mostly about comments

Black Holes and RevelationsMaking of

Posted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:48:29

(Posted originally on February 9th, 2008)

So, it’s two years of Partly About Food now. Or the anniversary was already on Monday, but due to very uninteresting reasons, it went unannounced at the time. There’s a comic about the anniversary coming up, but not today, because I spent my drawing time talking on the phone about mortgages and writing this little essay.

The second year in the history of this website probably wasn't the most glorious one, and - inspite of my best intentions and ambitions - I can’t guarantee that the third year will be much better. When you are a person with a wife, child, full-time job, social life, bunch of other distracting hobbies (i.e. gaming, beer and sofa-testing), and on top of it all you suffer from a strange and profound aversion towards labour of any kind, you aren’t very likely to be the world’s most productive comic artist.

Excuses, ad infinitum. I’m lazy and that’s just not going to change, but I do aim to improve from the current level of productivity. One big reason to do so is that I really like the story Deadly Mushrooms, which will be the main feature of this site for a long time. If I manage to pull it off the way I have imagined it in my head, it will turn into an entertaining and insightful story. Anyways, even if posting frequency during the second year of Mostly About Food has been embarrassingly low (and I have lost some 60 % of my readers because of that), I still don’t see it as a complete disaster. I feel that I have improved at least artistically and the style has evolved into a more innovative and web-friendly direction. That’s gotta count for something, right?

And now for something slightly different. Namely, I had a revelation the other day, while I was going to get Axel home from daycare. It suddenly dawned on me, why much of the comics that are aimed at a mature audience never really become huge sellers and mainstream in the same manner as books and films do. And why comics just don’t make a break with grown-ups. Namely, a lot of the mature (as in not just for kids, I’m not talking about porn here) comics are only mature in relation to most other comics: The Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen may be very deep within their own context, but for most people, who otherwise find it very entertaining to read and watch fictional books and movies, the problem is in the subject itself, i.e. superheroes. A lot of people find the concept of superheroes so incredible and juvenile that they dismiss any stories based on superheroes just because of that. I am not saying that, for instance, Watchmen isn’t a great piece of sequential art and/or fiction (because it IS), but comics like that aren’t attracting any new adults into the world of comics. Watchmen is great for those, who have read a lot of (different) comics as a youngster and just didn’t give it up when they started to work.

The relative maturity isn’t limited only to superhero comics. Let’s consider, for example, Tintin and The Blue Lotus. It is a lot more serious work than any Tintin’s adventures before it and it does bring up very boldly and clearly some – at least at the time - uncomfortable issues. But, taken out of its reference group (other Tintin books and adventure comics), it doesn’t necessarily stand out as an overwhelmingly deep and insightful criticism of European-Japanese colonialists’ exploitation of China.

A lot of comics that aren’t made for kids have elements of incredibility, psychedelia, fantasy and strangeness, which for some reason isn’t very popular among most grown-ups. Some of the comics are so artistic and convoluted that they are difficult to understand. For instance, I really enjoy the mind-numbingly sexy women and situations in Milo Manara’s comics, but I just don’t get what they are all about. Of course, there are exceptions, like From Hell, which is very credible and a thousand times more captivating conspiracy theory than The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons put together. So it’s not like comics are superficial by definition. But I’d assume that comics like From Hell suffer from the obscurity of comic books in general. (It probably doesn’t help that some of them are turned into movies, which are a lot more cartoony than the comics themselves) The bottom line is, a great big share of comics for grown-ups don’t get through to the intended target group, because they see the whole medium as immature and incredible.

So, how does this go together with the success of, say, Harry Potter? Well, I would guess that a lot of adults have been tricked into reading the books because that’s all their kids can talk about. But more importantly, a book – as opposed to a comic book or magazine – seems to be a more grown-up way to entertain oneself, no matter the subject. Somehow it just isn’t as embarrassing to admit having read Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, than getting caught reading Elfquest.

How are we to find new adult readers, then? I don’t know. Why do kids stop reading comics at some point? Is it because the mainstream comics are so heavily based on superheroes and Disney characters that they aren’t exactly aware of the more mature stuff? Or don’t adults have the time to really concentrate on a comic book? Are mature comics so much harder to read than detective stories? Or is it because a lot of the comics people read as kids are funny, so people keep on reading the funny comics even as grown-ups? Having never been exposed to more serious comics at an early age makes it harder to find those comics as an adult, maybe? The humour thing might be one of the reasons, because when I think of strip comics, there is a whole bunch of very succesful comics for mature audiences. Like Dilbert or Baby Blues– you can’t really get most of the jokes in them without ever having had a job or children.

