NR. 4 - 1989

NR. 7 - 1990

Throughout all Scandinavian countries the existence (or, predominantly, non-existence) of native language editions of popular US comic book titles is tied to the presence and use of English.

"It is no exaggeration to say that English plays a significant role in contemporary Scandinavia." (Norrby, 2014)

English is taught as a mandatory subject in schools throughout Scandinavia, resulting in 9–10 years of English teaching and a generally high level of proficiency (Norrby, 2014). Not surprisingly, popular culture is one of the domains where English is used a lot, not the least because

"being good at English (...) even seems to be a marker of national identity, at least for young Swedes." (Norrby, 2014, quoting Oakes, 2001)

The consequence for Scandinavian language editions of e.g. Marvel and DC comics? Simple:

"The kids in Norway are content with Marvel superheroes on TV and [in] cinemas, while the adult fans know English well enough to read the originals. The translated material just isn’t selling anymore." (Sätre, 2014)

Icelandic comics (teiknimyndasögur) featuring Marvel or DC material are even rarer, given the small potential market in a country totalling just over 300,000 inhabitants, but they do exist. I came across a nice selection of both Marvel and DC titles from around 1989/90 at Bókakjallarinn, the "Book Cellar", in mid-June 2015. Located in a basement in a side courtyard off Laugavegur, one of Reykjavík's main shopping streets, I would have completely missed it except for two advertising panels set up on both sidewalks, pointing the way and prominently featuring covers of Icelandic comic books featuring Batman, Spider-Man and the Hulk.

Essentially a second hand book store, its friendly owner Svavar Brynjúlfsson also has a good selection of Icelandic editions of US comic book material on offer, mostly in excellent condition. Selecting one title from Marvel and DC each, I left the Bókakjallarinn with KÓNGULÓAR MAÐURINN NR. 4 (1989) and BATMAN OG ROBIN NR. 7 (1990).


Semic Press was not only Sweden's largest comic book publisher throughout the 1970s (partly also thanks to taking over competing publishers Centerförlaget in 1969 and Williams förlag in 1975) but also built up an international market presence throughout Scandinavia (publishing as Semic Interpresse in Denmark, Semic nordisk forlag A/S in Norway, and Kustannus Oy Semic in Finland) and other European countries such as the Netherlands and France. All of these operations were loosely connected under the umbrella designation Semic International (not to be confused with today's Semic International AB, which stems from the original publishing house but is no longer active in comics).

In late 1984 Semic secured the rights to Marvel material for all of Scandinavia, and as the indicia from Kóngulóarmaðurinn #4 (kóngulóar meaning "spider" in Icelandic and maðurinn "man") shows, Semic International with its company seat in Sundbyberg (Sweden) was also behind this Icelandic edition, distributed by Siglufjarðarprentsmiðja (Siglufjarðar print media) from Iceland, but printed - as virtually all comics from Semic International at the time - in Finland.

Kóngulóarmaðurinn #4 is, in fact, virtually a clone of Edderkoppen #4, published almost simultaneously by Semic in Norway.

  Both editions feature the same reprint material on a total of 52 pages and the same cover illustration (which actually is the back cover from Marvel Fanfare #27, originally published for July 1986).

The first feature is the double-length and thus 38 pages long story "'Tis better to give!" (translated faithfully into Icelandic as "Betra er að gefa!") from Marvel Team-Up #150, the final issue of that series (February 1985), scripted by Louise Simonson, pencilled by Greg LaRocque and inked by veteran Mike Esposito. As was the standard formula befitting a title called Team-Up, every issue featured Spidey and one or more other superheroes from the Marvel Universe. In this case, it was the X-Men - X-Menn in icelandic, Prosjekt X ("Project X") in Norwegian.

All very much standard Marvel 1980's fare, readers got their shot of specialness from the short (8 pages) backup story, originally written and illustrated by Marc Hempel for Marvel Fanfare #27 (Hempel also drew and inked the back cover used here for Kóngulóarmaðurinn #4) and titled "Spidey gets antsy".

