A Look Abroad: An Interview with Danish Comic Creator, Halfdan Pisket

I wrote this for Sequential Planet. It’s a piece of an interview I conducted with Halfdan Pisket last summer while in Denmark. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Here at Sequential Planet, we focus on the newest and biggest comic book releases the market has on offer. But what about the comics you don’t hear about? That was my mission while in Copenhagen, Denmark, last summer.

This idea didn’t occur to me until I was on the streets of Copenhagen, in the heart of the city, the Indre By district, just a block or so from Ørsteds Park. That’s when I saw a comic book shop. Comics. Danish Comics. What would I find on those shelves? Inside the shop, Fantask, were the standard releases. Marvel, DC, etc. There wasn’t anything uniquely Danish that I could see on the main shelves. That being said, the variety was impressive for such a small shop. Not only did they have comics, but a healthy display of fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as a manga section, and D&D/Pathfinder corner. A well-curated shop, to be sure–but almost everything was in English. I approach the woman behind the register, tentatively.

“Hi,” I say. “I’m visiting and love comics and would love a Danish comic as a souvenir, do you have any suggestions?”

She did. She guides me to a small section of Danish graphic novels and floppies. “But you don’t speak Danish, do you?” she asks me. I do not, I tell her. “This one,” she picks up a wide thin book, “this one has no words in it, but it is beautiful and he is local. This shop is even in the book.” I take it and flip through it. It is beautiful. It’s not a comic, but it’s not just a picture book either. It’s inks and watercolor and each couple of pages is its own story. The artist’s name is on the back. Adam O.

“He’s local?” I ask the woman. She tells me he is.

That night, I look up Adam O. and his book Kakofonia on Google. I find his email and ask him, politely, for an interview. I explain I’m trying to find the pulse of the Danish comics scene. Within the hour he emails me back. He doesn’t live in Denmark, but in Sweden, and he doesn’t make comics much anymore–though he knows someone I should talk to. Halfdan Pisket. He tells me this is the man I should see. This is the most famous Danish cartoonist/comic creator. He includes Halfdan’s email. I am thankful.

Halfdan Pisket’s graphic novel trilogy is not translated into English yet. It presents me with a difficult task. How do I interview someone about their writing and story when I can’t read it? But also, this is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to hear about what I didn’t already know about. Isn’t this perfect?

On the morning we meet, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, it’s mid-August–the people of Copenhagen are beautiful. Halfdan lives a mere 10-minute bike ride from where I’m staying and he comes down to let me into his building. His apartment is nice and modest and clearly an artist lives here. He has some bookshelves lined with comics and graphic novels. Some are ones I recognize. Elf Quest, Black Hole, but there are others I don’t know. He pours me a cup of coffee and we sit on his balcony overlooking the street. Every once in awhile a car drives by, but there is little traffic here. Most people ride bicycles.

When I tell him my idea, this concept of bringing the Danish Comic scene back with me, in a way, to the United States, he cracks a half-smile on his thin, lightly stubbled face.

“But it is funny,” he says, “because I grew up reading translated American comics. And when you are a kid, it’s superhero comics, it was X-Men and Spawn and later I read Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and after that, I thought, I could read more of something like this. . . It wasn’t until I started making comics, myself, in Danish, that I realized there were other people doing it. That was when I started reading Danish Comics.”

Before I go any further, I should note the profound impact Pisket’s work has had in the realm of Danish Literature, but also on a continental stage. Dansker (Translated Dane, in Danish), won the Politics Literature Prize in 2016, the Ping Prize in 2017, and in 2019, just before I met with him, the Dansker trilogy won Best Series at the third-largest comic book festival in the world, the French Angouleme Festival. Back in 2015, Pisket was also awarded the largest art grant in Denmark worth 850,000 Danish Krone (around 130,000 USD), the first graphic novelist ever to be awarded the grant.

Read the full feature at Sequentialplanet.com

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