Cracovian Comics

25 March 2022

This season is all about comic books!  

Springtime is when our city reawakens. Bars and cafés start spilling out into the streets again, while squares and parks blossom and bloom. Cracovians hop on their bikes, scooters and skateboards. It’s also time for speech bubbles to start hovering over the city! At the last weekend of March, we gather once again at the Kraków Comic Book Festival celebrating the writers, artists and readers of the genre. It’s the 11th edition of the event, held in-person until 2019 and moving entirely online last year. This year the organisers have settled on a hybrid format. Discussions with artists, lectures, workshops and exhibitions are held at the Arteteka of the Regional Public Library, the Potocki Palace and the Comics Museum Foundation. People who can’t attend in person can watch online streams of events. The 11th Kraków Comic Books Festival is organised by the Kraków Comic Book Association, the Regional Public Library in Kraków and KBF. 

This year’s festival welcomes guests from Belgium, France, Spain and Finland. The main element of the programme is the exhibition of Belgian women’s comics prepared alongside the General Delegation of Wallonia-Brussels in Warsaw. Polish guests include Maria Apoleika, Magdalena Kania (her illustration features on the poster promoting this year’s event) and Aleksandra Herzyk – author of popular online comics whose album Freedom or Death is launched at the festival. 

During the event we’ll discover the participants of this year’s comics residencies in Kraków and Angoulême. Last year the two UNESCO Creative Cities entered into an exchange programme for comic book artists. In 2021, the French artist Tamia Baudouin spent a month in Kraków, while Angoulême – known as the European capital of comics – hosted Tomasz “Spell” Grządziela. We will meet the artist for a discussion of his latest project during the festival. 

A cycle of meetings was launched by the Kraków Comic Book Association at the Potocki Palace a month before the start of the event. The ten planned discussions with artists focus on launches of new comics and exhibitions of original storyboards. The first meeting was held on 25 February. Immediately after the meeting we moved to the Comics Museum Foundation for the launch of an exhibition of storyboards by Marcin Nowakowski. The following meetings will be dedicated to women’s comics, minimalist comics and the work of Prof. Jerzy Skarżyński. 

This year’s Angoulême International Comics Festival is held a week before the Kraków Comic Book Festival. During the event, Kraków UNESCO City of Literature appears at the European pavilion alongside Prague and Angoulême. Polish events and exhibitions are overseen by the Kraków Comic Book Association alongside the BWA gallery in Jelenia Góra.  

And the Comics Museum Foundation has plenty more attractions in store in the coming year! Its new site, opened last year at 7 Sarego Street in Kraków, hosts regular exhibitions, meetings with authors, promotional events and museum lessons. This season there will be five new exhibitions, including one showcasing minimalist comics and a monographic exhibition by Krystyna Wójcik – a somewhat forgotten author of press comics active during the 1970s.  

The foundation’s gallery and reading room are open to individual researchers and student groups. The library holds essays on comic books in seven languages and several thousand illustrated magazines, the oldest of which date back to the 1860s. This year, the foundation will publish the first instalment of the Classics of Polish Comics cycle dedicated to Artur Bartels – author and artist working in Kraków between 1875 and 1885. The publication is the result of ongoing research into early comics published in 19th-century press. The foundation looks after the artist’s tombstone at the Rakowice cemetery, and is promoting the idea of naming one of Kraków’s new streets after Bartels. 

What about the Comics Museum in Kraków? It could be founded in the Wesoła district, which aims to become home to city and non-governmental cultural institutions in the wake of revitalisation of the area. This kind of institution, showcasing the heritage of Polish comics and presenting temporary exhibitions prepared with its sister museums in France and Belgium, would be an excellent addition to Kraków’s extensive cultural scene.  

Artur Wabik

The text was published in the 1/2022 issue of the “Kraków Culture” quarterly.

Artur Wabik – visual artist, curator, columnist and scholar of popular culture. Member of the Board of the Kraków Comic Book Association and the Comics Museum Foundation. Between 2013 and 2016 he served as a reviewer of comics at the Book Institute in Kraków. In 2018, he was a curator of the exhibition Comics Now! at the National Museum in Kraków, and he edited the catalogue accompanying the exhibition.
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