"THE GAME is on again," Anna Ehrlemark writes the ABBA lyrics on a page in her book. "A big thing or a small, the winner takes it all."
The owner of the book she's signing laughs and says, "I expected that to be in the book!"
"We tried to get it!" Ehrlemark says emphatically. "We called people at Universal, thinking it would be no big thing. It's just a little quote in a comic book!"
I'm not surprised Universal wouldn't give a small press book the right to use an ABBA quote, but I'm also not shocked Ehrlemark tried. It fits in with my experiences with Swedish comics artists—and their expectation that life be a little more fair—as well as Ehrlemark's major influence, the Balkan comics scene. Ehrlemark spent many years in Southeast Europe, where she contributed to and collaborated with the Croatian arts collective Komikaze. She continues to help organize the Novo Doba festival in Belgrade, Serbia.
Ehrlemark's also brought her work stateside: Her starkly beautiful collection, Winners, was just published by Portland's Floating World Comics. The book pairs newer work with comics from the self-published zine she brought to 2012's the Projects, Floating World's annual comics and experimental art festival. Winners also features an essay about the historical importance of Balkan artists—particularly their incredible energy and continued idealism in the post-communist era.
Ehrlemark gives the impression of being a tireless traveler, rolling a cigarette and speaking perfectly in multiple languages. Her thick-inked comics run at the reader with disorienting intensity, and include creepy sisters that both love and devour one another, along with stories about gluttony, ceremony, and love. There's depth to the comics: Many are funny, with a deeper layer of symbolism and yet another layer of unease.
"I know my style is very packed. There's a lot of tension there," Ehrlemark explains. "It's like whatever [I] draw, it looks like horror." For fans of the unsettling nature of life, Ehrlemark is the real deal.