For today’s Best of the Year we’re taking a more European view as Eva Baillie from the Glasgow Goethe Institut (if you’re not familiar with them, the Goethe Institut promotes German language, learning and culture around the world) talks us through the work of one of her favourite German comics creators, Andreas Michalke:
Smalltown Boy, Andreas Michalke
Andreas Michalke, born in 1966 in Hamburg, grew up with a passion for music, particularly punk rock, and comics. During the 1980s, he was involved in the music scene as DJ, drummer and writer for fanzines. His first publication in 1991 was the magazine series Artige Zeiten that he published together with Minou Zaribaf. They started off self-publishing short stories of their lives, later on the series was continued by comic publisher Reprodukt. In 1999, Michalke published Smalltown Boy, an account of his years growing up in rural Germany and later in the city. The autobiographical comic was inspired by his own love letters that he sent to his girlfriend during his summer holidays in the USA in 1984 and that were “returned to sender” in 1997.
Nothing is more embarrassing but informative than reading your own teenage love letters and Michalke turned his memories of the 1980s in Germany into a funny and thoughtful comic: he talks about his teenage years in a small town in the north of Germany, school, girls and punk concerts. His story is about having the right haircut, the right clothes and the right identity in the culture of punk. It is also about being in love, friendship and knowing what you want – the normal madness of growing up. The love letters form the background story of the comic, told through captions in every panel. The account of what actually happened is portrayed in the drawing, with very little commentary through speech or thought bubbles. Smalltown Boy is the autobiographical account of and the reflection on a youth in Germany in the 1980s through comic art.
(a page from Smalltown Boy, by and (c) Andreas Michalke, published Reprodukt)
Other works of Michalke include comic strips for the Berliner Zeitung (Sophies Welt) and the weekly magazine Jungle World (Bigbeatland). After Artige Zeiten, Andreas Michalke is now working on a new series with the publisher Reprodukt called Mono, where he collects short comic strips and stories.
Michalke has been living in Berlin for the last ten years, where he is still involved in the music scene. He recently organised the event “Auktion-Destruktion”, where the audience can bid for records from all genres and if there is no bidder, the record is destroyed. Michalke’s passion for old and obscure German records and record covers including German comics from the 1950s and 60s can be seen in his blog (in English) Berlin Beatet Bestes.