26 February 2015


Marcos Farrajota's introduction to Portuguese comics for š! #20 'Desassossego'.  

Marcos Farrajota

Everything we do, whether in art or in life, is a defective version of what were our initial ambitions*.

I’ve spent so much time in front of the computer to write something original about Portuguese comics that my eyes are burning. About this specific form of art we can only say that it will be good to us if we are good to it. And yet comics are silly, a bargain, a form of torture, a useless effort devoid of causes or consequences that offers us neither glory nor any sort of personal reward. In Portugal, as in other parts of the world, making comics is a solitary process, an activity with no class consciousness and with no affiliations or allies—fuck social networks, which are totally irrelevant to someone sitting at a table trying to mix and balance images and text.

Nowadays, the world belongs only to stupid, insensitive, and hectic people. The right to live and to thrive is acquired through the same strategies and processes that qualify someone for internment in a madhouse: inability to think, amorality, and hysteria*.

I asked António Kiala** for his opinion. He answered with his customary rage: “What makes Portuguese comics distinctive from others is the history of their own country, which has always defaulted to states of slavery and colonialism, and which, on account of its peripheral location, didn’t find it that hard to nourish a light version of fascism (everything is light in our country) for almost 50 years. Its mixture of Catholicism and good behavior (without which people would be cast into the Inquisition fires) transformed a docile and illiterate nation into nauseating humus; nevertheless, that didn’t prevent the occasional appearance of some rare talented authors who excel due to their genius.” It has to be this way; otherwise, the word “genius” wouldn’t even exist. The geniuses are few but good! And short. And a bit dark, though the thought of any so-called genetic purity is ridiculous—only the naïve and idiots put their faith in eugenics and thoroughbred horses. As a matter of fact, many of the authors selected for this edition of kuš! are quite tall, and some of them even have blond hair—they could be mistaken for Latvian. What they have in common is the fact that they don’t conform to the cliché of male, heterosexual, Caucasian cartoonists—though one’s color of the skin or sexual orientation is irrelevant when one does not have the talent or the need to express him or herself.

Because I am the size of what I see and not the size of my own height* (Alberto Caeiro).

I was asked to write about Portuguese comics. A pointless task. What’s the use of naming authors or books if not even the Portuguese people know them or give them any credit whatsoever (including the ignorant assholes in the comics scene)? What’s the point in name-dropping if their work is inaccessible to almost everyone? Oddly enough, if you, kind reader, venture into a Portuguese bookshop, you might even find two recently reprinted works from the seventies—Wanya by Augusto Mota and Nelson Dias, or Eternus 9 by Vitor Mesquita—but you will laugh at their naïveté. In the eighties, not a single book worth talking about was published. Only in the nineties did Portuguese comics begin to be published abroad—specifically História de Lisboa by A.H. Oliveira Marques and Filipe Abranches, and Mr. Burroughs by David Soares and Pedro Nora, both in French. Then more books began to propagate at the start of the new millennium, some of them 14 years after their first Portuguese edition, such as the Pedro Burgos’s works, and Pedro Brito’s with João Fazenda, in France, Poland, and Italy.

In Portugal, 25 years ago the popular comics market diminished, but its authors remained well-aligned with the spirit of the times, figuring out homeopathic dosages to track popular styles, and always maintaining irreproachable technical quality. There were great masters of realistic drawing in the 30s (Victor Péon, Fernando Bento), “big nose” manufacturers in the 60s (Carlos Roque, António Fernandes Silva), mass-media political satirists (Nuno Saraiva since the 90s), and artisans of superheroes' underwear (Jorge Coelho in this century). However, I’m not interested in writing about them and their professional dramas—the reader may read about them in Quadradinhos: Look on Portuguese Comics, an anthology published in the context of 2014’s Festival of Treviso.

