DRAWN & QUARTERED
SLAVE LABOR GRAPHICS
A succubus is at the center of "Marlene."
One of my favorite comic-book illustrators is a Danish fellow who occasionally pitches in at DC Comics. Peter Snejbjerg (pronounced SNY-bear) has distinguished himself with his fine, expressive human characterizations, a creative use of shading and well-paced action scenes. I came to enjoy his work, in particular, during his stints on the "Starman" and "JSA" titles.
Two years ago, he collaborated with writer Peter Tomasi on a four-issue miniseries called "Light Brigade," just released in a trade paperback from DC. In the guise of a war comic, the story line is nothing less than the ultimate Christian rumble between good and evil, depicted here as a bloody supernatural battle between a blessed American WWII platoon vs. the Grigori (a fallen angel in the guise of Nazi Colonel Zephon) and the Nephillim (half angel, half human), the latter possessing the bodies of dead German soldiers. The Grigori has in his grasp the Sword of God, and with his undead horde of soldiers, they plan to storm an isolated Belgian monastery containing the True Cross.
If the sword is ignited by the cross's eternal flame, humankind will end.
Spiritual faith also plays a big part in "Light Brigade," and two facets of it are portrayed in the characters of platoon leader Capt. Mark Longinus and Pvt. Chris Stavros.
Longinus, we learn, is actually Roman soldier Marcus Longinus, who, under orders from Pontius Pilate, delivered the killing blow to a crucified Christ with his spear. He is then condemned to toil through the centuries until the last Grigori is dead. His right eye healed when Jesus' blood splashed on it, Longinus is a man of faith and unwavering purpose.
On the other side, Stavros is embittered when his beloved wife is killed in a car accident. Wanting to get back to his surviving son, the belief in an innate spiritual good is nothing to Stavros but "a false sense of hope."
How their stories are resolved is part of this exciting and gripping tale, and whether it's solid-scripted exposition or gory, pitched battles, Snejbjerg's artistry is in top form.
CORRESPONDING via e-mail from his Copenhagen, Denmark, home, Snejbjerg said that "Light Brigade" is "very close to my heart. It was made in a really close collaboration with Peter Tomasi ... and I was overjoyed to be able to bring my old pal Bjarne Hansen on as colorist. This meant a much tighter teamwork all around, something that the normal monthly schedule of American comic books don't always allow. And I think the resulting enthusiasm shows on every level of the book."
Another Snejbjerg projecthas also been released.
Originally published back in 1998 as "Mareridt" ("Nightmare") in his home country, Snejbjerg wrote that "it is one of the few works I have both written and drawn. ... It has been translated into English (as 'Marlene') by myself, with the graceful assistance of John Tomlinson. ... The Wikipedia has a neat little article on the word 'mare,' an old Nordic term for a succubus."
That sexually insatiable beast takes the form of art model Marlene Mortensen, the muse of mad artist Uno Jensen. When a stalker of Mortensen's is found murdered in the small Danish town where the story takes place, detective Michael Joergendsen takes on the case. Joergendsen is a man whose rocky marriage gets more so when he becomes involved with Marlene. It's a mature-reader's tale of explicit sex, emotional tumult and occultism, and shows Snejbjerg in full unexpurgated glory.
The black-and-white comic is published by the independent Slave Labor Graphics.
"I HAVE ALWAYS had a great love of the American horror comics of the 1970s," wrote Snejbjerg, "and, not surprisingly, since they came out in Europe 10 years later, when I really started noticing comics. And what a great time that was -- local Danish publisher Interpresse was putting out all kinds of mind-boggling stuff, mostly thanks to editor Henning Kure, who no doubt deserves the title of the Godfather of Danish comics.
"It seemed like every week there were new graphic albums out from the likes of (Jean Giraud) Moebius and (Jacques) Tardi. But American comics, mostly of the 'underground' variety, quickly caught my eye. The first time I found an anthology of Richard Corben's short stories, my brain just fried. 'Marlene' is very much the child of those giddy years, when everything seemed possible and you could, well, let anything hang out, so to speak. Nowadays, things seem a lot more restrained. Mature, sometimes, but also less anarchic."
Both "Light Brigade" and "Marlene," Snejbjerg wrote, are books "that I am extremely proud of, and although they are far apart in setting and subject matter, I think they pretty much stake out the territory I like to explore: a mixture of the mundane and the mythic, with a shot of humor and a pinch of pathos."