Comic Salon Erlangen 2014
Looking Back Ahead
Interest in graphic literature in Germany remains high: In 2014 over 25,000 visitors flocked to the International Comic Salon in Erlangen.
Some 30 years ago comics were dismissed as “kids’ stuff”, according to Florian Janik, Mayor of Erlangen. Today, the relevance of contemporary comics “can hardly be disputed anymore”. As evidenced once again by the International Comic Salon, which is held every other year in Erlangen and took place for the 16th time in June 2014. Alongside the huge success of graphic literature in Germany there was something else to celebrate, namely the salon’s 30th anniversary. What began on a small scale has since morphed into an important institution for the genre as a whole.
World War One in picturesIn its anniversary year the 16th International Comic Salon offered a look back ahead – for example with a major exhibition on the topic of war. The focus was on the work of French artist Jacques Tardi, who has devoted his life to the topic of the “Grande Guerre”, as World War One is known in France. With his graphic novels he expresses the everyday horror in images and texts.
This main show was flanked by the works of renowned artists such as Otto Dix, George Grosz, Olaf Gulbransson, Charles Martin or Gus Bofa. In their prints, illustrations and etchings they demonstrate how intensively the artistic avant-garde has always addressed war – and how different the positions were that were printed in war or satire magazines.
Comic scene trendsNaturally, the Comic Salon also provided an overview of the current trends. Works were shown by comic illustrators Anke Feuchtenberger and Atak together with soccer comics and graphic novels on the subject of tolerance.
In one exhibition the festival honored the only professional association for illustrators in Germany, the Illustratoren Organisation, which was founded in 2002, and the magazine Spring, initiated ten years ago by a group of women illustrators. Founded in 1984, the specialist magazine Reddition also had a birthday to celebrate and showed works from the past 30 years. In the municipal museum there was a show recalling 150 years of Max and Moritz. Smaller presentations were devoted variously to French comic illustrator Émile Bravo, U.S. illustrator Walt Kelly and Finn Tove Jansson.
Comics in the age of digitalizationAt the center of the numerous lectures, workshops and seminars was a series of events on the topic of online comics, which demonstrated that the fundamental change in the media world has also impacted on the comic genre. Digitalization offers a whole host of new technical and creative options. Indeed, figures and scenes can be animated, text elements and languages can be selected and readability can be controlled differently.
A breakthrough in the digital comic business is not to be expected quickly, but publishers are increasingly offering their books as online editions, or are working on it. And illustrators are also being sought more for multi-media projects. For example, comic artist and painter Felix Mertikat has worked on an interactive documentary web series on cyber war (netwars-project.com), comic author Daniel Lieske drew the webcomic Wormworld Saga (wormworldsaga.com) and the Berlin production firm Filmtank is engaged in realizing Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). .
However, as they are much too expensive and their chances of success uncertain, such projects are an exception in Germany. This year’s Max and Moritz Award proved that online comics have long since gained readers’ favor: The audience award went to the webcomic Schisslaweng by Marvin Clifford (schisslaweng.net). This year, Ulli Lust was celebrated as the best artist. And the city of Erlangen honored Cologne illustrator Ralf König for his outstanding life’s work. French master Jacques Tardi, who signed books almost non-stop, impressed visitors with an installation of his trench images, accompanied by anti-war chansons by his wife Dominique Grange.