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Cybernosferatu's extreme portraits


Cybernosferatu's extreme portraits

Warping pop-culture one image at the time.

Arjan Terpstra

13 Oct 2022 ⋅ 6 min read

Information about Cybernosferatu is hard to find online. Google this artist's name, and you will find the art: fantastic, expressive and disheveled portraits of pop-figure greats like Terminator, Robocop or Judge Dredd. But look for things like interviews or biographies, and you have a hard time finding anything.

If you're lucky, the name Johan Åberg pops up, the man behind the Cybernosferatu moniker. But searching his name yields the same: it's hard to find anything about him, other than that he's an artist from Sweden, living in Stockholm.


"Johan Åberg is a very regular name in Sweden," he says when I confront him about this in an online interview. "I should probably use an interesting initial, "Johan K. Åberg" or something, to distinguish myself more, haha. Others with my name are more prolific online, but I don't mind. Let me be a bit obscure, and let the art speak for itself—that's the idea. When you look at comic book artists, no one really knows who they are, do they? I like that! Also telling too much about my background will demystify the art, I fear."
© Cybernosferatu

Judge Dredd in action. Courtesy Cybernosferatu.

An interview feels like the right approach to solve the mystery, also to introduce the stylistic choices Åberg (pronounced "O-berg") made in his latest work: a super expressive and dynamic rendering of PUBG: BATTLEGROUNDS "lone survivor," who in Åberg's style looks rather battle-worn and zombified. It's a spectacular take on the iconic character, who, while battle-scarred, is clearly on his way to a well-deserved chicken dinner.
© Krafton/Cybernosferatu

Cybernosferatu's take on PUBG's "Lone survivor" is quite spectacular. Art available via this website, see this link.


And so we sit down for a video meeting, to introduce an artist that doesn't want to be introduced, and ask about the background influences he doesn't want people to know about. Or does he?

"Don't worry!," he says merrily. "It's not that black and white. I'm simply careful with what goes online, as I don't want to be pigeonholed. You read an artists' bio and they are tied to this narrative that's too convenient and simple, you know? Artists can be held hostage by a background story about how their culture or economic situation directly led to their art style. And that's never fair, because that's never how art works, how people work."

Still, there must be something that ties the personal life of Johan Åberg to his art? What horror in Swedish life yields the disturbing Cybernosferatu portraits? He isn't from Stockholm originally, but from rural Sweden, in a Northern region close to the polar circle. A region most people only know (sorry Johan) as the eerie background for Swedish crime dramas.


Åberg understands the perspective. "It's a place where not a lot of things happen, culturally speaking," he says. "It's endless woodlands and tundra, inhabited by people I found restrictive in their views, moralizing even. The saving grace—for me at least–came from television and newsstands. When I was younger, and especially before the internet arrived, that was the only escape. You would walk past a newsstand that sold comics, and there suddenly would be this Wolverine comic cover staring at you, with the claws and everything, and it would just click with me."
Undead Fisherman
© Cybernosferatu

"Undead fisherman." Courtesy Cybernosferatu.

Åberg remembers he liked to draw from a very early age. Through their visual appeal, comics would be a logical starting point for the artist, who is self-taught, and who learned his trade by carefully studying (Donald Duck creator) Carl Barks' work, and Marvel and Judge Dredd comics.


"Sweden has a reputation of being slightly colorless and austere, and when you're young you're easily swayed to dive into the escapism pop culture provides. Imagine how for people like myself, looking at a city like New York or Tokyo through television was like looking at sci-fi, you know? Cities full of concrete skyscrapers, the future they hold, those kinds of images completely blew my mind."

"And because of the strangeness of these worlds, the otherness compared to my own surroundings, my excursions into pop culture became a form of rebellion more and more. Me and my friends needed an escape from this blandness, this austerity, and pop culture offered a way out."

Soon his passion for comics would inform a career. "I would always be drawing, and one day came to the obvious conclusion: I was to be an art teacher! Of course this implied schooling in things like pedagogy and didactics, so I quickly gyrated towards art history and history, before moving to Stockholm and settling on a career as an artist."
© Cybernosferatu

Terminator. Courtesy Cybernosferatu.


Today, he is making waves as an independent artist, known for his extreme portraits of pop-culture icons like Judge Dredd, Terminator, Robocop, or Batgirl, the characters full of wear and tear, butchered up, with splashes of gore or zombification very much apparent. It's a style of excess, of maximalism.

"In my art I simply want more of everything. More robots! More gore! More tech! And yes, this definitely is a throughline in my work that is easily connected to that moment finding the Wolverine comic. I want my art to stand out to people in the way that comic stood out to me at that time, and the maximalism flows from that. Of course, in the process you are warping pop culture, subverting it, taking it further than perhaps other artists would. But that comes with the job of subverting a social norm, is the way I see it."


The subversion also includes Nordic culture, as Åberg tried applying his art style to Nordic art and folklore, too. Edvard Munch's famous Scream painting was zombified, for instance, and the gnomes and trolls of Swedish folklore are fair game too. In other words, no pop cultural icon is safe from Åberg's strong lines and extreme splashes of color. But if this gives any indication as to what the future holds? Åberg: "I try to keep an open eye and have a broad interest that ranges from history and art history to mythology and back. But comics will always be my first love, so you will probably always see some reference to the medium in what I do."
© Cybernosferatu

Art history is another source of inspiration for Johan Åberg. Here's his take on Edvard Munch' famous The Scream. Courtesy Cybernosferatu.

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