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My Father Was a Deserter

How Halfdan Pisket turned his dad's turbulent life into a comic book.
27 marts 2014, 12:56pm

Halfdan Pisket is probably best known for his involvement in Albertslund Terror Korps. Alongside DJ HVAD's music, he creates all manner of live visuals and videos. He has a degree from the Danish Art Academy and works with everything from comic books to posters to animation, creating an obscure universe full of mysticism and violence.  Lots of violence.

As if he wasn't busy enough he just released a comic book called Desertør (Deserter) which is based around interviews with his father. It's part one of a trilogy that unfolds the story of his father’s youth and his desertion of the Turkish army. A desertion followed by torture and a long life of crime in Denmark.

We talked with Halfdan about what it’s like working with something as emotional as your father’s suffering - and why violence and swastikas play such a big role in his illustrations.

VICE: How did you decide to get into making comic books of all things?

Halfdan: It started way back in middle school, and later, as I attended the Danish Art Academy. I did a collaboration with an author called Hans Otto Jørgensen. He wrote the story and I made the illustrations. It was called Vold [Violence] and it was slaughtered in all the reviews, like really slaughtered.

Ouch. S**o how is the comic book business going now then? Are you getting rich or dying trying?**

Actually, right after Vold came out, the publisher closed down. I had saved 10,000 Danish Kroner from one year of work so I used it to buy all the remaining copies. I can't really say I'm getting rich, but I get by doing illustrations for magazines and stuff.

You use the swastika a lot in your visuals for Albertslund Terror Korps. Why is that?

We wanted to use the symbol as a part of Albertslund Terror Korps’ identity. The swastika, both with its original meaning from India but also in combination with its more recent western history, was the sort of fuck you we were looking for. It's so full of hatred, and we were a bit scared to use it in the beginning. Now it has so many other meanings to us, that we even developed it, giving it additional and longer legs making it sort of a wild style swastika. Which, of course, we now claim as our own.

In your work, you depict a lot of violence and brutality. What was it like working so intensely with your own dad’s suffering?

It was really rough. I started this comic about six years ago, but every time I got to a certain point, I had to stop. I simply got too depressed. That’s why the story now has some elements of mysticism in the drawings, like for instance I’ve depicted the soldiers as a sort of ghosts, to distance myself from some of the realities.

So it was a lot for you to process?

Yeah, when I first started, my focus was on his period in prison in Turkey and his life of crime here in Denmark. Then I changed the focus to his youth. I can see now, that I had to draw this period of his life before I could lead the story, and myself, into the rougher stuff.

Has this changed your approach to using violence in your drawings?

Yes, very much so. Maybe not just because of this comic, though.  I used to draw straight up violent scenes, but now I've have found out that it’s usually not the actual act of violence that hurts the most. The whole area of non-physical violence is so much more powerful that regular violenceis starting to seem indifferent to me.

And how is your dad doing today?

He's doing amazing. He was living a life so full of fear while doing crime. One day he came home with burn marks on his body and a dog under his arm. He told me that someone put a hit out on him. That day I had to say stop. If we were going to continue our close relationship, he had to change his life. And he did. So now he is just hanging out and playing guitar with that same dog.

Wow. And what was his reaction to the comic book?

His first impression was, that it was an impressive piece of work, and that it wasn't horrible. But I think it will be a while before he reads it. I would probably feel the same if someone showed the world my dark sides. Usually, people only tell the good stories about themselves, but like I tend to do with all my art, I find it necessary to also show the other version of our existence.

Thank you so much Halfdan.

Desertør is available via