Maybe it’s just a matter of marketing. Today there is no point in making a lot of noise about a comic book, because it’s just not going to sell ten million copies worldwide. But why could it not be changed? Why not make a long-term marketing commitment to comics, just to increase the awareness of the general public? So, you spend a ginormous amount of money in marketing comic books that won’t make it to any newspaper’s bestseller list, but it just might lead to the concept of comic book pushing its appreciation and accessibility closer to ordinary books and then we would have a new mainstream medium with a lot of potential. As in earnings and the the prospect of which, I am sad to admit, are a crucial part of pushing any product to the people.

Maybe it is so that marketing budgets of a necessary scale to reach the critical mass just don’t exist. I am not discussing this because I am unhappy for not making any money out of comics – if I worked hard enough on it, I possibly could earn a part of my living from them. I am just bothered by the fact that a lot of people are unaware of or deliberately dismissing a whole lot of good art, documentary, fiction and entertainment for no good reason. I can’t see it, why comics and especially comic books for adults should forever remain marginalized, only to be enjoyed by live-action role-players and other daydreamer freaks like myself.

What are we going to do about it?

PS: Here's a (relatively old) picture of someone who really likes his food and never minds the comics:

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Renfield, bring me my supper at once!

Deadly Mushrooms, Chapter 1: Bullet in the HeadComics

Posted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:46:02

(Posted originally on November 27th, 2007)

The first chapter isn’t even close to being finished yet, but I still wanted to write a couple of words about it. Right now it doesn’t seem very food-related, but just bear with me, we’ll get there.

Originally I wanted to maintain a certain level of realism to this story, but after having talked to an actual police officer, I had to give up much of that. The way the police works in real life just doesn’t fit very well into this one, so I have to make up my own standard operating procedures for Copenhagen City Police Dept. As it seems now, the only factual element of the story will be the environment – an existing city named Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark.

The inner workings of the characters will be discussed later. I can reveal so much that I have named pretty much every character (except detective Kofoed) after people I know, although first and last names are mixed. But that is not to say that I’d copied their personalities in those characters as well... That is to say: any likeness or connections to real people, live or dead, is strictly coincidental.

My Favourite PoisonComics

Posted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:45:13

(Posted originally on October 14th, 2007)

It’s pretty painful to admit that finishing this little comic took me over four months. That’s one third of a year. I’ve already tried to come up with excuses for my laziness, so let’s not get into that anymore.

Even though this one is merely 22 panels long, it’s been a motherfucker to draw. I drew only quick sketches, if that, on paper and then built the pictures in the computer with a drawing pad. That was a whole lot of work, even if I cheated by drawing on photos in some cases. I don’t think, I’ll try to do pictures like these in future – it’s way easier to draw stuff with clear, thick outlines on paper, scan and then colour them in PaintShop. Or then I need to buy a drawing tablet with an in-built screen.

The story isn’t really that much about coffee, as it is about the difference between Monday and Sunday – and how my spring was like. Every morning you do the same thing, but some days it’s just not at all the same.

I found it suitable to add an alternative version of this comic. Just in case someone doesn’t appreciate the rollover feature, or it for some reason doesn’t work for someone.

AutoReply: Kalle Räihä has been out of office for quite a whilePersonal

Posted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:40:12

(Posted originally on August 27th, 2007)

As one may have noticed, there has been absolutely nothing going on at Mostly About Food for two months now. It is a little embarrassing, but I just haven’t had the energy to draw anything in a while. July was vacation and I’ve been on paternity leave with Axel in August, and let me assure you, it’s a lot of work. He wants his porridge at 0700 hrs and finally agrees to fall asleep around 1930 hrs, at which point I am completely exhausted. We can barely stay awake long enough to watch a movie after the boy goes to sleep, so I haven’t even given much thought to doing any drawing in the evenings.

But now I’m slowly trying to catch up with the comics again. A few more panels to the one that I started in June. I really should have finished it back then, because the story takes place in May (it doesn’t matter yet, but springtime will have a small role in it later on). I will try to finish this story as quickly as possible, so that I can get started with a really cool, album-lenght story some time in September. You’ll see, if you just can stand to wait for an indefinite while.

Boudin NoirComics

Posted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:36:13

(Posted originally on May 3rd, 2007)

The drawing and publishing of this particular comic has taken a very, very long time for a number of reasons. To be more precise that number is three. The first one is, as mentioned before, my disproportionate work load. The last month or two I just haven’t had the time, strength or opportunity to draw much. But that part will be fixed promptly.

The second reason is the length of the comic itself: weighing in at a whopping 65 individual panels, it is by miles the longest comic that I have drawn for this page so far. So actually, since it is almost three times bigger than an average four-page, +/- 24-panel, one-page-a-week MAF-comic, it is only naturally that it takes almost three months to finish it.

