In recent years, comic book conventions have been popping up in Norway at an impressive rate. And while not all of them can expect to survive in the long run, there are now two major conventions: OCX in Oslo (which I will come back to towards the end of the week) and the long-running Raptus in my hometown Bergen. In addition, there’s a third one being arranged in Kristiansand this year, and much to my surprise, a new one showed up out of nowhere a few weeks ago.
The new convention is named Bjerkely named after the school it’s being held at. Bjerkely is a folkehøyskole, an institution which, according to my dictionary, translates as folk high school. However, this literal translation isn’t very informative, so allow me to elaborate. A folk high school is a progressive boarding school that offers a breather year between high school and college/university where you can develop your more creative skills by choosing a specialization. These schools are very much a Scandinavian phenomenon, although schools with a similar concept can be found other places in the world. I took a year on such a school myself; unfortunately, “comics” was not on of the list of specialization subjects I could choose from. But more recently, that subject is being offered at certain schools, and Bjerkely was the first one in Norway.
The idea apparently came from the school’s primary comics teacher Cathrine Eriksen, who have invited, amongst others, Arild Midthun and the team of Håvard Heggenhougen og Eddie Jensen. Arild Midthun (see self-portrait pictured above) is one of Norway’s finest and most professional cartoonists, and currently one of the regular, international Donald Duck artists - A tremendous honor for any Norwegian cartoonist, believe me. Last week, he won the aforementioned Sproing award for his Christmas annual story of Uncle Scrooge’s childhood.
(By the way, I am taking this opportunity to remind everyone that it's Donald Duck's 80th birthday today)
Heggenhougen and Jensen are the creators of Grapple Seed, an English-language webcomic currently well underway (see sample pictured above). I might be back with a review of that one later. Heggenhougen and Jensen are also former students at Bjerkely. For some of the guests this is just as much a reunion as a convention, Cathrine comments, although she is determined to make this convention a family friendly festival for the general public.