Monday, 23 January 2012

Agent Marc Saunders: Sweden Gets Its First Superhero... or Does It?

In November last year, a friend of mine shared a link to some interesting news on Bleeding Cool. The headline was "Sweden Gets Its First Superhero" and, as I am both a Swede and fan of the superhero genre, my interest was naturally piqued. However, I had some reservations from the start, which I will return to shortly.

Agent Marc Saunders is written and drawn by Mike Berg (a.k.a. Mikael Bergkvist) and inked by American inker extraordinaire Joe Rubinstein, and the first issue introduces Marc Saunders, a superpowered secret agent working for the US. The premise, which ties into strange meteorites and political upheavals (all revealed in the first issue), is really quite good, but the execution does not fully deliver. While there is nothing wrong with the artwork (I definitely enjoy Berg and Rubinstein's visuals), the language leaves a lot to be desired. Often dialogue and captions read like poor translations from English to Swedish, which is needless to say quite sad for something being promoted as Sweden's first original superhero comic.

The second issue might be a slight improvement in that department, but instead falters in its storytelling, which is often fragmented and confusing. I dare call myself an experienced comics reader, and the amount of times I had to skip back and forth in the second issue to follow the plot (and sometimes failing because necessary linking information was not to be found) was embarrassing. And this is really sad, since there is a really good premise here and some real artistic talent at work.

Returning to the idea of this being Sweden's first superhero and my reservations towards this claim, I think it is worth noting that there has not been any lack of superhero parody and comedy on the Swedish comics scene: there is Kapten Stofil (Eng. trans. Captain Fogey), which I have yet to read, and a great deal of Johan Wanloo's stuff, from Örn Blammo (Eng. trans. Eagle Blammo) to De äventyrslystna karlakarlarna (Eng. trans. the Adventurous Manly-Men) and beyond, certainly qualifies.

I also do not find it insignificant that Agent Saunders is neither a Swede nor situated in or connected to Sweden. Granted that Sweden might not be the easiest country to situate serious superheroics in (a large country with a small population hardly lends itself to extravagances á la DC or Marvel Comics), but if Swedish writer Jan Guillou could create a Swedish James Bond/Jason Bourne type Swedish agent active on an international arena, one may wonder why Agent Saunders could not have been given a similar Swedish grounding. At least if he is to be called Sweden's first superhero.

But the latter is a minor quibble. Especially compared to the more serious problems with language and, more recently, with storytelling.

At any rate, I will support the effort at least one more issue. Because it is a good premise there, and of a kind we do not see nearly often enough over here.


  1. I agree that the storytelling is rushed. The problem is simply that regardless what is said in the media, the comic is in fact inked by me.
    So, I had to create, write, pencil and ink the comic, and letter it, and also do everything else in indesign, create the PDF and send it to the printer. And then immediately start on the next issue. About the swedish superhero thang, that's partly my own fault. I was asked if there was any other swedish superheroes published in sweden. **It's swedens first superhero with it own comicbook title**. I should have kept my mouth shut, because even though it's true enough, its also completely irrelevant. I try harder to be a better artist, and from issue three, Joe Rubinstein is actually the inker, which has given me more time to refine the scripts. I understand the weaknesses in the comic and I work hard to fix them. I promise.

  2. By the way, Marc Saunders is now being published in the USA by Ardden Entertainment, and is solicited for April in Diamonds "Previews". :)