Unabated Interest

28 February 2019

We talk to Artur Wabik, member of the board of the Kraków Comic Book Association, one of the organisers of the Kraków Comic Book Festival (30-31 March), about the great variety of comic books and about their evolution.

What are comic books? We are talking about an incredibly diverse genre…

Artur Wabik: That’s certainly true. What we broadly describe as “comic books” includes myriad formats of linguistic and visual communication. So on one hand we have the gentle Matołek-the-Billy Goat, whose pictorial exploits are accompanied by rhymes by beloved children’s author Kornel Makuszyński, and on the other superheroes from the Marvel universe who have taken the cinema world by storm. A distinctive feature of comic books is the speech bubbles containing the protagonists’ dialogues and thoughts, but to complicate things further, there are also comics without text at all. And there are children’s comics, educational comics, crime comics, even erotic ones...

Despite popular belief, the origins of comic books date back far further than the 20th century. What were their beginnings in Poland? And what’s the situation like now? Do Polish comic books follow the mainstream of the US or francophone countries?

Picture stories, precursors of present-day comic strips, were first published in Polish-language press as early as the second half of the 19th century. Last year’s exhibition Comics Now!, held at the National Museum in Kraków, presented the 1871 annual of the “Kłosy” magazine which published short comics by Franciszek Kostrzewski. The example shows that in those days the genre was developing more or less in parallel with other European countries. The outbreak of the Second World War and the new communist regime ended the continuity of comic book tradition in Poland.

The festival brings together comic book authors from all over Poland and the globe. Who are we expecting this year?

In previous years guests included artists from Belgium, France, Germany, the UK, Scandinavia and even Mexico. We work with institutions promoting the culture of individual countries in Poland, such as the Wallonie-Bruxelles en Pologne and Institut Français. This year, the Kraków Comic Book Festival is visited by Miguel Diaz Vizoso, author of illustrations for the ever-popular Smurfs. We hope he will reveal all the secrets of the beloved blue creatures.

Can we count on an extensive programme of events?

The festival features eight meetings with authors, eight discussion panels (including theatre adaptations of comics, translation of comics, self-publishing and women’s comic books), ten themed lectures, and autograph sessions, cosplays, animation screenings, a comic marathon and plenty other attractions besides. The high point of the programme will be an exhibition celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Smurfs, feature dozens of large-scale picture boards showing the protagonists.

How do comic books keep up with the latest trends?

The genre of reportage comics has been gaining popularity in Poland in recent years, especially its autobiographical aspects. Every year fans are presented with new publications by Marcin Podolec dedicated to famous individuals or places, frequently depicted as interviews or memoirs. Readers tell us about their growing interest in the format, while authors report on their work on their latest albums. The festival will showcase these latest developments alongside other just as important ones. Last year we held a lively discussion on Poland’s first erotic comic book for women.

 

Interview by Barbara Zając

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