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BITTERKOMIX vol 15 (article first published : 2008-05-26; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

I was about as apprehensive about writing this review as I was about reading the book. For starters, I am not a big reader of books - especially comic books. I used to pick up the odd Jughead and Archie when I was about 12 but that’s where my comic book knowledge begins and ends.

So when the artSMart editor asked me to write a review for Bitterkomix, taking into consideration my studies in film and interest in graphics, I sidelined the book for a week, uncertain as to how to tackle it.

Well, two pages into it I really wondered how I was going to get through the rest of the book without gnawing my left arm off. Not only was I totally bewildered by the fact that it was written in Afrikaans (and my knowledge of Afrikaans is as vast as my comic book experience) with unappealing black and white pictures. I was ready to abandon ship and plagiarise this review off trusty Google. But after my failed 20 minute attempt on trying to translate the first two pages, the rest of the book (which is a mixture of predominantly English and splatters of Afrikaans) got interesting, bizarre at times, but overall had me in stitches of laughter at its undeniable brilliance.

Bitterkomix was founded and first published in 1992 by co-editors Anton Kannemeyer (aka Joe Dog, born Cape Town, 1967) and Conrad Botes (born Ladysmith, 1969). Although Conrad Botes and Joe Dog are responsible for the rude brilliance ofBitterkomix, there are a number of authors and editors fitting the Bitterkomix recipe- who contribute to the publication.

Bitterkomix is published annually and not only in South Africa and but also in France, the Netherlands and Belgium. Despite its predominantly specific South African content, its appeal lies in the sheer dryness of the humour and the satirical critique on contemporary everyday society, politics and news and littered with images of violence and peculiar sex.

It’s a crude and provoking juxtaposition of humour, style and subjects relating to race, gender and violence. Its juxtaposition of content at one time stimulates then offers seemingly frivolous content which creates a journey of tension and relaxation on your emotions and on your reading expedition. It is hard work reading this book as it challenges all aspects of reading conformity with its mixture of black and white illustrations and irregular layouts. It will leave you with a lot of raised- thought provoking issues and a certain self satisfaction derived from a challenging and inspiring reading experience.

The most memorable strip for me is from the contributor Georg Buchner titled Children’s Story which captures the bleakness of society in a basic juvenile form. It emulates every child’s nightmare of being alone that resonates in every adult.

In a nutshell, Bitterkomix is a statement of our times. It is not conventionally visually appealing and will not appeal to everyone - you will either love it or hate it. But you will appreciate it as a satirical commentary on our culture and our times. If you are interested in the South African cultural landscape and its past and present sociopolitical sphere, you will not be let down by Bitterkomix.

The website http://www.oulitnet.co.za/komix/default.asp best describes Bitterkomix as “South Africa’s only independent comic magazine. The socio-political content is satirical and explicit imagery is often used to stress a point. For adults only.”! – Kate MacIldowie




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