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petek, 24 septembra, 2021

Minna Sundberg: “I have been given a gift to convey information in a special way, and it’s my duty to not waste it”

By: Ivan Šokić

Minna Sundberg is a 31 years old illustrator and online comic creator from Finland. She started publishing her first comic in 2011, and since then more than a few books were published in paper. Her award-winning work from the beginning stood out for its sense of warmth. A common inspiration in her works was Nordic mythology. She drew the attention of the public with her short graphic novel Lovely People. The comicbook about bunnies living in a dystopic social credit system akin to China put in the center a story of christian persecution. For that, Sundberg, herlsef a zealous Christian became a target of cancel culture, but she does not care.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you do for living, and how would you describe your views on politics?

Well, I’m a 31 year old woman from Finland, and I spend most of my time creating art, gardening, hiking now and then, and recently I’ve started studying Theology. My full-time job and career for the last 9 or so years has been drawing my independent webcomics.

As for my politics: they are in a state of reformation right now. I gave my life to Christ less than a year ago, and a lot of fundamental things I’ve just assumed to be virtues, or vices, are being challenged as I’m studying a Bible, and I’m praying for God to lead me to a correct undestanding of what is right in his eyes and change my heart as needed.

However, before last year I would have probably described myself as a Stoic and politically Nihilist, or “black-pilled” as it’s called colloquillay. From my youth onward I had gone through ultra-progressivism and socialistic ideation, to socially liberal but fiscally consvervative, to semi-libertanian, to techno-utopian, going which way direction trying to find something stable to stand for. But every political ideology seemed to have some fatal flaw, and eventually I just concluded that there’s something fundamentally broken with human nature that systems can’t cover up, so I stopped even trying to find a worldview to put my trust in.

How did you get to work in comics?

I was studying Graphic Design in university and realized that I hated working with clients and would rather do comics, so I drew my first proper comic “A Redtail’s Dream” alongside my studies and published it for free online. During those 2-3 years it gathered enough of an audience (and thus a source of income) that I was able to just keep doing webcomics as my job after graduating.

Do you have any artists or comic creators you look up to? Any intellectual heores?

My biggest comic insprations come from my youth: Hergé the creator of Tintin, Carl Barks and Don Rosa of their Donald Duck comics, the creators of Asterix, and the art of Jean Giraurd aka Moebius.

For intellectual heroes… well, as the previous ideological nomad and nihilist I never stayed long enough in one ideology to embrace any heroes. But right now I’m really engrossed in the teachings of theologians R.C Sproul, John Piper, C.H. Spurgeon and John Calvin, so I can mention those.

Your latest graphic novel “Lovely People” made quite an entrance. What was the inspiration behind it?

My original inspiration was years ago when I first heard about the budding Social Credit system in China. I thought “hm, that would be an interesting setting for some story” but I just put it away on a mental shelf for the future, in case I run out of other ideas. But I never lack of ideas for stories so I didn’t really expect to ever get to that one. But last year I became acutely aware of elements of the system already being put in place in the West, and the memory came back to Me.

This was quite a jump. Your past work was more fantastical, drawing strong inspiration from Norse mythology, and now this? What happened?

My conversion to Christianity. When I was an atheist the only purpose I saw with my work as a comic artist was to entertain people, to make the trudge through our ultimately meaningless existence a bit more fun. So I shared what I myself enjoyed with people: my culture, mythology, adventure, but without any deeper meaning.

But after coming to faith I knew God hasn’t given me the skills and means to tell stories just “for fun”. I have been given a gift to convey information in a special way, and it’s my duty to not waste it.

To be fair, before there was “Lovely People“, there was award winning “Stand Still, Stay Silent“. Can you tell us what is it about?

Sure! It’s my longest-running and most successful webcomic, which I’m currently wrapping up with the last few chapters. I started it in 2013, and it’s a postapocalyptic adventure that incorporates Nordic mythological concepts. It begins with a mysterious pandemic sweeping across the world, first seeming relatively harmless, but quickly escalating into the demise of nearly all of humanity , and turning most of the surviving humans (and other mammals) into various twisted, mutated monstrosities. The story itself follows a small expedition team from surviving Nordic settlements, at least one character from each culture, who travel into the Silent world on a quest for lost knowledge.

Who is the target audience for “Lovely People”?

