Top Greek cartoonist Arkas – his identity outside cartooning unknown, by design – has suspended his only social media presence after online abuse.
Arkas is one of the most popular and widely-read Greek cartoonists and comics artists snd regarded by fans as a “national treasure”. Much of his work is state-of-humanity humour, often with animal characters.
Well known abroad, he has had his work published in several countries and been publishing his albums since the early 1980s in Babel.
Since then, he’s worked for Para Pente, Mikro Para Pente, Scholiastis, Metro, Proti, and mostly with E magazine.
His most famous series are “Show Business”, “You bring out the Animal inside me”, “In for Life”, “Flying Low” and “Castrato”.
“Arkas is enormously popular in Greece,” says says comics fan Aliki Chapple, who drew our attention to the attacks on the cartoonist after the publication of cartoons commenting on Greek’s debt crisis and government.
“Albums of his collected strips can be found at every newsstand, kiosk, and bookstore, usually several different titles.
“Having been serialised for years in a high circulation newspaper’s weekend section, he is I think, the most widely known and loved cartoonist in the country.
“His work is makes frequent, crude, sexual references, and is often foul-mouthed, and just as often philosophical and wisely poignant, usually in the same panel.”
According to a Greek news report which Aliki has kindly translated for us, some of his most recent cartoons posted to his official Facebook page have sparked a wave of reactions and threats from those who considered him to be attacking the Greek government.
One cartoon showed a man saying “I have every confidence in the government. They are people with their feet firmly in the air.”
(A cartoon pictured in the news article reads: “A leader is one who can avert a catastrophe which would never arrive if he were not in power.”)
Reactions and threats were so intense that his official Facebook page suspended all posts.
A posting in Greek announced the suspension of his official Facebook page, saying that in the heightened political climate, some thought that particular posts he had made were politically motivated and accused him of being in the pay of someone or other.
The Greek debt crisis and the country’s potential departure from the Euro has stirred emotions to boiling point in the country – and beyond – across the political spectrum.
The post is very vaguely worded but “reading between the lines, and by the tweet’s source, I’d guess [his critics] thought he was critical of the government; and accused of being paid by the oligarchs,” says Aliki Chapple, who kindly translated the post for us.
In a separate post, the moderator commented: “In this climate of political barbarism, some people took certain posts badly and made malicious comments.
“They went so far as to insinuate that Arkas was financed by various circles for the cartoons we posted.
“We don’t agree with Arkas’ decision, but we fully understand that someone who has avoided the public eye for his entire life being vilified by the witless …”
Arkas has often been cited as believing an artist should be known through his work.
“Arkas has always been private and avoided publicity and interviews,” notes Aliki. “I guess he just didn’t want to deal with Internet politics.
“Direct political commentary is a fairly recent departure, and though he doesn’t satirise particular politicians, I’d say the assessment that the cartoons in question are mocking the Syriza/ANEL coalition government is spot on. Good. All governments should be subject to criticism.
“Greek society has become increasingly polarised over the years of the crisis, and it seems we’ve reached a point where a national treasure can be threatened over satire.”
Responding to the attacks on Arkas, Syriza MEP Papadimoulis Tweeted to his defence.
“Arkas is the greatest and whoever accused him of being paid off is mistaken.” said the MEP.
“Satire judges all, it needs neither accusers nor protectors.”
• Arkas official web site remains up and running at http://www.arkas.gr
UPDATE 26/1/15 1720: The upset has now blown over in a cloud of recriminations. The Facebook page is back up. We hope some of you now know Arkas work if you didn’t previously!