Institutions

Publishers of comics in Germany – sophisticated and eclectic



Comics worth around 400 million euros are sold every year in Germany. Long regarded as a niche market, graphic novels, comics and manga have now established a firm place for themselves in the German publishing scene.

The comic industry is growing: according to Comic Jahrbuch (i.e. Comic Yearbook) statistics, 607 comics were published by some ten different publishers in Germany back in 1991. In 2014, the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie/VLB (i.e. German National Bibliography/Directory of Books in Print) registered a total of 1,749 new titles in the area of comics, cartoons and caricatures. In addition to the 2,000 or so specialist comic stores, many book shops have now discovered this market segment and have special sections dedicated to manga and comics.

While it tended in the past to be mainly foreign publications that were sold under licence, publishing houses these days publish many German authors and are also not averse to publishing sophisticated and highly-priced graphic novels. All the same, most publishers consider sales of 2,000 to 5,000 copies to be a success. The only exception is the manga market, which is continuing to expand – and in some cases sees as many as 50,000 copies sold.

The industry is constantly evolving, so the following list of publishers makes no claim to be complete.

Carlsen

Established in 1953, the Carlsen Verlag in Hamburg nowadays belongs to the Swedish Bonnier Group. It started out publishing picture books about a little bear called Petzi, as well as small-format Pixi books for children. From 1967 the range was extended to include classics from the Franco-Belgian comic world such as Tintin, Spirou et Fantasio and Gaston, followed in the 1980s by American series and classic comic strips like Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes. These days the company also publishes graphic novels by German authors such as Isabel Kreitz, Reinhard Kleist and Flix, as well as featuring manga titles.

Egmont-Ehapa-Verlag

The Egmont-Ehapa publishing group has existed since 1951 and is a subsidiary of the Scandinavian media group Egmont. It publishes classics such as the pocket books featuring Donald Duck and Micky Mouse, as well as series such as Asterix and Lucky Luke. A dedicated team is responsible for manga and the small Omake bonus features.

Mosaik-Verlag

The Mosaik-Verlag was founded in East Germany in 1976 and became the “Mosaik Steinchen für Steinchen Verlag” in 1991. Key characters in the comic magazine Mosaik are the Abrafaxe. Abrax, Brabax and Califax – the three heroes – travel through time, visiting the Ancient Greeks, living for a while in the Middle Ages or flying into space. The mouse adventures of Fix & Fax and the racing driving stories about Michel Vaillant are other series published by this company.

Avant-Verlag

The Avant-Verlag (Berlin) has been publishing graphic literature since 2001. Its programme includes graphic novels from both Germany and abroad, such as works by the French illustrator Joann Sfar and the Lebanese comic artist Zeina Abirached. It has German authors such as Simon Schwartz, Birgit Weyhe, Ulli Lust, Thomas Gilke and Tim Dinter under contract. The publishing house was awarded the 2016 Max and Moritz Special Prize for its editions of classic comics.

Reprodukt

Established in Berlin in 1991, Reprodukt is regarded as one of the most important publishers of German authors, including ATAK, Arne Bellstorf, Anke Feuchtenberger, Fil, CX Huth, Reinhard Kleist, Mawil, Andreas Michalke, OL, Martin tom Dieck and Minou Zaribaf. The company sees itself as a network for creative professionals, which is why its director, Dirk Rehm, ensures that production takes place in collaboration with alternating publishers. Since 2013 it has run a comic programme for children aged three and above and for early readers aged six and above – featuring authors such as Patrick Wirbeleit, Uwe Heidschötter and Ferdinand Lutz.

Comicplus-Verlag

The Berlin-based Comicplus-Verlag was founded by Eckart Sackmann and Peter Hörndl. In the early days, the publishers brought series of funnies by André Franquin and Uderzo/Goszinny from France to Germany, later adding German authors like Dieter Jüdt, Martin Frei, Ronald Putzker and Matthias Schultheiss to their programme. From 1987 to 2001 the company published Raah!, a comic journal that has meanwhile been superseded by Comic-Info and the comic.de website. In addition, the yearbook of the organization Deutsche Comicforschung (i.e. German Comic Research) is published once a year.