As the original title promises, this is a quirky little piece about Peter Parker simply being bored stiff one evening and, as even swinging about as Spider-Man can't cool him down, he ultimately finds amusement by calling (and obviously waking up) J Jonah Jameson in the middle of the night for, well, absolutely nothing.



Spread out across the inside front and both sides of the back cover as well as two interior pages are in-house advertisements for subscriptions and other Icelandic editions from Siglufjarðarprentsmiðja, including Superman, Tarzan and Hulk.



"Átök við vofuna!" ("conflicts with ghosts") is the Icelandic version of "The Haunting of the Spook!" from Batman #267 (June 1976), previously already published by Semic in Sweden and Norway in January 1978 (in Läderlappen #1/1978 and Lynvingen #1/1978 - both titles translating as "leather wings").


Batman og Robin #7/1990

Läderlappen #1/1978

Lynvingen #1/1978


Batman og Robin #7/1990, however, not only differed in terms of cover (using a standard Bob Kane vignette) but also in terms of content - although Icelandic readers probably didn't mind (if they knew), as the material from Läderlappen and Lynvingen not reproduced in Batman og Robin was all non-Batman material: a 1977 Vigilante story plus a 1955 story from DC's Gang Busters title.

Written by David Vern Reed and pencilled by Ernie Chan (Chua) this is a typical example from the mid-1970s mystery stories which Reed came up with, often using a seemingly supernatural setting or plot device which is later unmasked (usually by the Batman) and found to be a completely non-paranormal scheme by some criminal mind.

Batman once again encounters the villain who goes by the name of The Spook, and although he cannot catch this elusive foe the Spook for one reason or another offers him clues to his next caper by flashing location and time with an electronic sign on his chest (a plot element which is actually lost in the Icelandic version, cf. panels below).

Over a series of further encounters the Spook keeps encouraging Batman to kill him as the fighting gets more intense. During their next fight, Batman drops to the ground and the Spook, unaware that Gotham's vigilante is using meditation techniques to dull his pulse rate, finds no vital signs and assumes Batman has died.
Utterly shaken, the villain screams in frustration that he himself was to have faked death, using the same techniques, and Batman, who would have been unable to trust himself not to kill again, would have hung up his cape... Needless to say, Batman revives himself and then tracks down and captures the Spook for good.

Batman og Robin #7/1990 features two shorter stories, the first - "Skuggar hins liðna!" ("Shadows of the past") - being an 8-page Batman backup story from Batman #328 (October 1980) and originally titled "A Tale of Time Past!", written by Marv Wolfman, pencilled by Don Newton and inked by Kim DeMulder, in which Alfred thinks the Batcave is haunted and Batman saves Commissioner Gordon's life because he investigates the strange sounds which have so unsettled his faithful butler.

The second - "Þjónn bófanna!" ("Servant of crooks!") - is a 7-page story from Dollar Comics format Detective Comics #486 (November 1979) originally titled "The Hospitable Hostage!", scripted by Bob Rozakis with art by George Tuska and Bob Smith. It's almost an Alfred solo story as he "entertains" intruders into the Wayne penthouse in order to keep them from discovering the Batman's secret identity.

Two in-house advertisements and a back cover showcasing the 1966 TV series' Batgirl round off Batman og Robin #7/1990.


NORRBY Catrin (2014) "English in Scandinavia: Monster or Mate? Sweden as a Case Study", in Challenging the Monolingual Mindset (John Hajek & Yvette Slaughter, eds.), pp 17-32 (available online at

OAKES Leigh (2001) Language and National Identity - Comparing France and Sweden, John Benjamins

SÄTRE Trond (2014) "The nearly (?) complete history of Marvel Comics in Norway", serienett., published online 22 October 2014

BATMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics, Inc. TM and © DC Comics, Inc., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.
The illustrations presented here are copyright material. Their reproduction for the study and review purposes of this website is considered fair use
as set out by the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. par. 107.




(c) MMXV

first published on the web 1 July 2015
DISCLAIMER: ég tala ekki íslensku - I don't speak Icelandic, all translations courtesy of Auntie Google