A comedic writer and an illustrator come together to create a hilarious comic strip.
OVER 10 years ago, when stand up comedian Mikael Wulff paired up with illustrator Anders Morgenthaler to create a comic strip, he dreamed that their artwork would one day be published halfway across the world from their homeland Denmark.
“I knew that it would be published in Malaysia. We wanted it published in Malaysia a month after the comic strip came out. It just took a little longer than we expected ... well, it is a long way from Denmark,” Wulff said with a smile during a recent Skype interview from Los Angeles, California.
It was hard to tell whether he was just joking, Wulff is indeed a funny man, but the fact that the 41-year-old duo’s hilarious comic strip WuMo is now published in about 300 newspapers across the globe, and starting today in The Star, is an admirable feat.
WuMo, which is hugely popular in the Northern Europe, doesn’t have main or recurring characters and is usually created in a singular-panel fashion that encapsulates the message the duo wish to share.
Wulff, a stand-up comedian with several live one-man shows under his belt, is also known for his work in Allegro, Dolphs Nytårstale and Gintberg Show Off. The writer is in Los Angeles to negotiate taking the duo’s hit animated Danish sitcom The Pandas – which is in the vein of South Park and The Family Guy – to North America.
Morgenthaler, who graduated from Designskolen Kolding and the National Film School of Denmark, has worked as a TV host on the Danish TV channel DR’s children’s show KatjaKaj og BenteBent, and directed several music videos. His feature film Princess opened the Director’s Fortnight programme at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006 and won awards at several other festivals. On top of illustrating WuMo, Morganthaler is currently producing an English film starring Kim Basinger. The comedic duo also recently won the Best Illustrated Cookbook award at the 2013 Gourmand Awards in Paris.
With their fingers in almost every creative aspect imaginable, it is no wonder that Wulff and Morgenthaler have found ways keep their creative juices flowing and perfect their skills. Wulff admitted that in their earlier years, they took inspiration from The Far Side’s Gary Larson, South Park, The Simpsons and satirical website The Onion.
Today, after honing their skills and finding their niche in the industry, they can now lay claim to their own comic style. “In the beginning, when you start out, you use all the influences around you, but after a period of time you start to have your own style and work from that,” said Wulff.
The comic strips are simple and Wulff, who provides the funny materials for his partner Morgenthaler – who is based in Copenhagen – to illustrate, said that he doesn’t stray too far away from reality. Each comic, he said, tells a story that is relatable to at least one person in Denmark or if not, the whole world.
“I believe that comic strips should reflect reality. It is our perspective on what is happening in our time,” he said.
Nevertheless, Wulff understands why some of their more controversial comic panels are not published in certain countries. “In some markets, we can’t do nudity or raunchy sex stuff. We can’t get away with everything, so we have to do it accordingly.”
In Denmark, however, the duo is known for its wicked sense of humour and no-holds barred attitude when dealing with topics pertaining to its country.
“We sometimes do things that are more provocative in Denmark and it creates a platform for debate. Some of the things we discuss are outrageous, which might make people angry,” he added.
Judging by the events that have been happening around the world, it can safely be assumed that the duo won’t run out of material any time soon. However, due to their busy schedules, they do not have the luxury of working together. They do make it a point to touch base as often as possible to talk about work, new materials and everything in between.
“I work on jokes – some jokes are better than others – and we decide on 20 jokes or something and he goes away and does his work. He draws really fast,” said Wulff. Then they discuss the strip over Skype and select comics that are worth publishing. “It’s better to be in the same room when we work but we have to make do with the situation.”
He added: “It’s a democratic collaboration. He can pitch jokes and sometimes we have ideas that we can exchange with one another. There is always a dialogue between us but it’s also clear that I am the writer and he’s the illustrator.”
After over a decade of working to make people think and laugh, surely the duo must be tired of it already?
“The comic strip is a way of expressing ourselves and after 10 years, we have developed our own style. We always wanted to get our strip out to the world. But I think we still have far to go.”