Comic artist Petteri Tikkanen has, through his participation over numerous years, established himself as a fixture of The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival. As many others in the field, this year’s edition was forced to move online. Petteri told us about his work and involvement with the unique festival.
How did you become a comic artist?
It all began from the standpoint of a reader, comics were my preferred artistic form as a child. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on, nothing was out of bounds. Gradually, I started developing my own characters. In my early teens, I would mainly copy other artists’ superheroes. My parents really pushed me to concentrate on my own characters. At first, I took their criticism personally but I shook it off and started concentrating solely on my own characters. That’s what I’m still doing.
Do you remember what your favourite comics were?
Donald Duck was a definite favourite alongside Asterix and Tintin. At some point, I became interested in superheroes and after that nothing else really interested me. Spiderman became my favourite, I was drawn to the portrayal of an imperfect character. He’s a superhero who tries as hard as he can to fight for justice and retain a sense of humour as he goes about it but regardless, his everyday life isn’t very functional. I was never really interested in the superhuman characters like Superman.
Could you tell us about your work?
I’ve focused mainly on three characters: Black Peider, a superhero wrestler; and Kanerva and Eero, a pair of characters I use to depict the world as seen through the eyes of children. It’s a way for me to laugh at myself, share something personal and hopefully the reader can find some universal appeal in it. Black Peider is a combination of my superhero fandom with a musical dimension. He’s a failed rockstar, who chooses to pursue wrestling instead. I haven’t fully mapped out his backstory. Peider doesn’t live the quintessential rockstar lifestyle, but that might be what actually makes his lifestyle rock, that he leads quite a normal life.
Tell us about your involvement with Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF).
I’ve participated in person on three occasions and last year I contributed to the festival but not in person. Collaboration with LICAF feels very natural. The people involved are great to work with and I’m always willing to get involved in any capacity. On one occasion, I drew pictures in the sauna, on another I participated in a drawing battle against Hunt Emerson. I’ve also performed at a stand-up gig as Black Peider. I’ve performed as Black Peider at a variety of events in Finland but it felt like the festival audience got something new out of it. I feel like I’m part of the festival in a variety of capacities, as a comic artist but also as a personality who’s easy to work with in my multidimensionality.
How did you participate this year?
The majority of the festival will take place online this year. For this online edition I’ve created a short film paying homage to the Studio Ghibli animation universe. In my animated film, I’m combining Ghibli’s Totoro character with Tove Jansson’s Moomintroll. These two characters have a surprising connection. Hayao Miyazaki (co-founder of Studio Ghibli) was involved in the production of a Japanese Moomin animation series in the 1960s. Unfortunately, it was never screened outside of Japan at the behest of Tove Jansson. Miyazaki is probably indebted to Tove Jansson to some degree.
How have you approached your art under new circumstances?
Last spring, when the pandemic started, I started thinking about whether I had anything to say about the situation. I came up with the idea to keep a diary of the period. The underlying idea being that by sharing my experiences and infusing some humour I could alleviate some of my own, and hopefully others, anxiety. I published the diary on Black Peider’s Facebook account under lockdown. I became an interpreter of everyday life through a comic I drew on toilet paper.
Image: Petteri Tikkanen, Text: Volter Rechardt