A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE TO THE COPENHAGEN COMICS SCENE

Posted by Winston Winsloo on

Cartoons — Your guide to the comic book shops, the events and the publishers (and their expectations for aspiring artists) of Copenhagen.

Have you been interested in comics for a while but never got around to acquainting yourself with them? Or are you completely new to what some call the 9th art form? Maybe you are a writer and/or an artist, struggling to make your way into the comics scene, while also studying comparative literature at UCPH? Or are you simply interested in getting to know a bit more about the world of comics as it is in Copenhagen?

If the answer is yes to any of these, this might be an article for you—it is an incomplete article however, one that only covers the comic book stores, the comics-events and some of the main publishers of the city. So if you are interested in the places where you can access multitudes of comics, see ‘Comic Book Stores.’ If you are in the mood for some exciting events (such as this weekend’s Copenhagen Comics), scroll down to ‘The Events.’ Finally, if you are low on time but eager to read about the publishers of the town and their respective requirements for aspiring artists, check out ‘The Publishers.’

 

COMIC BOOK STORES

Faraos Cigarer

There are two comic book stores in Copenhagen: the larger one, Faraos Cigarer, lies on the corner of Skindergade and Klosterstræde. It has two sections and the country’s largest stock of comic books — hundreds of thousands.

The English department is filled with both hardcover and paperback collections of series. For those new to comics-terms, most longer stories are first released as a series of ‘single-issues’ (about 25 pages long in a soft magazine format)—these are later collected into several thicker editions published with a soft cover (‘trade-paperbacks’) or a hard cover (sometimes, a series is also released as one massive book, comprising the entire tale — called an ‘omnibus’).

This is also where you will find comics and graphic novels that were conceived and born in Copenhagen.

In the English department, you can discover series such as Fight Club 2, Hellboy, Sandman, and much, much more — including, of course, countless superhero titles. There is also a section dedicated entirely to manga (Japanese comics) translated into English. You can find fantasy, horror and science fiction novels by Stephen King, William Gibson, Guillermo Del Toro and J.R.R. Tolkien, to name a few, as well as an abundance of Star Wars books. There are a number of toys down here, too, and other types of merchandise, such as t-shirts, keychains, and a poké-ball.

The Danish department is a realm of both used and new comic books: there are, for instance, walls of older Danish-language single-issues packed in protective plastic—series like Donald Duck and Tintin. This is also where you will find comics and graphic novels that were conceived and born in Copenhagen. A good example is Halfdan Pisket’s trilogy about his father (an Armenian refugee): Desertør, Kakerlakand Dansker.  Or, there’s the debut graphic novel of Karoline Stjernfelt (who actually worked in Faraos at one point), entitled I morgen bliver bedre — the first part of a 500-page story about Johann Friedrich Struensee. However, you may also come upon superhero titles as well as other types of foreign works translated into Danish — including some manga.

The Oldest — Fantask

There is another comic book store in Copenhagen. It is but 500 metres away from Faraos Cigarer at Sankt Peders Stræde 18 and it is smaller in size and less easy to spot. Nonetheless, however unbelievable it may sound, this is the world’s oldest existing comic book store. “You can never say that,” Marvel Morten exclaims. “There is always someone who says ‘but what about me, I was here before!’ Let’s just say it’s one of the oldest,” he tells me and adds “it’s probably the oldest.”

Yes, a man named Marvel Morten works here. The name derives from the period of his life during which he was an editor and translator of Danish publications of Marvel comics. On most days of the week, you will probably find Marvel Morten behind the counter, ready to answer questions about everything from comic books to science fiction.

Indeed, Fantask has a huge collection of science fiction novels as well — much larger than that of Faraos. And yes, Fantask is full of paperback and hardcover comic books too. However, unlike Faraos Cigarer, they also have a wall stacked with some of the latest single-issue releases from America. These are the most recent ‘episodes’ of each series, and, according to Marvel Morten, Fantask is only one week behind the US shops (though it does occur, occasionally, that they fall a bit further behind with some titles). So if, for instance, you would like to read Peter Parker’s latest adventures, you can do this with a merely one week long delay after its first-ever release.

