Best of the Year – another European perspective

Published On January 6, 2009 | By | Best of the Year 2008, Comics

A slightly different Best of Year for you to enjoy today; you may recall just before Christmas Eva Baillie from the Glasgow branch of the Goethe Insitut (the organisation for promoting German language and culture) talked to us about one of her favourite German comics creators. Well today two of her colleagues are sharing some of the creators in the German comics scene who have been tickling their fancies, first up is Anne Renner who selected Line Hoven:

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Liebe Schaut Weg by Line Hoven (Reprodukt)

This ambitious graphic novel skilfully assembles fragments of the authors’ own family history. In a quiet yet moving way Line Hoven tells us how her American mother and German father came to meet each other and describes the problems and prejudices this transcontinental relationship encountered and how her parents overcame them. The storyline develops around memories and keepsakes, an arrangement of fragments interwoven to form a whole. Along the way Line Hoven explores the complexity of human memory and how this can be expressed in the comics genre. As a result, ‘Liebe schaut weg’ (Love looks away) offers an insight into recent history whilst simultaneously giving an authentic and personal perspective.

The author uses a drawing technique which is unusual for comics due to being rather time-consuming. She scrapes the pictures into prepared board, creating black and white images which resemble woodcuts and allow for great detail and depth. Line Hoven furthermore lets her cleverly assembled pictures speak for themselves, not overloading them with text. As it is a transnational story, the book features both the German and English languages.

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(a scene from Leibe Schaut Weg by Line Hoven, published Reprodukt)

Before she discovered her interest in comics, Line Hoven worked as an assistant costume and set designer at the Kassel State Theatre. However, she decided to try out something new and started studying visual communication at the Art School in Kassel. After two years, she switched to the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg to study illustration. Since graduation she has been working as a freelance illustrator and comic artist. ‘Liebe schaut weg’ is her first work to be published as a book. The debut immediately received great critical acclaim, winning the ICOM Independent award for the best independent comic in 2008. You can find further information about and more work of Line Hoven on her website.

And her colleague Gisela Moohan picked out this unusual graphical work by Isabel Kreitz for us:

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Die Sache mit Sorge by Isabel Kreitz (Carlsen Verlag)

Isabel Kreitz (born in 1967 in Hamburg) is well established in Germany and the winner of an international comic award; her latest publication is a graphic novel entitled “Die Sache mit Sorge: Stalin’s Spion in Tokio”, (“the Thing About Sorge: Stalin’s Spy in Tokyo”) winner of the Sondermann Comic Award at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year.

The notorious German journalist Dr Richard Sorge spied for Stalin during the Second World War and became a source of enormous scandal and embarrassment in German diplomatic circles (he was subsequently honoured by the USSR and the GDR for his antifascist activity).

Set during the months leading to Sorge’s arrest in 1941, the novel accurately portrays the claustrophobic diplomatic milieu in which he moved and the growing sense of alienation felt by the characters who inhabit that world. Alongside her convincing study of the complex central character, Kreitz offers a disturbing insight into life and politics during the Third Reich.

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(a Tokyo street scene from Die Sache mit Sorge by Isabel Kreitz, published Carlsen Verlag)

Her finely detailed charcoal drawings, perfectly suited to her subject, capture the febrile atmosphere of Shanghai and Tokyo at that time – sometimes in almost lyrical episodes in which the pictures alone carry the story and convey the passage of time in the very ordinariness of everyday life. For a closer look at the drawings, see the publisher’s website (where there is also a trailer you can watch) and an interview in German (sorry) with the author.

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