I have recently experienced my biggest success having turned to writing literature. It was a book called ‘Fort Europe’ about the collapse of our civilization. The reviewer mentioned my distinct ability to describe a dystopian society, being the opposite of a utopian society, the ideal state.

Maybe there lies some truth in that, because I have always a weird urge to turn things upside down in my fiction. I had my first comics success with ‘The coming of the Blot’ and after that the equally praised ‘The Happy Water’ comic album with Woody Woodpecker, which were both planned publishing in USA, but fate in the end meant it differently.

After that, I made my probably best funny animal parable with the first two albums with the Gnuffs, ‘Trouble on George Street’ and ‘The Great Technowhiz’ presented here last year. There I predicted around 1980 the coming of the digital revolution and the increase of surveillance society.
In this story, ‘The Giant Trees’ I let biology go haywire with a threat of some trees from the Carbon Age. I introduced some elements of paramilitary groups overthrowing democracy in a vision resembling the French revolution. These tendencies seem to flourish when society is met with big problems. I found an excuse to make my sleazy character Phineas Phrogg reappear in a new entrepreneur position. I even found room for my swindler character Breezy Bumper as well and my old preacher man character has a field day with poor sinners having supported environmental groups earlier. The solution to the problem with the carbon age plants is a homage to H C Wells, where in ‘The War of the Worlds’ he made the aliens go under from earthly bacteria. In today’s version, it is of course a matter of genetic engineering.

The Woody Woodpecker parallel to the Gnuff album called ‘Woody and the Big Tree’ is featured in this year’s new installments as well. Here the intrigue is more limited, concentrating on Woody’s personal fight with one big tree. The society is not pushed out of balance like in this version. Comparing the two visions, you can see how the angle of storytelling can be modelled to fit different treatments of intrigue.

The coloring is an example of the old technique, where you create the tones from overlays in shades of grey exposed in different value and thus combined to present a certain color range. There are five choices of percentage of each basic color creating the palette. It was in the last days of technical coloring, and the colors made for presentation in the Woody Woodpecker magazine then got reused for the comic book album version.

There is a sympathetic clarity in this rather classical way of making colors going back to the printed newspapers of the old days. The colors are robust, and the screen points are usually big. Not so in this Gnuff album, since the printing is so much more accurate nowadays. The red and blue color in this printing technique look quite appealing, opposite the modern magenta and cyan used nowadays, presenting a more lifelike printing of photographs. Color photographs were not reproduced in newspapers in the old days.

You can see an example of that old technique in the Sunday pages of ‘Ben Bolt’ I present this year. The coloring here is lifted from the American newspaper clichés, and the lithographs workers were very able creating a fine coloring with that technique back then. They also were in Scandinavia, with the local Disney comics being the finest colored version of these magazines as long as that old newspaper printing technique was still in use. When the printing in 1956 shifted, it meant a serious decline in colors, since they were still made in the old way but without the printing technique to match.

In fact, the love of the old classical technique was so deep, that Fantagraphics decided to go back to that look from the Western Publishing Dell comic books when reintroducing yet another reprint of the Carl Barks comics. There is indeed a solid appeal in a limited color setting, and maybe some of that can be recognized in those of my comics colored that way.

Now the range of colors is here limited to ten or twelve tones, but I made color indications to all my pages, and I made sure there was a blend of all three colors in many nuances to increase the appeal. Now there is no blue color needed to paint my characters, so I chose to do without that choice of color in the palette. It is probably the first time you read a comic almost without the shade of blue...