History/Politics

A comic icon of the alternative scene – Gerhard Seyfried

Copyright: Eichborn VerlagSlideshow Gerhard Seyfried
Slideshow

The 1968 student revolt left its mark on the life of the comic artist, caricaturist, scriptwriter and literary figure Gerhard Seyfried. Still living in Munich at the time, he was thrown out after two years at the Akademie für das Graphische Gewerbe for organising a strike in protest against the emergency laws. He then worked as a self-employed graphic artist and caricaturist and flourished with his cheeky drawings, becoming a comic icon of the alternative scene.

His bearded anarchist dwarf with a bomb and a catapult was part of the basic furnishings of any flatshare, as were his ‘pigs’ stickers, which indicated right on the front door that visits from the custodians of the law were not welcome. He developed these ideas for the left-wing satirical newspaper Das Blatt and they became so popular that they were some of the most often printed – and most often copied – illustrations of the 1970s.

Seyfried sees his satirical, cynical works as being in the tradition of Wilhelm Busch and Karl Valentin, and his artistic role models include two very different characters. On the one hand, there’s Gilbert Shelton and his hippie cult series Fabulous Freak Brothers, and on the other there’s Carl Barks, whose Entenhausen stories were harshly criticised by left-wingers at the time because of the supposedly hidden US ideology they contained.

The end of the 1970s took Seyfried to Berlin, where he published his first colour album, Invasion aus dem Alltag, in 1981. This album focuses on the experiences of a group in a flatshare, who mourn the passing of the old politically active days of the demo, but are basically more interested in a good joint than they are in changing the system. In Das schwarze Imperium (1986), Seyfried exhibits self-mockery by depicting himself as a capitalist protagonist who, as the owner of Kunstwerke AG (Artworks PLC), speculates in artist’s ink, which is becoming scarce, and thereby unintentionally causes an environmental catastrophe. The album Flucht aus Berlin (1990) sees Seyfried reacting with black humour to German reunification.

In the following years Seyfried worked together with Franziska Riemann, alias Ziska, who is his junior by twenty-five years, and devised gloomy visions of the future in, for example, Future Subjunkies (1991) and Space Bastards (1993), in the style of Bob Wilson’s esoteric books and William Gibson’s cyberspace books. He then returned with new vigour to political themes such as neo-Nazism and the sleaze of political parties and industrialists, with titles such as Let the bad times roll (1997), Bullen, Bonzen und Berliner, Starship Eden (1999) and Wo soll das alles enden (1978/2005). Whether you’re left-wing or right-wing, alternative type or bigwig, Seyfried’s pointed pen knows no mercy.

A complete edition of all publications by Seyfried and Ziska to date is available in the 699-page luxury volume Die Comics - Alle (2007), including a new fantasy story Der Fluch der Nipponziege (i.e. the curse of the Nippon goat) as a special extra. In addition, Seyfried has also made a name for himself as a political and historical author with his literary publications Herero (2003), Tupamaros (2004),  Gelber Wind (i.e. yellow wind / 2008) and Verdammte Deutsche (i.e. damn’ Germans / 2012). 

He combines his literary and graphic ambitions in  blogs, comics, and cartoons for daily newspapers and magazines, and comments on his observations of every-day life through the lens of social issues. 

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

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

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