Comic Festivals International platforms for the comic scene

Posters for the Comic Salon Erlangen: Anke Feuchtenberger (left) und Mawil
Posters for the Comic Salon Erlangen: Anke Feuchtenberger (left) und Mawil | © Internationaler Comic-Salon Erlangen

Angoulême, Lucerne, Erlangen and Linz aren’t exactly European metropolises. But these cities are now integral parts of cultural life: the entire comic industry meets there on a regular basis. The festivals in France and Switzerland, in Germany and in Austria are trans-national and an important international platform for the German-language comic scene.

When the first Comic-Salon Erlangen was started in 1984, hardly anyone would have imagined that this event would become the most important comic festival in the German-language cultural area. Although at that time, only about 40 artists journeyed to this Franconian city with its Huguenot history to present their comics and cartoons, this festival, which takes place biennially in June, now boasts about 200 artists and more than 20,000 visitors. The events are spread out over the entire city: publishers and the comic exchange present themselves in the Congress Centre, workshops and discussion panels take place in the City Hall, theatrical performances, film evenings and readings are also part of the festival programme. Prominent guests such as Moebius, Jacques Tardi, Art Spiegelmann, Don Lawrence and Jim Lee, and also German artists such as Hansrudi Wäscher, Ralf König and Flix have also attended the festival. One permanent fixture of the programme is a German-French seminar for comic artists, whose results are presented at the festival. In addition, the Max and Moritz Award is given at a festive gala in the Markgrafentheater.

Munich comic festival

The Munich Comic Festival is somewhat smaller in scale, but no less exciting. Having developed out of its predecessors Comicfest München and Comicologischer Kongress, the festival opens its doors every two years in June - alternating with Erlangen – in the Künstlerhaus on Lenbachplatz. The festival organisers place great value on the festival’s thematic orientation: in 2011, for instance, Spain was presented as a nation of comic culture with exhibitions and workshops. In addition, publishers and artists present themselves, there is a comic exchange, and drawing courses for children and events like a cosplay contest for the handsomest manga and anime costumes are offered. In past years, numerous partners were acquired, among them the Jewish Museum, the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum and the Karl Valentin Museum. The Peng!- Münchner Comicpreis and the ICOM Independent Comicpreis are awarded at the festival, as well.

Hamburg comic festival

The focus of the Hamburg Comics Festival, held annually since 2006, is on independent European comics. In addition to established professionals like Anke Feuchtenberger and Birgit Weyhe, the organizers showcase the up-and-coming generation of young European comics artists. This non-commercial festival is organized by artist volunteers, including Arne Bellstorf and Sascha Hommer, who are also among the event’s initiators. Besides the main exhibitions, several so-called “satellite shows” are held at unusual venues: e.g. bookshops, bicycle repair shops, restaurants and cafés. Students of illustration at Hamburg’s University of Applies Sciences also present their latest works every year at the festival.

Regional comic events

For those whose wishes are not satisfied by the festivals in Munich and Erlangen will find further opportunities throughout Germany. Practically every larger city organises comic festivals or participates in the nation-wide Gratis-Comictag (i.e. free comics day). In Dresden, for example, the Mosaik Verlag, Beatcomix, the Holzhof Verlag and the Comicladen organise a comic festival in May – a small, but notable scene hotspot for artists and fans alike. The Baltic seaside resort Prerow turns into a festival venue for Cartoonair am Meer. Further westwards, the comic scene presents itself in September at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg. Independently of all this, the major annual book fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig have growing comic sectors of their own to offer.

Promoting young talent in Switzerland

The international comic festival Fumetto in Lucerne (Switzerland) sees itself as a network for artists and a promotion venue for new talent. The festival was founded in 1992 and with 50,000 visitors yearly, counts as one of Europe’s leading comic events. For nine days, 20 main and 50 satellite exhibitions can be seen – prominent artists are presented along with young talent. One of the organisers’ objectives is multimedial communication for comics. For this reason, drawing classes for children, events for school classes, workshops with universities artist contracts and discussions are offered. Another important part of the programme is the international contest in three age categories. Only young artists are eligible for the Fumetto-Schleuder award; who are then promoted in connection with the award with an exhibition and a debut publication.

Comicfestival Linz: between pop and art

The Next Comicfestival in Linz (Austria) is still young. It was organised for the first time in 2009, at the time under the patronage of the prominent Linz caricaturist Gerhard Haderer. On this occasion, he presented not only his “kleines Schundheftl” (i.e. trashy little booklet), but also arranged for publishers and comic groups from Vienna and Graz came to this Lower Austrian industrial and working-class city. The festival takes place in March, and now boasts about 25,000 visitors, combining pop and subculture with the high art of draughtsmanship. The programme includes a thematic contest as well as an artist in residence stipend. The most important venues are the OK Centrum für Gegenwartskunst, the Ars Electronica Center, the Architekturforum, the Kulturverein Kapu and the Galerie Maerz. Additional events are held in Wels, Gmunden and in the Karikaturmuseum Krems.

Animated film

The animated art film is the traditional focus of the Stuttgart Internationales Trickfilmfestival, founded in 1982. For six days, short and feature-length films flicker across the screens. Directors, artists and producers make themselves available to audiences in workshops, panel discussions and presentations. Various contests – for children, young people, students and professionals – are combined with award purses totalling about 60,000 €.

Manga and Anime

The various manga and anime conventions, extending over several days, feature garish costumes, costume games and lots of music. Thousands stream through trade fair halls to take part in contests, purchase clothing or accessories, and above all, to meet like-minded people. Fans often arrange to meet via Internet forums and announce their group cohesion by means of similar outfits (cosplay) relating to a particular theme. The largest German-language conventions are the AnimagiC in Bonn and the Connichi in Kassel, each with about 10,000 visitors. The Connichi is also the venue of the German finals for the international cosplay contest World Cosplay Summit, whose finale is held in Nagoya, Japan.