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Animal Loneliness: An Interview With Norwegian Comics Star Jason

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In America, it seems like social websites like Tumblr are the newest star makers in the independent comics world, and being featured on websites like Study Group can really make your name. Is it similar in Norway or France? How does a comic artist starting out make it there?

Jason: I’m not really the person to ask. I started by sending out cartoons and short strips to a humor magazine in Norway while in my teens, and learned to draw that way, while getting paid. And then later, after art school, I met other cartoonists in Oslo, a scene formed, and we started publishing our own books. I went to the festival in Angouleme, France, to find a foreign publisher. So today, just putting it on the net is probably a lot easier, but it’s something I’ve never done.

You’ve played with a lot of genres so far: detective, historical, time travel, classic silent movie. Do you have a favorite genre?

Jason: No, I like a lot of stuff. Westerns, mostly the classic ’50s ones. Old science fiction films, with clumsy effects, women in ’40s hairdos and Martians who speak English. There’s a charm to those films. Similar with old black and white horror films, where the monster is a guy in a suit. Film noir — the best of those films hold up well. I like the old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films. And yes, old silent films as well. Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy. I lose interest in films when they get too arty or pretentious or they try to push a message down your throat. And visually, a lot of modern films don’t appeal to me.

One thing I find great about your classic premises is the near-complete absence of digital communication — in your comics, people don’t email for their day jobs, use cell phones, or update their Facebook. One of the characters in Lost Cat actually says, “Do I look like I chat online?” Do you think there are advantages to setting stories in an pre-digital, classic movie world?

Jason: Well, progress happens so fast that it’s easy to feel out of touch. I certainly do. I don’t have a cell phone or an iPad. I read books on paper. I am on Facebook, though. And I made the step some years ago, from vinyl to CDs, which I regret now. This feeling of a disconnect with the world around you is an interesting subject to write about, and fitting for Dan Delon, the protagonist in Lost Cat, since he’s a private detective in the Humphrey Bogart style, dressed in Fedora and trench coat, and clearly living in the past. And, growing up in the ’70s, if I picture a telephone in my mind, it’s a rotary phone, if I picture a record in my mind it’s a LP. Visually, they look better than the modern versions. The pre-digital world in my comics might also be an influence from my favorite director, Aki Kaurismâki, whose movies made today look like they could take place in the ’50s or ’70s, they have a more timeless quality.

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