Graphic Novel

A master of the quiet tone and the subtle voice – Sascha Hommer

Slideshow Sascha Hommer

“Hey, let us out of here!” yell two siblings as they stand behind the closed doors of a museum. “Regulations are regulations,” replies the over-zealous museum guard, sticking firmly to instructions and refusing to let the young pair out of the building. The much-cleverer boy and his pubescent sister are trapped. Trapped in a labyrinthine and mysterious museum whose exhibition rooms suddenly come to life at night. In their search for a way out, the sibling duo wander through room after room, floor after floor, and have many a strange encounter in the exhibition landscapes of the natural history museum. Amongst the recreations of tropical forests, Easter Island and pixellated computer worlds they meet Father Death, Ernst Jünger, Charles Manson and Fidel Castro. Together with the literary scholar and publicist Jan-Frederik Bandel, comic artist Sascha Hommer (Hamburg) conceived the newspaper strip Im Museum (i.e. in the museum), which was published daily in the newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau from 2007 through 2009. The protagonists of the cartoon strip are sent by their authors through a history of the world and time, through cultural and artistic landscapes. Bandel and Hommer combine surreal and fantastical moments with topical political comment and quotes from popular culture. The protagonists of the cartoon strip penetrate ever deeper into an absurd parallel world in which white rabbits show the way and caterpillars smoking water pipes offer good advice. Traces of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland and Hugo Pratt’s epic Corto Maltese as well as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels are to be found everywhere. The laws of logic are skewed and the reader has to quickly abandon any concept of time and space.

In 2001 Sascha Hommer set off on his way from the Black Forest to Hamburg to study illustration under Anke Feuchtenberger at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften /HAW). Hommer had harboured a desire to illustrate comic books from his earliest childhood. “When I arrived in Hamburg I thought there were bound to be some great student magazines around and that all I had to do was dive in and get cracking. However that did not turn out to be the case.” Independent initiative was required of him, whereupon Sascha Hommer created the comic anthology Orang, where he published his own stories under the pseudonym Pascal D. Bohr. He published the series of publications with international guest contributions with Verlag Kikipost, which he had founded together with Arne Bellstorf. Orang Magazine now appears with Reprodukt, and has put together a solid core of comic artists. As well as Berlin, Hamburg in this way also gained one of the most interesting and active comic scenes in Germany, which gain wide attention internationally through exhibitions and publications. When Hommer isn’t at work on new comic narratives – among them Dri Chinisin (i.e. three Chinese), an adaptation of stories by Brigitte Kronauer – he is on the road, holding readings and workshops, or organising exhibitions.

Hommer’s figures are small and stocky, with over-large heads and a curious appearance. They could certainly not be described as cute as Hommer is interested in outsiders and people living on the edges of society. In one interview Hommer said, “Losers are always interesting: people like reading about other people’s misfortune. This was certainly the case with Charlie Brown.” Even in Hommer’s debut comic book Insect the protagonist Pascal is different to his playmates because, as suggested by the title, he is an insect. Initially the differentness of the boy remains unnoticed as the city he is growing up in is under a thick pall of smog. Pascal lives and grows up like a normal boy: he goes to school, meets friends and is in love with a classmate. As the protective cloud of smoke evaporates, he has no clue what is going on. All at once his environment changes, his friends become his enemies and proceed to tyrannise and exclude him. Pascal withdraws, flees the city and finally finds acceptance from new friends who do not care what he looks like. Thus also in the comic strip Bericht von der Erde (i.e. report from Earth), which Hommer has been issuing together with Jan-Frederik Bandel starting November 2012 for the German magazine New Scientist Germany. In this comic, the scientist Dr. Katz, together with his robot brain, researches Planet Earth and its strange life forms.

With his melancholy stories Sascha Hommer directs the reader’s eye to the outsiders in society, to those who are different, whose true character is quite unfairly not taken seriously. Hommer’s reduced drawing and storytelling style emphasises the unconventional atmosphere of the world of his comic books. He is the master of the quiet tone and the subtle voice, which allows him to communicate the essence of his stories in an impressive and enduring manner.

Matthias Schneider is a cultural scientist, freelance cultural journalist and curator of film programs and exhibitions about comics.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
January 2013

Any questions about this article? Write to us!