Senate Comics Grants 2022: Berlin Image Worlds

A reclusive artist encourages a career criminal to confront his painful memories. A short-tempered activist, a conservative village community and a monster collide in a modern fairy tale. After emigrating to Germany, an Indian-Pakistani couple experiences the difficult balance between integration and the preservation of their own culture.

These and other stories are told by the winners of this year’s comic scholarships from the Berlin Senate, the most highly endowed German funding program for this art form, with a total of 63,000 euros.

As of this Saturday, the works of Everett S. Glenn, the winner of the annual grant, and the four other recipients of shorter grants, Sarnath Banerjee, Gregor Dashuber, Julia Beutling and Kai Pfeiffer, can be seen at the Museum for Communication in Berlin.

The exhibition, which runs until the end of October (Sat/Sun 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Mon closed, Tue 9 a.m.-12 p.m., Wed-Fri 9 a.m.-5 p.m.) was curated by the German Comic Association, on whose initiative the scholarships awarded since 2017 go back.

The Berlin independent festival “ComicInvasion” will take place for the twelfth time on Saturday and Sunday at the same location. There are readings, panel discussions, book presentations, book signings and an “Artist Alley” with dozens of artists and publishers’ presentations. More about this here.

In the following, we present the five projects funded by the Senate Culture Administration. The five artists will also talk about this on a panel on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Comicinvasion.

Everett S. Glenn: „The Nix: A Sort Of Memoir“

The artist Everett S. Glenn, who comes from the USA and lives in Berlin, made a name for himself as a cartoonist for the “New Yorker”, among other things. For his comic project “The Nix: A Sort Of Memoir” he received the twelve-month working grant of the Senate in the amount of 24,000 euros.

Another page from The Nix: A Sort Of Memoir.Foto: Everett S. Glenn

The main characters of his comic, which is infused with literary references and quotations from art and film history, are the fictional artist Wolfgang Aberhart and the professional killer ES Grimm. The latter is not only a criminal but also an artist, and we are encouraged by Aberhart to “accept the messiness of life, uncover its painful memories and accept its experiences,” as Glenn outlines the plot. “The Nix: A Sort Of Memoir” is “a pseudo-autobiographical story for mature readers”.

A panel from The Nix: A Sort Of Memoir.Foto: Everett S. Glenn

Externally, ES Grimm bears a certain resemblance to the artist, who introduced the character back in 2020 in his “Unsmooth” comic series, which takes an ironic and sarcastic look at the art world. There, however, the character is still called ES Glenn and, after a few failures as a painter, ends up on the wrong track.

Glenn’s pictures clearly refer to the Franco-Belgian comic tradition: he works with semi-realistic drawings in a clearly contoured retro look reminiscent of the Ligne Claire of the Tintin cartoonist Hergé. The coloring in bright, almost luminous colors is flat, some scenes appear almost surrealistic.

Sarnath Banerjee: Stories of Migration and Integration

Sarnath Banerjee, born in Calcutta in 1972, is an Indian comics author, illustrator and publisher who has been living in Berlin with his family for several years. In 2004 he published the book “Corridor”, which is considered one of the first Indian graphic novels and combines autobiographical elements with a fictional story.

Strange Homeland: A Scene from the Exposé by Sarnath Banerjee.Photo: Sarnath Banerjee

He received one of the three four-month, each endowed with 8,000 euros, for work on an episodic graphic narrative that is intended to convey stories of migration and integration using several characters, as he summarizes: “The story begins with Brighu – a wandering observer and unreliable narrator. As a restless explorer of the ordinary, he is like a detective wandering around Berlin without solving a case.”

City Life: Another Berlin Scene by Sarnath Banerjee.Photo: Sarnath Banerjee

At the same time, the story of the dissolution of an Indian-Pakistani marriage is to be told: “The relationship that has withstood the poisonous nationalism of two hostile countries for years comes to an end in a foreign country. After three wars, endless bureaucracy and a forced emigration to Germany. From a very specific existence, steeped in its own modernity, to a life with immigrants and the need to integrate. The couple struggles to survive in an identity-driven ecosystem and experiences a cultural crisis of non-belonging.”

