During my stay in Latvia I had the chance to visit the guys of “Kuš!”, the only comics publisher of Latvia1. My intention was to get some useful insights on the independent scene…let’s see what I found out.
Few words on Kus!
Quite emblematic, this project was partly idea of a foreigner (David Shilter, Swiss), and that sounds natural to me, since in many eastern European countries the comics’ culture is really small.2
Born in 2007, “Kuš! magazine” was initially published in few thousand issues with texts in Latvian, but it didn’t really work-out well, so the publisher decided to change completely its marketing strategy: the language of the stories switched to english and the distribution switched to post, on request.
Nowadays Kuš is quite renowned in Latvia, mainly among artsy and young people.
Trivia on Kus! meaning
It is the Latvian onomatopoeia for “stay silent!”, like the english “ssssh” that you can hear when you are in a cinema and some people are talking. It was a struggle to copypaste the “š” for all the times I wrote Kuš in this article, lol.
What’s Kus about
The Kuš magazine is pretty much what you’d expect from an independent label: strongly experimental stories with a touch of “pop” and fluo colors.
The focus is definitely on the visual compartment, with many different styles and way of drawing/painting.
We can say that the audience of this publisher is pretty much made of people attracted to art, instead of “regular” readers
I’m curious about comics history in general,3 but I went to visit the studio mainly because I was wondering how these small publishers promote themselves.
Adwords, Facebook Ads & co. didn’t work well for them,4 and they do their advertising work the good ol’ way: with backlinks and stuff by the independent artists and magazines they collaborate with. It’s impressive to witness how a web of contacts can make miracles, more than any advertisement.
Comics in Latvia
Even if Kuš! demonstrates the existence of comics in the Latvia, that is far from proving that there is “national” public.
Also, with this kind of independent comics -more focused on the media than the stories- it’s difficult to make people aware of the “literature” potential of comics…but I don’t think that this is the ultimate Kuš! goal.5
It’s hurting to witness that in many eastern European countries the comics culture tend to zero, but on the other hand I’m excited to see what will -hopefully soon- happen there, since many new artists from the east side of EU are drawn to comics, and for sure they have a lot of stuff to say.