Comics in …

International Comic Artists in Germany

At first glance, Germany isn’t the Promised Land of comic artists, as one can gain far more readers and recognition for one’s works in comic-loving countries such as France, Belgium or Japan. Nonetheless, in the course of years a considerable number of international comic artists have been drawn to Germany. At the same time, an increasingly stronger interlinking with other comic cultures is making itself felt.

Berlin as Melting Pot

It’s hardly surprising that most foreign comic creators have settled in Berlin’s internationally interwoven artists’ scene. Here, among others, live the award-winning Swedish comic artist and filmmaker Max Andersson(Bosnian Flat Dog), the Vienna native Ulli Lust (Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life/Heute ist der letzte Tag vom Rest deines Lebens), the Belgian artist Olivier Schrauwen (Mein Junge – i.e. my boy) and the German-American Lilian Mousli (Stray Cats). Blexbolex, alias Bernard Granger, originally from France and internationally active, currently lives in Leipzig after a stopover in Berlin.

The Canadian Julie Doucet lived in Berlin from 1995 – 1998, where she worked up her experiences of her former adopted home of New York in her comic New York Tagebuch (i.e. New York diary). Like her international colleagues Andersson and Schrauwen, in Berlin she also quickly found in Reprodukt a German publisher to issue her works. The Maltese-American artist Joe Sacco also came to Berlin at the beginning of the 1990’s and stayed for about two years in the city on the Spree, where he mainly designed concert posters until he set off for the Gaza Strip to do research for his prize-winning comic reportage, Palästina. Sacco continues to praise the cosmopolitan atmosphere and interchange with other comic artists that Berlin provides: most of all with Hansi Kiefersauer, from whom he learned the ink drawing techniques he uses in his work to this day.

Berlin’s comic library Renate is an important and much-frequented contact point for comic artists from all over the world. Since the early 1990’s, it has served on the one hand as a meeting-place and contact centre and on the other has published the annual comic magazine Renate, whose 20 issues since then contain numerous contributions from international artists from circles close to the comic library.

In addition to the lively Berlin comic and artists’s scene, the Weißensee Art Academy is a local attraction for future comic artists where many well-known comic artists such as Ulrich Scheel and Nadja Budde studied. Apart from Ulli Lust (mentioned above), Sylvain Mazas, a native of France, also graduated there in communications design, with a comic as his thesis. Hamet Eshrat who was born in Iran and immigrated to Germany, also studied here. His thesis comic Tipping Point – Téhéran 1979 has now been issued by the French publisher Sarbacane. While they were still students, the Swiss native David Parrat and Julienne Jattiot from France founded the comic magazine Limace as a publication platform for themselves and their fellow students, as well as for their artist friends from around the world.

Apart from all this, the German capital itself is the main attraction for many foreign comic artists. Alberto Madrigal of Spain, currently working on a comic narrative about his experiences in Germany, sums up his relationship to his adopted home of Berlin as follows: “Living here influences my work to the core. The people, the city’s style, the great spectrum of cultural attractions are a continuing source of inspiration.”

Friendly, outgoing artists

Even if Germany is not a “time-honoured“ comic nation, a highly productive artists’ and publishers’ scene offering many opportunities for professional interchange and joint projects also exists in cities other than Berlin – such as Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich, Cologne and Stuttgart. Pablo Zweig (Livingstone), who was born in Buenos Aires and worked for several years in Hamburg as a comic artist, looks back with positive memories on his good contacts with German comic creators and his many visits to comic fairs and exhibitions in Germany and neighbouring countries in Europe. And the Italian artist Flavia Scuderi, who primarily draws comics for Disney and recently moved to Berlin, points out the pleasantly collegial atmosphere among German comic artists, who do not put on as much “rock star airs” as in her homeland. Publishers’ dealings with artists are similarly courteous and respectful. And furthermore, according to Scuderi, one can witness the debuts of many new talents here in Germany, as German comics are presently undergoing very positive developments.

Germany on the Comic Map

The fact that German comic culture has grown rapidly in recent years in terms of quality and diversity has not been overlooked abroad, since the interlinking of the German comic scene with comic creators around the world has developed and taken shape noticeably, as the many joint exhibitions and comic projects demonstrate. Above all, the International Comic-Salon Erlangen and the Frankfurt Book Fair’s Faszination Comic event as regularly occurring large-scale events, as well as smaller-scale comic festivals in Munich and Hamburg, repeatedly draw numerous international artists as guests to Germany. In addition, countless exhibitions in galleries and comic shops, and publisher-sponsored signing tours bring comic artists from abroad to Germany. At the same time, many German artists and publishers are now established guests at comic events in Germany’s neighbouring European countries.

A comic magazine that brings together German and foreign comic artists is Orang, edited and published by Sascha Hommer and Arne Belstorf, and appearing with English subtitles with an international audience in mind. The magazine has appeared in nine editions, presenting experimental comics by European and Asian artists.

At work on comic diplomacy

Two comic seminars that take place in Germany lay the groundwork for international comic artists’ interchange: the comic drawing seminar in Erlangen brings together young comic talent from Germany and other European countries with native and foreign instructors; the Leipzig Summer School and the German-French Forum for Young Art also organise an annual German-French comic course under the direction of the celebrated Berlin comic artist Mawil and his Parisian colleague Yassine.

The three-member Berlin comic collective Moga Mobo demonstrates over and over again its special dedication to “international relations” that far transcend European borders. Following the group exhibition Kugelblitz with the Japanese comic artists’ group Nou Nou Han in 2006 and the German-Cuban comic anthology Aventuras that arose in 2008, the Moga Mobos are presently cooperating with artists from China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan on the Internet project Morgenstadt, which will go online in April, 2011.

Andreas Völlinger
is a free-lance author who writes for various media and is an editor of the comic trade magazine Comicgate. He is also a scenarist for several German comic series.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion 
March 2011

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