Do you know anything about the history of comics in Germany? Us neither. Some light is shed in this Forbidden Planet International Blog posting about a German exhibit on the history of native comics:

It may be strange that, even though German expatriate Rudolph Dirks played such an important part in the origin and development of comics as a genre, it took more than half a century to really catch on in Germany itself. It was only in 1947 that the first German-produced modern comic was published, a black-and-white booklet called “Bumm macht das Rennen”.

The exhibition follows a chronological paradigm, chronicling the history and development of German comics until today, from American imports and their influence on early German comics until the current, “home grown” varieties of comic books and graphic novels. Newspaper comics, caricatures, parodies and biographical comics are highlighted, as well as current literary trends, such as fantasy, mystery and science fiction.

The exhibit has a website (in German) with more info and downloadable covers, such as the merry prank we’ve reproduced above.


  1. Wilhelm Busch can be considered the godfather of German comics. Best known for Max und Moritz, which inspired the Katzenjammer Kids, Busch wrote comic verse illustrated with simple yet humorous social charicatures. The German comics Max und Moritz Preis honors his legacy.
    There is also a museum, located in Hannover, Germany, which showcases German comics and editorial cartoons. Located near the baroque Herrenhausen Gardens (imagine Central Park with a formal layout), it makes for a nice day trip.
    Vater und Sohn was an early silent comic strip success, and the magazine Stern, with its editorial cartoons and childrens section, was influential.
    And that Eulenspiegel comic? It’s based on a medieval trickster, who, shall we say, is not completely suitable for children.

  2. “Bumm macht das Rennen” (Bumm wins the race) was only the first german comic book with original content. Of course there were comics predating it. The aforementioned “Vater und Sohn” (Father and son), a comic strip by jewish artist Erich Ohser, who worked under the artists name e.o. plauen, which was so succesfull, that plauen was suppressed by the Nazis to make little propaganda-pieces for them. Finally, he was denunciated and died in a Gestapo prison cell in 1944.

    There were a lot of now almost unknown comic strips, published in different magazines, for example “Onkel Jup”, “Ferry”, “Zick-zack”, all even predating “Vater und Sohn”. And not to forget the legendary Satire-Magazine “Simpliccisimus” with famous artists like Gulbransson, which was famous for it’s highly artistical caricatures especially before World War I.

    And this “Till Eulenspiegel”-comic? Well, like Torsten says, the original folkhero was an rather rude guy, sort of Robin Hood meets Harlekin, from the 13th century. The comic, produced by the Rolf Kauka Studios, left almost nothing of this, making him a modern day funny adventurer with rassistic tendencies (as can be seen in his african adventures).

  3. Thanks for the information, Torsten and Stefan! The “Merry prank” in my post was of course a reference to the tone poem by Richard Straus, the form in which I’m most familiar with Eulenspiegel.

    I’m always fascinated by the histories of comics in various European countries.The powerful Franco-Belgian school and the Italian school have been fairly well documented — and reprinted — in the US, obviously. Other countries seem to have been swallowed up by the supremacy of US comics, however. Judge Dread and the Beano aside, English comics have made their biggest mark at Vertigo, it seems. I know in Germany, as in most of Northern Europe, the Disney characters are insanely popular, but that’s about it.

  4. The mean-problem with German Comics is, that that the german comic market is mostly an import-market. There are Disney comics since 1951, the aforementioned Rolf Kauka started his own production years later. And although he was enormous succesful with hundreds of comic series exclusively produced in his studios and on commission for his magazines, he was never as succesful as the Disney comics.

    Germany had an more or less intact comics industry during the fifties, with the huge success of the magazine-strip “Nick Knatterton” and the even bigger success of the “Piccolos” (small comic-books in comic-strip-format), especially the ones by Hans Rudi Wäscher (sort of the german Kirby, albeit more because he drew lots of pages, not so much because of his artistic level).

    In the sixties, (West-)Germanys own comic book production began to decline; since then there were mostly marvel- and dc-superheroes and francobelgic comics, that dominated the market and left little to no room for german comic artists. Even the Kauka Studios ordered most of their comics from spanish and italian artists, mostly because they were cheaper.

    This “tradition” of import-comics went on, and it’s just since the eighties, that Germany begins to develop a sort of >own

  5. “I want to read that comic so I can figure out why that owl is stealing that mirror.”

    Owl = Eule. Mirror = Spiegel.

    –> Owl + Mirror = Eulenspiegel.

    Haven’t seen the book, so I don’t know whether there’s more to it than a pun on the title.