Bałtycki Festiwal Komiksu!

At the end of last month I was surprise invited to the Baltic Comics Festival in Gdansk. Last year, Gdansk artists came to Berlin to draw 24 h comics, and Berlin artists went to Gdansk to do the same. Then, for this festival, they printed little books with all the comics and made an exhibition with them. They didn’t have enough German comics, so they asked us from the other 24 h comics session in Berlin last year if we wanted to be part of it. I happened to be one of the first to answer, so there I was …

I had actually never properly met my travel companions Auge and Ulla of the comics library Renate, so it was a bit like, “hey, do you want to go on a road trip to Poland with some random strangers to a festival you’ve never heard about?!” Well, sounds like fun to me! V^(oo)^V
They turned out to be the nicest and most leisurely of people, very nice companions on a slow drive with lots of stops for nice food and interesting sights.

I made some quick sketches of what I saw during the ride:

Girl sitting outside a farmhouse – she actually had bright red hair and a neon green top, which looked interesting, but which a graphite pencil can’t quite catch …
And the great potato monument in Biesiekierz.

Wild piggy grill bar, and an old man standing in the middle of a field with his bike, talking on his cell phone.

Wooden bear in a garden, and a huge fuzzy doggie, the sight of whom made me feel so fuzzy on the inside that I could barely draw. (Yes, my thumbnail is still dirty from yesterday’s gardening efforts.)

All right, so after a few hours of leisurely driving and eating amazing pierogi at rest stops, we arrived in Gdansk …

Most of the festival happened at the Manhattan library, located inside a shopping center, which has a very nice comics section. The Polish-German 24 h comics exhibition was also there.

Here are some of the little 24 h comic books they printed:

Overall, all the Polish comics are absolutely amazing and all the German comics, especially mine, are total crap in comparison. Heh.

Two (2) of the Polish comics have piggies in them!

“Anfang” by Piotr Szulc and Jakub Babczynski

And “Król”/”Der König” by Igor Wolski. Most of the comic is drawn really nicely with grey shading and everything, and then the last four pages are a bit more sketchy:

Probably he drew them in ten seconds or so just before time was out …

It’s fun to read “The Muggers” in Polish … “Osz kurwa.”

I got some copies, so you can get it in both Polish and German (and of course the original English) from me. :3

At the festival, Auge did a presentation about the comics library in Berlin, in German/Polish, interviewed and interpreted by Marek Kraska. An hour or so before that, we had drawn graphs to represent some statistics about the library. I drew the one about age distribution.

There was a small comics market, too. We were a little bit disappointed that there were only publishers and shops represented, and no artists with self-published zines. Still, it was really interesting to see all the cool Polish comics that I for the most part hadn’t ever heard of …

But the second hand comics shop did have some familiar classics from the Socialist times!

I couldn’t resist this Janusz Christa comic.

The drawings are cute, with all the neckless characters, and of course the maritime setting appeals to me …

But it ends in a cliffhanger!!!

I might have gotten more comics (maybe some Kapitan Kloss comics :3), but the festival ended quite early on Sunday and we never made it back on time. Next time!

Saturday evening there was a comics battle. In all the comics battles in Sweden that I’ve seen and participated in so far, both artists would draw on the same piece of paper and attack each others’ drawings. In this one, each artist drew on their own piece of paper – the best and funniest drawing they could produce in three minutes, and then the audience would choose who would go on to the next round.

This was definitely the coolest and funniest comics battle I’ve witnessed.  I was too chicken to participate, and I’m pretty sure I would have been annihilated in the first round by the awesomepants skillz of the Polish artists …

On Sunday, the festival had arranged a guided tour of the old town for us.

They had also arranged guest apartments and free dinner and drinks on Saturday, as well as paid for the travel expenses, so I kept feeling like, “aargh, I’m just a lowly unknown cartoonist, I don’t deserve all this kindness and generosity!” But as Marek at one point mentioned, they had finally been granted the funds for the festival only six weeks before the dates, and somehow through superhuman efforts they had managed to put together a festival in spite of the extremely short time frame. So maybe they’d had a bit of an “oh, we have all this money, what are we going to do with it??” situation.

Bumblebee enjoying the view

After the tour, I just had to challenge my claustrophobia and go up on this church tower. Luckily the insanely narrow part was only the first ~200 steps of ~450. And this bumblebee at the top of the tower made the ordeal totally worth it.

The bumblebees in Gdansk seemed to like me. Three of them greeted me as we waited for our contact Marek in front of the train station upon arrival. My companions were horrified and backed away, but I let the little bumblebees buzz around me as much as they liked. :3 I liked to pet bumblebees as a child, so maybe they also liked to pet me?

Cold soup

Besides all the nice insects, piggies and doggies, a definite highlight of the trip was THE FOOD. No matter what I ate in Poland, it was massively delicious. Also in regular convenience stores and supermarkets you can get the greatest vegetables and cheeses ever. Maybe because Polish agriculture has not yet been devastated into monocultures and cash crops by EU policies, so the raw materials are still extremely good.

All the people I met in Poland were also very nice, generous and extremely well-read, in a kind of badass way. Perhaps typical of Eastern Europe.

It was a very nice little/medium-sized festival (about 1000 visitors). Probably the least stressful comics festival I’ve ever been to, because I basically didn’t do anything and just felt like a total freeloader. (Well, at least I was in the exhibition … :3) It would be nice to go again next year and do something more substantial.

See many more photos from Gdansk on Flickr!


One Response to “Bałtycki Festiwal Komiksu!”
  1. miriam katin says:

    I agree. Those artist humble me.