FROM SLOVENIA WITH LOVE|
In the former Yugoslavia, Slovenian comics in general were never as good as, say, Serbian or Croatian. Prior to the Mladina artists (see below), there were only two artists worth mentioning. Miki Muster drew his anthropomorphic animals (Disney/Walt Kelly style) in 1950s, and is now something of a legend. He doesn’t draw comics anymore (he’s about 70 years old), but he supervises the reprinting of his work (and prepares himself seriously for the veterans’ world championship in swimming, as he told us recently). The other, Kostja Gatnik (alias Magna Purga) was active in early ‘70s. His work (full of absurd and black humor) was influenced by classic American underground, especially Crumb. A book, Magna Purga, of his collected short stories was published in 1977 and reprinted this year.
There are few opportunities for Slovenian creators to get their comics published. The most prestigious place is the two page section devoted to (usually serialized) comics in Mladina, a weekly magazine. There was a journalist (Ivo Standeker) there who was a big comic fan and he encouraged a couple of young artists to produce longer stories with Slovenian backgrounds. Unfortunately, he was shot reporting from Bosnia. The artists in Mladina (right now there are 2-3 regulars; their approach is generally similar to European albums) are considered to be the absolute top, and it’s very difficult for outsiders to break in that circle. Comics in other periodicals are - except for some children’s stuff - barely worth mentioning.
A couple of books have been self-published in recent years (by the cartoonists from Mladina as well as cartoonists Sitar and Bertoncelj, but they haven’t sold particularly well. Still, they give a spark of hope for the future... The only Slovenian publication devoted entirely to alternative comics is Stripburger. In autumn of 1989, the idea of making a comix-oriented fanzine appeared among Strip Core, a group of people active in the “hard core” music and graffiti scenes. Originally, the ‘zine was to include articles about music, interviews, etc., but as publishing kept being postponed this non-comix material became outdated. So Stripburger #1 (edited by Samo Ljubesic) was finally published in early autumn of 1992 containing visual material only. It was oversized and rather experimental in concept - beside comix, there were also many illustrations and even photographs. The ‘zine was either ignored, severely criticized, or sneered upon.
The next issue (edited by Boris Bacic) was supposed to be a calendar with work selected by competition. However, many of the pieces that arrived were too long to be printed on a single calendar page but too good to be discarded, so Boris decided to make a double issue (issue 2-3) in a regular magazine format (A4). The magazine was born.
Issue 4-5 was the last double issue. The magazine’s concept was fixed with that issue, and it seems like the overall quality of contributions was getting higher with every consecutive issue. Beside the regular magazine-format issues, we also published theme issues in different formats; for instance, there was the “Anti-Nazi” 1996 calendar (issue 8) and the “Human Rights” silk-screened postcard set (issue 13).
In general, we are interested in what are usually called “alternative comix.” However, with a five-person editorial stuff, our visions may vary slightly. We rely on submissions but are trying to overcome this by actively soliciting work from cartoonists we like. Apart from Slovenia and the other countries of the former Yugoslavia, our contributors have been from Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, France, Finland, Switzerland, Hungary, Greece, Canada and the USA.
Gregor Mastnak comes from the Mladina stable. He is famous for producing his comics a very slow pace - after all, he is a painter by profession. Samo Ljubesic’s comic work is heavily marked by the influence of Alan Ford, an Italian comic series which was an absolute cult in the former Yugoslavia. Damijan Sovec, the busiest comic activist in Eastern Slovenia, believes in classical short gag form which he enriches with a generous dose of absurd. As for graphic inspiration, he’s strongly indebted to Sergio Aragones, but he adds his own touch by complementing lively linework with halftones. Matjaz Bertoncelj is “The Self-Made Man of the Slovenian comics scene”. There’s no point in seeking elegance in his works - their quality is sometimes cheerful, sometimes raw energy. He started drawing anthropomorphic sagas under the influence of the above-mentioned Miki Muster; his recent work, though, are of a strong personal, even self-psychotherapeutic nature. He has self-published three book-sized collection of his stories: Barbar Macon, Biblijske in ostale kratke zgodbe, Eppur si muove (Macon the Barbarian, Biblical and Other Short Stories, Eppur si muove). Jure Perpar alias Tulipan alias Jurij Antonijevic, an angry young man, is similarly productive. His work can be found in numerous fanzines, best of which are Pepe Nero and Skirocore, which, curiously enough, both come from a rather secluded geographical region famous for its bears. Among the younger cartoonists, two worth mentioning are Gorazd Princic and Jure Meden. The comics of both are rather poetic; Gorazd (who is also active as a graffiti artist) plays with page layouts and images, while Jure puts the emphasis on the filigree-like crafted verbal part of the comic narration. Jakob Klemencic alias J.K. alias Obscurator is yet another notoriously unproductive Slovenian comic artist. He draws (sometimes collaborating with writers like Chris Butler or MBZ) short stories of various genres - their common denominator is a morbid, bizarre atmosphere. Beside being published in Slovenian and some foreign comic magazines, he enjoys making mini-comics despite the almost non-existent interest for this form of self-publishing in Slovenia.