Thursday, September 12, 2013

helsinki comics festival

What a fantastic festival! I've been wanting to go to Finland forever and am a big fan of the unique and gorgeous comics being made in Finland right now, so it was an absolute pleasure to be a guest of the Helsinki Comics Festival this year. Alexander and I spent the week in Helsinki and had a blast.

 We started off the trip with the official festival-hosted Finnish sauna experience! I thought it'd be awkward to be naked and sweating when meeting the other international cartoonists and publishers for the first time, but it is now my new favorite way to meet people. 

The festival begins!
 The fest took place in downtown Helsinki, in Lasipalatsi Square. There were satellite gallery shows and events connected to the festival that could be found around the whole downtown area.

I had some pieces up in these black poster stands sprinkled around the square.

 This intimate pop-up theater was right next to the festival tents, and we showed an Eyeworks animation program twice per day for those who dared venture into The Black Box.

 
Doing a panel with Bill Kartalopoulos, who is such a smart interviewer and asked great questions. Thanks Bill!

We got this eye-poppin' batch of comics at the festival, looking forward to sinking my teeth into these beauties.

One special gem of note is this amazing Priit Pärn book, Tagurpidi, first published in 1980, that we got thanks to Joonas and Elina Sildre! I will learn Estonian if for no other reason than to read this book.


 Holy cow, just look at what Michelangelo Setola drew in my copy of his book Dormire Nel Fango, out from Canicola... Without a doubt this is one of the most lovely dedication drawings I have ever had in a book.

 I also drooled over Tommi Musturi's new large and colorful new book called Beating, which collects his drawing, painting, and illustration work. It's a beaut! This spread is the festival program illustration he made for the Eyeworks Festival in 2011. I had to restrain myself from buying everything at the Huuda Huuda table.

In two different bars in the area, I spotted this framed photo of the actor Matti Pellonpä, who is in a bunch of films by Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki. His film Shadows in Paradise is one of my very favorites, so you can imagine my glee at finding out that the Kaurismaki brothers were the bar owners! It's like my fantasy of Helsinki was right on the money.

There were multiple festival events planned for every evening of the festival weekend, all fun and well-organized. We hung out quite a bit throughout the weekend with the extremely talented batch of Canadian cartoonists Julie Delporte, Joe Ollmann, Philippe Girard, Michael DeForge, Howard Chackowicz, John Martz, and Conundrum Press publisher Andy Brown. What a wonderful group of people! Here everyone is drawing wildly on a table cloth at the Kafe Moskova bar.


 We were told by a very drunk and passionate-aggressive Finn (who is documented in this hilarious Joe Ollmann drawing) that this painting in the bar was of either a very beloved body guard or a hitman, it was unclear.

We had some time to explore around town and peek into shop windows, too.



MOOMIN EVERYWHERE, DREAM COME TRUE

I got a chance to take a ferry to Suomenlinna Island, a sea fortress which began being built in the mid 1700's. It sits across a group of six small islands and visitors can wander the cobblestone streets and explore and crawl around on everything.



The last night of the trip, a group of us ended up at a country western themed bar with some live music, and it was a perfect note on which to end the festival!

The next day Alexander and I flew from Helsinki to Stockholm, but due to foggy weather our connecting flight home to Chicago was delayed a full day. So it turned out that we had an extra night of our trip to wander around Stockholm. We spent the evening bumbling around the medieval area of Gamla Stan.

 (Sorry, Alexander...)

It was a wonderful trip and festival experience. Thanks so much to organizers Kalle, Maura, Otto, fest volunteers, and everybody who made it possible for me to be there! I met so many great folks and was exposed to so many good new comics and cartoonists. Now I am home and still riding the wave of inspiration from the trip. Kiitos to all!

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