Finnish comic book artist JP Ahonen has been creating comics for well over a decade, with Sunday strips as well as a longer, more artful comic (Sing No Evil) under his belt. His latest creation is the comic Belzebubs, and the content created so far have been collected in book form, and will now become available for the English speaking and reading audience in March 2019, courtesy of Top Shelf Productions.
Unlike the more detail oriented, art oriented style of his previous music-oriented comic Sing No Hell, Belzebubs is clearly made with a strong cartoon feel to it. This is a comic meant to be funny, made to make people laugh, and pointing some loving fingers towards the metal scene in general and black metal in particular. It is also very much a strip based comic, and one that should be picked up (and probably is to some extent) by print and web music magazines. Belzebubs started out as a web comic of course, and is loved and treasured by many already.
But while music is central to this comic, and used to good effect to make a solution for an underlying story that runs through many of the strips in the second, music is actually the secondary aspect of this comic. The main aspect is family life with the Belzebubs, your typical rural family of two adults and two children, albeit one that worship Satan rather than the other one. Which does come with some challenges, with everything from dealing with kids rebelling against their parents (by saying Grace before meal times) to the art of romance being executed in a somewhat different manner altogether. Communication with non-Satanists also one of those challenges the children of the family have to deal with.
Music comes into play, so to speak, as the family business. Explored in an appropriately dark and funny manner, complete with nods towards Spinal Tap. Black metal musicians finds it just as hard to combine family life with music of course, even if the challenges at times have a very different character to them.
That being said, while Satanism runs like a red through this comic, it is more of a setting to explore humor in and less of a glorification of a religion. Most of the strips are, if not family friendly directly, at least aimed at being funny for a broader audience. The type of Satanism used is a cliched one too of course, and pokes a lot of fun towards the misconceptions of the reactionary Christian environments. One may also, to some extent, say that this comic implicitly makes fun of people from such environments from time to time, as it does give life to some of those misconceptions.
While I do thing that the potential audience for this comic strip is a massive one, a certain knowledge and interest in metal will come in handy to best enjoy what this comic brings to the table. A certain fascination for dark humor as well one might surmise. In that context it is very much appropriate indeed that Lise Myhre, creator of the goth comic strip Nemi, penned the afterword for this first of hopefully many future books that collects and chronicles family life and band life with the Belzebubs.
In short: If you like metal in general and black metal in particular, “Belzebubs” is a book that deserves a place on your book shelf. At least if you have a sense of humor, and tends to enjoy the one two punchline of a comic strip. Those who are fascinated by comics with a similar mood, such as aforementioned Nemi, should also take the time to discover what Belzebubs is all about. Highly recommended.