I’m not really sure. My first goal was to spread information about the sinister workings of a “soft” Social Credit system, and to encourage people to make God their haven of refuge in perilous times. So the target audience in that sense was people who don’t really know much, or anything at all, about the subject of Social Credit Systems.

I assumed it’d mostly be women reading it due to the cute art style, cute bunnies and with the three main characters being female, but the readers have been pretty evenly male and female.

The contrast between the themes in the “Lovely People” and the art is striking, yet at the same time, complementing each other. Was that contrast between cutesy and warm artstyle on one hand, and rather distopian themes on the other a conscious choice from the start, or did it develop organically?

Yes, it was intentional. My starting assumption was that those people who enjoy gritty, dark dystopian art and stories are more likely to already be well aware of many of the common dystopian concepts, among them Social Credit System-esque scenarios. People who like cute art styles maybe don’t. I didn’t want to preach to the choir, so to speak.

It was also meant to underline that an oppressive dystopia does not necessarily come looking like the baby of techno-Hitler and mega-Stalin, but the most dangerous kind could be something that people welcome as a good, righteous and enjoyable system. This is a truth we are warned about often in the Bible, for example in 2nd Corinthians 11:14-15: “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. “ or in Revelation 13:11, when speaking of the second beast: “It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon ”, the dragon in Revelation is the symbol for Satan, and the Lamb is Jesus; it looks outwardly like the saviour and bringer of goodness and Truth, but speaks corruption and falsehood. “Soft totalitarianism” is kinda like that.

You had two very successful crowdfunding campaigns to publish printed versions of “A Redtail’s Dream” and “Stand Still. Stay Silent – Book 1”. Are there any plans for a crowdfund campaign of “Lovely People”?

I don’t think so. I had the saving to pay for a small print run of the comic in physical form so there’s no need for a crowdfunding campaign to pay for it. People can buy a copy on my website if they want to.

Do you think the Social Credit System could become a reality in the West?

If the advancement of techno-monopolies and the entanglement of social media, surveillance and social engineering continue as they are I don’t see why it wouldn’t. And I think most people will accept it and enjoy it, as long as it comes gradually.

What are your views on cancel culture? Is it good, bad or ugly? Did you ever experience getting canceled because of what you believe or do?

It’s just a new name for the exact same phenomena as the marxist concepts of “Criticism and self-criticism” that was used under Stalin, and the “Struggle Sessions” under Mao, which were used as means to keep people in line, to oust people and make them “confess” their “crimes” against Socialism. As far as Wikipedia can be taken as a source, this succinct description of the concept of the Struggle Session illustrates the parallel quite nicely: “In general, the victim of a struggle session was forced to admit various crimes before a crowd of people who would verbally and physically abuse the victim until they confessed. Struggle sessions were often held at the workplace of the accused, but they were sometimes conducted in sports stadiums where large crowds would gather if the target was well-known. “

And sure, a lot of people disavowed me when I published “Lovely People”, mostly my own fans as far as I know. But it wasn’t that big of a deal, I was never under the illusion that just because someone enjoys my work online that they have, or should have, any sort of personal loyalty to me as a person.

Also, when I promised God to go where he wants me to go I knew I would have to let go of general popularity and future financial success as my goals, so I did. As Jesus says in Matt.6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” and as Paul writes in Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. “

How do you see the culture war taking place in the West currently?

I don’t see it as a culture was as much as the back-and-forth flow of a downward spiral of Western society, at least here in Western Europe. Is either side here, in any Western European country urging people to return to God as the direction we should orient ourselves to? No. A downward spiral can be tilted in a way that it seems like it’s going upwards again every 180 degrees, yet it’ll keep going down.

I think This section of Rom.1:21 and forward is a fitting description of the state of Western Europe, and has probably been for a long time now,:

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!”

Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

We live in an age of narratives, claims of relative truths, and opportunities for mass media propaganda we’ve never seen before in human history. Determining what’s lies and what is reality is becoming harder every year, and everyone will have to anchor themselves to something in their minds to not be swept away. And I will claim that we must take Jesus for his word when he claims to be the Truth, and the Cornerstone. Anchor yourself to him: read what he says and believe him, not as a “good teacher” but as what he himself claims to be, which is God.

Of lesser importance: I’m working on an idea for my next comic project, and I’m going to mix my new love for Theology with my love for storytelling through art. It’s probably going to be the most positive story I’ve made so far, and I’m really looking forward to sharing it online eventually!

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