Associations and Organisations

Cover 'Comicaze', Issue 24
Copyright: ComicazeIf two Germans meet, they found a non-profit association; if three, an umbrella organisation. As so often happens there is a bit of truth in the old joke that there are over 500,000 non-profit associations in Germany that represent the interests of their members. So it comes as no surprise that the German comic scene is well-organised too.

Interessenverband Comic e.V. ICOM (i.e. Non-Profit Association for Comics ICOM)

The most well-known comics association was started in a living room. After the end of the Cologne Comics Exchange Fair on October 25th 1980, Ruth and Eddy Brons, a married couple, both comic artists and authors, invited a group of participants to their home to discuss the work situation of draughtsmen, illustrators, writers and publishers. The Interessenverband Comic, Cartoon, Illustration und Trickfilm e. V. arose from this exchange of experiences which the originators continued in the years that followed. The name was changed in 1993 into Interessenverband Comics e.V. ICOM.

'Sigurd-Piccoloheft' No. 325
Copyright: 2008 Hansrudi Wäscher / becker-illustrators

At first the members organised regular meetings and comic art exhibitions. In 1984, together with the Cultural Department of the City of Erlangen, they launched the 1st International Comic Salon of Erlangen. Today the association (which at first was mocked by the press as an “association of scribblers”) regards itself as as the comic scene’s central organ. It represents over 300 draughtsmen, illustrators, film-makers and writers.

Once a year the association awards the ICOM Independent Comic Award in six categories exclusively to artists who publish their works in independent publishing houses. The year book published by the association provides a survey of trends in the comic scene, and the association also publishes a handbook with tips and information on fees, copyright law and contracts, and informs its members and other comic fans about current events and news on its Internet website.

Gesellschaft für Comicforschung (COMFOR) (i.e. Society for Research on Comics)

Best Independent Comic of 2008:
'Liebe schaut weg', by Line Hoven (Reprodukt)The work of the Gesellschaft für Comicforschung (COMFOR) indicates that comics have now become an area of serious scholarly research. This department of the Institute of Art Theory and Criticism of the University of Koblenz-Landau was founded in 2005 with the goal of “promoting and networking research on comics in the German-language cultural area”. A symposium is offered annually, in which topics such as comics under National Socialism, women and comics, or the influence of mangas on Europe are discussed.

Since 2004 the society’s editor has published a year book entitled Deutsche Comicforschung (i.e. German research on comics), with scholarly contributions from Japanologists, linguists, art historians and sociologists. The society provides a register of scholarly works and doctoral theses on the topic of comics, a multilingual dictionary with comic art technical terms in use in literary studies and criticism, as well as articles on basic research on comics, all available as downloads.

Institut für Jugendbuchforschung (i.e. Institute of Research on Young People’s Literature)

The Institut für Jugendbuch Forschung of the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main is a treasure-trove for comic art researchers. Its archive contains over 50,000 books, comic books and other publications from the German-language cultural area. The institute’s stocks derive from a period that many comic fans do not remember fondly. After the founding of the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Schriften (i.e. federal inspection authority for publications harmful to minors) in 1954, spectacular actions were launched throughout Germany in which young people were called upon to exchange their “trashy comic books” for so-called “good literature”. The Deutsche Jugendschriftwerk (i.e. German institute for young people’s literature) soon found itself overwhelmed by the amount of material surrendered – and in 1963 ultimately handed over the comics to the newly-founded Institut für Jugendbuchforschung for research purposes. Today, publishers supply the institute’s library on the campus’ west end with reference copies and it accepts donations from private collectors, firms and other public documentation agencies.

Berlin’s Comicbibliothek Renate (i.e. Renate Comic Art Library)

Exterior view of the 'Comicibliothek Renate'
Copyright: Comicbibliothek RenateThe Berlin Comicbibliothek Renate is less about research and more about the sheer joy of reading. Children, young people and adults may choose from among over 15,000 comic book titles in the library’s building which is appropriately decorated with graffiti! Schoolteachers can borrow sets of instruction books for their classes from the library; comic art workshops for children are offered, and adults can enjoy lectures and film evenings on special topics such as “Jewish Life as Portrayed in Comics”, or “Hip-Hop in Comics".


The non-profit association Comicaze was founded in 1996 in Munich with an intentionally regional approach. It seeks to promote and encourage young draughtsmen and illustrators and the local comic scene. The members publish two or three comic magazines per year that are offered free of charge in bars and eateries and are distributed at the group’s monthly meetings at its “regulars’ table”. The magazine presents new, young talent as well as established artists, among them comic scene stars such as Uli Oesterle, Thomas von Kummant or Gerhard Schlegel.

Incos – Interessengemeinschaft Comic Strip (i.e. Comic Strip – a non-profit association)

Incos – Interessengemeinschaft Comic Strip e. V. emerged in Berlin in 1970 from a group of science fiction comics fans. Today, the association’s approximately 100 members deal primarily with German comic series of the post-war period. In cooperation with publishers, rare issues such as the Piccolo Sigurd issue no. 325 by Hansrudi Wäscher, entitled Schicksalhafte Begegnung (i.e. fateful encounter) are reprinted. In addition the association organises collectors’ fairs and club evenings.

Rieke C. Harmsen
is an art historian and editor of the Lutheran Press Service (Evangelischer Pressedienst – epd) in Munich.

Translation: Edith Watts
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
June 2009

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