Created by Anja Dahle Øverbye
Published in the UK by Centrala Books (published in Norwegian by Jippi Forlag as “Hundedager”)
72 pages – Black and White interiors – £9.00
The Story: This book draws inspiration from North-Western Norway, where the creator grew up. Dog Days is a phenomenon that takes place in the late summer. According to folklore, this is a period that is especially hot, muck floats to the surface of the water, the food goes bad and dogs are more prone to go mad. It is during this period that the reader meets Anne, who is mid-way between her childhood and the dawning of adolescence. It is the stifling hot weather that affects her relationships with both her friends and her family.
Anne’s best friend Marielle wants to hang out with the slightly older Carrie. When the two of them strike up a friendship Anne is left out. She is too young to make new friends at the youth club and too restless to find anything else worth doing that summer. What will happen to Anne during these Dog Days?
The Review: I’ve reviewed a few of Centrala’s books during the last few years and enjoyed them all, trom the soaring urban beauty of Chernobyl – The Zone to the nutty artistic experimentation of Old Farts. What I have found out during my investigation of their titles is that they produce some weird-ass comics, weird enough to fit in nowhere that is currently going on in the UK scene. And for this fact I await the release of each of their books with high interest. And to a forty-something English man this book is one of the weirder reads.
“Erm, well, I’m going to meet Carrie tomorrow too. She’s a bit older than you, so it’s maybe not much fun for you if you come along? I’ll call you later.”
But weird is good right? Weird can open your eyes to the plight and circumstances of people and events that had never and probably never would occur to you without the intervention of fiction and, in this case ,black and white biographical comics.
This is a book about girls in Norway. I, sadly, have never visited Norway. But I was once the same age as Anne, Marielle and Carrie. I experienced the pains of growing up and apart from what you knew or thought you knew, and we have all experienced the cruelty of teenagers to each other. This is a book that explores the problems of adolescence and the anxiety and loneliness of the individual at that age.
So yes, there’s that heady, often unpleasant cocktail of nasty jokes, of taking sides and wanting just to belong, echoing on almost every page. (One particular sequence, where Anne is climbing up a hill and keeps being hit with a branch by the other girls, is particularly heartbreaking. She refuses to be put off and you can see that she wants to be their friend, no matter what).
At certain points, I found the cruel jibes hard to read as they seemingly became the first act in a horror movie, where you expect a creature would arrive and exact revenge on those bullies. This, of course, never happens, but you do feel a creepy, sickening mood affecting all those in contact with the girls.
An awakening and realisation comes to the characters in all manner of ways. They experience the death of a neighbour, the creepy and possibly abusive advances of a sunbathing man and the chance of failure.
This is a book with depth and realism. I found it affecting and disconcerting.
The art has a pencil-like style, but there’s quality to its quirky and almost amateurish panels. This is purposeful and allows for the connection with the young and inexperienced characters portrayed in the pages.
This comic won the Norweigan Comic of the Year Awards in 2016 – and I can see why. One small niggle would be the lack of flow in places to the conversation, and its translation. It loses a little of the nuance in the snark through some obvious short-cuts. In a way, this adds to the other worldly quality to how the girls speak but I would have liked it to feel a little more naturalistic in places.
It is a book I suggest that you explore if you are brave enough…
Anja Dahle Øverbye is a cartoonist and illustrator who has focused on comics in recent years. She studied at KIB, Bergen Art School, and has a bachelor in illustration and visual communication from UCA in England. She now lives in Oslo.
Her work includes contributions to the anthology Forresten (By the way) and the self-proclaimed fanzine Hei, er det du som har kreft? (Hey, do you have cancer?, 2015), work originally published as diary drawings on her own blog after she received cancer diagnosis.
Dog Days was published in Norwegian under the title Hundedager by Jippi Forlag in May 2015 and won the “Comic Strip of the Year” during the Oslo Comics Expo in 2016. Anja is working on her second book, due for publication soon.
She has also illustrated Eva Jensen’s children’s book Skog, eller noko som har med skog å gjere (Forest, or something that has to do with forests) in 2009.
In 2017, Øverbye and Ingrid Flognfeldt started Brubaker Blokk Forlag, which will cover both comics, fanzines, fiction and art books. They were both editors for the publisher’s first release, anthology Byrjing (2017).
• You can find her on Instagram @anjadahle
• You can read an interview with Anja here on Emprix (in Norwegian)
Many thanks for reading.
Thanks to Centrala for imagery featured – copyright Anja Dahle Øverbye