I used to be obsessed with webcomics that went beyond translating existing formats (the continuing super-hero story or the bland newspaper strip) and tried to eek out a format that was different, new. I would be over the moon if I found a title that was either extremely personal, rather disturbing or too plain weird to ever attract mainstream attention, and still be insanely great. Lately though, I’ve largely reverted to comics in book format – sometimes, you’d almost think the webcomic revolution was over before it really started, and doing comics on the web nowadays is a mere marketing ploy to get yourself a book deal.
Sometimes, a bit of that spark will return, and only this week it did, with Kristian Nygård’s Optipess. I’d seen some of his comics before on aggregators like Reddit or 9Gag (more particularly the wonderful Cthulhu Scare and Rude Awakening), but after tracking down his website, I found myself calling up page after page from the archive, totally forgetting the time.
Nygård has been doing his comic on an almost daily basis since 2008, when he did a wonderfully sick cartoon featuring a Friday the 13th-like serial killer setting free the butterflies two lovers’ stomachs. That really set the tone, and since then he’s been tackling any subject available from a fantastically absurd point of view, and more often than not with a pessimist or misanthropic slant.
The thing about Nygård is, he can draw. His art over those five years is amazingly consistent, and would not be out of place in your average alternative art compendium. It reminds me of the Perry Bible Fellowship or even Cyanide And Happiness, but if you look at Nygård’s sketches (which he posts as “Bad Comics”), you also see a striking resemblance to Evan Dorkin’s short strips, in tone, delivery and art.
Norway is said to be the cradle of all those types of extreme metal, with the creepy facepaint and all, but at least Kristian Nygård proves that you can also turn that doom and gloom into something that is sardonically funny.