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Red pencil, Rosa Praunheim - and coming out was done faster

One can hardly overestimate how much the comic artist Ralf König, who was born in 1960 in Soest in Westphalia and now lives in Cologne, has contributed with his witty, popular works to making the heterosexual mainstream of society loosen up for topics of the gay scene.

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Red pencil, Rosa Praunheim - and coming out was done faster

One can hardly overestimate how much the comic artist Ralf König, who was born in 1960 in Soest in Westphalia and now lives in Cologne, has contributed with his witty, popular works to making the heterosexual mainstream of society loosen up for topics of the gay scene. König's breakthrough was "The Moved Man" (1990), whose film adaptation (1994) with Til Schweiger sitting naked in a closet became one of the biggest German cinema hits of all time.

König, who is one of the most successful German comic artists today and was even entrusted with a "Lucky Luke" homage by the heirs of the Belgian cartoonist Morris two years ago, has just published his latest work: "ABBA hallo" (Rowohlt, 25 Euro) tells with a smile about the contradictions of a time that gets cuddle fever because of the corona contact restrictions and disembodied avatar revivals of the Swedish band. Which books made Ralf König what he is today, he himself explains below.

Last year, Carlsen Verlag re-released the collected “Frustrated” comics by the great French illustrator Claire Bretécher as a thick anthology. In the early 1980s, these nervously and unerringly scrawled miniatures of all-too-human togetherness really impressed me! Whenever Rowohlt Verlag published one of the five volumes, I pulled the phone plug out of the wall to lie undisturbed on the sofa for two hours and study these incredible drawings in fascination! Consequently, Bretécher's line has had a huge impact on my own work.

These weren't adventure comics with monsters, spaceships and superheroes, here normal people sat on slouchy upholstered sofas and philosophized about the most banal of everyday problems. That was hilarious and still is! Especially the drawings: unmatched! The details! A bored saleswoman in a women's boutique yawns, but she yawns to herself, she doesn't want the annoying customer to notice. That typical closed-mouth yawn when the chin juts out and vibrates. Claire Bretécher drew these facial expressions and countless other details with quick strokes of ink, and I'm still happy about them forty years later.

What a time, when the planet still seemed endless and hid unexplored worlds, mysteriously terrifying and full of wonder. Embarking with a few daring ones on five tiny fishing boats and sailing out of Seville into the vast unknown, with the not unlikely possibility of starving and dying of thirst out there in the middle of the ocean, simply because there is nothing more to come.

A fascinating book that I have never forgotten after reading it decades ago. What the discoverers of that time, and in particular Ferdinand Magellan and his people, took upon themselves to circumnavigate the planet and finally find what is now called the Strait of Magellan reads in Stefan Zweig's unmistakable language like an exciting adventure novel.

Gay authors usually find it difficult to reach a larger readership with consistently gay stories. The mainstream is heterosexual and is quick to dismiss “queer literature” as reading material for minorities. As a comic artist, I'm very fortunate to be an exception, you can obviously achieve a lot through humor. As a writer, Peter Hofmann was not necessarily a humorous writer; he was active in the 1990s and the quality of his novels far exceeded that of the limited market. "Berlinsolo" really moved me thirty years ago.

I recently pulled the book off the shelf to read it again. A short love story of two men that goes disastrously wrong, but what happens there is so sensitively illuminated with words, the emotions, the hope, the doubts, the confusion and injuries of the narrator are described in such a comprehensible way that even when I read it again I completely was anxious. I had experienced something similar too. Suddenly the man doesn't want you anymore. It's just one of those relationship stories that completely throws us off balance for a while. The fact that Peter Hofmann no longer writes is a loss for gay literature. Or for literature at all.

When I was researching the Catholic martyr legend of the patron saint of Cologne, Saint Ursula, for my comic book “Eleven Thousand Virgins”, Karlheinz Deschner’s “The Cross with the Church. A Sexual History of Christianity,” and I learned a lot about chastity belts and whips for flagellation, and how it was better to roll naked in nettles than give in to the devilish temptations of the sinful body.

The great church critic has compiled the entire religious madness of hostility to the body, including feelings of guilt and atonement, with evidence, and it's worth reading! If it weren't so terrible and grotesque, it would be highly comical, and of course I made something funny out of it with my holy Ursula. Church and sexuality, a bitter topic that still concerns us dramatically, among other things because of the worldwide cases of abuse, and here you can find out in detail where the misery comes from and which centuries-old tragedy led literally astray.

Patti Smith came into my life with her debut LP "Horses" in 1977 and her music has accompanied me to this day. It's like feeling a kind of soul mate with your favorite artist. When she had hard times with severe human losses, I felt the same way, and the power and often evocative depth of her songs always gave me some orientation like a compass. Path that Cross. She has aged with impressive dignity and now writes books that decelerate pleasantly. “M Train” convinced me even more than the bestseller “Just Kids” about her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe.

