Anxiety in Iceland: An Interview with Cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson

Anxiety in Iceland: An Interview with Cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson
Hugleikur Dagsson, Icelandic cartoonist, graduated from Reykjavík University of Fine Arts. Known for his controversial humor Dagsson reveals to us some background of his work, including the anxiety that manifests itself every day and his way to deal with it. Intervista a Hugleikur Dagsson, fumettista, scrittore teatrale e Stand-up comedian islandese che ci parla di processi creativi, censura islamofobica e della sua giornata tipo.

Hugleikur Dagsson, Icelandic cartoonist, graduated from Reykjavík University of Fine Arts. Known for his controversial humor Dagsson reveals to us some background of his work, including the anxiety that manifests itself every day and his way to deal with it.

A Classic Dagsson tattoo from an hardcore fan

I discovered that there is an italian page on Wikipedia about you. The page says that you did Reykjavík University of Fine Arts, that you published in Italy a book called “Cazzo ridi?”  (Traduction of What the fuck are you laughing at?), that your first name is Þórarinn and means Eagle of Thor, that Hugleikur means “game of the mind” and that you worked in the cinema and in the theater. The question is legitimate: What would you say to the guy who wrote the information about you on Wikipedia anonymously?
I would say that is he is pretty much correct. He left out the part that I am in a boyband (I’m not kidding). And Dagsson means “Son of the Day”.

Right now I’m watching one of your stand-up comedy shows on Youtube. What is the difference between being a cartoonist and creating a stand-up show?
I can do whatever I want in my cartoons. Because I’m not dependent on an audience reaction like I am on on stage. In the cartoons my characters do the talking. On stage I’m the one doing the talking. I can hide behind my cartoons but on stage all eyes are on me. So I can’t become as dark on stage. But I try to be as dark as I can get away with up there.

What are the artists who have influenced your artistic path or at least led you to follow the artistic way?
Cartoonists: Johnny Ryan, Sam Henderson, Bill Watterson.
Comedians: Sara Silverman, TJ Miller, Eddie Izzard.
Directors: John Waters, Roger Corman, Kevin Smith.

How does an artist live in Iceland? Can you tell me about your day?
I wake up everyday with slight anxiety and try to start working at once to make the anxiety go away. Each workday is different. These days I’m writing a play and a comic book at the same time. The play is a heavy metal musical about norse mythology. The comic is an unauthorised remake of the film Groundhog Day.

The strengths of your comics are speed and references to pop culture. For example, like when you take the title of a song and reinterpret it by adding blood, penises, death and funny things.
Where do your ideas come from?
I wish I knew. The song title idea came first when I was listening to Elton John’s “Don’t let the sun go down on me”. I had an image in my head of a guy getting a blowjob from the sun. Then I started wondering how many song I can defile in that way. When you’ve been working as an artist for a long time everything you think about becomes a potential project.

Have you ever had any complaints about your work?
Yes but not nearly as many as I’d like. My British publishers removed three jokes from one of my books. One was about McDonalds, one was about Scientology and one was about muslims. The muslim one wasn’t Islamophobic at all. It was actually a joke about the stupidity of Islamophobia but the publishers didn’t want to take any chances. It was pretty soon after the whole danish cartoonist death threat thingy.

In terms of time, how much is it used to design, create, publish and collect feedback in your comics? Can you talk about this process?
For the first five years of my career I drew a book of 200 cartoons every year. Now I do about a 100 cartoons every two years and publish a collection when I have enough.


Do you know Italian comics and artists? Have you ever been in Italy?
Unfortunately I’ve never been to Italy. But I’d love to go (hint hint, italian comic cons). I do love italian movies. Especially 70’s Giallo.

When did you realize that doing comics like “Anarchy in the UK” could have made you as a real comic artist? Can you tell me how your life has changed since you published that comic online?
My life didn’t change at all. I just started seeing the Anarchy picture online a lot. But nothing crazy. But it didn’t make me rich or anything. I don’t get why that one is my “hit”. It’s not my funniest work in my own humble opinion but It’s alright I guess. I’m very flattered that people like it that much.

What is the thing you like most about your job?
That I can do what I want. I can basically go for any idea I have as long as it doesn’t cost to much. And doing things cheap has always been my favourite challenge.

What do you hate about what you do?
Hate is a strong word but I dislike the attention sometimes. I live in a small country and being recognised in the streets sometimes makes me anxious. But that’s a minor complaint.

What are your future projects?
I promised myself that I’d start directing my own live action comedy sketches this year and If I don’t do it I’ll never forgive myself. But I will be doing my cartoons and my stand up comedy as long as the jokes keep on coming.

Where can we find a collection of all your works?
At my webstore If you want my whole catalogue I suggest you buy “I hate dolphins”, “My pussy is hungry”, “You are nothing” and “Think of the Children”. Also “Darkness surrounds me” which is being printed right now.

Thanks for this interview. At this moment how many degrees does the thermometer mark in Iceland?
I’m writing this as I sit in an airplane on it’s way to Iceland. I’m told that the weather over there sucks right now. I’m actually looking forward to go back home to my sucky weather. It’s easier to work when the weather is horrible.

This interview is also available in italian.

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