Autobiographical Comics

A minimalist and illustrative style – Andreas Michalke

It’s impossible to imagine Andreas Michalke’s life, and particularly his comics, without music. It all began with his boundless desire to draw comics and to combine them with his other great passion – music. As he is a drummer in a number of bands, a DJ and a music reviewer for fanzines, music plays an important role in the life of this comic artist and illustrator. At an early age he began designing flyers, record covers and posters and to publish his first comic strips in self-published music magazines. What could be a more obvious next step than to develop, design and sketch his own comic-music fanzine, inspired by punk?

In 1991, he began, together with Minou Zaribaf, to publish the comic series Artige Zeiten, initially self-publishing, then later with Reprodukt. The subtitle, ‘Stories from my life’, reveals the subject matter of the comic. These are Michalke’s personal experiences as a young punk in the countryside and later in the city and his ambivalent attitude towards the subculture. Always concerned with being a member of the scene and conforming to the fashionable, linguistic, musical and political codes, he still takes exception to the dogmatic issues of these youth groups. In his comic Smalltown Boy (1999), he sympathetically portrays the desire to belong and the simultaneous search for individuality and identity. During a holiday in America with his parents, the young lover writes to his girlfriend at home. Years later he gets the letters back and begins to illustrate this episode of his life with comments and contradictions.

Michalke’s early comics show the influence of American underground comic artists, such as Daniel Clowes, Adrian Tomine and the Hernandez Brothers. Over the years he has succeeded in breaking away from his models and developing his individual, minimalist, illustrative style. In his ambitious series Mono, he now publishes very small print runs of his music-culture comics, with interviews, reviews, discussions of concerts and his collected cartoon series BigBeatLand from the daily paper Jungle World. And as is appropriate for a proper music fanzine, his issues include the special bonus of a vinyl single with selected exclusive underground music.

Bigbeatland is the title of Michalke’s comic strip published in the weekly journal Jungle World and also as a book form. Michalke is a long-standing connoisseur of music sub-culture as well as the left-wing and for his comic soap opera he recruits his protagonists from that scene. The young – whether apolitical or political, radically left-wing or liberally left-wing - provide wonderfully contradictory verbal banter whilst constantly trying to remain politically-correct. At the heart of the humorous cartoon strip is a pirate radio whose broadcaster is forever running into people in the shared flat. Material for discussion is pre-programmed; Michalke uses actual political events wich which to confront the youthful microcosmos of Bigbeatland. Michalke reveals from an ironic and yet nevertheless affectionate distance how difficult it is to remain true to one’s political convictions and what conflicts this might lead to in private life.

Matthias Schneider
is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm
Mail Symbolinfo@stockholm.goethe.org
March 2005