At the Gala opening of last weekend’s 2022 Erlangen Comic Salon, Germany’s premier biennial comic festival event – and the first in-person since 2018 – the winners of the twentieth Max and Moritz Award were announced.
28 titles were up for contention across 5 award categories – a mix of translated and native German works.
Aisha Franz‘ latest graphic novel Work-Life Balance scored the top 2022 Max and Moritz Award for best German-language book. A satire of modern wellness and self-improvement culture. It will release in English from Drawn & Quarterly next year.
For Best International Comic in German was British cartoonist Steven Appleby‘s debut graphic novel Dragman, about a superhero whose powers come from donning women’s clothes.
Swedish cartoonist Liv Strömquist got the 2022 Max and Moritz Non-Fiction award for Im Spiegelsaal [Translation: ‘In the Hall of Mirrors‘]. An exploration of the concept of beauty in the modern age through five graphic essays.
The 2022 Max and Moritz Children’s Prize went to Josephine Mark‘s Trip mit Tropf [‘Trip with Tropf’], an anarchic tale about a wolf and an unwell rabbit going on a road trip.
The eighth edition of the Max and Moritz audience prize picked Daniela Schreiter‘s Lisa und Lio [‘Lisa and Lio’], about a young girl who befriends an alien fox.
Lina Ehrentraut (Melek + Ich), Daniela Heller (Pfostenlock) and Jeff Chi (Who’s the Scatman?) all received prizes in the German-language Debut category.
Three individuals were awarded for their body of work. Mangaka Naoki Urasawa received a lifetime achievement award; comics researcher and curator Alexander Braun received a special jury prize; and Birgit Weyhe received the prize for best German-Speaking artist.
The Max and Moritz Award has taken place biennially alongside the Erlangen Comic Salon since 1984. It is named after the 1865 picture story by Wilhelm Busch, considered Germany’s comics forerunner. The 2020 Max and Moritz Awards were delivered digitally due to pandemic constraints.
The jury for the prize comprised a mix of journalists, cartoonists, store owners and the Comic Salon festival’s director, Bodo Birk.
Check out the list of all the 2022 Max and Moritz award winners along with synopses of the books below.
Work-Life Balance, Aisha Franz (Reprodukt) — will be available in English from Drawn & Quarterly in 2023.
“To achieve the proper work-life balance perhaps we just need the right therapist to coach us through our day-to-day. Anita, Sandra, and Dex have ambitions. Anita wants to move from making utility ceramics to fine art sculpture but her pent up dissatisfaction results in an outburst that puts her studio mate’s work at risk. Sandra juggles her practical administrative day job at a startup with her wellness influencer channel, finding both in jeopardy when a messy affair with her coworker comes to light. In another corner of the same startup, Dex’s innovative ideas are rejected, leading him to spend his days hacking and working as a bike courier. All three are disillusioned with their daily grinds. As the pressure for self-improvement builds they all end up looking to the same therapist for answers.
“Soon the boundaries between work and life begin to bleed into each other and it becomes increasingly impossible to find balance. All the solace the characters expect their therapist to provide is obscured by her quirks, whims, and psycho-parlance, leading to sessions that are neglectful at best and actively inhibit growth at worst. In striking colors and trippy transformational sequences, Aisha Franz captures the comedic absurdity of contemporary work-life and wellness culture.”
From the Comic Salon website:
“Aisha Franz exaggerates and dissects…stereotypes with satirical verve. Her narrative style is fast-paced, the drawings are stylised, dynamic, full of quirky details and wonderfully coloured. “Work-Life-Balance” is a rousing pleasure in which contemporary criticism, satire and the pleasure of storytelling are perfectly balanced.”
Best International Comic in German
Dragman, Steven Appleby, translator Ruth Keen (Schalzeit Verlag) — available in English from Jonathan Cape (UK), Metropolitan Books (US)
“August Crimp can fly, but only when he wears women’s clothes. Soaring above a gorgeous, lush vista of London, he is Dragman, catching falling persons, lost souls, and the odd stranded cat. After he’s rejected by the superhero establishment, where masked men chase endorsement deals rather than criminals, August quietly packs up his dress and cosmetics and retreats to normalcy — a wife and son who know nothing of his exploits or inclinations.
“When a technological innovation allows people to sell their souls, they do so in droves, turning empty, cruel, and hopeless, driven to throw themselves off planes. August is terrified of being outed, but feels compelled to bring back Dragman when Cherry, his young neighbor, begs him to save her parents. Can Dragman take down the forces behind this dreadful new black market? Can August embrace Dragman and step out of the shadows?
“The debut graphic novel from British cartoon phenomenon Steven Appleby, Dragman is at once a work of artistic brilliance, sly wit, and poignant humanity, a meditation on identity, morality, and desire, delivered with levity and grace.”
“…underlaid with satire, philosophical musings and social criticism and realised with great verve in lovingly caricatured drawings. “Dragman” is a grand superhero comic beyond all clichés and stereotypes.”
Best Non-Fiction Comic
Im Spiegelsaal [Translation: ‘In the Hall of Mirrors’], Liv Strömquist, German translation by Katharina Erben (avant-verlog)
Publisher’s Synopsis (translated):
“As early as 2003, the philosopher Susan Bordo wrote that we live in an “empire of images”. In recent years, this theory has become more and more of a reality: an iPhone camera in every hand, and thanks to widespread social media use, we are drowning in a flood of images. We communicate through images, we date through images, we report on our lives through images and we learn about the lives of others through images.
“How has our perception of beauty changed as a result? This question is explored in five essays, each approaching the subject from a different perspective. The Swedish Liv Strömquist is a phenomenon. Her tongue-in-cheek, meticulously researched non-fiction comics are among the best-selling graphic novels worldwide.”