The third reason, and the excuse for the irregular posting schedule is my decision to publish this one in four varied-lenght chapters, instead of one page per week, as is customary. Since it is an action comic, I wanted each chapter to end with some kind of a cliffhanger.

But the explanation to the comic itself? Why all the guns and the blood and the gore? To be completely honest, originally my ambitions as a comic artist had nothing to do with food comics. I wanted to draw and write adventures, full of action, sex, violence, surprising plot twists and witty criticism of our modern society. I wanted (and still want) to make the new Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen, only without superheroes. But captivating, tough and tight stories. The only problem is that I don’t have a single idea for such a comic – at least not one worth putting into reality.

But the urge to draw action comics couldn’t be pushed down any longer, which is why I had to find a way to make one, and still keep it food-related. Enter Boudin Noir: even the name of the sausage sounds like a hard-boiled detective story from the fifties and it is made out of the most important ingredient in macho-action, i.e. blood. As for the rest of it, there isn’t really much to explain. Killer pigs are pigs, the basic source of pig blood. If you want to see them, and their conflict with the female lead character in a deeper context, as a part of some feminist manifestation (or chauvinist, after all, she turns out to be a sick bitch, who has an affair with a rich hog), then be my guest, but in the end of the day, the story is just as simple as it seems: pigs are chasing her, she kills a lot of them, goes to a fancy restaurant, reveals her true nature and has boudin noir for dinner.

Which, by the way, is something I have never had. Not once have I tasted boudin noir. It’s not that I have a big problem with eating blood (it’s not my favourite, either, but that could be blamed on the blood pancakes that we got in elementary school), but I just haven’t been exposed to boudin noir, nor have I sought after it very eagerly. I will fix this shortcoming a-sap.

In other news, as of tomorrow and until next Friday, I am participating in Socrates Teacher Exchange Programme, which means that my employer is sending me to hang out with the people of Universidad de Malaga in Spain. I expect to gain another 5 kilos from all the tapas, rioja and cerveza that I am about to consume there. Muy bien, muy bien by me, indeed. Hasta luego!

BuriedPersonal

Posted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:35:20

(Posted originally on March 17th, 2007)

I have had all kinds of reasons for not updating the site with new comics, but never before this one: work. I am currently buried in work. For the next couple of months I am teaching some 30 hours a week in seven different courses, many of which are new to me. So there is plenty of preparation work to do. Plus, there are all kinds of reports, exams and assignments to read, correct and evaluate. This means that I do work related stuff every evening and all weekends. I don’t mean to complain, even though having to work that much is a bit new to me and it is annoying. (Deep inside I feel it’s only fair that I sometimes have to make an effort to earn my pay – if only the load was a bit more evenly distributed) As much as I’d like to, there just doesn’t seem to be time to draw right now.

But it’s not only comics that suffer because of my job. It also affects my cooking to such an extent that, at times, I no longer think of cooking as a hobby or a passion, but – gasp! – as a chore. Cooking has turned into a necessary evil that takes up time from everything else and thus merely increases my level of stress. Joanna needs proper food – especially since she is breast-feeding Axel – so I just can’t stop cooking for a month and let us live on take-away pizza and such. Planning and making the day’s dinner used to be the highlight of the day; my moment of creativity and accomplishment... (sob)

I really hope things get back to normal around May. Latest. I’m sorry for the slow pace (again!), but believe me, I haven’t forgotten about these comics, so there will be an update reasonably soon. In the meanwhile, you are urged to keep on truckin’!

Mostly About AxelPersonal

Posted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:27:02

(Posted originally on February 3rd, 2007)

It’s now 9 pm in the evening, and I don’t have anything ready for tomorrow’s celebration of the first anniversary in the life of Mostly About Food. I had a ton of things planned, but half of them didn’t work out and the rest of it just hasn’t been done. Instead of drawing a birthday comic today, I wrote a rant, which I even myself can’t quite understand, what it really is about. I’ll probably manage to put up some half-assed semi-comic up tomorrow. It really bothers me that my head is literally bulging with ideas, but my inspiration to draw anything is close to zero.

My complaining about my laziness and lack of drive must be pretty tiring to read. It seems to be the main theme of every other article on this page. I extend my sincerest apologies for my lack of spine and for constantly writing about it. It just helps dealing with the problem.

But that is not to say that I would be on a bad mood. Quite the contrary, I am a very happy man. The first time, I wrote about our son, Axel, I may have seemed less than thrilled about him: he used to scream all the time and we didn’t get any sleep. Things have changed a lot since then. Well, to be honest, he still wakes up quite often at night, which means very little sleep to his mother. But as for the rest of it, he is simply adorable. I want to eat him - by the way, isn’t it strange, how at times, when you get really excited about your child, you think about eating him? Not like spit-roasted, but... you know what I mean, don’t you? There must be some psychological explanation to that reaction, for pretty much everyone I know says so to their (grand)children: mommy will eat you!