There is, of course, another way of following an ongoing series through the shop: like in Faraos, you can subscribe to as many different titles as you’d like. When it comes to such personal subscriptions, there are no limits (in either store): if an ongoing series exists (in the US), you can subscribe to it. It’s like watching all your favourite shows on Netflix without having to switch over to HBO.

LIBRARIES AND COMICS

You might be a student with a low income and you might want to read comic books without having to buy them. Also, you might want to test a series before spending 160 DKK on it. This is, of course, possible: through the city’s libraries.

I have interviewed Cecilie Juel, a librarian in Vanløse, and, at the time of our talk, there were as many as 7,874 comic books in all of Copenhagen’s book-lending facilities. Many of them are in English, though there are some in French, German and Arabic.

This is a small number in comparison to those held by Faraos and Fantask, but it is important to remember that all libraries of Denmark are connected and no books are owned by one specific library. It is one large “stream of books,” Cecilie tells me. So, if any of the country’s libraries has a given comic book in house, a library in Copenhagen can place a request for it to be sent over to them (all the university libraries are also connected to this infrastructure).

At the time of our talk, there were as many as 7874 comic books in all of Copenhagen’s book-lending facilities

To search Denmark’s bloodstream of books just visit library.dk. One can unearth comics in some of the Uni libraries as well: for instance, if I type “Building Stories” (the title of an experimental comic book by Chris Ware) into the REX search-system I find that it is in stock right now in the South Campus (or KUA) Library of Humanities and Law.

However, for those who would prefer to venture on the latest journeys, to experience the freshest of what the world of comic books has to offer, libraries are not the most ideal resource. It usually takes some time for titles to arrive, and some never make it—not to mention the 25 page single-issues that libraries don’t have at all.

 

THE EVENTS

With most of the year still ahead, let us now move on to look at some of the comics-related events Copenhagen has to offer. There is a big one with international guests and interviews, one for the Japan-enthusiasts and there is also an event for the seeker of the underground—where even you can buy a stand and sell your homemade, unabridged works of art.

Copenhagen Comics

This year, Copenhagen Comics opens for the 7th time in the capital with an abundance of both international and Danish guests. Talks, signings, workshops and comics. And more. Don’t miss it!

The 2017-edition of the biggest comic book event in Copenhagen is held on the 25th and 26th of February. It will host creators such as Dave McKean, Gina Wynbrandt and Grzegorz Rosinski alongside 10 other international guests booked for the occasion. There will, naturally, also be Danish creators present and of them many: 81 Danish writers and artists will attend the 7th round of the festival. Among the program are signings, talks (about topics ranging from superhero films and the Swedish comics-revolution to the publishing industry and the ways to approach publishers as an artist), workshops (where you can practice and maybe improve your own writing and/or drawing skills), competitions, cosplay and many, many comic books of course.

This event takes place in Øksnehallen, Halmtorvet 11, 1700 København V. One grown-up ticket costs 100 DKK for one day and 150 for the whole weekend. For more, see copenhagencomics.dk

J-Popcon

Next up is J-Popcon, a festival for those interested in Japanese comics (manga), animation (anime) and/or the pop-culture of the land of the rising sun. It offers a manga lounge, a dealer room (full of Japanese merchandise), a game room (for video- and tabletop-gaming), a community corner (attended by clubs and organisations of Japanese culture from all over Denmark), a cinema (dedicated to non-stop anime screening) and an artists’ alley (where artists, even completely unknown ones, can sell their own Japanese-style creations)—to this, applications are open (for everyone) at the time of this article’s publication. There will be opportunities for cosplay, dancing, epic rap battles and even learning about the Japanese language in “Japanese for beginners.”

