Michał 'Śledziu' Śledziński is the author of the comic book series The Freedom Housing Project / Osiedle Swoboda and editor-in-chief of the magazine Produkt. Both the series and the periodical revolutionized contemporary Polish comic books and set new standards for them.
Michał 'Śledziu' Śledziński was born in 1978 in Bydgoszcz, where he graduated from an artistic high school. When he was six years old he found the album Captain Żbik. The Torn Off Net / Kapitan Żbik. Zerwana sieć (Jerzy Wróblewski, Stanisław Milc) at home. Thanks to this publication, he realized that a single page could contain many drawings enclosed by bordering lines. Earlier, on a sheet of paper, he would draw only one drawing. He would later put the drawings together into plotted sequences.
He started his career writing fan publications for the computer magazine Secret Service. He later created comic strips for magazines for gamers, such as: Świat Gier Komputerowych (Fido and Mel at the Top / Fido i Mel na topie, The Matrix after Śledziu / Matrix wg Śledzia) with which he collaborated for seven years, Gambler (G-Man) and Play for which he drew, under the pseudonym Bobby Peru, 135 Jojoy & Padie comic strips and the series 8Bit. In the magazine Engarde his series Bear of Wars used to appear, which later was published in album form. In high school, he had already publishing the authorial zine Azbest, which was distinctive as it wasn’t photocopied but professionally printed at a print shop.
By chance, Śledziński told the editor-in-chief of Secret Service about an idea for a comic book series about young people living in a housing project. The project appealed to the journalist so much that he decided to start publishing a new comic book magazine. That was how the now-cult magazine Produkt, the chief editor of which was Śledziński, and the equally cult comic book series The Freedom Housing Project were born. Thanks to this periodical and this series Śledziński became a living legend and an icon of contemporary Polish comic books.
The most important creators of the Polish contemporary comic book scene such as Karol “KRL” Kalinowski (Łauma), Tomasz Leśniak and Rafał Skarżycki (the series George the Hedgehog / Jeż Jerzy) and the brothers Tomasz and Bartosz Minkiewicz (the series Wolf / Wilq) debuted and published in the magazine Produkt. Also the subsequent parts of Śledziu’s series The Freedom Housing Project appeared in Produkt. This series proved to be revolutionary and groundbreaking because it showed that a comic book is an appropriate medium to convey serious moral stories with which readers may identify. Śledziński’s success was based on the verism of the plot and on the empathy that readers could feel for his heroes. The world portrayed in the comic book series reminded readers of their own world. The Freedom Housing Project was eventually collectively published in album form twice. This series may easily be considered the first Polish graphic novel, that is a comic book for artistically sophisticated adult readers. The author is working on the continuation of The Freedom Housing Project. Having in mind foreign markets, he is also planning on creating comic books prepared especially for tablets.
A drawing by Michał 'Śledziu' Śledziński, photo courtesy of the artist
Most important publications
Śledziński’s most important works are The Freedom Housing Project (the black and white series from the magazine Produkt, which is maintained in the style of authorial realism and the six-part album miniseries drawn with cartoonish lines), the trilogy Written Down Quickly / Na szybko spisane (two volumes appeared), the four-part album miniseries Family Values / Wartości Rodzinne (which was promoted in an innovative, pioneering way with a series of free comic books that were accessible only online), the anthology of the humorous single panel comic strips Fido and Mel. On a Couch / Fido i Mel. Na kozetce and The Red Penguin Must Die / Czerwony pingwin musi umrzeć. He also drew one album from the reactivated series about Żbik, which is titled Commissioner Żbik. Who is the “White Gull”? / Komisarz Żbik. Kim jest “Biała Mewa” (script by Władysław Krupka). Śledziński discontinued his work on this series because of the artistic differences that appeared between him and the script-writer, who had created the hero and had written most of the albums about Żbik between 1967 and 1982.
Śledziński draws in various styles. He is most fond of cartoons. The author emphasizes that he prefers to create comic books from beginning to end, because he’s interested in telling stories with pictures. When he illustrates other people’s scripts he gets tired. Śledziński likes comic books because creators themselves are practically the only limitation of the comic book medium. He is, however, conscious of formal-technical hazards, especially in the case of genre comic books.
A comic book is the cheapest form of telling a high-budget story. A thousand tanks fighting against a thousand tanks on a planet that is a million light years away? Not a problem, all you need is a piece of paper and a pen. I like to feel like a complete, self-sufficient creator, I can get that only from comic books. The only thing that in my opinion a classic (paper) edition of a comic book lacks is the possibility of featuring the soundtrack to which I was creating a given story (which would be played directly from the album during reading). I go around this for instance by placing names of bands on walls of buildings, by including fragments of texts in frame compositions or by suggesting from the off what should be played at this moment – says Śledziu in a conversation with culture.pl.
The whole October 2012 issue of the magazine Zeszyty Komiksowe was devoted to Śledziński. At the International Festival of Comics and Games in Łódź in 2010 the exhibition Masters of Polish Comic Books / Mistrzowie Polskiego Komiksu was organized, which featured works by Tadeusz Baranowski, Przemek Truściński and also by Śledziński. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue. Back then the author also participated in the international workshop City Stories, which was organized at the festival. The workshop resulted in a comic book anthology. Draughtsman. Michał Śledziński is on the other hand a publication devoted to Śledziński. This publication is a kind of artbook which contains his graphic works, drawings, sketches and fragments of comic books from various periods with comments. He also participated in Kompot, a project of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, which was realized in the framework of the Polish Season in Israel. This project also resulted in a publication.
Apart from making comic books, Śledziński also creates commercials. He prepared Christmas campaigns for Pepsi for three years (BBDO, 2004-05, 2007). He also creates graphic artwork for games (for Jujubee, Vivid Games and Pastel Games) and press illustrations. He is a console games enthusiast.
Author: Łukasz Chmielewski, December 2013, translated by: Marek Kępa