I’ve always liked children, but I have to say that my own little boy is so beautiful that it hurts. It sometimes feels very odd to look at something so precious – like I would turn into Gollum... Sure, relationships between grown-ups can be very deep and meaningful, but never before has someone elses well-being been such a crucial part of my own existence. As often as I am glad for his smiles and the funny noises, he makes, I feel this crushing weight on my shoulders, caused by the constant worry: “I just wish everything goes well, I just hope nothing bad happens.” I know that all this worrying is mostly unnecessary: Axel is a healthy boy, he has two loving parents and he lives in one of the wealthiest and safest corners of the world. But he’s just so small. At the moment he is just realizing that he has hands, which he can use to grab stuff. Thinking about that doesn’t make me very convinced that he will ever be able to manage on his own. And those thoughts make me understand my parents a bit better. Now I can sort of understand, how my mom sees me and my older siblings.

Naturally, all of this is self-evident to any parent and uninteresting to anyone who doesn’t have a child. I just find it a bit interesting – crossing the border from the point where a parent proclaiming the same old “I’d do anything for my kid” would bore me to tears, to where I am today, having all these feelings that weren't there before. I just wish everything goes well, I just hope nothing bad happens.

Here’s a picture of Axel, from his christening some six weeks ago.

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The Insanely Authentic TiramisuComics

Posted by Kalle Tue, June 14, 2011 22:22:09

(Posted originally on February 3rd, 2007)

Maybe the joke in this one just isn’t that clear or good, for a number of people have been asking me, what this is about. It’s not an advertisement for Italy, it’s just a parody on one of the stereotypical fantasies people sometimes seem to have about the country, its food and its culture. Sure, there’s plenty of good food to be found in Italy, but they have McDonald’s over there, too. And you can drive around the valley of the river Po without ever meeting father Camillo, or mayor Peppone. What I mean to say is that all those romantic, distant places in books, films, commercials, food and travel shows just don’t exist as such. (Just in case you didn’t know...)

On the other hand, I’m not saying that it’s just the same, if you use bland, mass-marketed ingredients full of weird additives or first-rate organic stuff. It’s just that sometimes all this foodie raving about this and that rare and expensive food item is superficial bullshit. In the end of the day, a wagyu steak will taste pretty much like one made of local beef. I assume, never having tried Kobe beef, but it’s still beef, right?

Maybe I’m wrong, but I just feel that often a truly remarkable and memorable eating experience has more to do with the situation and the events leading up to the meal, than the meal itself. You know, like the same cheese sandwich will taste so much better if you have it on a sunny day at the beach, next to a girl in a bikini, than if you chew on it alone in your dirty, one-room flat. Or, to give another example, like when my friend Anssi and his family visited us last September: from the minute we got to our place from the airport to the point they went back home we either ran around the city in search of the right ingredients, or cooked them, or ate what we had cooked. The seven course dinner that we put together was, of course, nothing short of phenomenal, at least for us. I remember wondering at the time, whether some outsider, who would not have had anything to do with the preparing of the dinner, would have thought our mushroom raviolis were so fantastic. The fact that we had worked so hard on the food definitely gave it an extra flavour.

And then there’s the necessity of being hip, cool and up-to-date. A lot of people have heard of things that are the hottest cool right now, yet they have no idea, what the stuff is like. Therefore it’s often enough to create an illusion of... exclusivity, so that the upper middle-class can feel special. You know these people, the ones to whom it is very important to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag with LV stamped all over it, who will make a point of their wine being expensive (which is around 40 euros) and the vegetables being organic and bought from the finest delicacy store in town. These people won’t really care, what their dinner tastes like, as long as they are assured that not everybody can afford it. They have Italian design kitchens, where they slice pieces of o-toro with their Swiss high-carbon steel knives and smoke Cohibas while eating the fish. It is their all-consuming need to be original, unique and exclusive that makes them so overwhelmingly superficial, ordinary and mediocre, that they surely would not do well in a blind tasting with a Philadelphia tiramisu against one with Umberto’s mascarpone.

Oh, just realized that I’m ranting. You’ve probably gotten my point a long time ago. (And I’ve made myself seem like this angry and envious poor guy) So I will stop now and conclude by admitting that yes, I know that donkeys aren’t really that big. I just realized it while colouring the picture, but couldn’t be bothered to draw a smaller donkey or a larger man. Not that it matters, because the entire story is based on false images anyway.