Life is not worth living. Only the contemplation of things is worth the effort. To be capable of contemplating the world without living would bring us happiness, the same happiness we experience when we dream. Bliss excluding life!*

Portuguese comics have not developed in a linear flow, but rather with constant interruptions that offer no hope of a future and, on the other hand, do not allow the past to build up into a coherent and consolidated narrative. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro (1846–1905) became the first real precursor of national cartoonists by publishing exemplary newspapers and satirical albums, and he even made an attempt of an autobiographical comics exercise with his No Lazareto de Lisboa (1881). But nobody followed his example… Carlos Botelho (1899-1982) is perhaps the only exception, with his style that mixed up chronicle, autobiography, journalism, and satire, and one wonders how the hell he survived publishing a full-page comic every week in the newspaper Sempre Fixe! Although the New State fascist regime had taken power two years earlier, censors allowed the publication of some of his most subversive drawings, notably including the one representing Mussolini and Hitler, half-naked, being expelled from Paradise. (The Italian dictator plays Eve’s role and his name is “Mussolina.”) Internationally renowned comics experts do not consider these two cartoonists part of the world’s comics heritage, because they didn’t receive any international recognition (that would have been impossible, since they came from a completely isolated country), so: keep playing with Krazy Kat’s (even though she’s female) and Calvo’s willies!

Excerpt from Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro autobiographical comic "No Lazareto de Lisboa"

The magazine Visão (1975–76), open to psychedelia and antiauthoritarianism, appeared shortly after the April 25 Revolution. It prescribed to “light” anarchism (Kiala dixit), with a tendency toward a crabbier version of Maoism, and it didn’t go far… It wasn’t until the appearance of the postmodernist magazine Lx Comics (1990-91) that we fully understood the multiplicity of the form’s possibilities, but nobody cared. Meanwhile, Lisbon’s first institutional comics library (Bedeteca de Lisboa) was founded, leading the “indie” generation of the nineties to an editorial boom, with repercussions in the media, in which, suddenly, everything seemed possible. But that work began to decline to the point that nowadays it is almost completely forgotten, even though the library still holds the largest national comics collection, for consultation and domiciliary delivery, located in the same yellow building since 1996. The Portuguese comics scene has been going through an existential crisis since 2005 which, at least, is a period no longer than the historical transitions and intermissions mentioned above.

This existential crisis shouldn’t be problematic, since by now we’ve long lived in a world without God or any sort of center. It is impossible to aggregate the artists participating in this book in one single affinity group because they all have different ages, aesthetics, and artistic trajectories. Even though I know almost all of them quite well, I wasn’t aware, for example, that Marta Monteiro was doing comics. It was David Schilter who “discovered” this fact, and it was also he who suggested Joana Estrela (ok, she was wandering through the Baltic countries at the time), and, most importantly, it was kuš! that published Amanda Baeza’s first book.

And thus we come across a total mystery: why is this issue full of dissidents? (Is there another word we can use to qualify these authors?) Of course there’s the fact that some them are connected to organized collectives, such as Chili Com Carne (Daniel Lopes, André Lemos, Francisco Sousa Lobo, Rafael Gouveia), Oficina Arara (Bruno Borges) or Clube do Inferno (André Pereira)—a manifestation of a phenomenon, collectivism, that is totally incomprehensible to the Portuguese people —but most of them are “lone wolves” like Cátia Serrão and Daniel Lima. There are “wolves” full of persons inside them, such as Tiago Manuel, who is likely to surpass Fernando Pessoa with his 25 heteronyms project—last year, his Belgian Marriette Tosel was nominated by the Society of Illustrators! And there’s Paulo Monteiro who, despite his institutional work with Beja’s Comics Library and corresponding comics festival, exhales through the pores of his skin a kind of poetry that deeply impresses foreign publishers—he is the Portuguese author with the most foreign editions of his first and only book!

Internationalization is a recent phenomenon. For a long time, Portuguese artists didn’t join the big party of exchange that was the nineties alternative scene; we felt comfortable and happy eating animal fat and potatoes from the countryside and you had to come to Portugal to have contact with the art being done here. The genius artist creates for himself only and waits for the others to ask to see what he is doing… Of course, he is also moved and feels grateful for the interest shown in his work and for the challenges proposed to him. The seclusion to which he is condemned is, after all, equivalent to the sufferings of Arthur Dent,*** who was, for many years, left alone on an abandoned planet somewhere in the universe.

