Graphic Novel

Sensitive observations through lavishly detailed drawings – Jens Harder

Jens Harder, along with Tim Dinter, Kathi Käppel, Ulli Lust, Mawil and Kai Pfeiffer, founded the Berlin comic group Monogatari. As students of Communication Design at the Fachhochschule Weißensee, they joined together to discover new narrative forms in words and pictures. For them, illustration, animation and graphic design are related genres and they use the style and form of these techniques for their comics. Alltagsspionage (2001), the comic debut that they published together, was enthusiastically received by the comic scene and the critics. The artists each designed a comic reportage from Berlin in their own individual manner.

Copyright: Jens Harder

Comics by Jens Harder

Harder’s contribution, entitled Gastrologie, depicts the clientele of three different eating establishments, placing them directly alongside each other on three levels in a layout that runs all through the book. In lavishly detailed drawings, he presents his sensitive observations of a student pub in Prenzlauer Berg, an exclusive restaurant and a soup kitchen for homeless people. Harder’s presentation of the interiors, the food and the clients’ own words emphasises the prevailing social contrasts within a large city. His oeuvre includes numerous lovingly drawn publications, such as the Ruwen-Strips, Hotelführer Mitte and Electricité Marseille (2000), which are lavishly printed and underline his talent for balanced forms and colours.

In addition to other reportage-style comics, such as Operation Läckerli (2004) and a project with the Israeli comic group Actus Tragicus, he has created an imaginative and vast comic epic about a whale, in Leviathan (2003). The lack of text in this comic only serves to highlight the power of the images, which are interrupted by text passages and quotes only at the beginning of each chapter; these are taken from the writings of Thomas Hobbes, from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and from the Bible. This strict division allows Jens Harder to give his pictures an incredible dynamism and to achieve an effect that draws in the reader hypnotically. The story is about a whale moving through the whirlpool of time and space. Harder draws on traditional myths and literary models for the ideas for his fascinating story, presenting the reader with a fabulous world of images. Jens Harder very much deserved to win the Max-und-Moritz prize 2004 for the best German-language comic publication (Leviathan).

Harder produced another opulent work Alpha … directions (in MIKROmakor: lebensformen und lebenswelten auf paper, 2007) - a project that took him more than four years. For this comic-based evolution story he undertook painstaking reseach in order to produce such richly-detailed and scientific illustrations. The sophisticated and accurate page layout emphasised his extraordinarily-pictorial and richly-textured illustrations. In Alpha … directions Hardy lets the pictures do the talking; he tells the story from the Big Bang to the first hominids virtually without words. He squeezes fourteen thousand million years into an epic 352 pages and onto 2,000 panels. He takes the reader with him on a journey through the development of the Milky Way and the solar system, the creation of early life in Earth as well as the transformation of protozoa, animals and plants, through the various ages of the earth, right up to the appearance of the first humans. Alpha … directions is an epochal work that in terms of its detail and dimension is one of a kind in the history of comic books.

Matthias Schneider
is a cultural researcher and freelance cultural journalist.
He also designs film programmes and exhibitions on the theme of comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut Stockholm
March 2005