With Jimmy das Gummipferd, Roland Kohlsaat created the longest and most popular strip series in the history of German comics. From 1953 until shortly before his death in 1977 the adventures of the gaucho Julio and Jimmy, his unusual horse, appeared in Sternchen, the children’s supplement of the weekly illustrated magazine Stern.
Escapist world designs, fantasy adventure stories and a good dose of humour made this series, together with Manfred Schmidt’s Nick Knatterton, the first and most popular comic classic in post-war Germany. As far as originality and imagination were concerned, Kohlsaat’s Jimmy das Gummipferd outdid every other comic strip. Whilst Germany was being rebuilt and the Cold War shaped the political climate for decades, Kohlsaat designed an alternative world, which was all about adventure and friendship. On only one occasion is there a political comment: in a 1962 strip, Julio ends the fight between red monkeys and black monkeys with the words: ‘Stop, amigos! This tree is big enough for everyone.’
Whilst the real world was experiencing economic and political upheaval, in the comic strip the gaucho’s horse provided the solution to every problem. Jimmy the rubber horse has supernatural powers, because he can’t just gallop and swim, he can do a lot of other things as well. He is capable of flying and diving; he has the ability to change his size and shape, so that he can be crumpled up or even used as a lasso or a parachute. You can count on Jimmy – he’s more like a knight in shining armour than a horse, helping his owner Julio out of all sorts of unfortunate situations, whether it’s a fight against centaurs, vulture people, robots or giant bees.
The trained lithographer, painter and sculptor also revealed an extremely versatile imagination in the way the series is designed. As he was only allowed to use one additional colour, he worked with red and black ink. By thinning it down, he achieved different shades of colour, making each individual picture an attractive work of art. Kohlsaat also demonstrated great talent in the development of the picture sequences and the depiction of the characters, achieving a pioneering role in the history of German comics. With Jimmy das Gummipferd, Kohlsaat created a timeless classic, which he himself fondly and aptly described as a ‘pop odyssey’.
is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.
Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm