Creator of several serial stories – Hansrudi Wäscher

Portrait of Hansrudi Wäscher In the 1950s, his comic characters shaped an entire generation of young people. However, the artist remained almost unknown for many years. Hansrudi Wäscher, born on 5 April 1928 in St Gallen in Switzerland, created several serial stories.

The comics with the jungle boy Akim, Sigurd the knight and Nick the astronaut, which were available from kiosks as Piccolo books in landscape format for twenty pfennigs, were popular among boys and girls alike. As a child in Switzerland, Wäscher loved to read Italian comics. When he moved to Hanover with his parents at the age of 12, he discovered that there were hardly any comics available. He began to come up with his own stories and to draw them.

Courage and perseverance

Bob und Ben“ by Hansrudi Wäscher; Copyright: B E C K E R ! - I l l u s t r a t o r s However, it was still a number of years before he could earn a living from doing this. After he finished school, Wäscher studied to be a poster artist. However, he cut off his education early in order to study commercial art at the Hanover School of Applied Arts. Wäscher received his first pay cheque working as a poster artist and illustrator: he drew the road safety book named Mr Boll for the city of Hanover. However, the Peterle story for the Schwarzwald publishing house was never published. In 1953, Wäscher developed the knight Sigurd for the Walter Lehning publishing house in Hanover.

Just like his role model in the Nibelung saga, the hero had enormous strength. "Everyone should fight injustice as their strength allows", says Sigurd in the sequel 'Das Gottesurteil'. With courage and perseverance, the hero enforced law and order. The adventures of Sigurd the knight have sold in their millions, appearing in over 320 Piccolo books until 1960.

Productive years

These were Hansrudi Wäscher's most productive years: every day he drew an entire comic strip. In 1955, he continued the Akim series, created by the Italian artist Augusto Pedrazza. In 1958, he created the fantasy series Nick the astronaut in the wake of the Sputnik launch. He sometimes worked on four series at the same time. To make the comics exciting despite the routine, he would begin the stories with full-page panels or insert small interim scenes.

„Roy Stark“ by Hansrudi Wäscher; Copyright: B E C K E R ! - I l l u s t r a t o r s Using so-called cliff-hangers, an exciting transition at the end of the book, he ensured that his young readers would buy the next book too. Wäscher's form elements also followed the role models of the time: Sigurd the knight had a blonde quiff and Nick the pilot flew into outer space in fashionable red overalls. Wäscher's stories also caused a positive sensation in the 1950s: "It was a prudish time", he remembers in an interview in 2008. Drawing a woman in a bathing suit caused numerous letters of complaint.

Continuing in the prudish time

Some books were even banned by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons. This offended him, but it did not stop him from carrying on. But the greatest reward was still the number of children waiting for him when he came home on Fridays with his specimen copies. In 1969, Wäscher moved to the Bastei publishing house in Bergisch-Gladbach. For the publishing house, he developed the Buffalo Bill series for the Lasso books.

In 1982, the ghost stories and the fantasy character Fenrir followed. The old Piccolo books had already become collectors' items by this time. Today, an original Piccolo book is worth up to 1,000 euros. Wäscher's work has only found due recognition over the past few years: in 2008, the 80 year old was awarded the 'Max and Moritz Prize' at the Erlangen International Comic Salon. In 2009, the PENG! prize followed at the Munich Comic Festival. The old man, whose distinguishing feature is his broad moustache, is no longer working on new series of comics. However, he is still available for commissioned work with old themes.
Rieke C. Harmsen
is an art historian and editor of the Evangelischer Pressedienst (epd) news agency in Munich.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
October 2009
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