Meet Nils Axle Kanten of Hjalmar


Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Trained as an animator, Nils Axle Kanten worked for two of Oslo’s top animation studios before moving on to illustration and comic strip creation. In 2008, Kanten created his first comic strip, Firekanta, which takes its inspiration from the state of society—with a bit of fantasy thrown into the mix. He then created Hjalmar in 2009, which is based on his own experiences as a father to four young children.

Here, Kanten shares his thoughts with NAW on the differences between Hjalmar and Firekanta and his experiences as an illustrator and animator.

Molly Jones: How would you describe the themes of Hjalmar and Firekanta?

Nils Axle Kanten: In Hjalmar I must keep to the rules of the Hjalmar universe; I cannot stretch jokes as far as I can in Firekanta. In Firekanta I am playing with everything possible from cavemen and cowboys to satire.

MJ: Why did you choose to develop these comic strips? Are they modeled on your life? If so, how do the people in your life feel about that?

Illustration by Nils Axle Kanten  Self portrait.

Illustration by Nils Axle Kanten
Self portrait.

NAK: I had some ideas for a strange guy who listened to 80s rock. He needed to have a mate who was more of a normal family man—it was Hjalmar. I found out that I lived a hectic life as a family man and based the Hjalmar character on my life. Most of the strips are only fantasy, but many are also inspired by real events. My brother is the inspiration for Hjalmar’s brother, Uncle B. Obviously quite caricatured. He finds it fun to be a cartoon character, I think…

Firekanta is not based on my own life, but I try to see situations from the society we live in.

MJ: Do you create your comics with a Norwegian audience in mind, or do you feel that they are relevant for a global audience?

NAK: It started with trying to bring life to the modern Norwegian family man. It’s really cool to see that families in Switzerland and Finland also recognize themselves.

Illustration by Nils Axle Kanten  The primary casts of characters for Hjalmar.

Illustration by Nils Axle Kanten
The primary casts of characters for Hjalmar.

MJ: What is it like to see your work translated? Have your comics been translated to languages other than English? Do you feel like the comic’s message is preserved, or does translation alter the content?

NAK: It’s pretty cool to see translations and people from other countries giving feedback on jokes they thought were good. Pretty inspiring!

MJ: Before creating Hjalmar and Firekanta, you worked for animation studios in Oslo. How does film animation compare to comic strip production? Which do you prefer?

NAK: A comic requires a bit of reader, one who can envision what happens between the panels. People can read a strip as slowly or quickly as they want. In animation, one must be spoon-fed; one cannot rewind to dwell on the point. I think both industries are fun to work with. The advantage of comics is that it takes a short time from idea to finished result.

MJ: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

NAK: It’s very cool to be in your newspaper! Hope you like it!

This article originally appeared in the July 24, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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