7th International Comics Showroom, Student Cultural Center Belgrade, Serbia, September 24th -27th, 2009
For seven years Belgrade Comics Salon (“International Comics Showroom”) attracts local and international media attention. Reason is obvious; it represents the most important internationally geared gathering for pros and fans of the comics strip medium in Serbia and other countries of former Yugoslavia.
This year, team that stood behind previous manifestations, curator Miki Pješčić and program managers Vladimir Vesović and Dejan Nikolaj Kraljačić, was reinforced with designers Predrag Mladenović and Bojana Maksimović, comics artist Bojan M. Đukić and A. Uzelac. Wholeheartedly supported by Student Cultural Center Belgrade, its director Slavoljub Veselinović in particular, and with the help of small, but efficient company of volunteers, enlarged „Showroom“ Team managed not only to continue, but to improve good reputation of the Salon.

From September 24th to 27th, thousands of fans visited various exhibitions, lectures, promotions of international projects, book launches and other contents related to the Ninth art. Very popular part of the program was “Artists sketch for you” when eminent domestic authors and distinguished guests signed their comics and made drawings for the audience. For wider circle of comics lovers, of highest interest was marketplace with more than thirty domestic and international publishers and retailers who offered their new and antiquarian issues. Besides “old school” Marvel superheroes and Italian comics issued by Sergio Bonelli Editore (very popular in the ex-Yugoslavian region), true sensation among the visitors produced appearance of the first Serbian based Manga publishing company.
This year was also marked with important jubilees for Serbian comics scene – 70 years of Politikin Zabavnik magazine, family broadsheet who traditionally presents comics from all around the world; 40 years of Dikan, one of the most circulated domestic comics, who offered brilliant political and social satire to various generations of its readers; 10 years of internet journal Strip Vesti (“Comics News”) popular web-based comics stronghold of the Balkan region. All three anniversaries consisted important deal of the Salon program.

However, one may argue that the most distinguished trait of the Salon is international comics contest. This year it attracted almost 300 contestants, more than ever before, with 248 entries from 27 countries. The quality of visual narrative offerings was tremendous – better than ever, of the highest standard. The Jury, composed of four prominent comics artists and one famed musician, has done this year’s judging effectively, with pride and without dilemmas or frictions.

On the evening of September 24th in the crowded Main Hall of Student Cultural Center prizes and awards of the Salon were presented. Writer Marian Mirescu and artist Christian Ioan Pacurariu from Romania won unanimously this year’s Grand Prix for their four-page achievement ’Dracula’; also Award for the Best Graphics. In all other categories there were no doubts whatsoever.

The most impressive were the juniors – ‘Young Lion(ess)’ Nevena Mitrović for her ‘Prince Marko’ gag-page and the most pleasant surprise of the year – seven years young Smiljana Erkić with her sweet innocent entry, ’Blici Eats Breakfast’. Generally speaking, this contest belonged to the creative ladies, including Bojana Dimitrovski for the best comic in traditional style ‘Tamas’ and Dragana Stojiljković for the best script provided for (Saša Arsenić drawn) 2-page comic ‘Morty’. There was more than one proof that girls are not disinterested in comics – not just as readers; they’re to be counted on as a significant creative force. Sponsors of the Salon also awarded some twenty most successful contestants from Serbia, Bulgaria and Hungary with valuable presents.

The most significant attendees of this year’s Salon were – Serbian Rajko Milošević – Gera (R. M. Guera) – extraordinary draftsman and blues guitar master now residing in Barcelona, Spain, who received Special recognition for contribution to Serbian comic; Rufus Dayglo from London, regular artist of “Tank girl” comic; and American Greg Cox, writer and concept author of Woodlands multimedia project with his main illustrator, Macedonian Aleksandar Sotirovski. Salon was also honoured with the presence of Croatian comics masters Alem Ćurin, Igor Kordey and Esad Ribić. There were also dear visitors from Bosnia and several other cities from Serbia too, like Branislav Kerac, Branko Plavšić, Sibin Slavković et.al.

Among many foreign guests we had our dear friend Bart Nauwelaerts helming the trio of Belgian visitors, sharing their comics con experiences with Serbian hosts.

In all, Seventh International Salon has proved its importance for the whole region and shown hope for further improvements and gaining significance on the much broader European level.

Bojan M. Đukić
& Aleksandar Uzelac