Before we bid 2020 a final farewell, we share some of our favorite writing from the past year. We wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year, with the hope for brighter days in 2021.
Welcome back to We Want Comics, a column exploring intellectual properties, whether they’re movies, TV shows, novels or video games, that we want adapted into comic books.
Music is no stranger to this column. We’ve offered up the comic possibilities for Janelle Monae, Weird Al, My Chemical Romance, Elton John, U2, and a collection of other musical acts we want to see jump from audio to visual forms. This time, we’re not focusing on a singular artist, but six decades of musical history thanks to a worldwide cultural phenomenon that (with a little help from Will Ferrell and Netflix) might just finally break through in America: the Eurovision Song Contest.
(Note: there will be some spoilers for Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga throughout, so tread carefully!)
If the movie didn’t give you the quick and dirty history lesson, here’s one for you. Eurovision (also called ESC) started in 1956 in Lugano, Switzerland as a way to bring a war-torn Europe together, by having each country send a performer with a song to be performed live on both TV and radio, with votes cast for a winner. Initially the votes were cast by a jury of European music industry professionals, now it’s a combination of jury votes and public televotes tallied together in a system which makes the U.S. Electoral College easy to understand by comparison. The catch is that citizens cannot vote for their own country’s songs. So the UK can’t vote for the UK’s entry, French citizens can’t vote for France’s entry, and so forth.
Over the years, the contest itself evolves with the times: from new entrants thanks to geopolitical changes to the inclusion of the public vote to changes in performance standards. (One of those is a result of COVID-19: the 2021 contest will allow pre-recorded backing vocals for the first time.) The idea of “Europe” also is fast and loose: entrants include Israel, several former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and Australia. (That’s not a typo. Australians love ESC so much they begged to be included, which governing body European Broadcasting Union granted in 2015.) And because sometimes the song can’t sell itself, you get to witness some interesting performances, everything from a Russian figure skating champ on roller skates to a flaming piano to a hamster wheel. (Although the real life Eurovision hamster wheel did not cause any accidents.)
The Eurovision Song Contest winner often receives a trophy, and their country wins the right to host the competition next year. For some countries, this is a wonderful moment to show themselves off to the world. Others find it more of a financial burden, like the fictional Iceland did in the Netflix movie. And for the performers, it can lead to international fame. Is Mamma Mia your Waterloo? Well, ABBA won ESC in 1974. Does your heart still go on for Celine Dion? She won for Switzerland in 1988. Still love all the things that bad girls t.A.T.u said? They represented Russia in 2003.
This year would have been the 65th ESC, with Netherlands hosting thanks to Duncan Lawrence’s win last year with “Arcade.” As with many large events, the competition was cancelled due to COVID-19, and (fingers crossed) the Dutch will have their opportunity to properly host next year.
But what better opportunity to celebrate 65 years of musical highs and lows than with a commemorative graphic anthology looking at some of the more memorable performances from those six decades. Throw Fire Starter’s Lars and Sigrit as narrators, perhaps telling the history of Eurovision and their own place in it to their young child and you have an excellent extension of the movie with a narrative bridge to hold it all together.
Sixty-five years of songs is a lot of music, and not everything can be included. So what I’ve tried to do for my fictional Eurovision tribute graphic novel is pick some of the most visually striking performances for inclusion, with a few sentimental favorites as well. Inevitably, this will skew more towards performances from the last 20 years when they became more spectacle with the song, but the early days of the contest do provide some of their own iconic moments.Continued below
Time to dust off your violin and find some new additions for your playlist so you don’t have to listen to “Ja Ja Ding Dong” again (but you will, you know you will).
Lys Assia – Refrain (Switzerland, 1956)
ABBA – Waterloo (Sweden, 1974)
Dschinghis Khan – Dschinghis Khan (West Germany, 1979)
Bucks Fizz – Making Your Mind Up (United Kingdom, 1981)
Herreys – Diggiloo Diggiley (Sweden, 1984)
Riverdance (Eurovision 1994, Dublin, Ireland)
Lordi – Hard Rock Hallelujah (Finland, 2006)
Verka Serduchka – Dancing Lasha Tumbai (Ukraine, 2007)
Dustin the Turkey – Ireland Douze Pointe (Ireland, 2008)
Cezar – It’s My Life (Romania 2013)
Pollapönk – No Prejudice (Iceland, 2014)
Conchita Wurst – Rise Like a Phoenix (Austria, 2014)
Heroes – Måns Zelmerlöw (Sweden, 2015)
Love Love Peace Peace (Eurovision 2016 in Malmo, Sweden)
Francesco Gabbani – Occidentali’s Karma (Italy, 2017)
Elina Nechayeva – La Forza (Estonia, 2018)
DoReDoS – My Lucky Day (Moldova, 2018)
With sixty-five years of songs, as I said at the start, there’s a lot that just didn’t make my cut. As such, here’s a little honorable mention section of personal favorites.
- Bobbysocks – Let It Swing (Norway, 1985): The 1950s meets the 1980s. You had to feel for Norway back in that decade, they tried so hard to win Eurovision and they just couldn’t. So when they finally took home the trophy all of Europe celebrated.
- Charlotte Nilsson – Take Me to your Heaven (Sweden, 1999): Will Ferrell mentions in interviews that it was a visit to his wife’s family in Sweden during the contest about 20 years ago that got him hooked, so I have suspicion it was this song (that won that year) that did it. Continued below
- Zdob si Zdub – So Lucky (Moldova, 2011): They do not come from France.
- Buranovskiye Babushki – Party For Everybody (Russia, 2012): After this, you’re going to want to hug your grandma. Or at least call her because we’re all still social distancing.
- Koza Mostra feat. Agathon Iakovidis – Alcohol Is Free (Greece, 2013): The anthem of college students everywhere.
- Slavko Kalezić – Space (Montenegro, 2017): He whips his hair back and forth!
- Higher Ground – Rasmusen (Denmark, 2018): Game of Thrones: The Musical.
What’s your favorite Eurovision moment that would be perfect for a graphic novel retelling? Let us know in the comments!