DATE: 15/04/2014

Comics published at Stripburger Editions / Stripcore, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Stripburekcomics from the other Europe

Madburger comics questioning sanity
The subheadline reads “Comics Questioning Sanity” and we’re showing off fresh, radical, non-moralizing and even humorous submissions that will hopefully shatter the taboo called madness. Covered by a brainstorming painting by Matthias Lehmann, the 216 pages are filled with stories about living with madness, madness as a blind belief system, mad society, medical treatment and other acute psychotic phenomena.

Stripburger #63:


Ivana Armanini – Technology to the People!

It happens more and more often that we end up interviewing people for whom it is harder to say that they are purely and simply comic strip artists. Nowadays more and more cartoonists are fighting for their daily bread on several fronts at the same time. Some take up photography, others do animation or illustration, some certainly opt for procrastination… while Ivana is doing all this and more! She hails from Croatia but these days she manages her Komikaze project from her current hideout in Ljubljana. We took the opportunity to catch up with her for an interview before she slips away again.

How did your engagement with comics begin? When did you first make their acquaintance, which comics did you read at the time and which authors have influenced you the most?

Comics happened to me quite late in life, a few years after the completion of my academic studies. I was restoring a building; my then coworker was a passionate collector. He used to bring comics with him to work and we’d spend our lunch breaks leafing through them, dangling our feet from a ten-metre scaffolding. That’s how I gained a whole new perspective. It seems to me that it was precisely while reading Emil Jurcan’s fanzine Total Zero in A5-format that I was hit by the fatal arrow. It was love at first sight. Much later I met the author in person and was surprised because, instead of the expected old bearded misanthrope, I was faced by a smiling young man from Pula with a backpack and a sparkle in his eyes. When he drew Zero, he was still in high school; he funded the printing from his lunch pocket money.

My next major encounter with comics was high school related – this time with the stories of high school student Mima Simić, which I got on a floppy disk from a friend. They were fantastic – I had been looking for the right script for a long time. The author was studying in America at that time and I didn’t know her personally, but that did not stop me from drawing about ten comics based on her stories. These comics took 4-5 years to come into being, after which they were published by a major publishing house in Croatia AGM (Antun Gustav Matoš) together with the stories. My fee was €500 for five years work. That’s when I began to think more seriously about a comics collective and to organise activity on a project basis, which would enable me to approach sponsors for funding. That’s how my friends and I got Komikaze into being …

We can see that you are fluent in several dialects of the visual idiom, from web design to photography and comics. Why did you choose to focus on comics? What attracts you so much to this medium? You could easily just design websites and make a good living on it, yet you still insist on making some obscure comics as well…

Pfff, the term ‘design studio’ sounds really claustrophobic. It does not leave you much room to manoeuvre, plus, no matter how well it is paid, it is still underpaid. This is the eternal dilemma: well-paid work for a boss or precarious autonomy. For the time being (a good half of my life), I’m just swimming in low-fi improvisation and seeing for how much longer I can do that…

We read about you in Fibra’s anthology of female comics in the Balkans. Do you feel like a woman comics artist or simply as someone who makes comics? Is there such a thing as “female comics” and has gender any connection with comics at all?

I don’t think there is anything like that. There are such things as team power and methods to develop a scene that bring to the surface something that is itself prone to self-concealment and make it identifiable, defined and affirmed. I would rather not get into the debate of the role of women in comics history, society, and I don’t know what else. A few days ago, the European Parliament voted in favor of inequality of male and female occupations. The masks have fallen, the conservative right has got excited and our society has vomited yet another disgraceful decision. In this context, I consider such cultural projects important. Poetics and personal style have nothing to do with it.

You are active in the Croatian as well as the ex-Yugoslavian comics scenes, transcending the limits of ‘national scenes’. Is this a reflection of some broader need or is it mere curiosity? Does this mean that smaller scenes cannot be maintained by themselves and must therefore open outwards, or, on the other hand, perhaps that the former common comics scene actually never completely broke down into separate national scenes, but rather just hid in the underground and thus continued its cultural exchange across the region?

Borders are a perverse formation. I wouldn’t say that the underground scene is the only one to have a tendency to spread into a supranational identity. I’d sooner say that the backbone and creative lifeblood of culture grow and develop through curiosity and peer exchange.