Comics in …

The German Swiss comic scene

Even though Switzerland’s French-language comic scene with its international francophone connections is far more advanced – the German Swiss comic scene functions on a professional level, and a few artists are also gaining international recognition.

Globi © Globi VerlagThe oldest and to date most successful German Swiss comic is Globi. This bird-like figure with human ways was created in 1932 as an advertising figure for the Globus department store chain. Since then, a total of 79 volumes with a circulation of nine million copies have appeared. Characteristic of the Globi comics are their wordless picture series combined with rhymed verses.

 

Periodic Publication

Renè Lehner: Der Best of Bill Body. © Renè Lehner Hardly any German Swiss newspaper affords itself its own comic strip any longer. Nonetheless, individual artists are able to publish their comics on a regular basis. Thus, René Lehner, an artist who has been active since the 1970’s, has succeeded intermittently in selling his daily funnies (such as his series Bill Body) internationally.

Since the end of the 1980’s, Alex Macartney has been publishing amusing strips such as Herr Hummel or Heimatland for daily and monthly publications. Starting in 1997, Mike Van Audenhove (1957–2009) drew the full-page episodes of Zürich by Mike for the Tages-Anzeiger’s entertainment magazine Züritipp. Collected in hard-cover volumes, they rank among the bestsellers of the Zürich publisher Edition Moderne. Thanks to weekly publication in the free newspaper Coopzeitung, Franz Zumstein is the German Swiss comic artist with the highest circulation: starting in 1998, his aviator series Der Himmelstürmer was printed for seven years with a circulation of 1.6 million copies.

Three international artists: Ott, Marini, Boller

Above all, Thomas Ott’s work has gained international recognition. His works’ filigree style in scratchboard technique, thematically located in morbid and macabre dimensions, is incomparable. Ott dispenses with text and is thus understandable globally, with no need for translation.

The only German Swiss working professionally in the international comic area is Enrico Marini. Since his debut in 1990, he has been active in diverse genres such as western, fantasy, thrillers and historical epics.

David Boller lived in the USA from 1992 – 2008, where he worked for superhero publishers such as Marvel and DC. Since his return to Switzerland, Boller has devoted himself to the legend of Wilhelm Tell, whom he has playing in a science fiction future. Boller is a web-comic pioneer with an Internet platform in which René Lehner also participates. Boller’s Wilhelm Tell narrative appears in regular episodes here, as well.

Artists with profile and two women

Further artists with independent profiles also influence German Swiss comics: Melk Thalmann transports (contemporary) history, from the Peasants’ Revolt through the nuclear age, into fictional narratives. The team of Andrea Caprez (pictures) and Christoph Schuler (texts), who have worked together since 1988, publishes both a world of bizarre tales as well as comic reportage (for example, Dagahaley, on the refugee camp in Kenya).

With Eva, the artistic duo Felix Schaad (pictures) and Claude Jaermann (texts) have been publishing a daily cult strip in the Zürich Tages-Anzeiger (where Schaad also works as a caricaturist) since 2001. Sambal Oelek (Andreas Müller) devotes himself to historical and artistic personalities in tableau-like, metamorphic motif-compositions (Henri Dufour and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, among others). Matthias Gnehm brings satirically inflated societal themes into his narratives. And Christophe Badoux, fully committed to the “Ligne clair” style, produces convincing non-fiction and biographical comics time and again.

© M.S. Bastian M.S. Bastian has departed from comics’ traditional pictorial narration. He is a wanderer between worlds, moving between high and low and creating collage images with quotations from comic and art motifs.

And two women are also present in the Swiss comic scene. Anna Sommer uses a variety of techniques (pen and ink drawings, papercuts) in her works and selects open forms (with no picture frames), creating absurd and erotic pictorial worlds. Kati Rickenbach belongs to the most recent comic generation, which she represents with fresh strokes and personal content.

Publication venues and a festival

Since 1984, the quarterly magazine Strapazin has been providing a publishing platform for German Swiss comic creators as well as for those active on international levels. In addition, the Zürich publishing house Edition Moderne, which was founded in 1981 and issues the majority of more recent German Swiss comics in book form, serves as the most important publication venue. And with exhibitions and presence by the artists, the International Comix Festival Fumetto in Lucerne has been promoting the German Swiss scene as well, as a focal point of innovation apart from the comic mainstream.
Urs Hangartner
lives and works in Lucerne, Switzerland as a cultural journalist, publicist, comic curator and guest lecturer at the University of Lucerne.
Related links

Comic videos

German comic artist Mawil at work | Photo: Goethe-Institut Lettland
10 Latvian and German comic artists allow us a look over their shoulder while they are drawing.

Comics in the Baltic States

© Thomas Wellmann
In the Baltic states and in Germany the comic scene is presenting a great variety of styles. Who are the most exciting artists, what the best publications?

The First World War in Comics

Tardi/Verney „Elender Krieg“ 1914-1919 | © Edition Moderne 2014
Comic artists approach the history of the First World War in their works. A dossier on history in pictures

omics in Kenya and Germany

The world of colourful pictures – the dossier “Comics” presents artists from Kenya and Germany and their work.

Comic-Transfer

Comic-Autoren aus Europa und der arabischen Welt im Dialog

Graphic Novels at School

Goethe.de/Polen invites you to learn German with comic-strip artists Mawil and Birgit Weyhe.

Dossier: Comic Countries Germany and Belgium

Goethe-Institut Belgien
The German and Belgian comic scene

Dossier: Comics in Germany – Comics in the Czech Republic

In the wake of the 1989 political turning point the comic scenes in both Germany and the Czech Republic are tanking up with new self-confidence.

Weblog: CityTales

Comic artists from South-East Asia and Germany tell their “CityTales” – a new story every month.