Mickey Mouse, by Carla Regalado Teixido

Hugleikur Dagsson is an Icelandic writer, film critic, playwright, animator and comedian. Apart from this, he is also known for his satirical cartoons, notable for their pitch black comedy. He is the creator of the comic strip 'Eineygði kötturinn Kisi' ("Kisi, The One-eyed Cat", 2005) and a series of literal, cynical interpretations of song lyrics ('Popular Hits').

Early life and career
Háðfuglinn Hugleikur Dagsson was born in 1977 in Akureyi, a town in the central north of Iceland. His father is the historian Dagur Þorleifsson, while his mother, Ingibjörg Hjartardóttir, is a librarian who enjoys local fame as a novelist and playwright. When the boy was 10 months old, his family moved to Sweden. By the time Hugleikur was six, the family returned to Iceland, so their son could be schooled in his native language. Around the same time, he drew his first childhood comic strip, 'Skrímslaeyjan', about a man stuck on a dinosaur island. The plot was inspired by the album 'Adèle et la Bête' from Jacques Tardi's 'Adèle Blanc-Sec' comic series. As a child, Dagsson often played together with his nephew, the future painter Þrándur Þórarinsson (1978), making drawings and doing roleplaying games. His uncle Þrándur stimulated him to continue making absurd, black comedy. This encouraged the boy to become either a film director or a comic artist. But the Icelandic comic industry was very limited and most people deemed the medium cheap children's entertainment. The only comic store in his immediate vicinity was Nexus, founded in 1979 in the capital Reykjavik. Interviewed by the magazine MBL on 16 July 2006, Dagsson went so far to claim that "Nexus saved me." Apart from Tardi, he has cited Frank Miller and Alan Moore as important influences.

In 1987, Dagsson's parents divorced, whereupon he moved in with his mother. Between 1999 and 2002, he studied at the Icelandic Academy of Fine Arts. As a college student, he earned his income in a book store. With not many people coming in, there was so little to do that he could draw for hours without being disturbed. During this period, he drew horror comics for his sister Úlfhildur. In his third academy year, Dagsson and two other artists held an art exhibition in Seyðisfjörður, a town on the east of the island. Since they were short on material, Dagsson personally drew 30 simple cartoons, which he then published in book form at his own expense. They were noticed by the publishing company JPV, who offered him a publishing deal. And so, by the time he graduated in 2002, Hugleikur Dagsson was a professional cartoonist.

Cartoons
Hugleikur Dagsson quickly gained notability with his minimalistic cartoons and comics. They have no recurring characters, only simple stick figures. The topics are dark and bleak. Spousal abuse, alcoholism, rape, suicide and depression are just some of the themes he tackles with his ironic humor. In interviews, Dagsson has attributed his style to the Icelandic landscape and climate. His country has a harsh, rocky environment and a small population. The weather is cold and during wintertime there is only three hours of daylight. It's no wonder that Iceland, like other Northern European countries, is often stereotyped for being depressing. Dagsson explained that his people therefore have a tendency to point at the horrors of life and laugh, which he feels is very therapeutic. However, he also admitted that his minimalistic drawing style wasn't much of an aesthetic choice, but mostly a way to save time.

Since 2002, Dagsson has been releasing his cartoons in series of comic books, the most famous being the 'Us' series, consisting of (in translation:) 'Love Us', 'Kill Us', 'Fuck Us', 'Avoid Us', 'Save Us', 'Follow Us', 'Close Us' and 'Buy Us' and the compilation '1001 okkur'. 'Avoid Us', 'Save Us' and 'Follow Us have been translated into English as 'Should You Be Laughing at This?', 'Is This Supposed to Be Funny?' and 'Is This Some Kind of Joke?'. Dagsson's cartoons also appear online, for instance on the website grapevine.is, AKA The Reykjavík Grapevine, sometimes under the title 'Okay Bye!'. In 2005, Hugleikur became chief editor of the magazine Very Nice Comics and in 2011 he was a member of the editorial board of OkayPiss. Hugleikurs comics have been translated in Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish and Czech. However, on 10 January 2019, he noticed that the French translation of one particular gag from his book 'Love US' had been subjected to censorship. In the original, two men observe a passed out person on the floor, whereupon one asks: "Wanna fuck him?" In the French version, the man remarks: "I think he needs a hug." Dagsson assumed the original text was probably deemed offensive, but in his opinion it would have been better if the gag wasn't reprinted at all.