“Smart, profound, engaging, feminist and very funny: Liv Strömquist’s comic essays are scientifically informed and illustrated stand-up comedy with a punk twist, or sharply humorous cultural studies essays that both enlighten, inform and splendidly entertain, revealing startling insights and connections.”
Best Comic for Children
Trip mit Tropf [tr. ‘Trip with Tropf’], Josephine Mark (Kibitz Verlag)
Publisher Synopsis (translated):
“”That’s not true!” What fate has foisted upon him is an imposition even for the most nonchalant wolf: because it has accidentally saved his life, he suddenly has a… rabbit on his hands. Rabbits! You eat them and that’s that! If it weren’t for the wolf code, which obliges him to take care of the little rodent’s well-being.
“The rabbit can tell you a thing or two about impositions, after all, it drags an annoying drip and a metre-long medication schedule through life. These infusions, the constant nausea. And now a wolf! Wolves! They eat you up and out! But this wolf is so… different. And, you have to hand it to him, he knows where it’s at.
“Josephine Mark sends her unusual group of fates on a fast-paced road trip with everything that goes with it: trigger-happy hunters, cheap motels, bears, freezing IV bags. And the big question: is it really only the wolf code that binds them together?”
“With wry humour and charm, Josephine Mark thrills us through car theft, bar fights, sinister motels and bear dens, metre-long medication plans and freezing cold nights…”Trip mit Tropf” tries to show us how the difficult subject of illness can be dealt with in a warm-hearted, gentle and also highly amusing way. And it succeeds with flying colours!”
Best German-language Comic Debuts
- Melek + Ich [tr: Melek + I], Lina Ehrentraut (Edition Moderne)
A dimension hopping affair.
“Rarely has a debut been presented that is so lively and, for all its unfinishedness, as strong as “Melek + I”…Lesbian relationships are so prevalent and normal in Lina Ehrentraut’s comics that not a word is said about them. She draws sex so explicitly that some pages seem almost pornographic. Lina Ehrentraut wants pleasure to be visible in all its diversity. She also mixes brightly coloured paintings between her black and white drawn comics – abstract colour explosions or people swimming, singing, kissing or having sex. It’s powerful and seems as if the protagonists are on an endorphin trip.”
- Pfostenlock, Daniela Heller (Kunsthochschule Kassel/avant-verlog)A keenly observed focus on archaeologists at an excavation site.
“The excavation site that forms the stage of “Pfostenloch”, Daniela Heller’s final project at the Kunsthochschule Kassel, is described realistically and credibly…The dialogues are of captivating naturalness, and just as unaffectedly and with subtle humor Heller portrays the small tensions and intrigues, power games and jealousies, dreams and disillusionments, and realizes her play with a fitting, light and caricaturing stroke.”
- Who’s the Scatman?, Jeff Chi (Zwerchfell)A focus on the life of real life figure John Larkin, aka Scatman John.
“Writer and illustrator Jeff Chi, who describes himself as a friend of straightforward implementations without a lot of frills and spectacle, has created a worthy monument to John Larkin with his graphic novel debut.”
Lisa und Lio 1: Das Mädchen und der Alien-Fuchs [tr. ‘Lisa and Lio 1: The Girl and the Alien Fox’], Daniela Schreiter (Panini Comics)
Selected by the audience. The DeepL translated synopsis of the book:
“Lisa and her mother have just moved to Finkenstadt and so a new adventure begins for the little girl. On the way to her new school, she meets Lio, a living interstellar organism that was left behind on Earth and henceforth becomes her companion. After Schattenspringer and The Adventures of Autistic-Hero-Girl, Daniela Schreiter’s Lisa & Lio is a lovingly designed graphic novel about everyday life with autism.”
Best German-Speaking Comics Artist – Birgit Weyhe
“The way Birgit Weyhe draws birds alone is an art in itself: some soar into the air as if they were the embodiment of freedom. Others cower on the ground as if they had not yet discovered their potential. And still others are so tattered and torn that it is clear: violence has been done to this being.
“Metaphors like these make Birgit Weyhe’s comics tremendously dense. And they are always human. Because Birgit Weyhe is interested in what drives people, how they became what they are – no matter what culture they come from, what color their skin is or how old they are. This is unique in the German comic landscape.”
You can check out Birgit Weyhe’s website here.
Special Jury Award – Alexander Braun
“…Alexander Braun does not legitimize comics by comparing them to the fine arts, but shows them as equals among the arts.
“…He is a visual artist, art historian, comics collector. And he is tremendously meticulous when it comes to exploring the history of comics in all its facets. In this way, he repeatedly produces standard works – and was the only German to win the prestigious Eisner Award for them twice.
“…Alexander Braun is a great analyst, who in his books and exhibitions repeatedly shows how life circumstances, personality and work are connected. In this way, he writes authoritative works of comic history and opens up new perspectives on cultural history that are relevant and perceived far beyond the comic scene.”
Lifetime Achievement Award – Naoki Urasawa
“Naoki Urasawa’s bibliography reads like a list of the best, most racy and successful manga epics of the last decades…
“…[A] gifted storyteller who likes to base his stories on relevant social, political and contemporary issues and always adds historical speculation and a fantastic, supernatural layer over the realistic foundation.
“…The pace of his stories is almost breathlessly fast, the dramaturgy compelling and dynamic, and the plots contain virtuosic and surprising breaks and twists. His stories are each several thousand pages long, combine entertainment and complexity, popularity and substance of the highest quality. Reading his epics is always a sly and thrilling pleasure.”