The Slovenia Times

Mirror on Society



What happens when you bite into a hamburger full of comic strips? "We can certainly feel something edible, although not necessarily nutritious," smiles Bojan Albahari, a member of the editorial board and executive editor of Stripburger. A hamburger filled with comic pages appeared on the first issue. That was in1992, the artist behind the legendary cover was by Jakob Klemenčič, a comic book artist, printmaker, an architect by profession, the co-founder of the magazine Stripburger.
Stripburger is now a prestigious international alternative magazine, celebrating its twentieth birthday this year. Members of the rotating editorial board encourage the development of comics culture in Slovenia and abroad. They strive to encourage youngsters to the culture, emphasising that there are alternative as well as commercial comic books and organising competitions and comic drawing lessons for both primary and secondary pupils. Also run are comic workshops open to all regardless of age and artistry, jam sessions and round tables.
All of those working on Stripburger see comics as a unique and important means of artistic expression. "Our magazine is a corrective, a mirror of society," Albahari explains. "It is here to show the dark side of people, of humanity. Everybody can be sucked into this vortex."
Take the most recent issue, in which Brooklyn comic artist Peter Cooper depicts the turbulent situation in American society. His colour comic strip deals with the Occupy Wall Street movement. He tells in his own way what is happening to the lawless, desperate majority, contrary to the life of the "elite", which is impoverished as well, albeit in a different way.

Two decades

Stripburger aims to connect comic fans from across the world. At the beginning, the aim was just to connect to fans across the former Yugoslavia. Back then there were no such magazines and so art enthusiasts from the Stripcore team decided to create the comic art fanzine. Over time it has grown into the Stripburger we know. The team is still keen to forge links across the region. They recently attended a meeting of the Turbocomix International Association in Belgrade. The aim is to restore a common place for crosscultural comics exchange, which was disrupted by the war and the independence process in the Balkans.
In Slovenia, the transition to capitalism in the mid-nineties brought many unexpected and undesired consequences. The two comic artists Tomaž Lavrič and Iztok Sitar lively described this era, the former in a compilation of short stories called New Times and Red Alarm, the latter in a piece of art called Black Men, White bones. Sitar explicitly described scenes of deviant sexuality and hypocrisy of the Slovenian Catholic church. His drawing was inspired by 4000, the dystopic novel by Slovene writer Ivan Tavčar. "They are committed comics writers, though politically incorrect," Albahari notes.

From Sex to War

For Stripburger's special topical editions, editors invite authors to draw a comic strip on a specific issue. One was a collection of comics by Slavic authors from fifteen Eastern European countries called Stripbure. It provoked much interest among Western "connoisseurs" of alternative comics, who through the collection became acquainted with "a premonition of the wounded future."
Topics are more commonly drawn from everyday life. Sex (XXX Burger) and madness (Madburger) are still popular. When the USA attacked Iraq in 2003, Warburger came out. The team achieved great international acclaim through provocative cartoons on handicap (Handy Burger). The latest issue is devoted to recipes for food, good luck and a better life. Sometimes they give over special issues to the comic art of certain countries.
Speaking on the most recent topics and styles prevalent in alternative comics, Albahari says: "A certain form produces certain content. The way you describe something, indicates the understanding of the content."
Not all of Stripburger's authors deal with social issues. Jyrki Heikkinen, for example, interweaves poetry with comics to create lyrical work. Others like Peter Cooper take a classic approach. All the contributors are drawers, illustrators, plastic designers or film animators. Each of them contributes to the high quality of the magazine.
If asked to highlight a few promising Slovenes, it would have to be Gašer Rus, David Krančan or Martin Ramoveš. In his latest contribution Rus shows that we can be subversive if we proceed from personal experience. He illustrates the deterioration of traditional paternal authority.

The future

Stripburger may be subversive but it has received mainstream attention. In 2001 it won the Alpha Art award at the international comics festival in Angoulême, one of the most important in Europe.
Fancy a burger? The magazine can be purchased in bookshops in Slovenia and elsewhere in the world and previous issues will soon be published in electronic form.


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