Not just for kids

  • 2011-11-30
  • By Laurence Boyce

TALLINN - Comics. They’re just for kids aren’t they? Well, that’s what you would think if you visited Tallinn. Apart from the occasional Estonian translated version of “Batman” or the “Green Lantern” and – if you’re lucky – the occasional graphic novel tucked away in the corner of a bookshop. However, Finland has a huge amount of love for comics and graphic novels (or ‘sequential art’ as many call it) and – thanks to Pop-Up Koomikeskus – they are hoping to show their Estonian cousins that there is a lot more to comics than they may have thought.

Certainly, over the past few decades the ideas of what ‘comics’ are have changed radically. Once the domain of superheroes and pulp fiction, comics and graphic novels began to change when audiences who had grown up during the ’60s and ’70s wanted to continue reading them in their adulthood. Whilst some wanted to continue with the heroes that they had relished as a child – resulting in many adult and dark interpretations of old favourites – they were also embraced as a way of telling unique and personal stories. And, whilst comics were primarily associated with America, there were many other countries and artists creating new and exciting stories in comics.

For seven days the pop-up Koomiksikeskus offers workshops, exhibitions, artist showcases and plenty of other comics related events that will attempt to showcase the diversity of Finnish and Nordic comics whilst trying to expose Estonian audiences to discover more artists in their own back yard.

Included in the events will be Mari Ahokoivu, a Finnish artist who will head the Nordicomics workshop for professional comic artists. Her work is both playful with a bittersweet edge, influenced by the likes of film directors David Lynch and Lars Von Trier amongst many others and clearly sees comics as the best way of expressing herself. Those who are not used to the more personal kind of comic will be surprised by the way in which she combines chaos and simple ideas to create affecting works

I spoke to Harri Rompotti, a Finnish journalist and expert in Finnish comics and I asked him just what made Finnish comics so special:
“Finland is a small country. There is little chance to get rich on comics - although a couple of artists have managed even that,” he explained “But generally there is a sort of freedom in poverty. If you won’t make much money anyway, you can be as artistic as you want. No reason to compromise. So a lot of Finnish comics are very original.”
There’ll be a chance to learn much more as there’ll be an exhibition of 100 years of Finnish comics alongside a seminar on comics from the Baltic Sea. Children’s workshops will include Estonian comic artist Joonas Sildre and there’ll be an opportunity to sample much more besides.

And if you’re still not sure, Rompotti adds: “The quality of Finnish comics has been noticed in France where some 50 Finnish albums have been published. France is the biggest comics market in Europe. So you could say that if you manage to sell sand to Sahara, your sand is probably quite good quality.”
The Pop-up Comics Center, organized together with the Finnish Institute of Estonia, opens its doors in the Rotermanni Quarter, Tallinn between Dec. 4-10.

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