Comic Journalism

On this page:

  • Die Bekehrung
  • Cargo
  • Deutschland. ein Bilderbuch
  • Fashionvictims. Trendverächter: Bildkolumnen und Minireportagen aus Berlin
  • Lästermaul und Wohlstandskind
  • Menschen am Sonntag
  • Packeis
  • Der Tod von Adorno
  • Die Welle
  • Die Wolke

Gnehm, Matthias.  Die Bekehrung.  Edition Moderne, 2011. 

ISBN 13:978-3037310748

14 year old Kurt is hopelessly in love with Patrizia and even joins her bible study group, led by Pastor Obrist who uses questionable methods to gain a following.  Kurt begins to alienate himself from his family.  Before he can decide if he should leave the bible study group or stay because of Patrizia, a horrible event changes his life.

Years later when he is back in his hometown as architectural journalist writing about depopulation and urban sprawl, he once again remembers the childhood event. He discovers something that he thought was gone forever.

Sample Text: Two old friends meeting at a train station after many years of not seeing each other.  Luki: ,,Das gibt’s ja night!…Wie lange ist das her?” Kurt: Du…ich muss leader auf den Zug.”  Luki: Ich begleite dich schnell. Wohin die Reise? Doch night etwa dahin, wo ich gerade herkomme? Ich arbeite zwar hier, wohne aber noch dort, hab’ ein Haus, hab’ zwei Töchter und zwei Söhne, ein Wohnmobil, und du, Kinder?” 

As the sample text evidences, this graphic novel offers a lot of valuable phrases and words that students would use in actual conversation.  Although the artwork is done in black and white pencil sketch, the text also offers a lot of pictures and entire pages that would be suitable to present various cultural situations, for example a man at a train station buying a ticket and checking the time (7).


Die Bekehrung Trailer


teenAs mentioned above, the language would be at an appropriate level for intermediate levels and up.  Instructors could use many of the pictures at all levels.   The text deals with the role of religion in society, and the plot revolves around a girl in the bible group who has been molested by the pastor and is pregnant.

Dinter, Tim.  Cargo. Avant, 2005.

ISBN 13: 978-3980942874

Cargo offers a series of reportages commemorating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.

In a kind of “journalistic exchange” comic artists from each of the two countries visited the other one and used their experiences to establish and maintain cultural dialogue.

Because this is an anthology, it contains a number of different topics dealing with the broader theme and also as many different styles of artwork.

From the foreword: “Schön ist es auch, dass jede Geschichte als Comic erzählt werden kann.”

Cargo cover

“Der Beobachter,” one of the stories in the anthology features full page scenes from places in Berlin (Alexanderplatz, U-Bahn, Spargelsaison, Oper, etc) with captions only and no other text. This would offer a great opportunity for any level of learner to use culturally authentic drawings to practice vocabulary.

Kreitz, Isabel. Deutschland. Ein Bilderbuch. Köln: DuMont Buchverlag.

ISBN-13: 978-3-8321-9621-9

The book consists of one page comic interpretations of events in German history, some mainstream, some more obscure. On the left hand page of each entry, Kreitz offers a brief summary or introduction to the graphic page.

Sample Text:   Kreitz’s caption: “Manns erste Deutschlandvisite. 1949. Erstmals nach 16 Jahren im Exil besucht der Schriftsteller Thomas Mann Deutschland, um am 25. Juli in Frankfurt den Goethe-Preis der Stadt entgegenzunehmen. Eine Woche später erhält er in Weimar den eigens ins Leben gerufenen Goethe Nationalpreis der DDR und hält die Frankfurter Rede noch einmal.”   

From the first frames of the accompanying comic page featuring Thomas Mann: “…ich kenne keine Zonen, mein Besuch gilt Deutschland selbst, Deutschland als ganzem und keinem Besatzungsgebiet! Wer sollte die Einheit Deutschlands gewährleisten und darstellen, wenn nicht ein unabhängiger Schriftsteller dessen wahre Heimat, wie ich sagte, die freie, von Besatzungen unberührte deutsche Sprache ist.”

Deutschland-Ein-Bilderbuch-Isabel-Kreitz-DumontOld pics3 6

Instructors could use these single pages to supplement other cultural or historical information learned in class.  For example, one page features women talking about the newly granted Frauenrechte.  Students could describe the visual aspects picture and then move on to answering questions about this page as an episode in the history of women’s rights in Germany. Finally, students could move on to analyses of the pages as works of art and interpretations in their own right.

Old pics3 4

Spiegel Online Review

teenThere is nothing objectionable in the subject matter, but some of it is written at a high linguistic level or requires extensive cultural knowledge.

