Dagsson’s third global release via Penguin (to be titled Is This Some Kind of Joke?) is scheduled this fall, and he is a regular contributor to Esquire UK and Loaded. He’s written three successful plays and several more successful books. He is pretty much made of gold. A couple of weeks ago, he returned from Holland where he spent the winter working on various projects. The move coincided with the publication of the new Icelandic Phone book, which oddly enough includes a feature length comic by Dagsson, Garðarshólmi, spread over the pages. Since it is awesome, the Grapevine decided it was a good idea to meet up with him and learn what he’s been up to.
“There’s always a complaint here or there, but that’s no big deal,” says Dagsson of about the reception to his books. “The Irish Sun reported that some interest group took offence to my first book, and that just served as a nice ad for it. They’ve been selling pretty well, and critics seem to like them – judging by their reviews they see the same good in them that I do. Of course a few think they suck. Good luck to them. However, I am sure some people think I’m vastly overrated. I’ve gotten so much media attention, there’s gotta be some annoyed guys out there saying “Hugleikur can’t draw” or something.”
Can you draw?
“Yes. You can clearly see it in the works of genius that are my books; they were made by an art school graduate. Nobody could draw stick figures with such character. But really, I mean that. I truly believe that had I not mastered all these model drawing classes, my stick figures wouldn’t be nearly as good or expressive.”
The Four Humourous Bodily Fluids
Dagsson’s story of how he started documenting the morbid stick figures and their sordid lives has been told ad nauseam, so we talk about what he has in store for them. “I am currently working on the fifth one, and I think that one will be the last. It’ll probably be a bit strange compared to the others, the last one; I’ve pretty much milked the concept dry. Bloodmilked it. It’s limited what you can do with tiny stick figures on an A5 sheet. You’ve got shit, piss, vomit and blood. Those are the four bodily fluids you can joke about. Oh, and cum. That’s five, then.”
What about menstrual blood?
“Ah, that’s right. Then they’re six, I guess. But honestly, I often recycle old jokes. You could even say I only have twenty or thirty jokes that I keep re-telling in different ways. But that’s what all cartoonists do. Gary Larson does it... I only have to make sure I don’t become like [Garfield creator] Jim Davis. You can’t even read that shit anymore. But you do what you need. It’s not about selling out – it’s about cashing in.”
So you’re really making the last stick figure funnybook?
“I think so, yeah. I could go on forever, but it would soon become neither fun nor funny.”
How important is the [stick figure] form to your work?
“Well, with the stick figures and my books, I feel I’ve created a world where they all live. My funnybooks are like collections of Polaroid snapshots from that world, while longer stick figure works like “Garðarshólmi” are more like documentaries on it. The stick figures are important to the stories in a way, they are easier for the brain to process and thus the joke is more immediate.”
Garðarshólmi is Dagsson’s latest published work. It can be found on the margins of Iceland’s 2008 phonebook, and it has yet to be translated. That’s bad news for you English-speaker types, as it is both thoughtful and hilarious. It also features some of Iceland’s best-loved mythological creatures of yore in full action, and is quite educational.
“I think the galore of old Icelandic ghost stories and monster tales are a criminally under-utilised resource. Our collection of Santas are probably the best known of those creatures, but they even dress them in the Coca Cola suit these days. At least they are being honoured and remembered. The Christmas Cat [homicidal feline that prays on poor kids during Christmas] isn’t even used that much. And that’s a beautiful monster!
“In our past and our stories, we’ve got this massive database of monsters and mythological creatures that are almost never used for anything creative these days. We’re talking about a literal goldmine for the horror genre, one that’s being steadfastly ignored. I thought that it was strange and I wanted to explore that a bit in Garðarshólmi – although that’s more like a monster movie for the whole family than a proper horror one. We don’t really make horror stories anymore; maybe because we’re under the impression that we’re this “literary nation”. It’s made us scared of entertainment culture – we think it’s all lowbrow shit. Which is a huge misconception.”
Is “lowbrow” even a cultural expression in the English language? Isn’t it a specifically Icelandic thing?
“I think I saw it in a review of one of my books, actually.”
Hugleikur Dagsson is currently working on some paintings, as well as finishing the fifth book in his series. He has agreed to help the Grapevine report on the old Icelandic mythological creatures in a series of articles that will commence shortly.
Cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson needs no introduction to regular readers of the Grapevine, as he used to contribute regularly to the magazine in the past. Although it’s been a while since Dagsson’s perverted stick figures have appeared in this publication, he wants for neither fame nor recognition these days. Picked up by international publishing giant Penguin in 2006, Dagsson’s work has now been released in several different countries and translated to many foreign languages.