Nina Bunjevac
comix & illustration

RAPTUS 2013

September 19th, 2013


Festival organizers: Arild Wærness, Frode Haaland, Øyvind Naterstad, Anette Wold Hansen, Stian Pedersen, Øystein Nordvok. Festival guests: Lene Ask, Evie Blake, Emily Carroll, Kate Craig, Terhi Ekebom, Isabel Greenberg, Ida Kristine Larmo, Yishan Li, Lucie Lomova, Ida Margrethe Neverdahl, Sarah Oleksyk, Emma Rios, Gail Simone, Steffen Kverneland, Howard Chaykin, Mike Perkins, Arild Midthun, Knut Nærum, Magne Taraldsen, Paul Gravett, Mike Collins, Kim Holm, Anna Voronkova and Berliac. Special guest: Trude Drevland, the mayor of Bergen.

If someone had told me just two weeks ago that Bergen, a small coastal city in Norway would have become one of my favorite places on earth I probably would have said: “are you f-ing kidding me?” And now, shortly after my return from the six-day visit to Bergen all I want to do is go back. I have to admit that I knew close to nothing about Bergen, or Norway, or the entire Scandinavia for that matter; as far as I was concerned it was all Ikea, Abba and Swedish meatballs.  Boy was I mistaken.

I was told that to truly experience Norway one should visit smaller places, like Bergen for instance. For starters, the city is breathtakingly beautiful, set within the fjords, with cobblestone streets and charming architecture, surrounded by seven mountains covered with lush evergreens. The first thing one immediately notices about the streets of Bergen is its people, who do not seem to rush to places but stroll, and appear relaxed. I found the people I met to be friendly but not fake-friendly, hospitable and welcoming.

Norwegians seem proud of their history but do not come across as nationalistic in the least; they enjoy boasting about their free healthcare, virtually free university education and the lack of homelessness. Listening to Kazima (young lady who moderated one of the panel discussions I participated in) boast about paying a measly tuition of $90 per semester I understood how my American friends feel whenever I approach the subject of our free healthcare. Let me take this opportunity and apologize to my friends south of the border – I feel for you. Another thing I loved about Norways is their attitude toward religion – it is considered impolite to talk about it. I think I may have found me a new home.

This year’s installment of Raptus took place at the Literature House in the heart of old Bergen. The majority of guests were women creators since this year Norway celebrates one hundred years of women being allowed to vote. There were panel discussions, presentations, talks, workshops, concerts, cosplay competitions and booths selling comics and collectibles. In short, everything you would expect to find at any comic con worldwide but smaller and more intimate. My first engagement was a panel discussion on the theme of female voices in comics with Lene Ask, Terhi Ekebom and Sarah Oleksyk, all incredibly talented artists and all-around fabulous people. My second engagement was the presentation of my work and talk with Paul Gravett, the king of comics criticism. I have met Paul before and was very much looking forward to seeing him again, and meeting his lovely partner Peter Stanbury.

The highlight of my stay in Bergen was making friends with a bunch of good people but will have to single out the ones I had the most pints and the most laughs with: Mike Perkins, Mike Collins, Howard Chaykin, Magnus Aspli and Laszlo Seber (one of the participants of the workshop organized by Howard and Perkins). Not in my wildest dreams would I have anticipated such fun, mostly thanks to Chaykin, who happens to be one of the funniest people I have ever met, and the very same guy who came up with the “cheap blonde” bit. Truth to tell, I am not even sure if the “cheap blonde” bit applied to me, but I took it and ran with it for the remainder of my stay anyway, since it sounded a bit classier than “Howard’s prison bitch”.

The sign I am holding in these pictures was made by Mike Perkins for Ana Voronkova to hold up in the audience during my talk with Gravett. Anna chickened out but handed the sign over to me when the talk ended; for the rest of the day I walked around with it, posing with it, showing it to people, anything to get attention.

Many thanks to Arild who was the most gracious host and one of the most beautiful people I have been fortunate to meet. Many thanks to Arild’s partner May whose smile made us all feel welcomed, and whose bar/coffee shop Bar Barista provided a home away from home for many of us during our stay in Bergen. And many, many thanks to the rest of the organizers and volunteers. If I have missed anyone please forgive me. I hope to see you again real soon.