Lust, Ulli.  Fashionvictims.Trendverächter: Bildkolumnen und Minireportagen aus Berlin. Avant, 2008. 

ISBN 13: 978-3939080329

Sample Text:  From a single panel titled Nostalgie: ,, Als ich das erste Mal im Westen auf’m Flohmarkt war, hab ich fast zu heulen begonnen. Da gab es wirklich alles.” 

From a multi-paneled episode entitled Einfach: Kind: ,,Mama, warum ist der Mann ein Neger?”Mama: ,,Ähm…” Der Mann: ,,Das ist ganz einfach. Ich bin ein Neger, weil ich bin in Deutschland. Wenn du gehst nach Afrika in meine Heimatland Nigeria, dann bist du eine Oibo.” (aside: oibo=weisser/weisse).  Kind: ,,Oibo.” 

This could serve as a great accompaniment to the film Schwarzfahrer, for example, that revolves around similar issues and takes place in public transportation.


Einfach Rahmen: this powerpoint presents the comic frame by frame.  Students can discuss what they see and how it is presented, compare to the visual aspects and impressions of Schwarzfahrer,  and finally move on to more abstract issues, such as the topic of multiculturalism and racism as well as artistic renditions of these issues.

This graphic novel presents a collection of previously published vignettes from observed scenes in and around Berlin. The book contains a variety of formats ranging from single page “snapshots” of urban life with economical captions (which would make wonderful writing prompts for intermediate levels) to largely wordless picture stories to colorfully presented dialogues in multiple panels.

Fashionvictims would supplement very well classroom instruction that deals with urban life, multicultural Germany, and contemporary German culture.  Nearly every page offers a panel that would make excellent material for lower level language classes where students use pictures to reinforce vocabulary and can use descriptions of authentic pictures as part of learning culture.

Old pics3 5Instructors could imagine using this picture, which is representative of many of the frames, as way to start with basic vocabulary/descriptions and then spiral up to more abstract issues or cultural questions.

[vimeo w=500&h=375]

Urban Observations: Ulli Lust from Janosch Delcker on Vimeo.

fashion victims coverfashion victims sample

everyone 10

Dinter, Tom.  Lästermaul und Wohlstandskind. Avant, 2011.

ISBN 13: 978-3939080589

Stories (reprints of pages that appeared in the Tagesspiegel) about 2 Berliners in their mid to late 30s.  The story covers takes place in the following areas of Berlin: Berlin-Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain.


Tagesspiegel Fotostrecken

Lästermaul coverLästermaul

rating pending

Fior, Manuele. Menschen am Sonntag.  Berlin: avant-verlag, 2005.

ISBN: 3-9809428-3-X.

Sample Text: The main character is looking for a certain bar in Berlin. “Es ist schon Viertel nach eins und ich habe diese bescheuerte Kneipe immer noch nicht gefunden. Und natürlich fängt es auch noch an zu regnen.”

A love story set in Berlin-Friedrichshain. Fausto wants to get together one last time with his friends before he returns to Italy.  His plans drastically change when he meets up with his ex-girlfriend.

Although this brief description based on a summary found on the publisher’s website seems to place this novel squarely into the category of does not convey the versatility that this graphic novel offers German instructors and learners for vocabulary, culture as well as visual literacy.

Menschen am Sonntag offers beautifully and strikingly composed pictures that provide artistically designed snapshots of Berlin. It also contains largely conversational speech often missing from conventional  textbooks. Because it focuses on the experience of an Italian in Germany, it could also serve as template of sorts for study abroad students to document their own experiences.


matureSex scene with somewhat distorted images but still discernible. Scenes in  Berlin bars and talk of drinking and drug use.

Schwartz, Simon. Packeis. Avant, 2012. 

ISBN 13: 978-3939080527

A story about Matthew Henson, who was the first person to reach the North Pole in 1909. He even made it into Inuit folklore as the man who beat the devil. He didn’t get the recognition he deserved because he was black.

packeis coverpackeis sample



everyone 10

Wietz, Helmut. Der Tod von Adorno. Berlin: Metrolit, 2013.

ISBN 13: 978-3-8493-0049-4

Sample Text: from the first three pages: ,,Nicht unweit von der Stelle entfernt, an der die Stör sich in die Elbe ergiesst, liegt ein kleiner Ort, der einigermassen bekannt als Schiffsbaustätte, sich ausserdem im Besitz einer kleinen Fähre befindet, die durch den  nimmermüden Fährmann Hermann C. Trollschack Tag und Nacht bewacht wird. So auch eines sonnigen Morgens im Frühling des wunderschönen Jahres 1968.” 