Actually, the answers to everything I was incapable of writing about Portuguese comics are, in fact, hidden in the wise words Dent mutters to the first intelligent creature that appears in front of him during those years of exile, Bowerick Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. I quote: Whh...? Bu...hu...uh ... Ru...ra...wah...who?

*Quotes from the The Book of Disquiet, by Fernando Pessoa.
**Kiala is an Angolan university professor of Sociology, residing between Lisbon and Belfast, and one of the cofounders of Mesinha de Cabeceira, a zine and “think tank” of Lisbon’s underground scene during the nineties.
***Attention! We’re now entering the zone of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.

Marcos Farrajota works at Bedeteca de Lisboa (the Lisbon comics library). Since 1992 he has been publishing the zine Mesinha de Cabeceira and books of Portuguese and international artists in Chili Com Carne and MMMNNNRRRG labels. His work is published in the form of comics, articles and comics scripts, in zines, magazines, anthologies and solo books all around Europe.

19 February 2015

š! #20 'Desassossego' is out now!

The first kuš! title of the year is out and it bring us to Portugal.

š! #20 'Desassossego' includes a wide selection of alternative comics by Portuguese artists. Some of them are already internationally well known, but as usual, we are happy to feature also a lot of new discoveries. The theme 'Desassossego' is inspired by  Fernando Pessoa's book "Livro do Desassossego". "Desassossego" means disquiet, and the contributing artists provided comics loosely based on disquietness. Pessoa is one of the most significant literary figures of the 20th century, but this issue shows that Portugal is not only a land of literary greats, but it is also the home of many magnificent visual poets!

š! #20 'Desassossego', cover by Daniel Lima 

Contributors: Amanda Baeza, André Lemos, André Pereira, Bruno Borges, Cátia Serrão, Daniel Lima, Daniel Lopes, Filipe Abranches, Francisco Sousa Lobo, Joana Estrela, João FazendaMarta Monteiro, Milena Baeza, Paulo Monteiro, Pedro Burgos, Rafael Gouveia, Tiago Manuel. Featuring an introduction to Portuguese comics by guest editor Marcos Farrajota and a special photo part by Tiago Casanova.

Support: Funded by the Direção-Geral do Livro, dos Arquivos e das Bibliotecas/Portugal.

Format: A6, 164 pages, full-color, perfect bound, English.

Get it:  Order it for $14 from our webshop (worldwide shipping costs included in price) or get yourself a kuš! subscription and enjoy also the upcoming titles of kuš!


Amanda Baeza

André Pereira

Cátia Serrão

Filipe Abranches

Francisco Sousa Lobo

Joana Estrela

Marta Monteiro

Bruno Borges

Backcover by Daniel Lima

... and much more! To enjoy the whole comics and discover what's happening in the Portuguese comics scene, you can order the issue here (or by clicking the orange button below). Abraço!

18 February 2015

The Finnish Comics Phenomenon

Excerpt from Marko Turunen's comic in š! #8 'Midnight Sun'

Ville Hänninen will have a presentation of Finnish comics with lot of visual examples of this vibrant scene in Riga!

Monday, 23.02.2015, 17:30, Birojnīca, Berga Bazārs, Riga, free entry (Facebook event)

"Finland, a country of five million people, has never really witnessed the birth of a comic industry. This also means that Finnish artists are never under any illusions about their future. They know that they very likely have to earn their bread and butter doing something else. And as it will not make them rich, they also do not have to care about making compromises.

"The Secret"

Exhibition by Zane Zlemeša and Anna Vaivare from 28.02.2015-12.03.15 at Kalnciema Kvartāla Galerija, Riga. On display will be original artworks from their mini kuš! #28 'Collector' and mini kuš! #24 'Swimming Pool'. Stories about a photo salon operator and a swimming pool cleaner - both with an unexpected twist!