TESLA, an illustrated biography

August 28th, 2013

 

Yes, the rumors are right; I’ll begin working on an illustrated biography of Nikola Tesla as early as January 2014. Tesla has always fascinated me, his brilliance, total disregard for accumulating wealth, obsessive dedication to work, eccentricities, celibacy, interest in eastern philosophies, gambling addiction and of course, his smoldering good looks.

Last year during my trip to Croatia I managed to squeeze in a short visit to Tesla’s birth place in Smiljan. This was something I had been planning for a while and looking forward to with much anticipation. As an incurable romantic that I am, I was expecting to see his childhood home intact, untouched, as if Teslas have just packed up and left. What I found was a state of the art interior, high in contrast to the building’s rustic exterior. There were no everyday object left around that could offer a glimpse into the life of the young inventor but high-tech gadgets, interactive displays and lots of neon. The closest I came to experiencing Smiljan through Tesla’s eyes was looking out the windows of the house, and even then, the first thing I laid my eyes on was the museum parking lot. The church right next to the house was locked up, as was the lovely barn with the straw roof.

 What I enjoyed immensely was a demonstration of the wireless transmission of energy given to tourists at a small building addition nearby.  I managed to wrestle away one of three available filaments from a child, justifying the selfish act by “I came here all the way from Canada just to see this thing light up in my hand”. The lights were switched off, the apparatus was turned on and the filament lit up. The child screamed in terror, I giggled like a schoolgirl, and then cried a bit.

This year in October I’ll be traveling to Belgrade, and hope to visit the Tesla museum. Having been born to a Serbian family in Croatia, Tesla has become the subject of an ongoing ownership debate between the Serbs and the Croats. Nothing new there, people of the Balkans love to claim ownership over anything that should in fact unite them, be it music, literature, land, or people. Tesla always regarded himself as Yugoslavian, and was proud of his Serbian heritage as well as the country he was born in, Croatia. If anything, he cared little about the ownership, and it is highly likely that he would have wanted his name to unify people.

It is like this: when traveling to Serbia you’ll land at the Nikola Tesla airport just outside of Belgrade; you will use dinar bills adorned with his portrait, and along your travels you will stumble upon many things Tesla. The same goes in Croatia. Nonetheless, it is highly unlikely that you will see the following Tesla quote displayed in plain sight at any of these locations: Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them. This quote pretty much sums up everything that he stood for, and everything he dedicated his life to – figuring out the nature of this tie, the great mystery of life force, cosmic energy, prana, whatever you wanna call it. This ownership debate would have Tesla turning in his grave were it not for the fact that his remains had been cremated.

To me, as a lover of birds and a sucker for goodness, Tesla will always remain an old man nursing an injured pigeon. My version of his biography will focus on his childhood, personal life, spirituality and friendships. I’ll leave all the science-related stuff up to the experts, which I am not.

I’ll keep you all posted about my trip to Belgrade. There should be some pictures to follow. Peace.

FATHERLAND – dispatches from the cave

August 4th, 2013

 

Hey peeps, sorry for the lack of posts; I’ve been too busy working on my next book which, I am glad to say, is three quarters done already. The working title of the book, and I think most likely the title I will stick with is Fatherland. The book is due to come out in the summer of 2014 with Cape Graphic/Random House. I’ll keep you posted about the progress.

 Working on the full-length graphic narrative has proven to be a bit of a challenge since I generally prefer the short-story format. I expect Fatherland to have approximately 120 pages, broken into two parts, which will eventually come together near the end.  I’ve chosen the two-part format for the simple reason that it reflects duality presented in the book: maternal – paternal, nationalist – communist, old country – new country and so on.

 Even though the content is biographical, and partially autobiographical, I did my best to remain neutral as a narrator, as well as reduce the levels of “sentimentality”; the same goes when it comes to expressing my own political views. I found this approach liberating; the neutral stance allowed the story to unfold organically and the characters to express themselves freely; it will also allow the reader to form his/her own opinion. The last thing I want to do is create a propaganda pamphlet. We’re already bombarded by propaganda one way or another, day in and day out. An honest account of how the opposing religious and political ideologies have affected, and continue to affect one family should be enough for the readers to draw their own conclusions and project it in whichever way they choose to.