J-Popcon takes place in DGI-byen (Tietgensgade 65, 1704 København V) the 21.-23. April. This is a slightly more expensive event, with a one-day ticket costing 140 DKK for Friday and Sunday, 240 for Saturday, and a ticket for all three days being 390 DKK as long as you purchase online (if you buy at the door, during the days of the event, add 10 to each price). Check out j-popcon.dk.

Zine Fest

Later in the year, those interested will have an excellent opportunity to enter the underground of the Copenhagen comic book scene—at the Zine Fest. This annual gathering of underground artists from all over the world is not only a chance to taste some of the most raw and unedited comics available, but it is also a chance for young (middle aged, or old) and unknown artists to get to know other comic book creators, as well as to put their own works out there in front of an audience. To display here, the quality of one’s comics does not matter much—many of the artists sell self-printed, hand-made, unprofessionally produced comic books. Most of the works exist in only a few copies, sometimes maybe just one.

This environment creates a greatly encouraging atmosphere of do-it-yourself freedom — if you enter this festival as an interested student of e.g. physics, you might come out determined to create something yourself. Even the diversity of the works can be encouraging: from traditionally built comic books to self-made magazines about architecture and graphic journals, there is much to sample.

Upon venturing out to last year’s Zine Fest, I even saw some old-fashioned cassette-tapes lying on one of the stands—were they selling some type of audio-story or some unreleased music maybe? I even met Pernille Arvedsen, editor for big time comics-publisher Cobolt, scouting the place for interesting new comics. Zine Fest, an annual event, was held during the 22.-23. October last year and welcomes both those interested in buying and those interested in selling — there is no entrance fee, but remember to bring cash (or mobile pay). If you would like to display your own works, make sure to reserve a stand in time — this, too, is free of charge. For more information, as well as for a manifesto on the power of the do-it-yourself zine format, check out their Facebook page: https://da-dk.facebook.com/cphzinefest/

Bogforum

Finally, around the end of the year, there is a three-day book-event with a significant comic book section: Bogforum. It is an event packed with programs and a massive line-up of writers (and artists, in the case of comics): in 2016, Bogforum Comics hosted Donald Duck artist Don Rosa, and had panels on e.g. the process of collaboration between the artist and the writer, erotic comic books and satire-drawing. It even had a subsection where artists drew live, in front of the audience. Bogforum with its comic-book-organ was held 11.-13. November last year in Bella Center, CPH. For students, entrance cost 55 DKK on the first day, and 140 on the rest—the price of a normal adult ticket. For more info: bogforum.dk

THE PUBLISHERS

This part of the article will introduce the main players in the comic book publishing business of Copenhagen, with focus on their expectations towards and level of interest in up-and-coming artists with a desire for getting published and entering the industry.

Fahrenheit

Paw Mathiasen, originally a cartographer, started out by making photocopied (underground-style) fanzines in the 80s, riding his bike from shop to shop in an attempt to sell two or three copies at a time. In 2002, Paw’s comic book endeavours grew more ambitious and he created one of today’s main players of the CPH comics-publishing scene: Fahrenheit. It has a diverse history of published comics from Europe, Japan and the US—this list also includes original Danish works (some produced in Copenhagen), such as the earlier mentioned trilogy of Halfdan Pisket —a three-piece work about being a stranger in Denmark.

Paw does indeed accept submissions from anybody and he gives feedback on your work. Fahrenheit is, in fact, the company that publishes the most Danish artists, Paw tells me, and adds that Halfdan Pisket entered his life by simply showing up and knocking on the door of Fahrenheit’s half-basement headquarters. “The next e-mail might be the next Pisket.”

Paw has the following recommendation for aspiring comic book creators who would like to approach him: send a synopsis of your story, tell him the estimated total length, indicate the style, include sketches and about 4-6 done pages of the comic. Writers-only should find an artist before applying for consideration, and artists should stick to sending a specific story rather than just artwork.