Exhibition poster made by Zane Zlemeša and Anna Vaivare.

Excerpt from Anna Vaivare's  mini kuš! #24 'Swimming Pool'.

Excerpt from Zane Zlemeša's mini kuš! #28 'Collector'.

Find out more and join the event here!

20 January 2015

š! #20 'Desassossego' coming out soon!

After one month, on the 19th of February, we'll release the twentieth (wow!) issue of š!. The title is 'Desassossego'. It's not a usual issue, this time we wandered to the other end of Europe to discover what's happening in Portugal and dedicated the full issue to Portuguese comics.

The theme is inspired by Fernando Pessoa's book "Livro do Desassossego". "Desassossego" means disquiet, and the contributing artists provided comics loosely based on disquietness. All in all a very poetic collection of works from some of the most brilliant Portuguese artists!

š! #20 'Desassossego'

Cover: Daniel Lima 

Contributors: Amanda Baeza, André Lemos, André Pereira, Bruno Borges, Cátia Serrão, Daniel Lima, Daniel Lopes, Filipe Abranches, Francisco Sousa Lobo, Joana Estrela, João FazendaMarta Monteiro, Milena Baeza, Paulo Monteiro, Pedro Burgos, Rafael Gouveia, Tiago Manuel. Featuring an introduction to Portuguese comics by guest editor Marcos Farrajota and a special photo part by Tiago Casanova.

Support: Funded by the Direção-Geral do Livro, dos Arquivos e das Bibliotecas/Portugal.

Format: A6, 164 pages, full-color, perfect bound, English.

Special feature: Darling Sleeper

Get it:  Pre-order it for $14 from our webshop (worldwide shipping costs included in price) or get yourself a kuš! subscription.

Preview Pages:

Daniel Lima

Cátia Serrão

28 December 2014

2014 kuš! roundup

2014 has been a splendid year for comics! We published a rocking 880 pages of colorful alternative comics glory in four š! anthologies and eight mini kuš!, featuring the work by 74 international artists!

These are all the titles in chronological order. In case you happened to miss the whole kuš! year, you can now buy them all in a special package deal ($79 including worldwide shipping costs and a bunch of free stickers, postcards and bookmarks). Have a look at each title published with links to the artists and to reviews on our site in the š! section and the mini kuš! section.

Not to miss anything in future, we recommend you to get a kuš! subscription. 2015 promises to be a very exciting year as well with new surprises from some very fine artists!

 Illustration by Dāvis Ozols
2014 hasn't been only a great year for publishing, but was also exceptional for events! We curated eight different exhibitions, visited eight international comics festivals, hosted one comics residency, organized the second Latvian comic competition, held nine comics workshops for comic artists, art students, children, teenagers and anyone else interested, had two comics readings and even celebrated some parties. As our latest anthology was about mathematics, we've become number fetishists as you might have noticed.... to sum it up, we've been pretty busy and think the future of Latvian comics looks better than ever. If you're interested in more details, you can see some summaries and pictures on the events section of our site.

Keep on following to find out what 2015 brings!

Thank you thank you thank you!

3 December 2014

š! #19 'Mathematics'

š! #19 'Mathematics' is out now! Twenty plus one international artists contributed comics about the wonderfully confusing world of mathematics. Watch out, this will be very graphic and some square angles might lure in the corners. But don't be afraid, it will not be all too arithmetical, math is fun!

Cover: Ernests Kļaviņš

Contributors: Alexis Beauclair (France), Amanda Baeza (Chile, Portugal), Dace Sietiņa (Latvia, The Netherlands), Dāvis Ozols (Latvia), Ernests Kļaviņš (Latvia), Joaquín Aldeguer (Spain), John Pound (USA), José Ja Ja Ja (Spain), König Lü.Q. (Switzerland), Laura Ķeniņš (Canada, Latvia), Liisa Kruusmägi (Estonia), Līva Kandevica (Latvia), Markus Häfliger (Switzerland), Martín López Lam (Peru, Spain), Mārtiņš Zutis (Latvia), Pixin (Singapore), Renee French (USA), René Rogge (Germany), Roope Eronen (Finland), Ville Kallio (Finland), Zane Zlemeša (Latvia).