While we’re on this subject of the “organic unfolding of the narrative”, let me just say one thing: the book as it stands now, with its 85 finished pages does not resemble the final draft (of about a dozen in total) of the manuscript, whatsoever. Perhaps this is the case because the story is so personal or because I have no recollection of any of the events described in the book. In actuality, the entire narrative has been composed out of first and second-hand testimonies, from my mother, my sister, my grandmother and a handful of relatives; any existing gaps were filled with historical facts in order to familiarize the reader with the political climate surrounding the events as described. The original manuscript took about a year to complete. When I began working with pencils the book took on a whole new life – it began reflecting the events in the exact same sequence as they came to my knowledge in real life; the best way to describe how the narrative unfolds is to compare it to a giant jigsaw puzzle which took thirty five years to solve.

I’ve never been a big fan of puzzles; partially because I was never really good at solving them. Also, this ability to remain objective while reconstructing the events that have shattered my family feels very much like finding myself in a psychiatrist’s office while playing the role of both, the shrink and the patient. It’s freakin’ exhausting! And that’s all on top of twelve-hour work days. Twelve hours of cross-hatching and stippling; twelve hours of slipping into what most people assume is a meditative state. No, that is twelve hours a day of facing shit! And twelve hours of working up an astronomically large chiropractic bill.

A few days ago I posted an update on my Facebook page: “Drawing Tito and Draza Mihailovic on the same page. Fuck both of them! After I’m done with this book I’m switching to comedy.” To which a friend replied with: “Tragicomedy”. And I was, like: “yeah, whatever…” Because I knew he was right. The truth is that after a full day of working and “facing stuff” I go off to bed, and I slip into the dream world while planning out the layout for Fatherland II. And then I dream about it. Call me crazy but there’s nothing else I would rather be doing right now. Love you all.

 

THE SHOP IS UP AND RUNNING

June 1st, 2013

As promised a few posts ago, my Etsy shop is up and running again. I’ve uploaded some original illustration and jewelry made by my pals at BBJ. Unfortunately there will be no original pages from my comics for sale, at least not for another year or so. To visit the shop simply go through the shop section of my website or directly to Etsy. And remember, your purchase is an investment in my next book, or my next trip to Europe – whichever comes first.

CBC CANADA WRITES>>From Charles Burns to Lina Wertmüller

May 30th, 2013

Check out this recent interview for Canada Writes>> From Charles Burns to Lina Wertmüller: An interview with Nina Bunjevac

TADDLE CREEK #30

May 30th, 2013

If you are a fan of good comics and short fiction don’t miss the opportunity to get your hands on ANY issue of Taddle Creek magazine. As far as the Canadian literary and general interest magazines go this is one of my favorites; I like the magazine so much I even ventured into full colour to create the cover image for the upcoming summer issue. So go ahead and treat yourself by getting a subscription, you won’t regret it.

TCAF 2013

May 15th, 2013

 

TCAF 2013 was everything and even more than I had hoped it would turn out to be. It was the weekend of awkward bro-hugs (to quote Robin McConnel), budding friendships and deepening of the existing ones. Sure the event was supposed to be all about networking, book sales and self-promotion but to me it was all about spending time with friends and getting to know people whose work I love and admire – and hugging. Kudos to the festival organizers Peter Birkemoe and Christopher Butcher for making the event a smashing success.

Among the people I enjoyed hugging the most were: my publisher Andy Brown, Joe Ollmann, Dave Collier, Serena McCarroll, Jordan Bursach, Dave Lapp, Billy Mavreas, Chester Brown, Pat and Marek of Tin Can Forest, Annie Koyama and Fiona Smyth. It was really nice meeting people I have only had the pleasure of communicating with online, like Jason Turner, Bill Kartalopoulos and Tom Spurgeon, and a few I’ve never had that pleasure with, like Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books, and Boulet, who were both total sweethearts.

On Saturday night my pal Conan Tobias of Taddle Creek and I headed over to the Yorkville Marriott Hotel for the 9th annual Doug Wright Awards ceremony. The event was hosted by the comedian Scott Thompson; his introductory speech was both funny and moving as he spoke about his experience of writing the graphic novel while battling cancer.  He talked at length about how we all have stories that need to come out and about how sometimes we unwittingly tap into the subconscious part of ourselves while in the process of creating.

Left: with my pal Jordan Bursach. Right: holding my Sethy.

