|Self-portrait by Erik Evensen|
Erik holds degrees in art and design from the University of New Hampshire, School of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston) and Ohio State University. He has taught at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Bemidji State University and Ohio State University. In addition to Gods of Asgard, Erik’s comics art has appeared in Fear Agent, Grounded, Invincible, Johnny Raygun and Zombie Bomb.
KS - How did you first become interested in Norse mythology?
EE - I was a pretty voracious reader when I was a kid, and my family constantly plugged different books into my hands. D’Aulaire’s Norse Gods & Giants was my first Norse mythology book, and I just kept on going. I know its connection to my own Norwegian roots and my fascination with Vikings and pirates also helped. The D’Aulaires influenced me hugely, and many little ideas of theirs worked their way into my own book.
|Ymir, Audhumla & Buri in Gods of Asgard|
EE - I think all I meant by that was that many of the elements are similar to those of other cultural beliefs. The gods create humans out of inanimate material and give them life. Odin and his brothers create the world itself out of the dismembered bits of Ymir, evoking ideas of Gaia. All of this begins in an abyss. Many of these elements are paralleled in Greek and Egyptian mythology in different ways, though not necessarily in the same way, order or fashion.
KS - How do you feel Norse mythology differs from Celtic, Greek and Egyptian mythology? In your view, how do the gods express the landscape, culture and psychology of the northern world?
EE - It’s generally accepted that the Norse worldview was decidedly bleaker, harsher, maybe even darker. They lived in an area that was practically in darkness half the year, and the winters and landscape were full of weather, terrain, and wildlife that easily claimed lives. That’s not to say they were a nihilistic people, of course, just that their reference frame for understanding the world wouldn’t be the same as that of a people living in and around the Mediterranean. A lot of the popular imagery of the Norse gods borrows heavily from classical mythology and Victorian conventions, and I’ve tried to strip away a lot of that. Of course, I’m always learning more and more, and unlearning some of what I’ve learned, and I know I’d do things a little differently even now. I know I have some classical influences and misconceptions in my own book.
|Gods & giants - the cast of Gods of Asgard|
|Troll by Erik Evensen|
KS - Your giants and dwarves exhibit bestial traits throughout the book – animal feet, claws and whiskers. Why did you portray them in this way?
|Skadi in Gods of Asgard|
KS - Why did you decide to use Snorri Sturluson’s Edda as your primary source – as opposed to the Poetic Edda, Heimskringla or Gesta Danorum?
EE - Snorri is a pretty good storyteller, for one! But also, a lot of these sources kind of contradict each other in places, and different stories have different traditions. The stories are great, as we all know, but I had to make a lot of decisions in order to unify certain ideas and elements, and give the book a modicum of structure. I admit, it did make it easier to do this by leaning on Snorri a bit, since he did this originally. I deviated from Snorri a bit, but not as much as I originally thought I might.
KS - In typical medieval scholarly fashion, Snorri sought to organize the contradictory poetic fragments of Norse mythology into a coherent whole. Likewise, you write that you “have attempted to rectify some of these contradictions for the sake of the narrative.” We know that Norse mythology reflects elements of pre-Christian religious practices throughout continental Europe, Scandinavia and the British Isles over a very long period of time. What is the end result of trying to make a coherent storyline out of material from such a large geographical and temporal range?
|Tyr in Gods of Asgard|
KS - Your book is, in a way, an interpretation of an interpretation of a transcription of an oral tradition of an ancient belief system. With all these intermediate stages, what relationship do you think Gods of Asgard has to actual religious beliefs before the conversion to Christianity?
EE - I’m not a comparative religion scholar or a practitioner of Ásatrú, so I wasn’t even thinking about that end of it. It probably has only a very fuzzy resemblance. Like in the days of VHS, when you’d copy a movie off the TV, then copy the tape for a friend, then they would do the same – until you were several generations removed from the source. I watched a friend’s tapes of Apocalypse Now and Dune and had no idea what I was looking at the entire time. I remember fuzzy images of sandworms and helicopters and little else.