Jacek Świdziński is an author of comic books, both scripts and drawings. His Zdarzenie 1908 (editor’s translation: Event 1908) received the Henryk Sienkiewicz award in 2015 for best popular novel (the award treats books and comic books on an equal basis).
Świdziński has also been singled out twice in competitions organized by Forum Obywatelskiego Rozwoju (the Civic Development Forum) for short comic books: Skrawki (editor’s translation: Scraps) and Przywileje dla wybranych, koszta dla nabranych (editor’s translation: Prerogatives for the Chosen, Costs for the Duped). He is connected with the artistic group Maszin. Świdziński’s simplicity is often compared to Bohdan Butenko’s style, but the author himself admits that he's inspired by Sławomir Mrożek’s drawings. Świdziński leaves only those elements that are essential to push the action forward, to define a scene or to characterise particular figures. However, this minimalistic form admits progress and searches for new modes of representation. Artur Wabik notices:
In Wielka ucieczka (editor’s translation: The Great Escape) graphical minimalism is done with a flourish. We constantly see the author playing with form: e.g. the work of light with the fully blackened frames (a remarkable board with the sun coming up). These methods are very conventional and sometimes surprising (like a scene looking at the mirror and seeing letters) but fully understandable.
A strong side of Jacek Świdziński’s style is his narration. We see a story within a story in ‘Specks…’. Damm you, Tesla consists of four independent novels which are marked on the top of the pages with dots and whose level of correlation rises with the story’s development. Bartek Biedrzycki wrote about Zdarzenie 1908:
What is seemingly a ludicrous comedy, a still-developing funny remark […] is really a serious drama. We meet the main protagonist of the tragedy in a smartly cut retrospective that makes us believe that the story will end differently, but then, in the final […] the main antagonist is found to be a protagonist who has not surrendered to the opposing fate.
The cover of Zdarzenie 1908 reminds us of book covers from the beginning of the twentieth century and suggests a sort of mystification. Additionally, the book is referred to as ‘the Świdziński manuscript’, or a diary of a trip to Siberia, written by an unknown author. These games with the reader work well with the comic book’s content, which consists of, for instance, conspiracy theories about the Tunguska meteor.
Świdziński likes to play with references. The prototype of a cannon that destroys the world in the final sequence of A niech cię, Tesla (editor’s translation: Damm you, Tesla) is the theremin (Tesla tried to explain his concept to Leon Theremin but the latter understood that the former is interested exclusively in the way that the touchless instrument works). In Zdarzenie 1908 we encounter Lew Tołstoj, the hunter Dersu Uzała and Feliks Dzierżyński. The author abandoned that form in Wielka ucieczka z ogródków działkowych (editor’s translation: The Great Escape from Allotment Gardens). Its position is replaced by citations from the Polish reality, even called memes by Radek Pułkowski. The association of the drawing minimalism, the efficiency in creating multi-layer narrations, the fascination of conspiratorial theories, and finally a good ear that allows the author to make references to colloquial Polish define Świdziński as one of the most interesting comic book artists in contemporary Poland.
- Paproszki, czyli małe piszczące ludziki, Timof i Cisi Wspólnicy, Warsaw 2008.
- Przygody Powstania Warszawskiego (razem z Michałem Rzecznikiem), Mauzoleum 2008.
- A niech Cię, Tesla!, Kultura Gniewu, Warsaw 2013.
- Zdarzenie 1908, Kultura Gniewu, Warsaw 2014.
- Wielka ucieczka z ogródków działkowych, Kultura Gniewu, Warsaw 2015.
Author: Paweł Kozioł, January 2015, translated by Antoni Wiśniewski, January 2016.