Katz and Goldt – The duo that does what duos should do
Katz und Goldt: Die Hausverwaltung im Morgengrauen
Stephan Katz and Max Goldt know what German comics owe them. In the fifth episode of their little series Die beiden netten Homos (i.e. the two nice gay guys), the two protagonists visit Chicago and tell another gay couple about Walter Moers, Ol, Rattelschneck and Tex Rubinowitz – all of them German comic artists with decidedly grotesque humour.
When the gentlemen depart, their American hosts call after them: “Before tonight we knew little about German cartoons. Thank you for changing this.”
But it would not be presumptuous to criticise this pretty pictorial fantasy for a serious defect: the two nice gay guys have defrauded their own creators Katz and Goldt. This team, which works according to the motto: “The duo that does what duos should do,” does not only fit in with the impressive line of humorists from Moers to Rabinowitz, it tops the list. No one else in Germany has such a unique graphic humour to offer.
It arises from Max Goldt’s linguistic virtuosity, an author who was honoured with the Kleist Award for his literary achievements (and is thus the most highly distinguished comic scenarist in the country), and from Stephan Katz’ cartoon skills, who has developed a seemingly naïve graphic style that stands in the greatest possible contrast to Goldt’s finely crafted texts. At least one thinks so, and the comics’ comedic character therefore consists in this discrepancy itself.
First encounter, first publication
In fact, though, Katz’ images and Goldt’s words encounter each other on the same footing. Both artists love the dual play of observation and evaluation – they meticulously register the phenomena of every-day life and comment on it with relish. Max Goldt noted this shared interest in a satirical phenomenology in 1994, when Stephan Katz sent him a few comics that he had developed from texts by Goldt.
At first, the author and artist worked together on projects on an occasional basis, but in the course of the years their cooperation intensified to such an extent that the duo Katz and Goldt ended up doing a regular comic strip for the weekly paper Die Zeit for five years, 2002 – 2006, and is still doing a regular column in the satirical magazine Titanic.
However, their first joint appearance took place as long ago as 1996: in a most demanding form - an entire album that appeared with a highly regarded comic avant-garde publisher of the time, Jochen Enterprises. The title of this volume was Wenn Adoptierte den Tod ins Haus bringen (i.e. when adopted children bring death), setting the tone for everything else that was to come.
The Katz and Goldt brand
This kind of incisively verbal abstruseness is one of the hallmarks of Katz and Goldt, deriving primarily from Max Goldt (born 1958), whose career began in the early ‘Eighties when the author enriched the New German Wave with his avant-garde pop band Foyer des Arts (i.e. art lounge) with the principle of language games. Later, this paradoxical abstruseness reached its high point in the magazine Titanic, as the column Aus Onkel Max’ Kulturtagebuch (i.e. Uncle Max’ cultural diary) established a new form of critique of every-day life focusing on, of all things, the rules of etiquette.
Untranslatable verbal virtuosity
These texts fascinated Stephan Katz because they broke with any and all intellectual fashions. At first, the artist (born 1970) translated them into figures oriented on the more crude style in comics that had characterised protagonists such as Fickelscherer, Atak, Beck and Ol after 1990. But as early on as Katz and Goldt’s second album Koksen, um die Mäuse zu vergessen (i.e. snort a line of coke to forget the mice), issued in 1998, a graphic trend towards pictographic stylisation was revealed, with the black-and-white imagery reminiscent of underground comics supplanted by mainly colour pictures. The drawings were richer in details and associations and eagerly supplemented with commentary on the action that takes place in the form of little auxiliary scenes at the page margins.
Later, this narrative principle, which congenially picks up the associative richness of Goldt’s texts, was consistently retained by the duo, even though they often changed publishers - Jochen Enterprises was followed by Carlsen, Rohwolt and finally Edition Moderne. Katz and Goldt succeeded in maintaining an unmistakeable appearance in their cartoon volumes for which Katz invoked the American comic artists Roz Chast and Chris Ware as role models.
These are great names, but Katz and Goldt do them justice, although their focus is more on humour than on graphic originality. Their humour is unmistakeable in the German-language cultural area, and unfortunately it is also untranslatable. It has changed everything Germans have until now taken to be cartoon illustration. Thank you for changing this!
is an editor for the literary supplement of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ).
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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