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Interviewed: Wulff & Morgenthaler on their launch of Wumo

Back in September I reported that Universal Uclick was going to launch their first comic in three years. The feature was a Danish comic called Wumo that had a large following in Europe. You can read my interview with UU President John Glynn for details on the business side of the launch.

On the creative side, writer Mikael Wulff and illustrator Anders Morgenthaler started the Wumo strip in 2003 as a web comic and began adding European newspapers shortly after. The strip – usually a single panel – is a humorous mix of quirky, absurdity and irreverence. The strip is launching in over 200 newspapers here in the US – one of the biggest launches in recent years (maybe a decade?). Through email, we discussed their strip past and future.

AG: Wumo is launching in over 200 papers – a very big launch for a strip. Why do you think Wumo is getting such traction here in America?

Wumo: We have been developing the strip for 10 years and seems to have achieved something with a consistent perspective and a balance between the absurd and something that people get. It seems like, when we started out 10 years ago, the mainstream landscape was different from what it is now, and at the same time we have matured and polished our stuff up over the years, so we kind have grown to meet halfways with the audience. They like more weird stuff now that they did 10 years ago. And the thing is that from the get-go we had the ambition to take our work to the US, so it’s not a complete coincidence that it happens. We’re happy that it does, but we have always done kind of a US style comic strip, with a touch of our humor of course.

AG: Wumo’s roots are in a webcomic called “Wulffmorgenthaler”. I’ve noticed a trend online that all references to “Wulffmorgenthaler” have slowly been changed to “Wumo” and the merchandise seems to have disappeared. Why is that?

Wumo: Wumo is Wulffmorgenthaler, but the name have changed, because it was way too long and no one knew how to pronounce it and to spell it. We don’t really view Wumo as a new strip. It’s been a long time since we did Wulffmorgenthaler merchandise, because it was, to be honest, too much of a hassle. But hopefully we’ll get back in that business soon.

AG: You had more freedom as far as pushing the boundaries of taste as a webcomic and in Europe than what we normally see in American newspapers. Given our sensitivities, how difficult has it been writing Wumo? Have you had cases where the syndicate has had to say no to certain strips?

Wumo: We have sold the strip for many different newspapers for many years now, and the principle is that we do what we do, and then the newspaper or in this case Universal Uclick have the right to say “no” to particular strips. We have no problem with that. And we have such a vast back catalogue and continue to do daily strips, so it’s never really been a problem. We just offer them something else or make something else. Our aim is not to push boundaries per se, our aim has been to do a comic strip, that feels fresh, original, with a personal voice – and which people can relate to, hopefully feeling it’s funny, and perhaps even that has some points to make about the life we live.

AG: Are European papers still getting Wulffmorgenthaler or will they get Wumo? What, if any, are the differences between the two?

Wumo: There is no difference. It’s just a change of the name. The change was actually done last year, also in Europe. Except for Denmark. where the strip and our brand is more famous so it’s too late to change the name. Europe and the US will basically get the same strips, though we might produce some material tailormade for the US.

AG: While Wumo will be almost entirely new to American audience, you have a decade of material that ran in Europe. How much of WUMO recycled from your archives and how much is new material?

Wumo: A mix. We’re still producing daily strips, and still enjoy it immensely and we always feel that the latest stuff is the best and the most relevant, but we have done almist 4000 strips, so we’ll want to show the US some of our good, old “classics”.

AG: You’ve said in other interviews that you have ambitions in Hollywood. What kind of projects are you pursuing and any of them currently in the works?

Wumo: We have done comedy TV shows in Denmark, and some of these we try to bring to the US, as well as completely new projects. These projects are mainly in animation. None of them are “in the works”, but we’re making some headway. But let’s see. Hollywood is a new turf for us. We’re treading lightly and sees how it plays out.

AG: What would you describe as the process for creating each strip? How does your partnership work? Is the strip drawn on paper and pencil, digitally or some variation of the two?

Wumo: Wulff is the writer and Morgenthaler is doing the drawings. That’s the basics of the partnership, even though we often brainstorm together and make the jokes, and Wulff also have some strong feelings about how the visual side of a joke should be composed. Often Wulff writes a whole bunch of jokes, and then we meet up, usually once a week, and work through these jokes, Morgenthaler does quick sketches of the ones that are deemed to be good enough and the ones that we make up together on the spot. A day like this usually end up with 20 sketches of jokes, which are then being passed on the the next level which is the cleaning up and the coloring, and eventually the final tweaking of the text. Of those 20 sketches about 15 will eventually be printed. The strip is sketched in hand, then scanned, and the rest of the work is done digitally.

AG: What, if any, ambitions do you have with the strip beyond newspapers?

Wumo: We have always focused on being present online and in digital, and we’ll keep on doing that. But at the moment we’re very excited about the US launch. That’s is a great satisfaction in itself. Hopefully it will lead to new projects for Wumo.

Congratulations to Mikael and Anders on their launch. I’ve been a fan of their work for many years, so I’m excited to see them introduced to the US.

Community Comments

#1 G Louis Johnson
@ 10:53 am

Great work getting an interview with these guys Alan. Their comic launched Sunday on GoComics and I think I had added it to my reading list by Tuesday.

#2 Steven Richard
@ 12:15 pm

WUMO is hilarious. They had me before the porcupine said “Ouch!” and Houdini’s pets had escaped. Looking forward to seeing more.

#3 Mike McKeenan
@ 11:31 pm

What does 200+ papers mean in income for the cartoonists?

#4 steve skelton
@ 11:16 am

20 acres and a donkey.

#5 Tom Falco
@ 7:27 pm

Love it. My new fav.

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