German comic writers are departing from the seriousness of their own lives and discovering humor. With the genre already well established, writers are free to experiment.
Comic writers have many possibilities to tell a story
In his autobiographical graphic novel, "Vier Augen" ("Four Eyes"), Sascha Hommer depicts some memorable events from his youth in Germany's Black Forest region. This includes smoking with friends, dating a girl with an eating disorder and discovering LSD.
He manages to capture these moments in a surprisingly small number of simple, black-and-white drawings, evoking the worries, fears and hopes of a young person growing up in a rural area. The drawings contain little text, as he believes that complex descriptions are not always necessary for expressing important thoughts.
"People say that what really counts is a good story - that pictures are not so important," said Hommer. "But this style also conveys messages - not just in my books but also in the books of many of my role models."
'Vier Augen' deals with youth issues
Serious and funny
Many of the newer comics and graphic novels in Germany deal with very serious topics, like Hommer's book, broaching the trying experiences of adolescence. He has observed, however, that some young authors are trying to steer away from this kind of weightiness.
"The young comic writers that are now making their debut on the German market are much more easy-going about it," explained Hommer. "They are going to bring the humor back into the comic genre."
Dirk Rehm, a spokesman for Reprodukt, the publishing company behind Hommer's books, believes that there is a good reason for new writers to have a more relaxed approach to their work.
"The younger writers can indeed be a lot more easy-going because they no longer have to prove that comics can be more than smut and trash - this was already accomplished by the last generation," Rehm told Deutsche Welle. "They can just do what they feel like."
Although Reprodukt does publish a lot of comics of autobiographical and biographical nature, Rhem says that it is in no way short on humorous and adventure-themed material either. In addition to this, he has observed yet another new trend emerging within the genre: historical topics.
Hommer believes comics can convey complex thoughts
Hommer, a slim, dark-haired man in his early 30s, sees comics as a hybrid genre. He started reading them at a very young age, as well as drawing pictures of his own. He later went on to study illustration at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, mentored by German comic author Anke Feuchtenberger.
An official comic-writing degree does not exist at German universities as yet.
At the moment, comics and graphic novels are receiving increasing attention in cultural media, and, according to Hommer, they are also selling relatively well.
"Compared to small publishing companies that publish debut novels by unknown authors, the small comic publishers are very successful," said Hommer.
Hommer's next book is going to tackle a serious topic. It presents the short stories of Brigitte Kronauer, winner of the Georg Buechner Prize - Germany's most important literary prize - in comic form.
"I find Ms Kronauer's texts great," said Hommer. "In my adaptations I'm trying to convey the same amount of information as her writing."
And if a picture really is worth a thousand words, that could make for one short comic book.
Author: Dirk Schneider, Eva Wutke
Editor: Kate Bowen