The Kemi Comics Festival a.k.a. the Arctic Comics Festival is arranged by The Arctic Comics Centre in Kemi and supported by the town of Kemi and the Finnish Ministry of Education. It is also the oldest annually arranged comics event in Finland and the world’s northernmost comics festival that is known of. The annual programme consists of a comic fair, lectures, panel discussions, seminars, workshops, competitions and exhibitions. Also the Japanese manga convention Kitacon is held alongside the main festival.
Kitacon is the northernmost manga convention in Finland. It was born as the manga department of the Arctic Comics Festival extended in 2008 from a one-day happening to a two-day event. As part of the Comics Festival, Kitacon’s programme not only serves the enthusiastics of Japanese pop culture, but also the fans of more western comics. Kitacon consist of workshops, lectures, different kind of shows, competitions, movies and a cosplay competition. It has also a lot of programme aimed at children.
History of the Festival
The Arctic Comics Festival was held for the first time in 1981 and it became international in 1985. So far more than sixty illustrators, critics and researchers from all over the world have visited the festival, among them such names as Robert Crumb and Scott McCloud from USA, José Muñoz and Carlos Sampayo from Argentina, Norio Yamanoi from Japan, Frank Odoi from Kenya and Eddie Campbell from Australia. European illustrators have come from as far away as Iceland, Portugal, Albania, Hungary and Arkangel to join the festival. Angoulême’s 2002 and 2003 years Grand Prix winners Schuiten and Loisel have visited as well. In 2003 Moebius/Jean Giraud visited the festival and in 2004 Kemi welcomed French artists Jano and Mezzo. Celebrating the 25th festival in 2006 were English artist David Lloyd, better known for V for Vendetta, and Frederic Boilet and Aurelia Aurita of France.
The President of the Republic of Finland Tarja Halonen acted as a patron at the 20th anniversary festival 2001. She also visited The Comics Centre in autumn 2002.
The Comics Competition
From the very beginning a national comics competition – which became Scandinavic in 1990 – has been an integral part of the festival. The Arctic Comics Centre annually publishes an anthology of the award winning and otherwise successful works. In the year 2007, when the competition was held via internet searching for the best web comics, there exceptionally was no physical anthology published. Nowadays the competition has two categories to compete in: 1) web comics and 2) print comics.
The most significant exhibitions at the festival have been Crumb’s World 1993, Who Would Be Afraid of Donald Duck 1994, Mämmilä 1995, The World of Moebius 2003, The Comics and Music 2004 and Viivi ja Wagner 2005. The Kemi Art Museum had 18 248 visitors during a three-week time period and the rest of Finland ca. 70 000 visitors at the Mämmilä exhibition. In 2008 the Arctic Comics Festival presented Superheroes in Kemi exhibition celebrating the history super hero comics.
The Lempi prizes
Since 1987 the Arctic Comics Centre has awarded accomplished people and organisations with Lempi prizes at the comics festival: Lempi Grand Prix, Strip-Lempi, Publication-Lempi and Lempi International. In 2006 the festival’s father, Heikki Porkola, was the first one ever to be awarded with a special Lempi-prize, Lempi Grand Slam.