Theater of Cruelty

Sparkling everyday humor

When you want to know what everyday life in Norway was like at the turn of the millennium, you will go to the comics for answers.


Be honest now: How many Norwegian novelists manage to portray everyday life so that readers recognize themselves and keep coming back for more? How many Norwegian contemporary novels influence their readers to such an extent that they see the protagonist as a close friend and role model? And how many fictional writers reach hundreds of thousands of readers on a daily basis? Sorry, Anne B. Ragde, Erlend Loe, Unni Lindell, Lars Saabye Christensen and Jo Nesbø, but you are about to be thanked by a bunch of cartoonists. When our descendants want to know more about what everyday life in Norway was like in 2005, they should go to newspaper series that pondus og Nemi.

Character sitcom

On the one hand, these are series that are so popular that only make them a cultural force you have to count on. Only the fifth pondusThe book is printed in a circulation of 70 copies, although readers have already read the same series in the newspaper and the monthly booklet already. Due to its popularity, these series create a common frame of reference for those who read it. Teenagers can recognize Nemi, young adults are struggling to spend their youth time with Rocky, core families can mirror themselves in Pondus, while we recognize the neighbors and random passers-by in the series of Karine Haaland and Christopher Nielsen. And just because these series do not aim to be so much more than a daily humorous commentary on Norwegian daily life, they say more about life in Norway than most far more artistically ambitious novels on the market.

These comic books have a role that is in many ways comparable to the TV stations' sitcom series in the United States. The comics are our variants of Seinfeld, Friends for life og The King of Queens. Since the Norwegian TV channels have not been able to create a comic series that we can identify with in the same way, we go to the newspapers to make new friends, regular smiles and characters we can mirror our own lives in. But in contrast to the more streamlined American television series, the series creators can allow themselves far freer frames, especially in relation to sex, intoxication and bondage. Can you imagine Jerry Seinfeld getting a sexually transmitted disease, Chandler and Monica spewing up their guts after a hefty round of booze or Frasier starting heroin? Of course not, but this happens in our comics.

Icon and role model

"Tired of the world? Have you forgotten that it is you who shapes it? Everything is star dust and lies, Nemi! ” This is how it sounds when Nemi gets advice from Alice Cooper, and in the same way there are very many girls (and boys) who have picked up advice and life wisdom from Nemi in recent years. Lise Myhre has created a modern Norwegian cultural icon, and for dedicated fans is Star dust and lies, a collection of all Nemi material from autumn 2000 to autumn 2001, the safest investment of the autumn. This was the year when the comic book series consolidated its popularity, Myhre shaped his unique voice and Nemi Montoya himself found his personality. The Martin Kellermans Rocky tells us what it is like to be a young, horny and desperate man, Nemi teaches us a lot about how girls experience single life, conformity requirements, parties and everyday life. Myhre's ability and willingness to vary themes, techniques and messages provides both a refreshing predictability and spontaneity, but also a greater danger for some slack and unpretentious stripes. This is a nice collection of series, but it's your own relationship with Nemi that decides if this is a real one god book.

In contrast to Lise Myhre, Karine Haaland does not lean on a strong review figure, but throws out her sour gaze on Norwegian society with the help of a number of different figures. And where Myhre uses Nemi to consolidate his own view of the world, Haaland breaks down our cemented worldviews. She uses humor to show us how complicated and complex society is, and thus also strikes a powerful blow for integration. "She is the lady who democratically and inclusively incites the minorities in society," as it is called in the preface.

Karine Haaland is reminiscent of Olav Hansson, whom Arne Scheie consistently called "the style jumper from Røa". It may not always go as far down the hill, but they accomplish anyway to 20 in style. Haaland is not always furiously funny, and several punchlines are more than predictable. She also often resorts to emergency solutions such as letting the victim physically attack the offender to reach the finish line. But even a slightly relaxed Haaland joke appears to be a pure pleasure, because they are executed so elegantly. The line is simple, expressive and often downright beautiful, and with colors throughout, this book becomes a feast for the eyes. A very fun party.

Constant changes

One stripe in this fifth pondusThe book gives a good explanation of Frode Øverli's success. Jokke relaxes at home in bed. The Leeds and Kiss posters hang securely on the wall, while he is otherwise surrounded by empty beer cans, pizza boxes and the latest issue of Cats. Still, Jokke is not happy. He's bored. "My life screams for change," he thinks and steps to the work: He turns in bed. A simple move, but it gives him at least a new perspective on life.

