations of images and words, should be read: ‘This little booklet is complex by nature. It is made up of a series of my own line drawings, each accompanied by a couple of lines of text. Without text, the meaning of the drawings would remain obscure; without drawings, the text would remain without content. The whole gives birth to a sort of novel – but one which is in fact no more reminiscent of a novel than of any other work.’ More…
A cornucopia of exciting plots and strange characters, the mythic epic Kalevala has inspired innumerable artists since its first publication in the 1830s. A recent interpretation of the story of an extremely tragic hero named Kullervo takes the form of a graphic novel by Gene Kurkijärvi: his urban Kullervo lives in a grim environment – not unlike Helsinki, but carrying with dystopian overtones – where the heroes and/or villains are steely androids and hairy weirdos who shoot drugs and use foul language. This 21st-century Kullervo is a surrealist cyberpunk tragedy – laced with pitch-black comedy.
Extracts from the graphic novel Kullervo by Gene Kurkijärvi (Like, 2009; captions translated by Owen Witesman) More…