Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

As I started work today I found a peculiar hardback comic book in the comic book bin, and the cover caught my attention. It said "De Fire Store" (="the four great (ones)"), and below the title there were steampunk-like gadgets, a sinister shadow in the middle, and lined up at the bottom were four men, two of whom I recognised as historical characters.

* * * (Okay, fuck it, I was going to post the front cover here, but my net is slower than ever. Here's a link to the cover.) * * *

Two comic artists and writers by the names of Øystein Runde and Geir Moen have produced a Norwegian comic book where the main characters are "the four great ones", who are the greatest Norwegian writers of the nineteenth century: Henrik Ibsen (known for A Doll's House), Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (nowadays more known for his sleeping around than his actual work), Alexander Kielland (Gift (="married"/"poison") and Fortuna), and Jonas Lie (Trold). The comic writers have taken lots of information about these historical characters and put it into this comic book, somewhat exaggerating some details and adding elements of fantasy.

Knowing the names of The Four Great Ones is not impressive, but I've realised you're sort of frowned upon if you don't know them, which is one of the reasons I've made myself remember the names. That is probably one of the reasons this cover caught my eye. That, and the steampunk bit, and the sub-title saying "when the dead awaken".

They're still in the nineteenth century, and their automobiles are fueled by water. This device was invented by, I think, an Englishman whose name eludes me at the moment, but due to the automobile's inability to work without a worthful, er, thing (platinum, I think), owning and driving one is a lot more expensive than having an automobile fueled by petrol. In this world, though, the trolls collect this platinum and have spent years digging it up out of the ground, and thus began the war against the trolls, which, I believe, eradicated them entirely, and the humans got their hands on enough of this substance to ride around in water-fueled cars.

Jonas Lie, as a writer, was fond of trolls and mythological creatures, and Bjørnson, I believe, accused him of not being able to distinguish between real life and the fairy life. The comic writers made this a tad more fun by having Bjørnson and Lie be attacked by a troll, which ripped off Lie's left arm, and in return Bjørnson held the troll fast until the sun came up and the troll exploded -- except for the troll's arm, which was left in the cave in which they hid, out of the rays of the sun. Somehow, Bjørnson stuck the troll's arm on Lie's remaining stump. Now, whenever Lie smells the blood of a Christian, the arm becomes huge and strong and Lie can cause a lot of damage. This doesn't work when he cuts himself, for some reason, and none of the other three consider themselves Christians (Ibsen and Kielland being "heathens" and Bjørnson hating Christianity and the church).

Kielland in the comic is pretty much how he was in real life: he enjoyed the goods of life, yet he wailed for the poor and unfortunate. He indulged in alcohol and food. He was overweight. In the second book it is revealed he had a mechanical leg, but I'm dumbstruck as to how that happened!

Ibsen was known for leaving the country in protest of... something, I can't remember, and went to Italy for some time. In the comic, he went as far as China and learned -- I'm not lying -- martial arts (the writers have explained that this is not random, but logic!). When he returned he kicked some serious arse.

Bjørnson? How can I describe him? He has a lot written about him. One of those things being that whenever he entered a room, he did so with a lot of noise, and spoke loudly -- this is depicted in the comic, both in the way his speech bubbles are written (bold and italic letters), and the way he is unable to whisper without having everyone in the room hearing him. He is famous for hating Nynorsk, but from what I've gathered he hated a lot of things.

The comic book itself is a bit difficult to pay attention to. I'm still not certain of what I've actually read, and while the drawings are fine and dandy, I long for a few more details which would probably make it easier for me to follow what it was that was going on. There are some points that are amusing, like in the second book where they -- believe it or not -- dress up in superhero clothes at some point, and there's a two-page fake newspaper article about some of the getups: Kielland in a Batman-like costume was so neat and awesome that it received "eight out of eight pairs of glasses"; Hulda Garborg's bad-assery of an outfit received seven glasses, while Lie, having no style, wore an ugly sweater, some overalls and a short priest on his back (one that he could cut in order to smell the blood of a Christian man and go all troll all over the place), and therefor received only one pair of glasses.

The bit that made me laugh out loud, though, was this: Ibsen came across a robot of some sort, and was attacked. He saw a way out, and lit his pipe carefully, before he tossed it at the robot, which would explode. In the frame in which the pipe was tossed, the "sound effect" said "ceci n'est pas une pipe", and I howled laughing because I got the reference.

I'm not doing this comic any justice. It sounds like madness when I write about it like this, and truthfully, it is sort of mad, but in a good way. I just really don't know how to explain the plot with a simple paragraph, or explain why the idea of four great writers against an army of robot zombies (did I mention the robot zombies?) is that brilliant.

More than ever I want to read the works of the Four Great Ones. I do have some work by Kielland and Bjørnson in my shelf, but I do wish to own Lie's "Trold" and some of Ibsen's work as well.

But I do guess that you'd have to have a certain interest in these kinds of things in order to like it. Personally I'm not fond of illustrated novels, but there are some that just leap at me. I do have an interest in fiction regarding historical characters, though, which is also the reason I enjoy Mark Hodder's novels about Sir Richard Burton and Swinburne.

Sigh. It's been long since I've come across something both new and awesome. It's exactly what I needed.