Swedish neutrality has come to an end. Publisher Top Shelf has prepared a full Scandinavian broadside on the American comics scene with five titles storming our shores in the month of April. The standout of the bunch is underground rapper and cartoonist Simon Gärdenfors’ insanely entertaining memoir, the 120 Days of Simon.
The premise: Simon’s turning 29 and his world needs a shake up. Inspired by, of all people, the Amish, who let their teenagers run wild before returning to the fold, he sublets his apartment and spends four months on the road, vowing to never stay in the same place more than two days. Part stunt book, part quarterlife crisis, 120 Days chronicles the weirdness that follows. Simon has liquor bottles smashed over his head, chants with the Hare Krishnas, gets drunk at an aquarium, and explains the practices of the Karela Sect, who advocated the stroking of each other’s anuses with pastry brushes.
A breakdown of the mischief Gärdenfors gets into:
120 days on the road
70 beds or couches crashed upon
53 towns stayed in
9 recorded instances of getting utterly wasted (including alcohol, weed, cocaine and speed)
6 sexual encounters experienced
– two without a condom, one with a sixteen year old (but only second base)
2 personal items sacrificed to the Norse Gods
– underpants to Brage, God of Art
– sock to Njord to get good book sales
2 horrible injuries endured
1 ostrich farm visited
1 death threat received
1 bed accidentally wet
1 mescaline trip from eating chopped up San Pedro cactus.
The real coup of the project is that after 406 pages detailing his adventures as a freeloading bum, Simon still comes off as a pretty nice guy. He floats through this sordid world with a guileless hedonism. The art, a sort of twisted Betty Boop takeoff, works wonderfully to this end. Its child-friendly stylization stands in gleeful contrast to the protagonist’s squalid shenanigans. The 120 Days of Simon is a ripping read and an unmissable chance to live vicariously through a Swedish underground icon with no responsibilities.
If Gärdenfors whets your whistle and leaves you craving more comics from his countrymen, take a look at other other titles from Top Shelf’s Swedish Invasion series. Recommended picks are the shockingly awesome hallucinatory madness of The Troll King, and the From the Shadow of the Northern Lights Volumes 1 and 2, collecting works from Sweden’s seminal comics magazine, Galaga.