Hooray, what a great month, two amazing events in two weeks! Comic Con last week and now Budapest!
The International Comicbook Festival of Budapest is organized yearly by the Hungarian Comicbook Society. This year the date was May the 14th and the location the Dürer Garden near the Városliget district. Atmospheric scenery, nice little summer garden with a small stage, large market hall (concert hall), creation wall on which anyone can exhibit his own work, comic book and sticker drawing, superhero face painting, kid’s corner, Rejtő-Korcsmáros escape simulation, Comic Jam (comic book drawing into a predetermined pattern either alone, alternatively or by relay method), public meetings, lottery, announcement of the Alfabéta awards. We couldn’t partake in everything, it is impossible.
The festival’s official webpage contains detailed information, schedule, and interviews for those who want to immerse themselves. They are present on Facebook as well with a lot of news, photos and novelties. The Alfabéta awards are given since 2006 for the best new Hungarian comic books. This year three categories were announced: picture-novel („kép-regény” is both the Hungarian word for comic book and an untranslatable pun on the words making up the Hungarian word for comic book), picture-short story and webcomic. Here is a heads up on the winners.
I could hardly believe it, we stood in line for an hour just to be admitted. Both before and after us stood respectable fathers with their naughty children, but there were present respectable fathers and mothers without any children, as well as shy geeks, gamers with headphones, pretty girls, stormtroopers and Leia princesses.
We shone a passing glance at the summer garden as well as the other locations, then we were off to the market, spent the whole day there and I still feel we couldn’t experience or understand everything we wanted.
The large hall was full of people and it was a little dark, but we bounced right in. There were a few merchandise vendors, but based on past experience we didn’t even stop at their tables, and we went right to the book stands.
Right at the door there was a fantastic marketing trick: C. J. Fayard and Richárd Vass are advertising their upcoming comic book, but how! A pretty girl was giving out a vulgar looking daily rag: „It’s free” she says. At first I wanted to give it back, but suddenly thought that there must some kind of trickery here. Giving it a closer look, I realized that I’m holding in my hand the first edition of the Reggeli Suttogó from 34 years in the future, since the publication date is AD 51.05.17. The paper is filled with astounding news, editorial note, sports news, ads, everything that you’d normally see in a daily paper, but all of them pertaining to a future city: Vortexcity. It introduces this hustling and bustling, dystopian world – precommunist last-judgment-world with decay-drawings as they call it. All these coupled with great drawings. Direct hit!
Right beside them another beautiful project: the second edition of the Kitternberger’s first volume. This steam-punk comic book is bound to be a trilogy, a real adventure story about scientific exploration of Africa with fantastical elements. Later we attended the public lecture of György Somogyi, one of the writers of Kittenberger, who told us how meticulous research went into learning the details of the life of Kálmán Kittenberger. I agree with him: well written and illustrated book.
Up next was Kingpin Press who works in translating and publishing comic books from abroad, great variety at their stand.
Across from them was the French-Spanish language bookshop Latitudes with beautiful books, too bad I used to skip French lessons. Along the same row was the Pesti Könyv Press, the Hungarian publisher of Lucky Luke and Blacksad. One of the stars of the festival was Jul, cartoonist of Lucky Luke, so there was a whole table of his material.
At the stand of Titkos Fiók we bought Enki Bilal’s four part hard cover comic book series. This one is famous and rightly so for it is drawn very well and the story picks up from the battles of Sarajevo and goes on to be a very tough sci-fi. Also here could one find Dániel Merényi’s Napirajz books.
Frike Comics is an interesting group: a publisher in Budapest founded by Italian artists. They print serials and sometimes unique editions too: Dylan Dog, Dampyr, Outcast. For the 13th Comic Book Festival they brought a unique comic book: Grind Comics is a horror anthology.
Zsiger.hu Publishing was founded in 2014 with quite humble beginnings, but since then they released a myriad of things, mostly artistic comic books: Attila Jáger – Zsiger Book and Hommage Á Kerekesszánkó editions, The Art of Fabe (Fábián István, creator of Sötét Kor), Izsák Ambrus Á. – Grande, Lucas Grande and Raiz comic books, Zsuzsi Ujj – Blekket Comics, Szabolcs Pál – Sansz and Alice in Wonderland, Curved Cat Comics in which Alfabéta winner Nóra Vincze is featured with A Gepárd Pöttyei. There is a detailed article on them and they are on Facebook too.