When it comes to drawing, Banerjee works in a realistic, sometimes sketchy style, in which images and texts are usually placed side by side. Some sequences are in black and white, others are subtly colored.

Gregor Dashuber: „King“

Gregor Dashuber works as a director of animated films, storyboard artist and illustrator. He won a grant to work on the comic adaptation of John Berger’s novel King, in which a dog narrates the life of a group of marginalized people in a junkyard.

City of Shadows: A page from Gregor Dashuber’s “King”.Photo: Gregor Dashuber

“My interpretation moves the action to Berlin and refers to the residents of the former cuvry wasteland in Kreuzberg,” Dashuber summarizes his project. “In 2012, a village of huts with up to 200 inhabitants was created there, which was stigmatized as a “Kreuzberg favela” and cleared after a fire in 2014. My personal impressions and sketches from this time combine with the premise of the novel. Back then, the cuvry fallow became a symbol of protest against increasing displacement in the city.”

Another page from King.Photo: Gregor Dashuber

His comic asks the fundamental question: Who owns the city? Another aspect of the story is homelessness in old age: “It’s not about restoring dignity to the homeless, because I don’t think that’s possible. It’s about telling a sincere story about people so that we recognize their dignity again.”

Dashuber’s pictures, in which it is mostly night, have a very somber appearance due to a rough stroke and the liberal use of black with occasional sprinkles of color. They combine semi-realistic figure drawings with expressive backdrops in which much is only hinted at. In addition to expressive portraits of the main human characters, the exposé also features some almost surrealistic, nightmarish-looking scenes with a pack of dogs pouncing on a group of police officers.

Julia Beutling: „Being Monsters“

The illustrator and comic artist Julia Beutling has received another four-month grant to work on her web comic “Being Monsters”. It is, as she writes, “an adult contemporary fairy tale, drama and detective story. It’s also a modern adaptation of the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, centered on a short-tempered activist, a conservative community and, of course, a monster.”

Modern fairy tale: A double page from Julia Beutling’s “Being Monsters”.Photo: Julia Beutling

“Being Monsters” is a multi-year long-format webcomic and will be published since October 2021. So far, two chapters can be read there.

The cover of Being Monsters.Photo: Julia Beutling

The main human characters in Being Monsters are drawn in a clean, cartoony style. In contrast to this, the monsters that gradually appear are kept in a more expressive, wilder line. The sophisticated backdrops also catch the eye: opulent, fairytale landscapes alternate with naturalistic city scenes, fantastic and realistic passages merge seamlessly.

Kai Pfeiffer: “Donner corps à la ville – give shape to the city”

The illustrator Kai Pfeiffer should be known to comic readers through several publications, including the picture story “If you like more” created together with the Belgian Dominique Goblet and the series “Der Flaneur” created together with Tim Dinter.

A sequence from Kai Pfeiffer’s book project “Maisons hantées”, which is currently in progress.Photo: Kai Pfeiffer

This year he received the 15,000-euro six-month residency in the artist’s apartment of the Senate in the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris 2022/2023.

A strip by Kai Pfeiffer from a theater report on the occasion of the Berlin Theatertreffen 2019.Photo: As Pfeiffer

Stylistically, Kai Pfeiffer’s work is characterized by great diversity and a love of experimentation, as the above example from his long-term project “Maisons hantées” shows that he wants to continue in June during a residency in Toulouse and then in Paris.

There he wants to pursue a site-specific, documentary comic project, which he describes as follows: “Donner corps à la ville – giving shape to the city, consciously or involuntarily. For a documentary comic report, I want to follow up on two Parisian encounters: with a photographer and activist for the homeless, and with a professional dominatrice and BDSM performance artist. An intertwined diptych of parallel worlds – people as playthings of urban toughness; and as citoyens du plaisir, confident players with subtle experiences of dominance and submission.”

By Editor