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The L: Your stories often place famous fictional and historical figures in a new context. In The Last Musketeer, Dumas' Athos fights a Martian attack; in The Left Bank Gang, F.Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway hang out in Paris and naturally decide to orchestrate a bank heist. I Killed Adolf Hitler is pretty self-explanatory. Does the impulse to recreate a world for these characters (excepting Hitler) derive from a genuine affection for them, and a desire to create an homage or to even "own" them in some way? Or is it more that they make for an interesting aesthetic?
J: For Left Bank Gang, I had read a lot of biographies about Hemingway, his memoirs and collection of letters. The idea of turning that knowledge into a comic came later. I didn't have to do any research since it already had been done. The Last Musketeer started by watching old science fiction film serials from the 30s and the 40s, like Flash Gordon. Low Moon came from old westerns, of course, especially High Noon and Rio Bravo. So yes, I guess the stories often grow out of an affection for some genre. It's not for making fun of something or to do a parody.
The L: The diverse range of iconic characters and genres you use in your work also suggests a varied reading list. What authors have influenced your work most over the years? What books have you returned to over and over, and what have you been reading most recently?
J: It's mostly American writers. Hemingway and those who followed him, the dirty realism genre: Bukowski, John Fante, Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolf. The old pulp writers that went on to write novels: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, David Goodis, Charles Willeford. Lately I've been reading John Steinbeck and Dos Passos.
The L: Has your work had a different critical reception in Norway as opposed to other European countries? What about as opposed to North America? Do people in each region respond to different elements of your work?
J: No, I don't see that much of a difference. Outside of Norway people often see a Scandinavian, melancholy quality in my comics, which I suppose is not totally without accuracy. Must be the long, dark winters.
The L: Do you think your work has a specifically Norwegian voice? Do you feel like you are part of the Norwegian canon, or even a larger Scandinavian canon?
J: I don't know. I'm not sure if I have a particularly Norwegian voice. My first album and short stories took place in Norway, but the later color albums all take place somewhere else. Paris, Brusses, or Mars for that matter.
The L: How did you choose your pen name? I want to believe it is the Argonauts, but feel free to dash that hope if you must.
J: It's not a very exciting story, I'm afraid. In the begining I used to sign my comics with my initials, JAS, and then I simply put ON at the end.