To explain what this comic is about, here’s some very brief encyclopedic information that will help you along the way: Petter Dass (ca. 1647 – 18 September 1707) was a Lutheran clergyman and the foremost Norwegian poet of his generation, writing both baroque hymns and topographical poetry (source: Wikipedia)
But there’s another aspect to Dass; he was a so-called grimoire minister, and according to legends he actively fought the dark powers and outwitted the devil himself on more than one occasion.
Art: John S. Jamtli
With this starting point, comic book creators John S. Jamtli and Vegard A. Skogmo has turned the poet clergyman into a mythic action hero who fights trolls, demons and witchcraft in the county of Nordland, northern Norway. Jamtli and Skogmo themselves are native to this county.
So far, four comics of varying length has been made, all of which are only available digitally for the time being. Notably, all of them have now been translated into English, by John Erik Andersen. To translate a comic that is related so specifically to Norwegian cultural history could easily have become awkward, but it works thanks to two aspects:
First, while sticking firmly to Norwegian folklore, there is an international flavor to this comic. TV has turned supernatural investigation into a popular subgenre (Buffy, Supernatural, Grimm), and Dass relates to this, while the action sequences and the fictional Petter Dass’ own mannerisms seem to owe a lot to the superhero genre.
Art: John S. Jamtli
Second, the translation reflects the difference between the academic Dass and the “subjects” of his parish. In the original text, the locals speak the Northern dialect while Petter Dass speaks High Danish (he was educated in Copenhagen). In the English translation, the locals speak something faintly resembling Scottish and northern English dialects, while Dass speaks the King James Bible’s English, which fits perfectly with his dramatic manner (and makes sense for a strict, 17th century Protestant clergyman). The translator wisely downplays the locals’ dialects in favor of Dass’ speaking patterns, since they make him stand out well enough as it is.
The premise is well executed. Jamtli’s drawings are exquisitely detailed and caricatured enough that the humor shines through, but not so stylized that it seems like pure comedy. His Petter Dass is a towering figure, looking every bit as hammy as he acts. Jamtli and Skogmo succeed in giving us a Petter Dass who is a convincing badass.
Art: Vegard A. Skogmo
John S,. Jamtli draws the first full story, Dass and the Træna Ogre as well as the Christmas special, while Vegard A. Skogmo draws the second full story Dass Meets the Shaman in Mo. Jamtli is easily the best artist; he is noticeably more detailed, the shading and the use of perspectives are more dynamic, and there is an intensity to his artwork that Skogmo is missing. The fourth comic is a short piece, just like the Christmas special, drawn by guest artist Øyvind Lauvdahl (another Nordland native). He also lacks the hardline action style of Jamtli, but being a more experienced artist, he delivers rounded artwork that looks good.
Art: Øyvind Lauvdahl
The first collection on paper is due in 2016. In the meantime, the collection so far can be bought online both in Norwegian (here), in English (here or on iTunes, here) for 3 USD