September 11, 2020 - This year's Herceg Novi Comic Festival- HSF, in its 14th iteration, ended successfully on Wednesday after a six-day program. What the organizers planned and promised for this year, they fulfilled - that the festival, regardless of all the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, would take place.
And it was held without any significant issues or reorganization, and the world's comic stars were brought to the Montenegrin coast again. Three artists from Britain, five from Croatia, three from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and six artists from the Montenegrin comics scene introduced themselves to the audience and spent time with them.
"First of all, I am delighted that we have managed to hold the festival in these conditions. We never doubted that. All the artists were eager to come, and at the cost of being quarantined for 14 days when they return home, this is what will happen to William Simpson, Glenn Fabry, and Karen Holloway. All five Italians guests announced said they would do take part, but they received an official letter from the Italian embassy with a strong recommendation to them not to come. This in practice prohibited them from attending, so they had to concede defeat. Yet that is the only thing that changed in our plan. Also, the guests and ourselves are delighted because HSF is the only event dedicated to comics held in Europe this year, and probably beyond, since the New York Comic-Con was also supposed to take place. And yet, it will not, " Nebojsa Mandic, one of the HSF organizers said to Vijesti, sharing his first impressions at the beginning of the festival.
Nebojša expressed great pride that his team had staged the festival at an extremely high level, hosting stars such as the winner of two Emmys who also worked on the series "Game of Thrones", William Simpson. Glen Fabry, who is among the 20 most important cartoonists globally and whose drawings are worth three thousand euros each, also attended. The winner of the Eisner Award, Esad Ribić, who has been working exclusively on Marvel covers for the last five years, was in attendance as was one other important person in Marvel and DC, Mirko Čolak. According to Mandic, this year, the traditional comics school, which was the best so far, stood out with over twenty children participating.
"I am very proud and happy that we received the support of all our traditional sponsors, who did not withdraw despite the financial uncertainty due to coronavirus. We owe a great deal of gratitude to them, to the whole city that stood behind us, and to the whole country that recognized that our festival is the best ambassador of Montenegrin culture in the world. We got the most out of abnormal conditions. HSF also boasts traditionally positive coverage when it comes to the media in the region and beyond. RTS has put us on its cultural program twice, and they are preparing a special show; HRT also reported on the festival. Otherwise, we have been extremely well-represented in the Italian media before. One specialized magazine even published a dozen pages about Herceg Novi and what we do. "Everyone is following us because we are the only festival that took place in Europe this year, so everyone who deals with comics wrote a little more about it," said Mandic.
In addition to the problems before the festival, he says that it was challenging during the festival. But now that he sees the results, it all looks like "sweet torment".
"It was challenging because we had to calculate what to do and how to work, which guests we would have; we just had to have not a B plan, but a Z plan. From A to Z, we had plans for every situation so that the festival would be staged no matter what. The big obstacle was that the crisis is everywhere. Everyone is financially unstable; that is why I pointed out that one of our most significant victories is that we got the support of all those who have supported us before. Of course, the huge thing was how to explain to the artists that they are not allowed to group, that they have to wear masks in certain places, they are not allowed to dance to the music ... ", he explains.
Due to the pandemic restrictions, the number of visitors from Croatia, BiH and Serbia was lower. Still, it was compensated by visitors from other cities in Montenegro and was generally very good, claims Mandic.
"It seems to me that the city was the busiest this weekend. I don't know the exact numbers, but it appeared that it was the fullest during our summer season during our entire summer season," he said with pride.
Visiting artists are always delighted with the homely atmosphere in Herceg Novi, as was the case this year as well.
"I will best describe their reactions in one sentence that Karen Holloway repeated for days: 'What did I do to deserve to be here, to deserve this part of heaven that you have afforded me these six days?!' All artists love our festival because it is entirely different from the other conventions and the Comic Zone. When drawn, they can draw, have direct interaction with the audience, and do not have strictly defined dates. Also, during all six days, we organized the festival at different locations to get to know the city well, and we can even take them to Topla and Luštica ", Mandić points out.
We have young and talented artists
"The Association of Montenegrin Comic Authors, headed by Simon Vukčević, also presented itself at our festival, and he also published the magazine 'Comics', which deserves attention. These are all familiar names, but we also had the opportunity to see extremely talented young artists, primarily from Kotor, who came to the Association's presentation. The most eminent comic book experts like Ribić and Simpson praised their work, shared a few tricks, and encouraged them to continue working as Luka Cakic, who learned a lot at our festivals and is now one of the most sought-after illustrators, "said Mandic.
Speaking about the atmosphere at this year's HSF, Mandic recalled a few especially interesting moments.
"Every night, we had parties, regardless of the restrictions, following NKT measures. It was a bit of a weird scene when the hard rock band Mustang was playing. You see, the audience is struggling with the urge to dance and jump, but everyone is sitting at tables, and no one is moving. The measures are being followed. Everything looked like from the time of that hard communism when there were dancers and when no one was allowed to be the first to start playing. When it comes to this segment, one of the most beautiful moments was when Esad Ribić sat down at the drums and started playing with the teenagers from the Herceg Novi group Kupplung. It was spectacular. There was a real feeling that the guests missed such events this year, and there was a perfect vibe during the entire festival ", he said.
Text by Stefan Strugar