The German Comics Scene

Ever since comics have become widely popular in Germany they´ve been met with mixed emotions: Most of the comics available for a long time were made for kids which loved them from the beginning. Grown-ups on the other hand had been more sceptical and comics were widely regarded as a nuisance, unliterary, unworthy and even threatening.  Still, over the past decades and especially in the last ten years  comics have been established as a popular medium, their literary and artistic virtues widely acknowledged.

It is quite natural for kids to read comics. A wide ranging selection of books, mostly series, are available, including Disney comics and special editions of superheroes. Manga is an established style among teenagers, dozens of series are being published every month. After remarkable high sales in the early 2000s Manga is still strong and dominant among this age group.

The widest selection of books is available to a mature audience, ranging from franco-belgian albums – humor titles, adventure, fantasy, etc. – to graphic novels with a literary appeal. Superheroes and similar fantasy or adventure titles are popular among grown ups as well.

Collectors of (second hand) books and albums are a vital part of a certain fracture of the comics scene. Regular fares are held that are aiming at this group almost exclusively.

Universities do not offer degrees in comic making yet, still many young authors have studied illustration or similar classes. Over the past years numerous universities have employed artists, who have made their names as comics artists, as professors. Those teachers now encourage students to make comics, sometimes even setting up publishing companies to make their students´ work available in printed form. The growing number of comics artists coming from this background is noticeable.

The small press szene in Germany changed a lot in the last years. Many new magazines popped up in Hamburg and Berlin, replacing the oldschool photocopy fanzines with more sophisticatedly reproduced while still independent products, shifting from underground-inspired aesthetics to more arty approaches. In the same time, the Hamburg-Berlin monopoly gave way to a more diverse formation with strong communities not only in the far north but also in Kiel, Leipzig and many other cities.

While graphic novels have been around for more than twenty years, they´ve become much more popular since being branded as such. Currently graphic novels are in the spotlight of media attention. All major newspapers include reviews of new titles on a regular basis. Radio stations do so as well and TV is also picking up. Thus reports on comics and their creators are not exotic anymore, the focus shifting away from comics as a phenomenon to a closer look at the particular piece or the artist present.

As of today certain age or style gaps are noticable. It is not yet common to grow up reading comics and seamlessly doing so all through your life. Also the readerships of certain styles and themes are somewhat disconnected, Manga readers and their extension of comics reading to a (subcultural) lifestyle being the most noticable. A whole new audience is being reached by graphic novels. Readers that used to be hesitant to read a comic are now opening up more and more to books that deal with themes previously known from written prose books only. These readers are sometimes reached by publishers of literature which have now started publishing one or the other graphic novel.

More and more publishers of literature start publishing comics, mostly graphic novels. Apart from that there are three main comics publishers and a number of independent companies, that sometimes consist of one or two people only. Especially the latter, maybe 10 to 15 publishing houses, are specialised in certain styles or genres.

Today there are more comics in a wider range of styles and genres available in Germany than ever before.

Christian Maiwald

Nordicomics and its projects are funded by Nordic Culture Point, Nordic Children's and Youth Committee – NORDBUK, and the Finnish Comics Society. All images are the copyright of their respective owners.