Graphic Novel

Index Cards Filled with Details — Max Baitinger

The diamond-shaped stickers are to be found everywhere in Leipzig: a pipe-smoking seahorse with a hoop crown, a seal with a spiked crown and a little penguin with a spiked crown set with pearls. They look sad - no wonder: ice-floes are melting all around them. Beneath them the text: “The Millionaires Club,” Leipzig’s annual graphics and comics festival.

The festival is organised by Max Baitinger and others, the drawing is by his colleague Anna Haifisch. Baitinger grew up in southern Bavaria, attended vocational school there and certified as a cabinet maker. He soon realised that this was not his passion and resolved to study illustration. He then went to Leipzig and enrolled at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (i.e. academy of graphic arts and book printing) and now lives there as a free-lance artist. Free-lancing is important to Baitinger, for heaven’s sake, no regular job! “Having to fulfil a timetable is a pain in the neck.”

Max Baitinger, Auszug

Despite this, Baitinger has to earn a living. He therefore draws illustrations for magazines and newspapers. Their style: Flat Design of geometric forms that together produce bodies or faces – in any case creatures of fantasy about which one never knows exactly what one is really looking at, at any given moment. Or, once more earning money: Max Baitinger offers comic workshops.

Röhner” – a graphic novel filled with schematic everyday occurrences

But Baitinger’s real passion is graphic novels. Heimdall is a mythical comic adaptation of Iceland’s heroic saga Edda. The figures in Heimdall cast deep, dark shadows, sometimes black clouds gather above them. For the most part, Baitinger shifts the reader into his protagonists’ perspective – and their point of view is sometimes round, sometimes triangular, sometimes completely freed from form. Heimdall was commended at the Internationaler Comic-Salon Erlangen 2014 at the ICOM-awards ceremony.

His most recent publication is Röhner — a comic filled with 216 pages of schematic, almost mechanical occurrences in everyday life. Röhner begins in the morning and ends in the evening, as a protagonist who gets up in the morning and goes home on his neighbour’s bicycle in the evening.

Comic Festival Leipzig: “The Millionaires Club”

But Baitinger leaves the reader in the dark about the big picture. He prefers to show details: how the protagonist spins his appointment calendar in the air to indicate that he has no time. The way aluminium confetti pours out of a letter onto a shag rug. Baitinger breaks up an everyday matter like brewing coffee into many small steps, each in an individual image: “Switch on boiler. Insert pot. Fill tank. Insert filter.”

Baitinger does not collect ideas for graphic novels on his smart-phone’s note apps, but instead on index cards. He writes down observations or text fragments that he then reorders them according to topics. “If somebody says: I like that, I develop it,” says Baitinger earnestly.

Although Comic Festival 2016 “The Millionaires Club” is over now, it is still omnipresent in Leipzig thanks to the diamond-shaped stickers. After three years’ work, Röhner was duly finished on time for the festival – and distinguished as a finalist for the comic book award of the Berthold Leibinger Foundation.
Josa Mania-Schlegel
is a student at the Deutsche Journalistenschule /German School of Journalism.

Translation: Edith C. Watts
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