Jan Berglin

Jan Berglin and his wife, Maria Berglin.

Jan Berglin (born 1960) is a popular Swedish cartoonist, known for making satirical commentaries mainly about everyday Swedish life (mostly for the middle class), though often also about culture and politics, and often with references to more or less famous literature and philosophy. While sometimes coming off as somewhat old-fashioned (which he occasionally acknowledges in his comics) and dismissive of “low culture”, it’s far from unusual for him to discuss modern popular culture and subjects of interest to younger people (probably because it would be difficult to satirize everyday life otherwise). I’ve managed to dig up two comics by him that focuses on the subject of video games, and will provide my own translations of them.

The first comic is probably from the 80s (I haven’t been able to find the specific year), and is a strip from his early comic “Kulturväktarna” (“The culture guardians”), about a family father with high-minded artistic and political ideals that often collides humorously with everyday family life.


Panel 1: “Unbelievable! What is this?”

Panel 2: “The Last Ninja!! My own son brings Asian violence-porn into my home!” “The Last Ninja – it’s just a videogame…”

Panel 3: “No buts! Do your homework now. My film starts soon.” “But dad…”

Panel 4: Translation unnecessary, except that “hugg!” would translate as “chop!”

A pretty simple joke, but it’s interesting to note that Berglin actually seems to defend video games in this strip, pointing out the double standards of people complaining about the violence in them, during a time when most mainstream popular culture dismissed games as violent, childish wastes of time. It’s also interesting that he names an actual real-life game that was popular at the time, instead of making up some generic name.

The second comic is from 2006, a strip from his more recent and highly popular comic that was originally simply titled “Berglin”, though nowadays the title is “Berglins”, to acknowledge that it’s an artistic collaboration between him and his wife, Maria Berglin. This comic has no recurring characters, but rather discusses different subjects in each strip.


Panel 1: FROM THE WORLD OF COMPUTER GAMES: Computer games are 90% synonymous with violence, and guess what the kids want… “But look at this… A family game: ‘Help Kikki* find the sausage’! And a sing-a-long game: ‘Carola** sings the pants off the Pentecostal pastor***’.” “Dad!”

Panel 2: Don’t tell anyone, but some people spend days and nights building up characters and fantastic empires. Text box: The crest of three months of virtual court intrigues. “Mom… It’s parent-teacher conference tonight…” “What the hell…”

Panel 3: It’s no bold guess that computer gaming will have purely ontological consequences. (You ain’t seen nothing yet!) “Wait a minute… The soccer player you’re talking about, who tore his cruciate ligament, exists in your computer game and not in real life!” “So…? I discovered him as a young talent, got him an apartment, supported him through the cocaine scandal… And I’m godfather to his child!”

Panel 4: But when it comes to violence we have already lost, and have to make do with holding a few front sections. “But… Let’s say that you have a baseball bat, and a little puppy comes into the game…?” “Eh… Then I let the puppy walk on by, right?” “Good, Filip… good! Have a cookie.”

* A reference to Swedish singer Kikki Danielsson, known as a popular subject for tabloids, among other things for supposedly eating a lot of sausage.

** Carola Häggkvist, famous Swedish singer, another popular tabloid subject, often accused of having extremely conservative Christian beliefs.

*** Probably a reference to Åke Green, infamous Swedish Pentecostal pastor known for being an outspoken homophobe.

Though slightly less defensive of video games this time, Berglin still seems to acknowledge some of the unique and fascinating elements of the interactive medium. I actually wish there were more games in which you could spend months on political intrigues to become a supreme ruler.

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