From Iceland — A Picture As A Thousand Words: The Birth Of The Icelandic Comics Society

A Picture As A Thousand Words: The Birth Of The Icelandic Comics Society

Published October 24, 2019

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

While comics are a popular medium in Iceland, and there are certainly comic artists and authors in this country, a real effort is now being initiated for creating future comics cultural venues, in the form of The Icelandic Comics Society (TICS). Founded by Védís Huldudóttir, Einar Valur Másson and Atla Hrafney, TICS “seeks to invigorate the medium of comics and develop new opportunities for the industry in Iceland.”

Atla Hrafney, herself an acclaimed comics author and editor at Hiveworks Comics, tells the Grapevine that she believes comics, as a medium, is hindered by a number of factors.

“Yes, I do believe the medium is stunted in its potential growth, both here and internationally,” she says. “Comics are looked at, from an institutional standpoint, as a genre rather than a medium. When government groups, publishers and grant givers all look at it that way, it’s a bit hard to navigate for newcomers, and most comics authors leave the country in pursuit of greener pastures.

“Imagine for a minute if Iceland refused to make more grants for musicians because music is present in most films and TV, which is already supported in various ways. That’s kind of what’s going on, a miscategorisation of mediums that leads to systemic ignorance, and so our job is to fix that.”

Rolling with it

“There’s a bit more pressure and desire to push it further here, which is exactly what we intend to do.”

Counteracting this ignorance requires a degree of creative thinking. Ultimately, TICS is born from the idea that the medium can receive both greater public attention and accessibility through a number of different angles, all of which help artists, authors, editors and readers.

“We’re hoping to pursue two venues; the first being cultural, and the second industrial,” Atla Hrafney says. “The first will be done through workshops, exhibits, and potentially festival or convention organizing. That’s why we’re so keen on establishing a comics centre Having a physical location that we can guide folks through and curate on our own terms helps invigorate the cultural element. The industrial side is mostly bureaucracy and meetings, helping companies or institutions understand the medium and how to work better with it. That might extend to the educational sector, but work like that is always fluid, and day-by-day, so we’ll roll with it as it comes.”

To this end, TICS is organising a pop-up exhibition at Hafnarhús featuring comics from Icelandic and Finnish creators alike, which runs from October 24th to October 28th.

The importance of comics

There is little doubt about the popularity of comics, and Atla Hrafney underlines why the medium is so important.

“Anyone can make a comic, which means anyone can express themselves in a visual way,” she says. “If a picture says a thousand words, then you can easily fit 5,000 into a comic. There’s a reason why most memes exist in image form, and not just as text. Beyond that, Iceland makes some of the most recognisable artworks in the world, across music and films and books. Sigur Rós and Björk are hugely recognised, and Icelandic works right now are a hot item, so from a business angle, it’s such a great cultural item to export. We’ve already seen folks like Hugleikur Dagsson prove that Icelandic comics can be a force of nature that reach beyond our shores.”

While “all of the members of TICS share common educational backgrounds, particularly in the way we experienced the problems in comics in Iceland,” Atla Hrafney emphasises that “we each use it in our own way, and our aesthetic senses are completely different throughout. It’s about as eclectic as can be expected.”

Ultimately, Atla Hrafney has high hopes for TICS.

“How active the foreign exhibits and pop-ups will be depends entirely on our international collaborators, but of course, a workshop and an exhibit like this is routine in Finland and historical for us,” she tells us. “There’s a bit more pressure and desire to push it further here, which is exactly what we intend to do.”

You can follow all the upcoming events of the pop-up through The Icelandic Comics Society Facebook page, or through the events page of the Reykjavík Art Museum.

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