recent posts

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wolfgang Carstens (author)/ Janne Karlsson (illustrations) THE STENCH OF FAILURE. Epic rites Press, 2015 (56 pages).

This is the latest literary & graphic collaboration between Canadian writer Wolfgang Carstens and the Swedish artist Janne Karlsson. For sheer volume and variety of content, this is their best book I have read to date. THE STENCH OF FAILURE is not a graphic novel which follows a continuous story but is rather a series of diverse one page comics which are linked by common themes and the in-your-face antics of the mad duo.

The shiny black & white cover illustration by Karlsson shows Carstens & Karlsson standing side by side like identical twins- wild-eyed, with huge mischievious grins, as Karlssson lets loose the pair's literary bomb. The title seems to suggest that there is a strong whiff of failure in what they are doing because they are breaking all the rules of middle class decency- but you get a clear sense that they are really enjoying their mission in this extraordinary series of illustrations- which is to wage “war on impotent literature.”

Carsten’s language is characteristically terse with darkly ironic nihilistic overtones. Karlsson’s illustrations are playful, sometimes gruesome or sexually explicit. The two men’s work seamlessly complements each other in their contemporary tragic-comedic take on existence.

Carstens & Karlsson tackle many of the big issues- the impermanence of life, why we need to live for today- “because tomorrow never comes,” & conversely, how we need to celebrate life through hugs, through a wry sense of humour & through the spilling of “marrow” upon the page.

Their purpose in putting together this collection is not merely to entertain us but also to shove a hot poker of dissent into our complacency. People seem to be racing everywhere to nowhere in the false belief that they are invincible & will never die. 
Carstens & Karlsson also explore the messy debris of everyday domestic living. They include ironic commentary on infidelity, on male insecurities over penis sizes & their sexual performances, on how men crave but feel terror if released from the straight-jackets of their partners' demands & on the caustic but euphoric effects of alcohol. 

THE STENCH OF FAILURE is an original, feisty, highly engaging collection which combines Carstens’ stark writing with Karlsson’s graphic minimalistic angst. I haven't read their latest works in the making but I reckon their next step should be a full-bodied graphic novel.


Bold Monkey has previously communicated with Carstens & Karlsson but we didn’t know anything about how they met or about their thoughts on their working relationship. BM asked the men what they thought of each other. 


Wolfgang Carstens. I fucking love the man. He is my brother. My first contact with Wolf, the Canadian madman, was in 2012 when I desperately googled for publishers for a book script I'd made in collaboration with J.J. Campbell. By pure chance I dropped an email to Epic Rites Press. Wolf's very enthusiastic and kind reply then immediately made me like the guy. Since that first email Wolf and I have created more madness together than the average guy does in a lifetime, both as poet-artist and artist-publisher. He has also opened many doors for me and I feel deeply grateful for having "met" him.

Wolf is a man of action. He is the straight opposite of bullshit. He is also my favorite poet out there. As a matter of fact, I've already made sure his poem 'Margaret' will be read at my funeral. If I was a woman I would marry the fucking maniac. I've lost count on how many poems/ rants/ comics/ characters he and I have created during these two and a half years. Thing is, we are both very fast workers. Sometimes I just pick something up from Wolf's messages on FB/ Messenger/ email, be it rants, poems, punchlines, whatever and ink them. We have the same kind of humor and preferences, so pretty much everything we're doing runs smoothly and free from conflicts. Another great thing about Wolf is his never give-up attitude, or as he once wrote: "The only thing that could stop me now is a bullet in the heart, but hell, even that would only slow me down."

Collaborating, discussing and drunk-chatting with Mr. Carstens is always a goddamn pleasure. I am proud to have him as my friend.


I created Epic Rites Press with the mandate to marry great art with great literature. It wasn't until I met Janne Karlsson in 2012 that I was finally able to pull this marriage together with any degree of success. From the illustrated story HEARTS FOR BRAINS (written by Rob Plath), the illustrated poetry collection THE STENCH OF FAILURE (written by yours truly), Janne's two books THE HUMAN UNKIND and THE ART OF VOMIT, and the illustrations that appear in books like ALCHEMY (written by John Yamrus) and FACTORY REJECT (written by yours truly), Janne's art also appears on Epic Rites Press merchandise like T-shirts, chapbooks, posters, broadsheets, magnets and stickers. None of this would have been possible without the talent of Janne Karlsson. Karlsson is a genius in the purest sense of the word- and it is my honor and privilege to collaborate with him on poetry collections like FACTORY REJECT, VARGFITTA, 12DIKTER, THE STENCH OF FAILURE, ONLY THE DEAD, ENJOY OBLIVION, RENTED MULE, RAISING THE DEAD and SAVAGE LOVE. If you're unfamiliar with some of these titles, it's because many of these books by Karlsson and I are forthcoming from various publishers. Together, we've created more madness in a few years than most people accomplish in a lifetime. What I'm most proud about is that these 40 page chapbooks by Karlsson and I represent everything a great chapbook could and should be: tight, thematically connected poetry and art fused together to produce the most exquisite fireworks. The craziest part of all is that because Karlsson and I are both hyper productive artists, these books only represent the tip of the iceberg. Put your hands on any of these titles and you'll truly understand what I mean when I say, "Here comes the boom, baby, boom!"

Buy the book here: