Impressive and atmospherically dense scenarios – Isabel Kreitz

Slideshow Isabel Kreitz

Isabel Kreitz (Hamburg) has received numerous awards and is one of Germany’s most ambitious female comic artists. Her comics examine both the phenomenon of youth culture and the historical and political events of German history. She always integrates her protagonists within a historical context, usually with a local connection to Hamburg.

A classic example of her work is the comic Die Entdeckung der Curry-Wurst (2005). Basing her work on the novella by Uwe Timm, the artist links National Socialism with the present in strongly contrasting black and white images, focusing on the German process of coming to terms with the past. Her polished use of light and shade reflects the influence of Will Eisner, her great role model.

She found the perfect setting for Schlechte Laune (2000), her first comic, which marks the beginning of a series about the tragic fate of the train-surfer Ralf, in the catacombs and underground-train network of the city of Hamburg. This youth, disfigured by an accident, turns up in the underground system. There he meets other fellow sufferers, together with whom he tries to survive in a parallel world. In the comics Ohne Peilung (1995) and Totenstill (1997), Kreitz once again uses hidden-away places such as bunkers and sewers as a metaphor for the remnants of National Socialism. Kreitz stresses the political apathy of the younger generation and the naive way they view neo-Nazism, as well as the lax attitude of society and contemporary witnesses. In her comic Waffenhändler (1998), she pillories political and business connections and cliques that have existed beyond the Third Reich, still pulling strings in the background even today.

Together with Laura Bartels, Isabel Kreitz produced a comic for German World Famine Relief about foreign aid in Bolivia. In spite of the serious theme, the duo managed to embellish the informative part of Die Leidenschaft des Herrn Lührs (2001) with an exciting and upbeat story about a potato-loving chef. In this comic, this idealistic comic artist’s talent for humour is in evidence. She has sometimes had to earn her living with humorous comic strips such as the Ottifanten and her own series Heiss & Fettig (i.e. hot and greasy), which takes place in a fast-food joint. For the 258-page comic book Die Sache mit Sorge (i.e. the business with Sorge / 2008), Kreitz researched the story of Richard Sorge, who was “Stalins Spion in Tokio” (i.e. Stalin’s spy in Tokyo) – thus the subtitle of the comic as well.

Various myths and legends have sprung up around the bon vivant Sorge. In the GDR he was revered as a member of the Communist resistance, while he found scarecely any recognition in the historical narrative of West Germany at that time. Starting in 1933, Sorge spied on the German ambassador Eugen Ott for the Soviet military secret service as well as on Nazi grandees living in Tokyo. He was executed in 1944 following his arrest by the Japanese secret service. In her thrillingly-told comic, Kreitz deals with the controversial figure of Richard Sorge and reveals how he became a football for political interests after his death.

Comic adaptations of Erich Kästner classics such as Pünkchen und Anton and Emil und die Detektive (2008) are aimed at children and young people. Here, Kreitz orients herself stylistically on the original drawings by Walter Trier and lovingly supplies the scenes with details of Berlin’s big-city life in the 1920’s. In 2002, Isabel Kreitz was honoured with the Max and Moritz Award at the 15th Comic Salon Erlangen as best German comic artist.

Isabel Kreitz meticulously researches the historical locations for her comics, and with her realistic drawing style creates impressive and at the same time atmospherically dense scenarios.

In the volume Deutschland. Ein Bilderbuch (i.e. Germany: a picture book / 2011) Isabel Kreitz depicts importewnt events from German History. The short narratives, which arose in connection with the 60th anniversary of the German Federal Republic and were first printed in the daily newspaper "Frankfurter Rundschau" depict the start of the building of the Berlin Walls in 1961, the 1999 Berlin Love Parade and the introduction of the Euro in 2002. The volume concludes with the bankruptcy of the investment bank Lehman Brothers and the 2008 economic and financial crisis bound up with it – and awaits its continuation.

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

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