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Graphic novel tells the stories of LGTBQ+ people over 50

March 30, 2024

A forthcoming anthology by Berlin-based queer comic publisher Moom Comics illustrates the stories of older LGTBQ+ people. It aims to bridge the age gap.

A comic by illustrator Alia Rodriguez includes the text "I never felt attraction for any of the girls around me"
Graphic novel 'Back Then' tells the stories of 12 queer peopleImage: Moom Comics

"I was 23 when I moved from my parents' house to Chemnitz. And then real life began," reads a comic panel. The illustration shows a young man with his arms thrown out joyfully in front of a disco ball in the former East German town.

"Chemnitz sounds incredibly boring to most people. It has a bad reputation," reads the text in the next frame. "For me as a young gay guy who found a small community, gay clubs and so on, it was the best place in the world."

The comic is illustrated in black, white and yellow by comic artist Jean-Come. It's one of several stories depicted visually in "Back Then," a queer graphic novel to be published in German and English this May by Berlin-based queer comic publisher, Moom Comics.

The book is a passion project for Moom Comics founder Lukasz Majcher. The 39-year-old, who moved to Berlin from his native Poland in 2015, has long been fascinated by the stories of gay men over the age of 50, in part thanks to the friend group he shares with his partner Stefan Paul, who is 53.

"I was spending so much time with these guys, and they were talking about gay life in the 1980s. For example, my friend Malcolm survived the AIDS pandemic," Majcher told DW. "I realized that people these days, especially younger queer people, have no idea what it was like for the people who came out back then. That's why the book is called 'Back Then' or 'Damals' in German."

A blue--toned comic by Alia Rodriguez which shows a man thinking about another man.
Fourteen comic artists put their own unique style into the anthologyImage: Moom Comics

Enlisting the help of 13 other comic artists, he set out to bring to life the tales of 12 queer people over the age of 50. Their stories are told through vibrant illustrations in each artist's unique style. Over a period of several months, they conducted interviews and created storyboards, then illustrated tales from the subjects' childhoods and youth.

Shared challenges

All of the people interviewed currently live in Berlin. And although some are from Majcher's friend circle, he still learned a lot about their experiences through the process of creating the comic anthology.

Majcher noticed a common theme in the interviews: how difficult it was for the LGTBQ+ people interviewed to understand exactly who they were and what they were experiencing several decades ago before the internet.

"They didn't have access to knowledge about sexuality like we have today — they had to learn everything by intuition. It was very difficult for them to figure out what was going on — were they so-called 'normal?' Many of them were afraid that they had a mental health issues or were perverts — also because of societal stigma," said Majcher.

Lukasz Majcher and partner Stefan Paul (left) smile at the camera while Paul holds a rainbow flag.
Lukasz Majcher (right) was inspired by his partner, Stefan Paul (left), and their friend circle of gay men over age 50Image: Moom Comics

It took years for many of the individuals interviewed to finally understand and accept who they truly were. "For example, my partner Stefan, who is also in the book, was convinced that it was normal for boys to watch other boys and also even be attracted to their physiques. Although there was a sexual background to this, he thought such feelings were normal because he had nobody to talk about this with."

With few people to turn to back then, "they were creating their own definitions of sexuality," said Majcher.

Dedicated to queer comics

Founding Moom Comics is the pinnacle of Majcher's long professional journey. He worked in marketing and at music festivals in his native Poland before moving to Berlin after falling in love with his ex-partner.

It wasn't an easy move. While struggling to learning German, he took up a string of jobs, including cleaning bathrooms at an airport.

"I was drawing comics my whole life, but not, not professionally — I felt like I wasn't good enough. But then I met the right people who convinced me I have more talent than I think," he said.

Eventually Majcher started publishing his own comics and then in 2023, decided to take the next step and founded his own independent comic publishing company, Moom Comics, in order to be able to publish the work of other illustrators as well.

A comic featuring a person standing outside a bar by illustrator Alia Rodriguez.
Moom Comics focuses entirely on queer topicsImage: Moom Comics

Moom Comics is the first comic book publisher in Germany to focus entirely on queer topics. Previous publications include the "Power Bear" superhero series focusing on mental health which follows Max, an office clerk from Berlin, who one day finds himself in possession of superhuman abilities.

Although the books' main characters are queer, "our comics are dedicated to all readers. Regardless of skin color, nationality and beliefs," said Majcher. The fact that he has an independent publishing house has given him the freedom to publish whatever he pleases, not needing to adhere to mainstream norms. "I think a comic is a great way to show different kinds of people," he said.

Majcher also hopes the book will help bridge the age gap within the LGTBQ+ community. This is especially important as the mainstream media —as well as social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram — often overlook queer voices in this age group, preferring to focus on younger "more beautiful" people he added.

What's it like to be Black and queer in Germany?

"It's a really big topic these days: What's going to happen to queer people as they get older — it's not so easy for them. Sometimes they don't have a big family — perhaps they only have their partners," said Majcher.

He hopes that by creating more empathy in the community, the age gap will create more concern for their well-being. "It's so important to share this knowledge and empathy with those people and bridge this gap between the generations."

"Back Then" is now available for preorder on the Moom Comics website.

Edited by: Brenda Haas

Sarah Hucal
Sarah Hucal Freelance Multimedia Journalist