The comic book situation in Denmark
Danish is a very small language area, which has made it difficult for Danish comic creators to get their works published and earn a living. Furthermore, Denmark suffers from a relative lack of institutionalization in relation to comics. It has not been easy for artists to gain public support for their works, which has resulted both in uneven quality and output. There are, however, ongoing efforts on several fronts to improve this situation and the last decade especially has seen the publication of several notable works.
Disappeared and rediscovered
Denmark has always had a strong tradition for publishing foreign comics translated into Danish. Historically Denmark has oriented itself towards the Franco-Belgian market, but also American humor strips have done well. There has previously been a relatively large distribution of comic books through convenience stores (‘kiosks’) and supermarkets, but today this distribution channel has almost vanished. Instead a number of small publishers have emerged, all of which try to find their special niche. More quality comics from abroad are being translated into Danish than ever before, but they are published in a smaller print runs than in the heyday of the 1970s and 1980s. Recently an increasing number of larger mainstream publishing houses have begun publishing comics, and this is a welcome trend. Their interest is primarily in graphic novels, but hybrids combining the traditional prose book with comic book elements are published widely in the form of literacy materials for children and adolescents.
Children’s comics have a hard time
As in other countries, the general public in Denmark has traditionally viewed the comic book as primarily for children. Despite this stigma not a lot of comics for children are published these days. Franco-Belgian classics such as Lucky Luke and Spirou as well as various Disney series and humor strips like Garfield are still being published, but generally comics for children in Denmark are far between. This is not an area that the publishing houses bank on. For a while there was a booming market for translated manga, but today this too has diminshed, reduced to only two published monthly titles (Naruto and One Piece).
Something is happening
Since the beginning of the new millennium there has been increasing interest in comics, in part because of the new wave of graphic novels, and it’s like the Danish comic world is once again in bloom. A host of exciting activities and dissemination initiatives have sprouted. Good examples are Komiks.dk – Copenhagen International Comics festival, and the Danish Comics Council, which works to promote and strengthen the comic book in general, as well as the quarterly comic magazine Strip! and the website nummer9.dk.
Academic activity and education
A 4-year education in graphic storytelling is under way at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, something which will hopefully be of great importance to the Danish comics production, like it has had in Sweden. This educaitonal program could have tremendous significance future Danish comics production and it is anticipated with great excitement and delight. Additionally, the academic world is opening up to comics as a field of interest. There was an international, academic conference back-to-back with Komiks.dk in 2010, and in the autumn of 2011 alone there have been two individual academic comics seminars, as well as the foundational meeting of the new Nordic Network for Comics Research (NNCORE), an initiative that seeks to strengthen and unify comics scholarship in the Nordic countries started by Anne Magnussen, assistant professor at the University of Southern Denmark.
Furthermore, the Danish schools are discovering comics and are beginning to update their collections of comics in school libraries. Comics/graphic novels are also incresingly being used for educational purposes.
In recent years the media have shown an increasing interest in comics, and especially newspapers have been interested in covering the field. However, the comics criticism still lacks the same high quality level that you find for books, films and music.
Comic book museum
Denmark has long had a comic book museum, but it has no permanent residence and the (private) collection has spent years wandering between host institutions. An effort is currently being made to secure the collection for posterity, and to obtain a permanent residence, where the public will be able to access it.
You could say that comics in Denmark both blooms and at the same tine has a hard time. There are many challenges to address, but there are also strong trends indicating that there is plenty of unrealized potential, and that the interest in the comics medium is increasing.