Comics in …

Back to the Future – Munich’s Comics Scene

Munich’s comic scene has been very much a part of the city’s cultural life since the 1970’s – with the 2011 Comic Festival, serious competition even for Erlangen’s Comic Salon is now emerging.

The “Founding Fathers”

In the scene’s early stages, the Munich city magazine Blatt was well-known not only inside, but outside of Bavaria as well, and as an anarchistic, leftist newspaper of the late 70’s/early 80’s, promoted the pictorial language of a certain Gerhard Seyfried, who interpreted current affairs of the time with provocative cartoons. At that time, Pierre Pitterle was responsible for the magazine’s graphic design, among other things. It was he, who in 1984, together with Herbert Meiler and Pierre Thomé, founded one of Europe’s most innovative comic magazines on the basis of a beer-fueled inspiration: Strapazin. To this day, Herbert Meiler still runs a Munich office and associated comic store for Strapazin, which is now published in Zürich by a cooperative organised around David Basler. At present, the Munich comic store is only open during the office’s business hours, but offers selected products from Edition Modern, Reprodukt, Avant Verlag, Edition 52, and of course everything by artists connected with Strapazin.

Meeting places for the Munich comics scene

Likewise, Peter “Sailor” Zeeman and Piet Moser started their Comic Company in the 1980’s in Munich’s Glockenbachviertel, and the Isarvorstadt specialty book store for comic literature soon became a meeting place for the local comics scene. The first Comic Festival was organised and associations such as Comic Fest e.V. were founded by people associated with the Comic Company scene, which in turn encouraged the development of local comic artists. Even then, the city’s artists, equally influenced by US imports and classical Franco-Belgian comic culture, and who were contributing to the many facets of Munich’s comic scene, were abundantly represented on the shop’s small sales area. Jürgens Comic Shop, founded by Hans-Jürgen Janetzki (founder of Splitter Verlag and previously deceased) served as an alternative. Today, the shop continues to exist in Munich’s Westend under the name Comic Dealer.

After the free magazine Comicstrich was discontinued, Comicaze appeared for the first time in 1996. The publishing association Comicaze has promoted Munich’s up-and-coming comic talent and the local comic scene. In the 25 issues that have appeared to date, among others Uli Oesterle (Hector Umbra, pub. Carlsen), Thomas von Kummant (Die Chronik der Unsterblichen, pub. Ehapa),Christian Moser (Sigmund Freud, Goethe, Monster des Alltags, pub. Carlsen), Gerhard Schlegel and Elke Reinhart (Laska Comix), Christoph Schöne and Jan Reiser, the association’s chairman, have been represented. Together with Benjamin von Eckertsberg, Alexander Lozano, Peter Oedekoven, Eric Desideriu and others, Oesterle and Kummant are active in the artists’ and illustrators’ collective, Die Artillerie, which has generated creative impulses for the local scene for years.

Samar Erstsey’s creative agency WOC - World Of Comics is also worthy of mention. Supported, like many comic activities in Munich, by the city’s Department of Arts and Culture, it has made a decisive contribution to youth outreach with its drawing classes, and also published an adaptation of The Magic Flute as a manga a few years ago. Robert Platzgummer’s mingamanga, which deals with four little Munich rascals, also falls into this subgenre. The scene was thoroughly outraged when Ehapa Verlag published Bruder Thadeus – Das Münchner Kindl, a narrative about Munich’s symbolic child monk figure, on the occasion of the city’s 850th anniversary, without including any local artists. Such an omission could not be repeated, and therefore Comicaze produced an anthology entitled Wiesn-G'schichtn for the Oktoberfest’s 2010 anniversary.

Munich Comic Festival

Comicaze and other Munich comic organisations will also be represented at the 2011 Munich Comic Festival, which in addition to a large-scale publishers’ trade fair will offer exhibitions, podium discussions, workshops, drawing classes and a comic exchange. Heiner Lünstedt, known among other things for his long-standing event series Comic Café in the Werkstattkino, and his partner Michael Kompa of Comic Stadt e.V., are for the first time responsible for organising the festival. After a number of changes in venue and management, the team around the comic artist Gerhard Schlegel has successfully led the Munich Comic Festival, which has primarily taken place alternating with its “big brother,” the Erlangen Comic Salon, since 1991. Thanks to their enhanced presence at international comic trade fairs, Lünstedt and Kompa have succeeded in internationalising the Munich Comic Festival. In the future, greater emphasis will be placed on guest country appearances in the festival’s programme.

Comic “Made in Munich”

But things are cheerfully simmering and bubbling along elsewhere in the “veal sausage pot” of Munich’s local comic culture: the traditional Munich publishing house schreiber & leser has taken note of the signs of the times, offering exciting thrillers from France in a crime noir series, many of which are first publications. In the wake of Ulli Oesterle’s Hector Umbra, with its brilliant portrayals of DJ culture and Munich’s local colour between the Atomic Café and the Hofbräuhaus, an additional comic, Carolin Walch’s Roxanne & George, a larger-than-life celebrity satire dealing with pop culture and music, will be issued by Reprodukt in autumn of 2011.

Rainer Germann
lives and works in Munich, and regularly writes about comics, music, films, gastronomy and travel for the Munich programme and city magazine In-München, and also for Spiegel Online, Zeit Kunstverlag and Penthouse.
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