Some of Dagsson's comics were used as illustrations in the official 2008 and 2009 Icelandic telephone guides. He also designed the logo and labels of the Icelandic beer brand Gaedingur. Other artwork has been featured on T-shirts. However, in March 2018, the cartoonist was informed that he wasn't allowed to print a shirt with a football player singing the Icelandic football chant - the 'Hú' - because the Icelandic Patent Office considers the quote a registered trademark. In Hugleikur's opinion, this is ridiculous, because people can't own a sound effect. He figured Icelanders stole the Viking clap sound from Scots, just like real-life Vikings. He also pointed out that the shirt doesn't say "Húh", but "Hú", because in Iceland the "h" is not used as an affix. Dagsson nevertheless tried to sell all the "Hú" shirts before being sued for plagiarism. Half of the proceeds went to the Icelandic Cancer Fund. Together with his friend Árni Jón, he has been working on a graphic novel titled 'Killionaire', about a superhero who targets billionaires.


'Eineygði kötturinn Kisi'.

Kisi the One-Eyed Cat
In 2005, Hugleikur created his comic series 'Eineygði kötturinn Kisi' ("Kisi, The One-eyed Cat"). Kisi is an anthropomorphic cat who lives on the Öskjuhlíð hill, near the Icelandic capital Reykjavik. His best friends are Kata, a female rabbit who loves to party, and Sküli, a tortoise who uses his knowledge of chemistry to deal drugs. 'Kisi, The One-Eyed Cat' was serialized in the magazine Sirkus Rvk and subsequently been collected in five book titles.

Popular Hits
From 2016 on, Dagsson made cartoons with humorous reinterpretations of famous songs, some with a cynical undertone. The holiday song 'It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas', for instance, shows a long line of shoppers queuing in a store. Others are taken literally. Queen's 'Killer Queen', for example, depicts a female monarch slicing a knight in two. Dagsson also enjoys puns in his cartoons. Madonna's 'Like a Virgin' is put in the context of a satanic ritual, where the Satanist is disappointed that the girl intended for a virgin sacrifice is "like a virgin", but not a real one. These cartoons have been compiled in book form as 'Popular Hits' (Atena, 2009), 'Popular Hits II' (2012), 'Popular Hits Vol. I-III' (2015) and 'Pop Hits. The Lyrical Cartoons of Hugleikur Dagsson' (2016).

Other activities
Apart from cartooning, Dagsson is active in many creative disciplines. Quoted on the website boredpanda.com, he explained that desperation motivates him: "If I don't get ideas, I have to get a real job. Luckily, when you've been working as an artist for a long time, everything you think about becomes a potential project." Dagsson has been a regular film reviewer on the radio show 'Tvíhöfði' on Radio X, hosted by the comedy duo Sigurjön Kjartansson and Jón Gnarr. The radio critic also made appearances in Kjartansson and Gnarr's similarly titled TV spin-off, playing comedic guest roles and providing animated intermezzos. Also in Radio X, Hugleikur hosted his own cultural radio show, called 'Hugleikur'. He was the scriptwriter of various episodes of the sitcom 'Hlemmavideó' (2010-2011) and creator of the animated TV series 'Hulli' (2013- ), in which he also voices the title character.

Dagsson is the author of several plays, including the musical 'Leg' (2007), with a soundtrack composed by Davíð Þór Jónsson. Equally comfortable on the stage alone, he is also active as a stand-up comedian. Though contrary to his cartoons, his stand-up style is "filthy, yet friendly", because, as he explained it: "I can't hide behind my cartoons: I stand directly in front of an audience." Most of the time, Hugleikur performs on his home island, but in 2019 he also toured Europe with the stand-up show 'Son Of The Day' (a literal English translation of his first name). Among the countries where he performed his show were Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

Recognition
In 2006, Dagsson won the award for "Dramatist of the Year".

Series and books by Hugleikur Dagsson you can order today:

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