Lehekoomiks 1990. aastate Eestis [Newspaper comic strips in Estonia during the 1990s]

Mari Laaniste


Ülevaade. Artikkel iseloomustab ülevaatlikult 1990ndate Eestis siirde­ aegse ajakirjandusbuumi ning laiema kultuurilise teisenemise osana tek­ kinud lehekoomiksiribade lainet. Moodsa ja läänelikuna tajutud formaat tõrjus leheveergudelt varem menuka karikatuuri ning mõned arvukatest uutest lehekoomiksisarjadest nagu Madis Otsa „Pesakond“ saavutasid suure populaarsuse. Tsensuurijärgsele kõikelubatavuse atmosfäärile ise­ loomulikult pakkusid koomiksid sageli taotluslikult toorest ja amatöör­ likku kunstilist teostust ning vägivaldset ja vulgaarset sisu. 1990. aastate teises pooles, kui trükimeediamaastik stabiliseerus ning hoiakud mõõ­ dukamaks muutusid, hakkas lehekoomiksilaine erinevatel põhjustel vai­ buma. Kohalik materjal asendati enamjaolt tõlkekoomiksiga ja osa loo­ mingulisi impulsse suubus uuel sajandil sõltumatusse koomiksisse. 1990. aastate koomiksipärandist avaldatakse siiani trükis üksikuid reliktsarju ja kuigi seda valdkonda on seni vähe uuritud, võiks lehekoomiksipärand leida tulevikus enam akadeemilist tähelepanu.

Võtmesõnad: koomiks, ajalehekoomiks, siirdeaeg, 1990. aastad, trüki­ ajakirjandus, visuaalkultuur, popkultuur

The early 1990s witnessed a rapid, broad process of transformation of visual humour in Estonian media. A large number of new print media out­ lets were introduced within a few years, leading to an unprecedented print media boom in the newly independent country. The new face of visual humour was shaped by the surroundings: the atmosphere of confused but enthusiastic ultra­permissiveness and uncritical openness to novelty char­ acteristic of a freshly censorship­free society on the one hand, on the other, inevitable reflections of the post­Socialist societal and economic turmoil. The change involved a near­complete generational shift among cartoonists working for print media.

The highly competitive newspapers of the era, eager to emulate Western print media standards, introduced comic strips, often resorting to commis­ sioning original work from local authors, as imported material was more expensive. For a few brief years, Estonia developed a time­ and location­ specific bubble of original newspaper comics, which tended to look crude, but could also be innovative and radical, often appearing transgressive and sometimes bizarre in comparison with the standardized commercialism of internationally syndicated newspaper comic strips. With the emergence of highly popular series like „Pesakond“, comic strips quickly became one of the most notable local pop culture phenomena of the decade. The article sets out to summarize the scope of the local comic strip boom and refers to a selection of original series, including „Pesakond“ by Madis Ots; „Dr. Wunderloom“ by Hillar Mets; „Kosmose mutid“ by Alar Pikkorainen; and various series by the collective Korporatsioon Saatus and by Rainer Sarnet and Rein Pakk, to point out key characteristics.

Abstract. As Estonia, similarly to most of Eastern Europe, had a relatively limited familiarity with the Western traditions of the comics medium the transi­ tion era offered a unique window of opportunity for developing a location­ specific, discordant approach to the format of the newspaper comic strip before the levelling influence of the international mainstream „light enter­ tainment“ took hold. In the wider picture, the processes in comics serve to illustrate the broader cultural transformations of the transition era, including attempts of re­Westernization with possibly unexpected results. Adopting the Western format of comic strips appears to have mostly con­ cerned making use of the basic outward shape to fill it with irreverent, often intentionally provocative or offensive material, involving profanity, violence and sexually explicit content. There are apparent links to an ear­ lier trend in the local cartoon tradition, which explored dark and nihilistic humour and rough, unappealing drawing styles in the previous decade. From a wider perspective, the visuals and content of Estonian newspaper comic strips from the 1990s have more similarity with underground or alternative comics than with mainstream international newspaper comics.

Towards the end of the decade, as the local media market stabilized, and the influence of Scandinavian investors grew, the overall appearance and content of Estonian print media grew similar to the Nordic standards, which increasingly meant rejecting the nihilistic, obscure humour and crude visuals offered by the local comic strip authors in favour of inter­ national comic strips with broader appeal. The novelty of comic strips as such appeared to wear off and newspapers shifted their attention to more serious editorial cartoons. Only a few Estonian comic strip series have sur­ vived into the 21st century in some shape, with the vast majority of the 1990s national comic strip output simply forgotten.

Keywords: Estonian comics, newspaper comic strips, transition era, 1990s, print media, visual culture, pop culture

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22601/PET.2021.06.05


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ISSN 2504-6616 (print/trükis)

ISSN 2504-6624 (online/võrguväljaanne)