Comics Mania introduced their newest publication at the festival: a Finnish comic book entitled Belzebubs, which deals with the family lives of the members of a black metal band. But not just in any old way, but humorously and tinted by the love for the mentioned musical genre. There were a number of older publications at their stand: András Németh – Rocksztár leszek, mama comicbook – book on the same titled blog, I think the title speaks for itself. The goal of the Európai Kismesterek (European Smallmasters) series is to present lesser known but original comic book artists from abroad, like Pertti Jarla’s Captain Cserep. Nikolett Kardos’s Virágeső and other stories is an adaptation of various zen stories. On their website they also sell Szélesmosoly, a self-published comic book by Dániel Fekete, which details the adventures of a happy team in an alternate reality in which human civilization has evolved to the point of shapeshifting.
Ferenc Kiss and Sándor Kertész shared a stand, which is fitting since we’re dealing with the two most accessible comic book scholars who not only systematized, but also wrote the history of the Hungarian comic book scene while illustrating this with their own creations.
Zsolt Vidák, creator of Pipien Molestus, was anxious about his lecture (he told us as much), but in the end delivered a good lecture. It was especially instructive to visual artists the way he drew his illustrations, projecting each and every step, even though he tackled the problem the other way around: first he drew everything in color, but wasn’t satisfied with the results, so he overdrew the whole book with black ink. He was convincing: the black-and-white version was much more beautiful, and the idea behind it is also interesting: it’s about a vulgar everyday dude who connects with a bonsai tree with the help of a pair of headphones and goes on a meditative journey.
Many stands had very beautiful artistic comic books from abroad.
The main stand had Victor Drujiniu and Leopold Maurer signing their comics. It’s only a week ago that we met Victor in Bucharest and he was invited here as well for public meetings. His comic book was released specifically for the festival in Hungarian by Nero Blanco Comix. Victor Drujiniu is a comic book artist from Transylvania who works for the largest comic book publishers around the world, here he was present as the artist of The Occultist.
Nero Blanco Comix also published Mauer’s book, Csatorna, a riveting political satire.
We must digress a bit about Nero Blanco Comix, more precisely about the man behind the publisher house: Antal Bayer. There are very few comic books or visual publications in Hungary that are not in one way or another connected to him: he has been translating, editing and writing comic books since the 1980’s, as well as articles and books about comic books. He worked for various comic book printing houses and later founded his own companies: first Míves Céh Press and now Nero Blanco Comix. He is so well versed in this field that he was the founder and first president of the Hungarian Comicbook Publishers Society, he is a member of the Hungarian Comicbook Society and the Hungarian Comicbook Academy (Pinkhell). He writes a comic book review blog and is also present on Facebook.
Míves Céh has been publishing the Black-and-White Comic Book Anthology ever since 2005 which all were real treats for everyone interested in comicbooks. The anthologies presented comics that were not available in Hungary by any other means and by definition the best of the best of these comics. These volumes also presented the authors and artists of said comics, ran ads for various comic book related events and reviewed these, in a nutshell: it was a real professional magazine. When it ran its last number, another one took up the mantle by the title of Papírmozi (Papercinema), edited by Antal Bayer but published by Képes Publishing, the little lowbrow comicbook magazine titled Eduárd had the same role too. Current publications are Nero Blanco Comix Magazine and Buborékhámozó (Bubblepeeler). But all this is not everything, since Nero Blanco partakes in many unique publications, which amounts to 15-20 publications yearly. Among these are nostalgic, old comic book reprints, like the works of Ernő Zorád, Teddy Ted and the Reménység úttörői books, and there are contemporary, alternative, artistic comic books as well: Gergely Madarász – Majomdaráló, Róbert Vass – Ágoston a nukleáris baromfi and Különös, idegen nyelven, two books by Három Madár Workshop, Alexandru Ciubotariu – The story of I, Marabu, two notebooks by Rutu Modan, Gergely Oravecz – Blossza, Zoltán Fritz – 24 óra tiszavirágzás and Fritz’strips, Andrea Süli – Kanon, Kivi Larmola – Úton and I could go on…
Nero Blanco’s most recent publication is probably Sötét Kor (Dark Age) by István Fábián (Fabe), which is meant for international circulation, but the publishing didn’t come to pass. Turul Publishing brought the first three numbers out, but the whole process is stuck at this point. Luckily Nero Blanco Comix took up the project and will publish it in its entirety. I am glad that it is, since I like the the story, it is about Hungarian warriors, shamans, turul birds.