As some of you may already know from my previous posts, my book Heartless was nominated for The DWA in the Spotlight category, also known as The Nipper. The only thing that surprised me more than finding out that I was the winner was hearing Thompson pronounce my last name the right way. The award was presented to me by Seth and Mrs. Wright, and the appreciation speech by the very lovely Julie Delporte.

The award for the best book went to Michel Rabagliati for Song of Roland, and The Pigskin Peters – which acknowledges the best in experimental comics went to Dave Collier for Hamilton Illustrated. The renowned Quebec cartoonist Albert Chartier was inducted into The DWA Hall of Fame.  As exciting as the whole event was, the highlight of the evening was receiving a nice compliment about my outfit from Seth’s lovely wife Tania Van Spyk.

The weekend ended with the TCAF wrap praty, held at Lee’s Palace, which I almost did not attend. I am glad I did, because I got to relax with my pals Dave Lapp, Jordan Bursach and Salgood Sam, and bust some awkward disco dance moves with Jason Turner.

Top photo by Anna Khachatryan; bottom photo by Dave Lapp (downloaded from TCAF 2013 Flickr photo-stream)

READY, SETHY, TCAF!

May 4th, 2013

 

The 2013 installment of TCAF will be special to me for several reasons. This will be my first year of holding a table of my own, but not entirely, since I’ll be sharing it with my dear friend, the one and only Dave Lapp.  

The second reason I am so excited about TCAF 2013 is the line of jewelry I’ll be introducing. A little while ago I teamed up with the Toronto-based jewelry designer BBJ to create a small but exclusive collection of pendants, brooches and key-chains that feature my art. This year the festival falls on the Mother’s Day weekend, so come by and pick up something nice for that special lady in your life. And if that special someone in your life is not a lady or that special lady is not a mom, and you would like to treat yourself or someone else just for the hell of it, at any time, all of these pieces will be available through the shop section of my website within a week or two.

The third reason I am so excited about TCAF 2013 is my nomination for The Doug Wright Award in The Spotlight category, also known as The Nipper. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless for now calls it The Sethy. Whether or not I win me a Sethy doen’t really matter, I am more than honored to be nominated and be surrounded by such amazing talent. I also look forward to meeting lovely and talented people I have only so far communicated with online, and seeing people I don’t often get a chance to see. So come by and pick up a signed copy of Heartless, or Mineshaft #27, or some fancy jewelry, or just to say hi. I swear I’ll be on my best behavior and won’t get into any fistfights.

gritLIT 2013 – Hamilton’s Literary Festival

March 22nd, 2013

If in Hamilton for this year’s installment of gritLIT, or just in town for the weekend of April 6, please come by and see the presentation of two books, Heartless by yours truly, and Two Generals by Scott Chantler. The presentation will be given in form of a panel discussion moderated by the editorial cartoonist extraordinaire, Wes Tyrell, and is going to take place at the Hamilton Sheraton Hotel, on Saturday, April 6, at 1:00 pm. For all of you who had already purchased the tickets: thank you! We’ll try not to disappoint you. Please check out Wes Tyrell’s work here, and Scott Chantler’s website here.

>> 2013 Doug Wright Awards

March 21st, 2013

The list of the 2013 DWA nominees was announced this morning and yes, I was more than happy to find my name on it.  It was also nice to see two Conundrum titles nominated this year, which speaks volumes about my publisher, Andy Brown.

The nominees for the 2013 Doug Wright Award for Best Book are:

The nominees for the 2013 Doug Wright Spotlight Award (a.k.a. “The Nipper”) which recognizes Canadian cartooning talents worthy of wider recognition are:

And the nominees for the 2013 Pigskin Peters Award, which recognizes the best in experimental or avant-garde comics are:

  • Hamilton Illustrated by David Collier (Wolsak & Wynn)
  • Hellberta #2 and Sir Softlyfrom š! #12, by Michael Comeau
  • Michael DeForge, Larry Eisenstein, Jesse Jacobs, Mark Laliberte (editor), Marc Ngui, Ethan Rilly, Tin Can Forest and Magda Trzaski for 4PANEL, a special comics features in Carousel Magazine #28 and #29
  • Ginette Lapalme for “So, what should we do with ourselves?…” from Wowee Zonk #4 and  “Little Stump” in š! #12