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Ralf König
Spring fever in the Lockdown

In the winter of 2019/20, a new kind of virus emerged – with lasting consequences. Ralf König looks at the months of Covid in his new comic book.

By Holger Moos

König: Vervirte Zeiten © Rowohlt When the world fell into a corona-induced slumber in the spring of 2020, comic artist Ralf König was also left to his own devices. His bustling home city of Cologne suddenly mutated into a placid health resort. At a loss, König sat down and posted a few comics on the web, reluctantly because, “A book author makes a living from book sales, so I was always suspicious of free entertainment.” These four daily panels were well received so he continued posting them for eight months.
 
König reanimated one of his classics for this, the odd, ageing couple Konrad and Paul. One is a sensitive piano teacher, the other a rather coarse science fiction author. “From 18 March to 31 October, I effectively observed Konrad and Paul grappling with the pandemic,” König writes. Now these comics have been published in book form after all in Vervirte Zeiten.

the most beautiful belly button in the world

First, Konrad and Paul experience the spring of forcibly suppressed spring fever. Even the Eurovision Song Contest is cancelled! That leaves only sexual fantasies, which are ignited in Paul by an irresistible supermarket branch manager named Knaller who has the most beautiful belly button in the world. He so befuddles testosterone-driven Paul that he brings the empty returnable bottles back home. Or is this a strategic move so he can go back to the supermarket sooner?
 
Paul’s only other escapes from social distancing, toilet paper shortages and the generalised panic consist of erotic video chats and sending dick pics back and forth. Concerned, Konrad is quite tolerant and understanding of Paul’s libidinous needs, but his internet promiscuity horrifies him: “Paul, that’s the internet! You’ll never get your dick off of it!” In addition to Paul’s sexual obsessions, the comic strips deal with many other pandemic social woes, sometimes even with the politics of the day.

COMICS as anti-depressants

Comics can be a panacea for not falling into fatalism or worse in the face of daily bad news. “If I didn’t have the comics, I’d probably be depressed. The coronavirus just adds to it,” says König in an interview with Bayerischer Rundfunk.
 
Although it now looks as if the virus is slowly retreating from the centre of public attention, it’s fun to look back on this time through the lens of König’s comics. They will also be a good reminder of what these months were like for later generations who might sort Covid-19 in among swine fever, bird flu and mad cow disease. After reading König’s comic book, the post-pandemic born will see how absurd things really were back then!
 
Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank Ralf König: Vervirte Zeiten
Hamburg: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2021. 192 S.
ISBN: 978-3-498-00211-4

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