Finally, for people interested in editing and/or publishing comic books, he recommends applying for an internship (he does take interns) and/or for work in a (comic) book store — “it’s a good way to get a feel of the market.”

For a list of the diverse selection of comics offered by Fahrenheit, and Paw’s contact information (as well as the address for those who would like to knock on his door) visit forlaget-fahrenheit.dk.

Carlsen

This publishing house had published comics in Denmark for almost 50 years—from 1983, most of them under the name of its comics-department Carlsen Comics. Much of this activity stopped after the company was sold to Egmont Publishing in 2007, but editorial assistant Pia Christiansen tells me they are, nonetheless, still open for submissions of comic book ideas. This can be done through their website, carlsen.dk, under “Forfattere” then “Bliv forfatter,” the channel through which aspiring writers normally submit their manuscripts to Carlsen.

A synopsis of the story is required along with (at least) five pages of the manuscript (which is similar to a screenplay of a film) and 2 or 3 finished pages of the comic itself. However, if you have a full length manuscript or more than 2 or 3 pages of the comic, you can send it all in — they don’t mind. Artists who don’t write should pair up with a writer for a specific project instead of simply sending in a portfolio. Writers with an idea, but without an artist, can apply with only the synopsis and the manuscript.

Finally, for non-Danish writers: English manuscripts will most likely not be accepted, though it is not a complete impossibility.

Cobolt

Cobolt took its first steps in 2008, when it bought most of the comics-rights from Carlsen, and is now one of the main Danish publishing houses dealing with comics. They, too, publish many Danish artists: for instance, last year’s Zenobia — a graphic novel about the journey of a child refugee by writer Morten Dürr and artist Lars Horneman. Cobolt also gave the Danish comics-scene the previously mentioned (and much praised) I morgen bliver bedre (Tomorrow will be better) by young creator Karoline Stjernfelt, and published such works as Kundskabens Frugt(“a historical analysis of the construction of the female genitals” — a comic) and Ranx (an Italian series from the 1980s about a robot and his underaged girlfriend — a precursor to the cyberpunk genre).

One of the editors responsible for these titles is Pernille Arvedsen, a woman with a masters from UCPH in ‘religionsvidenskab’ (comparative religion), who shares her advice for young editor-aspirants: “do internship and be a good reader, a qualified reader — read, read, read.” She, too, is open for submissions from anybody, including completely unknown writers and artists — the requirements are: a short summary of the story you’d like to get published, and some fully completed pages of the comic. Pernille prefers a scheduled meeting (as opposed to a surprise knock on the door), plus some time alone with the work before she gives a final response. Her words of encouragement might relieve the up-and-coming: “I read everything.” For a long list of published works, their address and phone-number, see Cobolt’s website: cobolt.dk.

Forlæns

Then there is Forlæns: the child of Torben Hansen. Torben is the creator of a (now non-existent) magazine called Free Comics, which ran for 6 years and 53 issues, rising from 3,000 to 20,000 copies at its peak of popularity — all of this on money made by selling ads, since Free Comics was actually for free. It was after such an impressive endeavour that Torben decided to ‘grow up’ as a publisher and create Forlæns.

Today, Forlæns publishes comics and children’s books, making him one of the must-contact editors if you are an artist looking for a way in to the Danish comic book industry. When I ask him about his preferences concerning submissions of works, he is brief and seemingly without many rules: he can be contacted through e-mail; he can be approached both by writers who only write and artists who only draw, and by ‘auteurs’ who do both; and upon asking Torben about requirements in terms of the material, he simply responds “whatever people have.” For Forlæns’ publications and contact information, see forlaens.dk.

There are, of course, other publishers as well. The above were chosen due to the fact that they are all situated in Copenhagen and are open for submissions from unknown artists. For those interested, however, here are a few more publishers to check out for a wide variety of comic books: Aben Maler (abenmaler.dk), Zoom (forlagetzoom.dk), Donovan Comics (tegneserier.biz) and Faraos (forlagetfaraos.dk).

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