I was in Norway over the summer, for a mental health break and to find somewhere fresh to write. It's a little writer's fantasy I indulge a few times a year - to find somewhere interesting to write, to soak it up and maybe let it soak into the writing a little. Totally pretentious, of course, but the slightly barmy romance of it appeals to me. Noel Coward writing Blithe Spirit in Portmeirion, Hemingway writing in Paris, all that. Even just getting a hotel room with a decent view in London does it for me. So I headed into Oslo for a few days, to see a friend there and to wander around in general.
Norway has an odd relationship with comics. Much of the indigenous stuff is in the form of comic strips and small press, as far as I can see. I've occasionally seen beautifully produced historical works in the European album format, but mostly what you saw in Norwegian newsagents - and newsstands there did carry a lot of comics - are fat collections of CONAN comics. Or THE PHANTOM. That kind of thing. CONAN was very popular here for years. Longtime CONAN artist John Buscema was flown over to Norway a few years ago for a convention, not long before his death, and reportedly had a fine old time. Blonde girls sitting on his lap. (I know one of them.)
For years, the most popular comic here was, again, a comic strip, pounded out by the truckload in collections - ERNIE by American cartoonist Bud Grace. Grace, not exactly treated as a god among men in his own country, loved Norway - mostly for keeping him alive.
Met him at a festival north of here back at the end of the Nineties. A greying poodle of a man who left nuclear physics to become a cartoonist, he arrived off the plane at Bergen airport to find a crowd of fans waiting for him in the arrivals lounge with handfuls of books to be signed. This year, my friend tells me that ERNIE has been discontinued in Norway. So has my work. Things are not going so well for comics here. John Buscema's dead, and no-one's making CONAN comics any more.