Essentially, this graphic novel is about the questions the younger generation asked their parents in the late 1960s about their involvement in the Nazi past. This pop-art style graphic novel had been started in 1968 and has now been rediscovered and finished.  Der Tod von Adorno revolves around the 1968 revolution, sexual liberation and also tells about an underground Nazi parallel society.  As one critic from Deutschland Radio formulated it: “The book is pure sex, Adorno and Rock and Roll.”

The bright, chaotic, emotionally infused, and at times visually disturbing pages of this graphic novel perhaps relay the story of the time (1968) as it really was.  The German press has even used the word “pornographic” to describe the scenes when Trollschack has cured his impotence after beating up NPD members in the streets of his town.  In fact, pornography also plays a thematic role in the novel as Trollschack’s group of revolutionaries talk about making pornographic movies, and members of companies like Flick, Krupp, etc. who turned profits during the Holocaust are sentenced to printing pornography. In a wildly ironic scene, men are seen wearing KZ uniforms and proofreading the magazines: “In diesem Prüfraum müssen alle Produkte for dem Versand durch Beate Uhse auf Druckfehler untersucht werden. Viel Spass!” (In this quality control room, all products must be checked for typos before they are distributed by Beate Uhse.)

der-tod-von-adornoder-tod-von-adornoseite50bild1uncoatkl- a page showing Wietz’s striking artistic creativity.

Frankfurter Rundschau Review

Reviews from Metrolit (Publisher’s) Homepage

Deutschland Radio Interview with a Critic

adultThis book would make a great accompaniment to studies of the 1968 revolution, Baader/ Meinhof, or even Adorno’s theoretical influence.  A thorough historical background on the time period, key players and main political issues, would be needed. The book contains graphic sexual scenes that would preclude its use at any level other than college or graduate level.

Rhue, Morton and Stefani Kampmann. Die Welle. Ravensburger Buchverlag, 2007.

ISBN 13: 978-473-58381-2

Sample Text: from the first two pages: ,,Es begann an einem ganz normalen Tag…: (two students speaking) ,,Sei bloss froh, dass du kein Französisch mehr hast. Ich hatte heute solche Mühe nicht einzuschlafen.” ,,Wenn ich nur an Mr. Gabondies Stimme denke, fallen mir die Augen zu!” ,,Hoffentlich hält er bei den Prüfungen den Mund. Wenn ich da verpenne, muss ich den Kurs wiederholen.” 

This is a German graphic novel version of the American novel, The Wave (Delacorte Press, 1981).  The novel discusses the question “How does fascism come about?” A young teacher decides to conduct an unusual experiment.  He wants to prove to his students that vulnerability to fascist actions and thoughts are always present.  But his experiment spins out of control.

Although this is not an original German graphic novel, I include it here because of the German feature film Die Welle, released in 2008. The graphic novel and the film can be taught together (which I plan to do this fall).  In addition to the plot and thematic matter, the two forms of visual media allow for a discussion of artistic choices and adaptation.

13053747_13053747_xl9783473583812_big From the Graphic Novel

1Film Poster from 2008


Media Comparison of Similar Scenes


An opinion piece about the inappropriateness of the medium for the subject matter

E for everyone

Hage, Anike, Gudrun Pausewang. Die Wolke. Tokyopop, 2011. 

ISBN 13:978-3473352944

Sample Text: from the first pages: [an alarm sounds]  Students: ,,Neun vor elf.” ,,Komische Zeit für einen Probealarm.” ,,Es stand auch nichts davon in der Zeitung.” ,,Das ist ABC-Alarm!” Teacher: ,,Wahrscheinlich stand’s doch irgendwo und ich hab’s übersehen.”  Intercom voice: ,,Der Unterricht schließt ab sofort! Alle Schüler begeben sich auf schnellstem Weg nach Hause.” 

This is a graphic novel based on Pausewang’s novel of the same name.  Germany experiences a nuclear catastrophe, and Die Wolke describes the escape of 15-year-old Janna from the radioactive cloud.  This novel is often classified under science fiction, but I have included it under Comic Journalism because of the implications of real world problems that it underscores. The entry also appears under literary adaptations because of its direct connection to the original novel.  As a way to make important cultural or current event connections, the instructor could use the  foreword written by SPD party member Sigmar Gabriel (in the 2011 Tokyopop edition). He ends the foreword with ,,Atomkraft, nein Danke,” –das gilt deshalb weiter.”

Visually, the novel features manga-like drawings with varied perspectives and panel sizes.  Word and picture match is often consistent, which would help with vocabulary acquisition and comprehension.

Booksection Critique 

die wolke coverwolke sample

everyone 10Nothing questionable in the text, but some aspects might require a more mature understanding of larger global issues.