Deep and witty – Ralf König

In the beginning nobody thought his comics funny. Not because the jokes didn't work or the pictures were badly drawn or the stories were boring – no, they were only disliked because Ralf König placed his stories in the homosexual arena.

When König wrote his first comics in the 80s, although society professed itself open-minded it was not yet ready for a humorous and permissive exploration of homosexuality. Especially the comic scene, dominated by a male, heterosexual audience had reservations.

So König published his first series Gaycomix in 1981 with Rosa Winkel publishers, and it quickly gained cult status in the gay scene. But König wanted to gain access to a broader audience and applied, at first not very successfully, to numerous publishers. Only in 1987 did a German publisher agree to publish his comic Der bewegte Mann (The most desired man), which became a best seller, and the film version seven years later was a box-office hit.

In his comics, König plays brilliantly with prejudices and clichees - which predominate on the homosexual as well as on the heterosexual side - confronting them with each other and playing them off against each other in an ironic way. That accounts for the subversive strength of his humorous comics, in which the reader can find himself and his own prejudices in the exaggerrated stereotypes. König's gay protagonists are not only struggling with social conventions but also with the ordinary problems in their daily lives or relationships.

Among his best known creations are the controversial couple Konrad and Paul from Cologne. With the help of these characters he caricatures the uniformity of the gay scene without ever becoming cynical. Whilst Paul acts out his libido in dark rooms and saunas, the introverted Konrad awaits him at home, plays the piano and listens to classical music CDs. The gender roles of the protagonists are exchangeable and that makes their relationship problems and their daily love-life so universal, be it for homo- or heterosexuals. With sweeping humour Ralf König's comics attack the exclusional tabooism and criminal stigmatization of gays in society, and contribute to a growing acceptance and equal valuation of same-sex partnerships.

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

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