Back in the early 2000s I was drawing and self-publishing my graphic novel one chapter at a time in little photocopied magazines; I sent small batches out to comics shops in Denmark but I had next to no idea if people outside of my closest circles read it. Then an email landed in my inbox one day, from an enthusiastic animator in training — a reader, and another aspiring artist to boot! He was very excited by the comic and shared links to his own current comics work, a dark fantasy that shared some themes with my own, not least a fascination with Mike Mignola. That was the first of less than a handful of fan letters I have ever received, and my first contact with Cav Bøgelund.
Soon we were exchanging emails on a weekly basis, swapping links to favourite comics and artists and critiquing each others’ latest drawings and pages. Cav’s work was exciting, funky and darkly humorous, and I didn’t really see why he was interested in my scribbles. At one point I was going on an infrequent visit to Copenhagen to see some other comics artists that I had been introduced to by common friends, and I invited Cav along. Geographically, I was in the middle of nowhere at the time, but Cav was almost as far from Copenhagen as you can be in Denmark. Somehow, complete strangers to each other with no idea how the other looked, we managed to meet on the train there, and we clicked pretty fast — after all, we had been mailing back and forth for months.
The day in Copenhagen was a blast, we met with Danish comics artists Thomas Thorhauge and Jan Solheim for coffee and chatted away until we country mice realized we had to catch the last train back. Cav was looking at several hours of train ride and waiting to change connections, leaving him only a few hours of sleep before getting to school in the morning, but his excitement of the trip kept him talking non-stop until I got off midway at my station. I won’t take credit for introducing Cav to the Danish comics scene, but I hope I sped up the process by some small margin.
Eventually, both he and I moved to Copenhagen, I tried to balance finishing my book with menial work and he was accepted into the Danish Film School’s animation director department. Both of us were busy with our daily tasks, but being in the same city meant we hung out a great deal more than we could before. During those years, Cav was one of my best friends, a respected colleague, and just an altogether inspiration to be around. His work seemed to come to him easier than mine did to me, there was a playfulness and richness of ideas both in his drawings and in his company that made both so instantly appealing.
My graphic novel went through a couple of potential publishers before landing at the right one, and in one of those not-quite-there incarnations of it, the editors suggested that we include a gallery of other artists’ “tributes” or interpretations of my work in the back of the book. I wasn’t a hundred per cent convinced, but in the end we talked ten-fifteen fellow artists into contributing. Having Cav in there among some of Denmark’s finest comics artists was a no-brainer — even if those would all make my drawings look like a mess — he knew my work better than anyone, and it warmed me that he wanted to be part of it.
In the end, that publisher folded before printing a single book, and none of the gallery drawings made it into the final version of my book published by Brun Blomst, and I’m embarrassed to say I’ve just sat on the interpretations since then. Cav presented me with his original artwork, though, and it has hung on my wall until very recently when it had faded so much that I had to move it away from daylight. When my book finally came out at the Komiks.dk festival of 2006, Cav’s second book was out already, and we had some amazing after parties with our peers and friends. In memory of that, Cav’s rendition of my characters — I believe for the first time:
The following years Cav and I would still meet and hang out but having graduated as an animation director, he would be consumed for weeks and months at a time in projects that took quite a bit more out of him than drawing comics. We had a short-lived role playing party going. I did a lot of moving, myself, and in several ways. First I moved geographically with my family to Sweden — it was literally just twenty minutes’ train ride away from Copenhagen but the mental distance is much longer. Secondly, I quit Facebook which, obviously, cut a lot of bonds to people.
Thirdly, I orbited away from traditional comics as I realized I didn’t have another “proper” graphic novel in me and wanted to push my own limits to unexplored territory. Distance, work and shifting alignments of interests made us drift away from each other. While I was busy rejecting the comics I grew up with, Cav gleefully threw himself into making a nostalgic superhero slug fest of a book — as a pastime, I think, between film projects.
It never came to a head between us, our friendship just fizzled out — something I have regretted since then. He was always there, though, popping up on the comics radar: Around this time, with his natural, infectious enthusiasm for anything comics, he became the go-to guy for the primary national Danish TV channel, appearing whenever they needed an inside perspective. His live drawing sessions, either as a participant or an engaged ring master, were must-sees at comics festivals and similar events. He even briefly dated Denmark’s first real-life superhero, or did I dream that? Either way, it was surreal to watch from the side.
These last couple of years we were barely in touch, though I got word about his doings and work from shared friends: new relationships, new film projects, etc. We were hammering away at each our careers, not intersecting anymore. I would look him up on Twitter occasionally, making sure that he was doing his part. Then, this morning when I woke up, a single sentence text message from my brother was waiting for me: “Have you heard about Cav?” I guess I knew it right away, and those other shared friends soon confirmed that he had passed away Sunday morning. He would have been 40 this year.
He was a blessed artist, a talented director, and within five minutes of meeting him he would be your favourite person. For a few important years, he was one of my most respected colleagues, and I like to think that I was his friend. After we drifted apart, I thought that we would meet up someday to catch up and reminisce about those bright days and nights in our late twenties when we could do anything. I was too late in making that call, or sending that email. Rest in peace old friend.