A dwarf falls into a river and is taken to a place beyond space and time. A carrot takes a bath and finds itself transforming. Two reclusive mountain men rejoice when their wish for children is granted, but their sons make a terrible discovery. And throughout all these tales, the spirit of the forest walks on… Welcome to the surreal world of The Troll King, by Swedish visionary Kolbeinn Karlsson. It’s a fantastic journey into the wilderness lurking right outside your town, brought to you by comics’ cuddliest Viking.
From: Top Shelf Productions
Notes on This Title
This is a surrealist title with very limited dialogue. Consequently, much of the queerness is thematic and image-based.
“On page after page, Karlsson’s fever-dream imagery lights up deep parts of the reader’s brain in ways that obviate language. Consider how he depicts a pair of lumbering, hairy creatures in the first chapter. Karlsson’s cartooning is bold and colorful here — panels shimmer with supersaturated yellows and glow with the bright crimson of oxygenated blood — and he draws these strange characters as simple shapes, flattened against the landscape like a child’s drawing. But there’s where the childlike simplicity ends: He painstakingly delineates each hair on the creatures’ faces, each branch of the forest’s trees, in a way that sends The Troll King caroming into the realm of the grotesque: His beards resemble tentacles, his tree branches undulate like angry serpents.” (Source: NPR)
“Karlsson’s artwork has some obvious inspirations from a previous generation of art cartoonists—there’s a little of Mike Diana’s violent/sexual grossouts and fanatically intense mark making, a little of Jim Woodring’s silent, fantastical world-building and supersaturated color palette—but it’s also got its own heady aesthetic, shifting between crude, wobbly rendering and subtle attention to details of body language and facial expressions. His stories are vivid as a fever dream, very vaguely grounded in the real world (a few characters shop at a chain supermarket), but mostly sweaty, uncanny, and intuitive rather than logical: this is the kind of book whose most straightforward story involves a bulbous carrotman who wades into a hot pool and is transformed into an enormous tree.” (Source: Publishers Weekly)
“The lack of genuinely felt stories of queer parenting is not totally absent in comics, but they are sparse, to say the least. It may surprise some readers to know that one of the most profound and resonant tales of parenthood in genre is in the unlikely place of The Troll King, a story about two mountain men plagued by their inability to have a child together. Though these men are in love, and their romantic love is mighty and true, they still desire a little one to raise as their own in order to complete their family dynamic. Because this is the magical world of comics, this entails that they enter into a deal with the terrifying Troll King. Told almost entirely without words, the heartwrenching expressions of love between the men are profound, and the art and the story are gorgeous in and of themselves.” (Source: SyFy)