Spring Means Comics

20 March 2023

That’s certainly been the attitude of authors and readers of comics in Kraków for over a decade. This March brings us the 12th Kraków Comic Book Festival exploring themes focusing on women, Ukraine and anniversaries. They are all a continuation of activities of the Kraków Comic Book Association and the Comic Book Museum Foundation from last year.

Rafał Kołsut

Women of comics

One of the most important women of Polish comics was Szarlota Pawel, author of adventures featuring Jonka, Jonek and Kleks. Fans of the medium will also recognise works by Grażyna Kasprzak – the acclaimed colourist of storyboards by Grzegorz Rosiński – and Joanna Karpowicz who combines artistic practice with graphic narratives. The Comic Book Museum Foundation also presents monographic exhibitions of works by rather forgotten artists including Krystyna Wójcik, Anna Hoffmanowa and Anna “Ha-Ga” Gosławska-Lipińska who were mainly active in local press.

Growing numbers of women are breaking into the Polish comics market, achieving successes at home and abroad. Maria Rostocka’s comic strip The End of July received a nomination and Marzena Sowa’s graphic novel The Little Escape was awarded a prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Published this February, the powerful anthology Abortion Herstories is sure to win some of the greatest European accolades. The contributors Anna Karolina Kaczmarczyk, Katarzyna Niemczyk, Aleksandra Herzyk (winner of Kraków Book of the Month in March 2023!) and Unka Odya publish short- and longform pieces online and in legacy media, reaching audiences including readers who don’t usually read comics. The festival includes the launch of Katarzyna Falauke’s autobiographical album – a culmination of a residential exchange programme between UNESCO Cities of Literature Kraków and Angoulême. We will also see a retrospective exhibition of works by Anna Krztoń, summarising the last ten years of her career, and an outdoor presentation of Katarzyna Witerscheim’s cycle Queer Folk.

Not just neighbours

Ruslana Koropetska, editor-in-chief of “Ukrainian Assembly Comix” published in L’viv, has been living in Kraków since October 2022. Kraków is also regularly visited by Bohdan Kordoba, founder of “UA Comix”, and Vira Kordoba – comic artist and designer of posters for L’viv UNESCO City of Literature. In January, the Ukrainian artists attended the 50th Angoulême International Comics Festival, stopping off in Kraków on the way. Extensive collaboration between these circles results with new projects, such as a joint presentation at last year’s International Book Fair in Kraków and the upcoming exhibition of comics by Ukrainian women at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, curated by Artur Wabik from the Comic Book Museum Foundation.

The comic book market in Ukraine has suffered a collapse, encouraging authors and publishers to seek new readers in Poland. “We are interested in selling rights to translations of our comics, and introducing publications in Ukrainian to the Polish market,” says Koropetska. The Egmont Polska publishing house has adopted a similar strategy, having published a bilingual edition of the popular Ukrainian comic book Victory. It’s clear that the large Ukrainian diaspora in Poland is becoming an increasingly attractive audience, which is in turn recognised by growing numbers of publishers. The festival also presents a launch of the Polish edition of the graphic novel Voroshilovgrad adapted by Artur Wabik and Marcin Surma from a novel by Serhiy Zhadan. The title was originally published in Ukraine in 2012, and it has finally been translated into Polish.

Following meetings with Ukrainian authors, the event also welcomes guests from the UK and France. The British scholar and co-founder of the Comica London Festival Paul Gravett talks about his latest book on the life and work of Tove Jansson. Zanzim, author of illustrations for Women of the Island and the bestselling and multi-award winning Men’s Skin (Kultura Gniewu), will be signing his albums. There will also be creative workshops, comic-themed guided tours, cosplays and an auction featuring festival premieres. During the festival, a literary bench dedicated to the pioneer of Polish picture narration Artur Bartels will be unveiled on Planty Park. We will also learn the names of this year’s residents of Kraków and Angoulême UNESCO Cities of Literature.


Festival attractions also include celebrations of anniversaries of protagonists of contemporary children’s comics. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the adventures of Miś Zbyś and Borsuk Mruk by Maciej Jasiński and Piotr Nowacki, and the 20th anniversary of Tymek and Mistrz – protagonists of comics by Rafał Skarżycki and Tomasz Lew Leśniak. Original storyboards of the escapades of the absentminded wizard and his boisterous pupil are included in the anniversary presentation at the museum. It will be a rare opportunity to see original works dating back two decades. The Kraków Comic Book Association throws its doors open to all for this special birthday – and a cartoon spring will soon be upon us!

Rafał Kołsut
Historian of comics and animations, scholar of drawn narratives, and member of the Kraków Comic Book Association, the programme board of the Comic Book Museum Foundation and the Polish Society for Comics Research. Organiser of the annual Kraków Comic Book Festival.

12th Kraków Comic Book Festival

  The article published in the 1/2023 issue of “Kraków Culture” quarterly.


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