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Local artists publish surreal graphic novel series

By Connor Sadler, November 6 2014 —

Local artists Emily Chu and Christian Frederiksen are challenging the conventions of graphic novels with their new series HYMN.

As graduates of the Alberta College of Art and Design, Chu and Frederiksen are trained artists who were disappointed in the disconnect they saw between the visual and text-based elements of comics.

“I think both of us were sick of picking up a comic book at the store and having it turn out that we’re basically reading,” Frederiksen says. “We’re not writers really. We spent the last four years learning how to communicate through pictures and we figured, why not apply this to comic books?”

Chu and Frederiksen decided to create comics “with a focus on quality illustrations and unconventional stories” that play to their artistic strengths.

HYMN has three volumes published so far. Volumes one and two are collections of Chu and Frederiksen’s solo work.

The second volume contains Frederiksen’s The Last City, which explores the struggles of a dying metropolis and a group of children who play hide and seek in the slums. Volume two also features Chu’s Nocturnal, a work that draws inspiration from her dreams, depicting  characters in a surreal contrast of reds and blues.

Volume three, released last April, shifts from colourful, independent stories to black-and-white pieces that Chu and Frederiksen created together.

Frederiksen says graphic novels mix dialogue and illustrations into something “in between a movie and a single piece of art.”

“In fine arts people have taken things to extremes in terms of what they can do with the form. But in comic books, I feel like over the last 100 years there hasn’t been a lot of experimentation,” he says. “We’ve been released from this strangle hold of the superhero comic and now [artists] are being taken seriously as people who make literature.”

Volume four will be released at the 2015 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo in April. A reprint of volume two will be available on Kickstarter in November.


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