So is Frode Øverli. He is never satisfied with the state of affairs, but lets his universe go through one change after another. Shortly after Jokke turns in bed, he also decides to move away from home. This is a radical choice in a conservative comic book world. Can you imagine Bill Watterson letting Tommy move away from home? That Billy dims from the military? That Baltus is growing up? Stripe series are the safe and fixed point of reference in the lives of newspaper readers, and change is rarely encouraged.

Øverli is a restless soul in relationships, but at the beginning of this strip collection, his jokes suffer from a certain stagnation. The series is characterized by recycled ideas about checking and football, but just as you think your imagination has taken over, Øverli is hit again by this restlessness. "Pondus" has simply developed into an all-Norwegian variant of The Simpsons. Both give the same caricatured inverted image of the Norwegian and American people's souls, respectively, only replacing Lisa's feminine snuff sense and social consciousness with Jokke's hedonistic and overmasculine enjoyment of life.

Swedish everyday hero

If pondus er The Simpsons, is Martin Kellermans Rocky a Swede Friends for life with balls, a Seinfeld with more anxiety and restlessness. The series stands out in comparison with most things, but first and foremost, the series stands on its own two feet. When the first 350 strips are now collected between two binders in Norwegian, it says Rocky: The Big Payback presented as a Scandinavian generational novel. Kellerman's combination of raw humor and everyday drama can be read over and over again, just like the best series of American role models such as Peter Bagge, Joe Matt and Robert Crumb. This is humor you find again and again, referring to guests and scaring the neighbors with.

You can watch as many sitcoms and read as many weekly articles, self-help books and Nick Hornby copies as you can. But if you want to know what it was like to be a young, white and helpless man in Scandinavia in the 1990s, it is Rocky you have to resort to. In 1998, Kellerman lost his girlfriend, job and apartment, but took the bull by the horns when he let his everyday life in Stockholm form the framework for this autobiographical comic book series. By connecting the more sophisticated and raucous legacy of Robert Crumb and Charlie Christensen Arne And with the predictable newspaper stripe format, Kellerman created something with a broader and more popular appeal than the former and something more cheeky and more relevant than the safe newspaper series. Much like pondus that is, only with a single and desperate hip-hop in his 20s in the lead role.

Dark and cruel

Both Myhre, Øverli, Kellerman and Haaland occasionally approach the darker sides of society, but mostly stay along the illuminated main streets. Then it's good we have Christopher Nielsen, and with the book Unlucky he dives deeper into Oslo's dark alleys than ever before. Unlucky Nielsen is at his darkest, funniest and most cruel.

"I think you've just had so much luck out there in this life," says Geir, one of Christopher Nielsen's two tired types, in the title story in Nielsen's first collection of new comics since 2001. And in this story, both Odd and Geir experience that their flak quota in life is about to be used up.

Odd and Geir first appeared in Gateavisa in 1982, then as a fairly standard hash humor inspired by American The Freak Brothers.

Since then, Nielsen has expanded the universe in the form of both comics, TV series and the upcoming animated feature film Release Jimmy, with Odd and Geir in important roles. We follow the duo through growing up in Oslo's slums and on to the criminal drug addict's life in central Oslo, from the 1970s until today.

Nielsen has delved deep into drug abuse, crime and humiliation in the past, however Unlucky is more brutal, darker and ruthless than anything he has put down on paper before. Chronologically, the story unfolds after Release Jimmyfilm: Odd is heavy on the drive, while Geir is imprisoned for negligent homicide. In other words, both body and spirit are in free decay, and the whole thing is frighteningly realistically portrayed.

Although Nielsen digs deep into human misfortune, he manages to maintain his distinctive harsh humor, human warmth and loving care for his characters. Both we readers and the series creator themselves have become fond of Odd and Geir, so it is not easy for any of us to follow them through this particular series.

With his stories about Odd and Geir, Nielsen has portrayed the dope generation from the slums in series that smell of glue, beer, speed and vomit. Overall, the books make up Unlucky og Homo norvegicus, TV series Two tired types and the forthcoming feature film a unique depiction of childhood within a time and population group that has been sadly neglected in Norwegian fiction. This saga about two tired types from Oslo's slums is a work that means that Christopher Nielsen should be mentioned in the same breath as our very best authors. Or, delete the last one. Nielsen is better than most, regardless of the medium we are talking about.

Christopher Nielsen


At Comprendo Press 2005

Karine Haaland

"Balls of steel, heart of gold"

Egmont Serieforlaget 2005

Lise Myhre

«Nemi: Star Dust and Lies»

Egmont Serieforlaget 2005

Martin Kellerman

Rocky: The Big Payback

Schibsted Publishers 2005

Frode Øverli

«Pondus: Five straight»

Schibsted Publishers 2005

You may also like