Have you ever had the hippie cliche phrase “drugs expand your mind” thrown in your face? Marcus Ivarsson is a living proof of the contrary. His latest book Deluxe is an explosion in different colours and expressions. But during a period of heavy drug abuse he couldn’t draw a single line.
Interview by Max Gustafson
Do comics play a big part of your life?
Very! It’s my creative expression. To come up with stories, solve problems, process ideas and finally get to publish it. It’s a lot of anxiety and pleasure at the same time. When I get an idea for a story, I take into account whether it is possible to tell it as a comic. The dialogue will automatically be snippets that fit into images or speech bubbles.
Reading your comics, it strucks me how freely you tend to change from one expression to another. How do you relate to that?
It makes me happy! I’ve got so many different sources of inspiration. Both in art, music and movies. I guess I’m restless.
So you don’t like to work within set boundaries?
Well, sometimes you have to. Too many different expressions in a single comic can be confusing. Though it happens.
You do both humorous and autobiographical comics, what is the biggest difference between these two expressions?
There’s not a big difference, I think. A lot of my stuff are both humorous and autobiographical. For example, a self- experienced history called “In rehab”. If there’s any difference I think it’s in the layout. What has been different for me is creating stuff that has only two, three or four squares containing a punchline. It doesn’t come natural to me. I’m used to free flow, I guess. But comic strips is a fun challenge!
Yeah, comic strips is hard work!
Only for the toughest!
You seem to have a sensitive personality that comes through in your comics.
Well, that’s how it is. I’ve always been kind of melancholic with various depressions and crisis. Sometimes I’ve felt alone about it, but there’s a lot of literature, art and movies that runs through that gamut of emotions.
It’s like some, truly human emotions is regarded as abnormal and undesirable when they in fact are very universal. I’m interested in expressing emotions that evolves from human weaknesses. Instead of denying them and pretend to be happy the whole damn time!
Quite right. How will you ever be able to appreciate being on top the mountain if you have never been below it – as some clever buddhist said.
Yeah, and I’ve always been drawn to artistic expressions that deals with things that are taboo. Rather Munch’s “The scream” than beautiful sunsets.
And you’ve done comics about your own drug addiction. Did it help?
The comics itself would not have saved my life, I’ve had to dig deeper than that. I had such a destructive lifestyle that I couldn’t even draw anymore. It was impossible to develop and it was a great sadness. In some ways it’s good because it helps you to ransack your mind. But those comics was made afterwords as a kind of presentation of my addiction period.
Certainly, to think that your gonna be cured by isolating and drawing comics is a bit naiv. But it can still be valuable, kind of like writing your diary.
Yes, absolutely. And I’ve been doing that since I was fifteen, so it is natural for me.
The most momentous time for me was in the early 90′s when I discovered the underground comics. I bought every edition of Epix and Galago I could find and my brain exploded! It was particularly Joakim Pirinen, Max Andersson and Robert Crumb who fascinated me. But also Jim Woodring, Chris Ware, Al Columbia, Dave McKean and Charles Burns. Then I got into fanzines. I discovered David Liljemark’s Fizzo and the Örebro-based comic collective Rare Zombie Press’s Rare zombie. I started to produce fanzines with some of my classmates. And later on, when I had moved to Gothenburg, I started a fanzine called Nonbob wich was contributed by well-known comic creators like Joakim Pirinen, Johan Wanloo, and Henrik Lange.
What’s your next project?
I’m working on a interpretation of Selma Lagerlöf‘s novel “From a Swedish Homestead”. It’s a big project. Also hoping to release my comic, Outro, sometime soon.
Basic facts: Born 1978 in Panama by a Chilean mother and a Swedish father. Moved to Sweden at the age of three. Raised in Sunne, Värmland. Lives in Västerås. Inking on a thick paper using pelikan ink and cheap synthetic brushes. Steel pens or felt-tipped pens for hatching. Mostly computer colouring.
And so far, Marcus Ivarsson have only been published in swedish. So publishers – get in touch!