Format: A6, 164 pages, full-color, perfect bound, English

Support: Latvian State Culture Capital Foundation

Get it:  Order your copy here ($14, international shipping costs included!), get it together with the newest mini kuš! or get yourself a kuš! subscription.


Ernests Kļaviņš

Līva Kandevica

18 November 2014

š! #19 'Mathematics' coming out soon

Did you know that every simply connected, closed 3-manifold is homeomorphic to the 3-sphere? Well you don't  have to, but it might be helpful to enjoy this issue even more. Twenty-one international artists contributed comics to prove that math is relatively fun! Find out yourself and read š! #19 'Mathematics'.

Cover: Ernests Kļaviņš (Latvia)

Contributors: Alexis Beauclair (France), Amanda Baeza (Chile, Portugal), Dace Sietiņa (Latvia, The Netherlands), Dāvis Ozols (Latvia), Ernests Kļaviņš (Latvia), Joaquín Aldeguer (Spain), John Pound (USA), José Ja Ja Ja (Spain), König Lü.Q. (Switzerland), Laura Ķeniņš (Canada, Latvia), Liisa Kruusmägi (Estonia), Līva Kandevica (Latvia), Markus Häfliger (Switzerland), Martín López Lam (Peru, Spain), Mārtiņš Zutis (Latvia), Pixin (Singapore), Renee French (USA), René Rogge (Germany), Roope Eronen (Finland), Ville Kallio (Finland), Zane Zlemeša (Latvia).

Format: A6, 164 pages, full-color, perfect bound, English

Release date: December 2nd, 2014

Support: Latvian State Culture Capital Foundation

Get it:  Pre-order it ($14, international shipping costs included), order it together with the newest mini kuš! or get yourself a kuš! subscription.

Preview pages:

Alexis Beauclair

Amanda Baeza

17 November 2014

Comics Residency in Riga III - Berliac

The whole month of March 2014 we had the pleasure to host Berliac in Riga as comics artist in residence in the framework of the CUNE residencies. Hopefully soon we can give you more info about the upcoming residencies, but meanwhile you can read in Berliac's words, how he experienced his time in Riga, in which he was very active having an exhibition and lecture at the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art and holding a comics workshop at the Art Academy of Latvia in which he inspired the Latvian comics generation of tomorrow. But read yourself: 

     "When I arrived to Riga, David Schilter came to pick me up to the airport and we took a bus into town. He pointed at the hipster markets where I shouldn't buy food if I intended to stay above the line of poverty. I had an apartment all by myself, and the first thing I did was to move the furniture around. I grouped most of it on the wooden floor part, cos the other side of the flat was a carpet, and I have something against carpets. 

The next day, together with David we visited the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art, where I'd make an exhibition only four days later. The works to be shown were the original pages of my mini kuš! 'Inverso', but when I took them out of the folder, David, curator Ieva Saulīte, and me, we all realized my pages completely sucked. Also they were too little in number and size. We measured the place once more, in order to think what could be done to make the exhibition a place worth visit and help David and Ieva keep their jobs. Despite I hate making murals and we had only four days, I still decided I would make a 2 meter painting, plus four new A3-sized drawings. During the day I worked on the painting at the gallery space, and at night I worked on the smaller ones at home, until very late. 

I usually work on A5

12 November 2014

Riga Comics Festival?

There is no comics festival in Latvia, but this week feels a bit like it... 

Illustration: Zane Zlemeša (excerpt from mini kuš! #28)

2014 was a quite active kuš! year, and now it comes to it's climax. There are two comics exhibition openings, we'll hand out comics awards, there will be a comics reading, portfolio presentations, a comics workshop, live comics music mashups... and it all will be quite international with artists from all Baltic states and Germany attending and drawing.