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Germany: what pictures?

Being the world’s number two export nation, the fourth largest economy and the most populous country of the European Union, Germany can also be named the country of the book – at the book fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig, editors present about 94,000 new releases or reprints each year, almost 3,000 of which are comics.

Once the land of music and hospitality, of poets and thinkers (Dichter und Denker) as well as that of judges and hangmen (Richter und Henker), today’s Germany is the self-proclaimed “Land of Ideas”. Its society, for a moment in time "the happiest in the world", is characterized by the pluralism of lifestyles and a wide ethnic and cultural diversity.

All these facts and clichés suggest that the land of Wilhelm Busch also ranks among the "great powers" of the ninth art which ought to be one of its favorite modes of expression. French readers certainly know Ralf König, perhaps humourist Walter Moers or the "prix de l'audace" laureate of the 2010 International Comic Festival of Angoulême, Jens Harder, and everyone has already flicked through a comic book whose hero has a mission in Germany ... In other words, beyond its frontiers almost nothing is known about Germany and its comics!
However, there is comic research: specialised magazines such as Comixene or Comic! Jahrbuch, the contributions of the Society for Comic Research Comfor, portals such as Deutscher Comicguide or the specialized bibliography of the University of Bonn illustrate the growing interest of academics, even if scientific works of international range remain the exception.
That is why we are launching today a call for papers entitled "What picture(s) of Germany?" We hope to receive articles focussing on one of the following three issues.

What editorial system for the German comic?

  • It would be interesting to analyze the market trends and the economics of the comic production in German languageby means of its indicators (number of titels, sales figures ...) and comparisons with France or other countries ...

  • The comic production in German language might be explored with a focus on genre diversity (importance of the "Franco-Belgian", mangas, American comics?), the structuring of the offer (collections, series?), the typology of the publishers ("independents", groups?) ...

  • The German comic audience could be studied, either in terms of readership structuring (distribution by age, social class?), reading practices (frequency, preferred genres?), diversity of modes of acquisition (second hand, collection?) ...

  • The process of translating comics is an object of investigation, starting with the source countries (United States, Japan, France?), translators (training, remuneration) and modes of sale (new montage or respect for the original format, role of the album?) ...

  • The same goes for the methods of distribution, marketing and placement: the role of comics in book shops, library presentation, its placement (exhibitions, meetings with authors, festivals?); the discourse of media and / or intellectuals around the comic book (and in particular the state of criticism) remain to be clarified.

  • The situation of authors may also be studied: what about their training (art school, university?), their mode of publication (abroad, in Germany?), their working conditions, pay and social status?

Germany and graphic culture

  • The identity of the German comic rests to be identified. It would be interesting to attempt a stylistic approach (design and script) of German productions, and to consider the outside influences in order to question the existence of a "German school" comic.

  • The existence of a graphic tradition peculiar to Germany may be the subject of one or more articles, especially to determine which filiations, influences, proximity can be observed between contemporary comics and the role of narrative images in newspapers and books (caricature, advertising drawings, war story ("Kriegsbilderbogen")).

  • The educational role of the printed image in Germany is also to clarify: contributions could focus on the role of comics (or comic panels) in the education system (in Germany or German classes) as well as the methods of analysing and reading comics (for example through a comparison with other European countries).

Germany in comics

  • The representation of Germany and Germans pose many problems, and it would be interesting to develop a critical approach to favorite subject-matters and places (for example, what is Berlin to the authors: the capital of the empire, that of the Weimar Republic, "Germania", the divided then reunited city, the capital of electronic music, et cetera…?)

  • The reference to German history in the comic strip also remains to be examined, particularly by questioning the times and events of the twentieth and previous centuries that inspired authors or publishers: some explanatory attempts and aesthetic approaches (graphic styles, narrative processes) would be welcome ...

  • The years 1933-1945 do not they constitute the main background of German history in comics? It would be interesting to study the characteristics of the production focussing on this period, the diversity of approaches (thriller, comedy?) and its change (how the representation of this difficult history has it changed since The beast is dead ?).

  • The analysis of "clichés" of Germany in comics also poses many questions: what is typical of the German and his country? Do not we find only approaches close to caricature (the spiked helmets in Asterix and the Goths, the crypto-Germans or "German look-alikes" in Franquin’s QRN sur Bretzelburg)?

Unfortunately we can only publish texts written in English or French, but this call for papers is open to all researchers, whatever their status (academic or not) and their origin. We invite you to answer us by submitting two documents:

  • A fact sheet in the form of a short Curriculum Vitae outlining the applicant's areas of research.

  • An anonymous text of 3000 characters including spaces, presented without any emphasis other than italics or bold, and adopting a standard format (Times New Roman 12 pt for text, 10 pts for footnotes, no drawing-ins or indentation, line spacing 1.5).

The proposal will be evaluated anonymously by two members of the Scientific Committee of the magazine: in case of acceptance the contributor will be invited to send us an article of a size between 25,000 and 50,000 characters, including spaces. Please send your abstracts to the following email addresses:

Benoît Berthou, chief editor of Comicalités

Marc Hieronimus, responsible of the topic

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