Edition 52

Edition 52’s programme predominantly features comics in the francophone ligne Claire style. Based in Wuppertal, the publishing house promotes young authors in particular. Its German authors include Ulf K., Reinhard Kleist, Boris Kiseliki, Uli Oesterle, Calle Claus, Frank Schmolke and Jule K. Comic art is represented by the Essen-based illustrator Jamiri, alias Jan-Michael Richter.

Panini-Verlag

The Panini-Verlag in Stuttgart produces not only its extremely popular sticker albums but also comics and graphic novels. Alongside the major US series such as Marvel and Star Wars, the company also promotes German authors like Daniela Schreiter and Nils Oskamp, as well as specialist publications such as Die Kunst des Comic-Sammelns (i.e. The Art of Comic Collecting). In addition, the publisher runs an online platform for selling e-books.

Tokyopop

Anyone interested in manga will not be able to avoid Tokyopop. The Hamburg branch of the Japanese publisher of the same name was established in 2004. Its programme features above all Japanese manga und manhwa of all categories and genres – such as Shojo, Yosei, Shonen, Seinen and Boys Love. German authors published by this company are Mikiko Poncszeck, Anike Hage, Anna Hollmann, Anne Pätzke, Inga Steinmetz, David Füleki and Natalie Wormsbecher.

Gringo Comics

Esslingen-based Gringo Comics is a publisher specialized in German comic artists. Its programme includes Stephan Hagenow’s Dead Love horror series, Sebastian Sommer’s space series Battlecarrier Yuma and a series of comics entitled Kurzer Prozess (i.e. Short Shrift) featuring horror and mystery stories. The publisher’s series of funnies include Holger Bommert’s Kurt blog comics and Bela Sobottke’s comic Utas Truckstop (i.e. Uta’s Truck Stop).

Jaja

In 2011, the illustrator Annette Köhn established the Jaja publishing house in Berlin in order to publish “finely illustrated but poor attempts”. Apart from comics and graphic novels, the company also publishes paper art, cookery and non-fiction books, not to mention calendars. Its programme features primarily young authors such as Christopher Burgholz, Joachim Brandenberg, Tine Pape and Anja Vogel. Furthermore, the publisher supports projects such as the 24-hour comic and sells originals.

Trade publishers

Besides the smaller independent firms, leading trade publishers also feature graphic novels and comics these days. The Rowohlt-Verlag in Reinbek has authors such as Katz & Goldt and Ralf König in its programme. Hamburg-based publisher Hoffmann und Campe, S. Fischer from Frankfurt am Main and Kiepenheuer & Witsch also publish comics and graphic novels.

Comics online

The publishing industry has now also reacted to the trend towards digitization. Publishers like Panini Digits offer e-comics, while Carlsen has developed its own app. There are also more and more multimedia productions online which combine comic stories with animations and interactive elements.
Some firms meanwhile have joined forces and are offering their comics on the web. Once registered, users can download comics, cartoons and graphic novels via apps and can read them on their smartphones, tablets or computers. Apart from an infinitely variable zoom, however, most apps so far offer little in the way of any special features.
One of the best-known platforms for selling comics online is the “Mad Dog Comics“ label. An app allows around 1,000 comics, cartoons and graphic novels to be downloaded in categories such as adventure, kids, comedy, steam punk and fantasy.
Another major provider on the internet is the Amazon offshoot ComiXology: around 40,000 titles from almost 40 publishers can be downloaded using the app, though it primarily features US superhero comics and Star Wars episodes.
The publisher Egmont Ehapa likewise has an app which offers the Lustige Taschenbücher (i.e. comics featuring Donald Duck) and the Micky Mouse magazine.
There is still plenty of scope for the German online comic scene to expand, however, as a glance at the free web comic directory reveals. Comic artists present their projects themselves here – showing the amazing directions in which graphic art can go.
Rieke C. Harmsen
is an art historian and editor at the Evangelischer Pressedienst (epd) in Munich.

Translation: Chris Cave
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
June 2016

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