They say that war is hell… Which probably is true, but – unfortunately - you begin to realize this only when it starts to affect you. Almost all European societies were severely shaken by the wars of the past 100 years or so. This means that our "frame of mind" was shaped by these experiences in some way, and even more so if you happen to live in the Balkans, as I do.  It’s the year 2003 when I write this, and it is still questionalble whether the series of wars and conflicts in Balkans have really ended.

Like most of the people around me in Serbia, I was affected by the wars of the '90s, and I know from my own personal experience what it is like to be dodging conscription, meeting refugees who have left their homes forever, living with hyperinflation and sanctions, having thugs as national leaders, living in a town that was bombed by NATO for 78 days… The list is extensive. And I made comics about these experiences, too.

But still, I can say that many other people went through things that are more horrible then what I just briefly listed here. When you start to think about the scope of ugly things that can happen to you under such conditions, the possibilities are endless.

I can say, for example, that despite everything I never felt the hatred that can quite easily spread in your heart during wartime. You know what I am talking about – the deep, deep feeling of hate for the people who are on the "other side" or those in the military who are shooting at you-- or whatever… Damn it, I just never felt that way, no matter who or what could be defined as my "enemy" in a given situation.  Sue me!

Actually… There was just one incident I remember in which I had a profound realization of the very deep and irrational feeling of hatred that could explode in your head under certain circumstances.

That particular incident happened in 1998, BEFORE the escalation of the war in Kosovo, when everything was seemingly quiet and uneventful. It was also during the time when it became clear that Milosevic’s rule was in decline, but nobody was sure how or when it was going to crash.  Anyway, I was riding my bike in Pancevo, just like many times before. At some point I overtook a cyclist ahead of me, and there was nothing particular about it, until I heard him swearing at me. I didn’t understand why he felt that my riding style was threatening his position.  Was he distracted in any way or was his cycling disturbed or something?  But, obviously very angry at me, he cycled faster just to come closer in order to say how much he despised me. In a moment, a deep and unexpected hatred started to rise in me. He was an older man, in ordinary clothes, a total stranger. I was able to guess that, just like anyone living in this country he must have had to struggle… But suddenly! I forgot about compassion and everything, and I started to swear at that man and to hate him.  I don’t even know why… It lasted for a minute or so, and then we went our separate ways, but I was sure that this intense and unexplainable hatred was THAT sort of a feeling that is usually felt in wars and which produces the mass hysteria at the end of the process in which people are cutting each others' throats…

Anyway, what you have in your hands is a collection of comic stories inspired by war. The stories were created by artists from various countries, but they are really talking about a universal topic. Even if "universal" means the disquieting, disturbing feeling that is shared by all of us when we talk about war.

By Saša Rakezić alias Aleksandar Zograf 

I was born in 1963, and I started to publish my comics in various Serbian magazines in 1986. From the beginning of the 90’s, most of my works have been published abroad, in magazines like Weirdo, The Comics Journal, Zero Zero, Rare Bit Fiends, The Stranger, New City, Cow (U.S.), Lapin (France), Mano, Il Manifesto, Linus, Kerosene (Italy), Babel (Greece), Galago (Sweden), Stripburger (Slovenia), Das Magazin, Zur Zeit (Switzerland), Fidus (Norway), Zone 5300 (Holland) etc. SOLO COMIC BOOKS: Life Under Sanctions, Psychonaut (1 – 3), Flock of Dreamers (U.S.), Dream Watcher (UK), Diario, Psiconauta, Saluti dalla Serbia (Italy), Psychonaut (Germany), Okean Iznenadjenja (Serbia), Como fui bombardeado por el mundo libre, Fin de siglo, Vida en los Balcanes? (Spain), Bons Baisers de Serbie (France). During the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia, I wrote E-Mail messages that were posted on the internet in many countries, and collected in a book form, in UK ( Bulletins from Serbia), Italy (Lettere dalla Serbia) and France ( E-Mails de Pancevo). California-based web site was regularly (from 1999 to 2001) posting my weekly strip titled Regards from Serbia (later re-titled into Aleksandar Zograf’s Diary). I participated in comics conventions, festivals and conferences, including  Expocomics '94. '95. (Bari, Italy), Caption '97 (Oxford, UK), Nuvole a Cremona (Cremona, Italy), Break 21 (Ljubljana, Slovenia), Lucca Comics '98 (Lucca, Italy), Athens’ Comics Festival '99 (Athens, Greece), Bookfest ‘99 Seattle (Seattle, US), Max Fish’s Annual Cartoon Exhibition ‘99( New York, US ), BIG Torino 2000, Torino Comics (Turin, Italy), Tarcentofumetto (Tarcento, Italy), Happening Underground (Milan, Italy), Festa Dell’Unita (Bologna, Italy), Erlangen Comics Festival (Erlangen, Germany), Illustrations et BD independentes (Livry Gargan, France), Por 24 mila baci - Fumetti dall’ altra Europa (Ravenna, Italy), etc. I participated in comics workshops in Sarajevo (Bosnia), Vrsac, Pancevo and   Belgrade (Serbia)... Solo exhibitions: Pancevo (Galerija Nova), Belgrade, Serbia (Underground, Remont), Budapest, Hungary (Black Black Gallery ), Seattle (Roq la Rue), Paris (Regard Moderne), San Francisco (Cartoon Art Museum), Poitiers, France (Fanzinotheque).