Komiksfest, dedicated to taking comics and the graphic novel to broader audiences, is in its 10th year. The festival was kicked off this week in Prague.
“Since it was founded, Komiksfest the idea was to show the graphic novels and comics can focus on all kinds of different subjects and can address a broad audience and not just niche groups. It is a medium which can carry a universal message and communicate or reach a broader public.”
Do you think it was the case before that maybe a broader part of the public thought that comics were just for kids?
“I think that to a degree that remains a problem even today: some people still perceive comics as something only for children, instead of a creative medium which can be used and combined in all kinds of ways and can make difficult topics easier to address or understand. One example would be the series called “Češi” (Czechs) which deals with recent history. It makes it more accessible.”
Some people would argue that the medium has actually come into its own, that we are now in a kind of a golden age… would you agree with that assessment?
“Well, we have certainly seen a lot of significant changes. One of them is that with the latest generation of new authors/illustrators publishes only online.”
“Well, we are certainly seeing a lot of significant changes. One of them is that with the latest generation of new authors/illustrators publishes only online. That is a big difference. It can be remarkably difficult to get published and going online, new authors circumvent that. Also, there is a much greater awareness now of all kinds of different work going on across the world, so some Czech comics, for example, are influenced by manga and so on.”
One of the discussions at what was billed as the prologue to Komiksfest featured on exactly that, Generation 2.0. Are there any other differences?
“One is that many working online in comics are now young women, we are exhibiting 12 female artists in the show. And, as I said, the new generation mixes many different influences from both the east and west.”
No festival is complete without notable guests: who are some of the main headliners this year?
“One of the main guests is Joakin Pirinen, a key figure of Swedish alternative comics. He brought to Prague a retrospective of his work. In his work we can see a lot of black humour and a very cruel inner world. Speaking of the Nordic art comics scene, another guest is Lene Ask from Norway. She is exhibiting work from Dear Richard which is a book based on letters covering the 10-year separation of a father and his son which is very melancholic and sometimes painful.
“Another guest is Allesandro Sanno from Italy and we will be showing his watercolours and also focussing on his new book “The River” which follows four seasons on the River Po. That book is being published in Czech by Labyrint.”
Berliac is also a noted guest…
“That’s right. He’s an Argentinian artist based now in berlin who actually provided the look form this year’s festival.”
The festival is underway: what has been the reaction so far?
“Publishing a graphic novel is very demanding and very time consuming and can take [years to completion]. It isn’t easy; but it is definitely worth it.”
“So far, so good! The reactions have been good and we have all kinds of events coming up. We have already opened four shows and there is a big event at Meetfactory in Prague on Friday. So we urge anyone interested to look up all the details online at our website.”
You mentioned the Labyrint publishing house a moment ago… I suppose there is always a certain amount of risk in publishing a graphic novel… but is this something that has changed, that it is less risky today as the audience has grown?
“I think I am too young to say, that would be a question for the publisher, but what I can say, in my opinion, is that people are generally more open-minded and tastes have changed. Publishing a graphic novel is very demanding and very time consuming. One example would be a recent publication by Toy Box, Moje kniha Vinnetou, it took three or more years to completion. So it isn’t easy; but it is definitely worth it.”
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