Képes Publishing works with both national and international comic books, first and foremost Pál Korcsmáros’ comic book adaptations of Jenő Rejtő’s (P. Howard) novels and reprints of these as well. They also published the Largo Winch series as well as Gemini jelentés which was written by Antal Bayer based on Korcsmáros’ novel and illustrated by Attila Fazekas. They also deal in comic book adaptations of various literary works, and the Eduárd comic book magazine collected works of Hungarian artists.
2013 saw the first number of Epicline and this years festival saw the 16th number. Epicline is published by 5Panels which is a group with the aim to bring together and present to a larger audience those semi-professional comic book artists who otherwise would be lost within the folds of the internet since they have no means of publication. Due to this, each Epicline number presents different artists from all walks of life. They also have a beautiful anthology, Cska, but we were unable to procure one of them, since it got sold out. It was also here that we saw the works of Zoltán Koska, who is also a member of 5Panels. Of his works we bought Killer Kaller and had quite a few good laughs reading it.
I believe that Iron Lady is the only original Hungarian comic book with a regular monthly publication, the publishing house was founded by Katinka Hosszú and her husband Shane Tusup, the stories are based on their experiences, more precisely their parallel world alteregos in which Katinak is a superpower infused champion of good.
I liked that the cover drawings of The Walking Dead are synchronized: put side by side they form one single picture.
The other hall housed a lot of old comic books, we were happy to see old Fantom numbers, Alfa, Star Wars, but if you believe you could buy these used comic books cheap, think again. The most expensive was the world renowned Maus: 25.000 HUF, about 400 RON!
An excellent and thorough job is done by Windom Comics with researching and reprinting comic books by Endre Sarlós and Imre Sebők. Besides this they also published a Black-and-White Comic Book Museum and another Kismesterek.
We really grew fond of Gyula Szőcs, the director of Kaméleon Comics, publisher of Világvégi mesék because he held an instructive lecture about founding comic book printing houses and besides giving useful advices, he focused on the main goal of having a very good accountant! As the administrator of a recently founded publishing house I agree wholeheartedly. Világvégi mesék shows the work of a dedicated group of artists, contains three stories dealing with postapocalyptic themes.
When I saw the stand of X-Embörök I was already chuckling in my mind and could hardly wait to get my hands on it. These artists from Szöged make a parody of the parody of the parody of superhero comics. First off they envision superheroes on the lowlands of Hungary, then parodying themselves they write a prologue to these stories dealing with mutants born in the times of communism and this also has a black-and-white prologue, hence the prologue of the prologue. Then they go a layer deeper and show us what kind of comic books were these mutants reading in the times of communism: the title is Vad Hortobágy, published by István Comics and the first panel shows cavemen and dinosaurs fighting near a boom well made of megaliths and the text is printed in róvás script!!! My favorite joke: until we start dealing with this… (not important what), I didn’t even know something like negative enthusiasm is possible.
Another artist from Szeged is Roland Pilcz, creator of Kalyber Joe, he works since 2005 and so far has published almost 20 issues of it. Adventure, drama, humor – in a Hungarian comic book. I still don’t know why we haven’t bought it, but I highly regret it.
At a certain stand only one comic book was sold. On its cover: Nobody B. Owens, Wes Bartman and Roland D. Allgod as its creators. I open it up and what do you know: Bálint Bánk Varga, Szabolcs Barta, Zsolt Ilia…what the hell? I ask the seller what is up. He laughs and says it is deliberate and goes on to detail that it is meant to be both ironic and a little bit advertising stunt since foreign names usually in and of themselves hallmark a publication indifferent of who illustrated it. I agree, good joke, we bought it, the artist signed it since as it turned out we talked to him: Szabolcs Barta. They are Original Comix and this is Nekronin’s first issue.
Bloodlust is a vampire cyberpunk comic book started in 2010. It has three issues and two special issues. 2017 will see the fourth issue which will be the closure of the first chapter in the story arc.
There were comic book artists from Szabadka as well, they are called Komikaze, but we could shine barely a glimpse on their works, since we had to catch our train. We passed the Szépirodalmi Figyelő stand by as well, since no, we had no more money for them. Out in the yard they were calling the raffle – let’s stop for a second – I was begging Matyi. Not two minutes passed and they called my number and I won the Szépirodalmi Figyelő which besides some very good articles contained a very good comic too from Gergely Madarász!