Kiecker, Thorsten

The multimedia-based comic formats of Thorsten Kiecker

Thorsten Kiecker. ©Stenarts Ltd.Comic artist? The concept is too restrictive for Thorsten Kiecker. This Berlin multimedia artist, who with his team has created, among other things, the fantasy comic series Ria – Die Lichtklan-Chroniken (i.e. Ria – the light clan chronicles), views himself “as more of a director and less as a comic graphic artist,” as he put it in a conversation in the office of his company Stenarts in Berlin-Kreuzberg.

To him, being able to transpose his stories into multimedia formats is just as important as work on drawings and panel layout, plot elements and texts: for instance in computer animations, apps for smartphones or so-called augmented reality programmes, with the aid of which one can have elements of a comic album appear on a tablet computer as a three-dimensional view parallel to reading.

“Ria” – a mixture of comic, animation and computer game

The two volumes published to date of the four-part series Ria (appearing in Splitter Verlag) stand out above all through their extraordinary visual look and feel coming from the fantasy-comic genre. The central figure is a cat-like hunter named Loan. In a fantasy world reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, he awakens a young woman with a magic aura from a long sleep. This sets off a dramatic chain of events. Pursued by the forces of evil, the two characters set off on an odyssey of impressive graphic quality. With a sensitivity for colour seldom seen in German comics, light and motion effects, depictions of space that seem almost three-dimensional, and tremendously dynamically drawn figures, Ria conveys the impression of a mixture of comic, animation and computer game.

Diashow Thorsten Kiecker
Diashow

This has a great deal to do with the fact that Kiecker and his studio team of nearly one dozen members make their living mainly through the development of figures and programmes for computer games as well as other commercial graphic services. In this context, the comic is a subsidiary product in economic terms, but dear to their hearts where content is concerned, as Liecker and Christian Retzlaff, a comic artist jointly responsible for artistic execution, describe it in their conference room overlooking the roofs of Berlin.

Translations of the Ria albums have already appeared on the market in The Netherlands, Denmark and France, and the third volume is to be issued next year. Apart from this, Kiecker and his team are working on a variety of multimedia projects related to the brand. Thus there is the interactive series Ria – die Licht-Knirpse (i.e. Ria – the light littlies), whose characters are cute versions of the main comic figures for younger readers. Kiecker terms this the chibi variant of his narrative, a concept from Japanese manga that refers to characters in child-like format. In addition, the Stenarts team is at work on a chibi app, computer game with figures for young smartphone users. Visitors to the Sentarts studio will see storyboards and design sketches on the walls as well as a variety of animation samples on the computer. “This is our mini-Hollywood,” says Kiecker.

Craftsmanship Gelerntes Handwerk

Kiecker, born in Berlin in 1971, learned his craft at two enterprises that are of great significance to German comics and animated film. He arrived in the early 1990’s as an autodidact at the Berlin animated cartoon studio Hahn-Film, and worked there on projects such as an Asterix adaptation. Starting in 1993, he earned his living as a graphic artist at the magazine Mosaik (published by Verlag Steinchen für Steinchen). The adventures of the former GDR comic heroes Abrafaxe appeared here, which now enjoy nationwide popularity. In 2000, Kiecker left the publisher, and in the years that followed, the father of four founded his own firm, Stenarts, whose name comes from the nickname his wife gave him.

With Ria, Kiecker combines his passion for the fantasy genre with narratives such as Michael Ende’s The Never-Ending Story (Die Unendliche Geschichte) and films such as the fantasy puppet adventure The Dark Crystal. He also counts comic pioneers such as the French artist Loisel, author of the four-part fantasy Roxanna and the Quest for the Time Bird and Jean Giraud alias Moebius (The Incal) among his inspirations.

Multi-media comic formats

Kiecker’s great ambition is to develop the potentials of the comic as art form above and beyond the limitations of the two-dimensional printed-page format. Where this might lead is shown by several of his as yet unpublished animation prototypes on which he and his team are currently working. Thus, individual scenes from the Ria comic can be viewed on a tablet computer as a so-called parallax scrolling version: the setting seems to shift in three-dimensions according to how the viewer holds the tablet. And in the case of augmented reality realisation of scenes from the album, Loan, the main character, seems to stride towards a branch that reaches out of the screen towards the viewer. With other programmes now under development, the reader will be enabled to co-determine the comic’s plotline in interactive versions of the story.

Lars von Törne 
is a member of the editorial board of the daily newspaper “Tagesspiegel” in Berlin and among other things supervises the paper’s comic page (www.tagesspiegel.de/comics).

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
October 2013

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