With sensitive considerations, Patti Smith invites you not to overlook the small details in life, to pause in the café with a coffee cup in front of you, to perceive the moment, to reflect, to commemorate the deceased, to feel spiritually or simply to let your thoughts and dreams wander leave without aim. Who would have thought that this somewhat loud-mouthed rocker, who in 1979 gave a legendary stoned performance at Essen's "Rockpalast", would, forty years later, literally be "at peace" in the truest sense of the word?

A porn. Must be. Pornographic literature rarely jumps over the lowest bar, let alone the bars above it, since the description of something that is indescribable is usually embarrassing or boring, or at least somehow superfluous. "The Great American Gay Porn Novel" by Mike Shearer is a pleasure to read, however, because a fat dash of irony with impulsive pressure penetrates the reading smoothly, to put it this way. The book is called in German somewhat unimaginatively "Mark's Men" and is an entertaining ride through the base instincts and desires.

The trick: the author takes his job as a “pornographer” seriously and researches what constitutes “good” pornography and what constitutes “bad”. He has his own literary theories, which made sense to me as soon as I read it. My bulbous nose Paul, himself an author, copied a lot from the “great American gay porn novel”. And yes, it oozes from the pages with wet fantasies of underfucked pirates, oil-smeared auto mechanics and tempted Mormons, but all with a wink, like in a Tom of Finland drawing.

The complete works of Philip Roth take up nearly a meter on my bookshelf, and when I'm wondering what exactly is behind each title, I'm often not quite sure. Roth uses his alter ego to tell Nathan Zuckerman about his life, or maybe not very skilfully. Motifs such as terrible marriages with disturbed women or strange Jewish family relationships, demanding libido and frustrating aging run through the work and are often repeated without it bothering one, quite the opposite. Two opening sentences and Roth grabbed me, no matter what it's actually about.

I can't explain it to myself, it's this calm, focused language with which he illuminates his manhood and his place in the world. Perhaps a Nobel Prize for Literature would have explained to me what characterizes Philip Roth's books, but unfortunately the award never took place. I was particularly impressed by his novel Everyman, a sober and intelligent analysis of the gradual – and everyday – end of life. We don't even learn the name of the one who has to face the latest facts, and yet the reading is very close. And I've just gotten the urge to read Philip Roth again.

Alexander Braun writes about the earliest classics of comic literature, and he does it scientifically, well researched and very entertaining. The thick tome about "George Herriman's 'Krazy Kat'" is a showpiece that weighs a kilo and offers the colored Sunday newspaper pages of the very early and very weird comic book character Krazy Kat, collected from 1913 to 1944 annoyed with bricks being thrown at him and therefore constantly being arrested by Officer Pupp, who is a dog and is in turn enchanted by Krazy Kat.

Not much more actually happens, but how it happens! The constantly absurdly changing surreal backgrounds, the crazy colors, Braun sees the clear connection to surrealism and the Dada movement. Almost more interesting than the comics themselves, however, is the detailed, page-long foreword about the eventful CV of the illustrator, who had to hide the fact that he was black throughout his life. Alexander Braun wrote just as worthwhile about "Little Nemo", "Horror im Comics" and most recently about the "Katzenjammer Kids", and you learn artistically and biographically astonishing and exciting things about these pioneers of comic art, even if you haven't read the comics themselves wasn't on screen.

In 1978 in East Westphalia I discovered a paperback in the Soest train station kiosk that quickly put my life on the right track. I was just 18, I hadn't seen the film "Not the homosexual is perverted, but the situation in which he lives" to date, although there was a huge scandal about it on stuffy German television. Everyone, including the gays themselves, was outraged by so much uncomfortable truth and the call to stop hiding in fear.

I'm a bit glad that I didn't know the film, I suspect the artificial, queer demeanor of the protagonists would have put me off rather than encouraged me to come out. But the film dialogues and statements can be found in this book and still read like a manifesto! I didn't know a single gay man back then, there was just a lonely older man sitting at the bar in the village pub, who was rumored to be...

Praunheim's memoirs and film texts revealed to me that there is a lot to discover and fight for out there. I naively underlined the passages that were important to me with red pencil, which my father discovered a few weeks later when he was snooping around in my room in my absence.

So the coming out thing was done faster than I would have liked, and there was a lot of trouble. So Praunheim is a bit my artistic superfather, and thirty years later he even made a documentary about me. He recently turned 80 and is still uncomfortably active, only my old paperback is yellowing on the bookshelf like The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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