A few days ago (Oct. 26 to be exact), a retrospective exhibition dedicated to the career of the late, great Croatian comic book artist Edvin “Eddy” Biuković opened in one of the major art museums and gallery halls, the Klovićevi Dvori Gallery, in Zagreb.
It was a nice affair: a lot of people showed up for the opening, and the exhibition was really nicely conceived and installed – and it takes up an entire floor in the gallery. It’s nice to see a comic book artist get his due like that. But it’s unfortunate that Biuković isn’t around to see it. Tragically, he died rather suddenly of a brain tumor in 1999, at the age of 30.
I won’t go into a deep dive of Biuković’s career here, as most of the people who frequent this site are comics readers and probably at least have a passing familiarity with Biuković’s work. Also, you can find a brief summary in an article about the exhibition I slapped together for Croatian Radio this past weekend.
One of the newspaper pieces that came out just before the exhibition noted that Biuković was to Croatian comic book artists what Dražen Petrović (also, unfortunately, no longer with us) was to Croatian basketball players, i.e., just like the latter seemed to open the NBA’s doors to Croatian players, so too did Biuković open the floodgates for what seems like an entire squadron of Croatian comic book artists. To be fair, a few guys like Mirko Ilić and Igor Kordej had already landed jobs in the US before (‘80s/early ‘90s), but it certainly seems like it was Biuković who really got the ball rolling. So now there’s tons of Croatian guys like pencilers/inkers Goran Sudžuka, Danijel Žeželj, Goran Parlov, Dalibor Talajić, Stjepan Šejić, and Tonči Zonjić, even the occasional writer like Darko Macan and colorists like Miroslav Mrva and Ive Svorcina, working in American comics (and I know I’ve missed a bunch of names there, and also didn’t even touch on the Bosnian and Serbian guys who also made their way to Western European and American comics, too). Heck, Croatia’s even home to some American comics guys, like colorist Matt Hollingsworth.
On a personal note, I have to say that when I was a nerdy little kid growing up in a pretty rural community in Oregon, who often felt that my very ethnic Croatian parents made me even more of an outsider at times, my head would have exploded if somebody had told me that there would be this whole contingent of Croatian creators working in American comics (kind of like the Filipino artists of the 1970s).
Curator Koraljka Jurčec-Kos, who helped set up the exhibition, speaking at the opening. The fellow with the beard just behind her holding a book is Goran Sudžuka
Anyway, back to the exhibition: it was organized by Edvin Salihović, a comics collector and dealer, and comic book artist Goran Sudžuka. The selection of works was done by Sudžuka, Salihović and Koraljka Jurčec Kos, a senior curator at the Gallery, and the three of them also came up with the display concept. What’s really cool about the works on display is that they not only include the original pages of his published comics, but also a lot of his early, unpublished work – not just school assignments but stuff he did when he was just starting out as a pre-teen and then teen. And yes, he was amazingly talented even at that point.
By the way, not to name-drop, but I know both Sudžuka and Salihović. The latter is a comics collector and dealer here in Zagreb, from whom I’ve bought (or with whom I’ve traded) quite a few books over the years, as he has a lot of American stuff. (How I met Sudžuka, by the way, is a story almost worthy of a post by itself.) Goran also wrote the text for a book that was published to accompany the exhibition, which is bilingual, i.e., the original Croatian text is accompanied by an English translation.
Below are a few shots of the pages inside (sorry for the quality on the first one, I used my camera because it couldn’t really fit well into the scanner I used):
And some paparazzi shots of the opening night crowd:
Roughly in the middle, the guy with graying hair talking to the fellow in the red jacket is prolific writer (and also cartoonist) Darko Macan.
The guy roughly in the middle, with the beard, glasses and a bag slung over his shoulder, is penciler extraordinaire Dalibor Talajić. The guy next to him, with his head slightly obscured by the beshawled (or is it bescarfed?) woman in the foreground, is Slaven Goricki, who’s a well-known figure on the local comics scene, as he’s the principal organizer of Zagreb’s annual comics convention (also just a super nice guy). Next to him is Ive Svorcina, a colorist whose work many of you may have seen in quite a few Marvel and DC publications in recent years.
Finally, I did a brief walking tour of the exhibition, just to document the scope of the whole thing. Sorry I really didn’t really stop to focus on any of the stuff on display – if I had started to do that, it would have gone on for an hour or more. The sole exception is at about the 4:30 point: I paused there specifically for the sake of Greg ‘Salacious Gif’ Burgas (although, Greg insists, that kind of stuff is much more up the alley of our buddy Travis). Anyway, if any of you want a closer look, visit the exhibition!