Kills diversity comics

Cultural education

René Mounajed

To person

Dr. René Mounajed, born in 1976; Comprehensive school director in Lower Saxony. Dissertation on "Comics in History Lessons" (2009), numerous publications on comic didactics.

Comics as a medium are very well suited for use in historical-political educational work. History comics can be divided into different categories, which are based on historical facts and figures to different degrees.
Link to the "Write History Comic Plots" method.

In history didactics, it is not new, but it is topical again to think of history as a narrative [1], both in academic treatises, didactic presentation texts in school books, museum productions, historical television documentaries, historical novels and history films as well as in history comics and graphic novels [2 ]. What all of the products mentioned have in common is the intention or intention of the respective producer to deal with a topic that took place in the past, i.e. that can be located in contemporary history at the earliest. [3] In the question of which claim is made with regard to historical accuracy or correctness, they differ; One will assume that a historian with his or her specific specialist skills is 'closer' to historical reality, can ask skilful questions about the past and answer them more elaborately on the basis of both analytical and empirical procedures. The recipient thus receives an offer to expand and profile his or her historical expertise. The artist is more likely to be assumed to approach the historical 'thing' less cognitively and professionally, but more imaginatively and emotionally, to let the imagination become the historical source. Fantasy worlds will arise that hardly allow historical learning in the sense of a gain in technical competence. This distinction sounds plausible. After all, artists using the criterion of historical validity as proof of the quality of their works are in principle not allowed, but historians can. But what if you asked Ruth Klüger if the artist himself or herself considers paying attention to the aspect of historical validity according to the motto that whoever writes about real things shouldn't disregard real things (Ruth Klüger)? [4]

Then it would be advisable to differentiate between categories of historical validity within the respective art genres and also to subject art to an 'examination' with regard to validity. I made such a categorization as part of my dissertation [5] for historical comics with the result that a large part of the products recorded (61%) can actually be classified as 'not historically valid'. [6] Conversely, it is of course also true that 39% can very well be described as historically valid, whereby - as will be shown - the aspect of historical validity must be specified more precisely within the group. In principle, comics of all three categories can be used for work in history or politics lessons, but the objectives are different: while history non-fiction comics and history novel comics are primarily used to develop deconstruction skills, i.e. the ability to recognize that history constructs is, contribute, and sharpen history-fantasy comics, above all, the handling of historical culture.

In the following, the examination of two works by the comic artist Isabel Kreitz ("The thing with worry" and "Without bearing") and a work by the comic artist Walter Moers ("Adolf - Der Bonker") will contribute to the relationship between To explore art and historical relevance in more detail in the history comic.

"The cause of concern. Stalin's spy in Tokyo" by Isabel Kreitz

The history comic deals with the biography of Dr. Richard Sorge (1885-1944). Officially he worked as a journalist for the Frankfurter Zeitung in Japan since 1933, but unofficially he worked as a Soviet spy. Obviously well camouflaged, Sorge went in and out of the German embassy in Tokyo and even received intimate insights from ambassadors about the planning of a German attack on the Soviet Union. Sorge immediately forwarded this information to Stalin in May 1941, but to no avail: Stalin did not trust Sorge in this regard. Sorge was finally exposed in October 1941 and executed in Japan in 1944. Fame and honor were only given to concern in the socialist world after Stalin's death, until then he was kept secret and denied.

In her work, Kreitz mainly focuses on the last "dramatic" months before Sorge's exposure from May to October 1941. In addition, she allows companions from the past to have their say as contemporary witnesses in a quasi-interview situation of a later present.

Fig. 1: The thing with worry, p.99, P 4.
But how realistic is what is shown? How exactly historical can this production be assessed? First of all, it can be said that Kreitz worked on this historical comic production for over two years. She carried out extensive plot and image research. This can be seen in the visual design of their figures, for example. B. that of Richard Sorge (see Fig. 1).

It turns out that she works closely on the original artwork and uses photography documents as a guarantee of authenticity. The use of so-called picture quotations is a typical procedure when creating a history comic.

In an interview, Kreitz gave specific information on how she dealt with history. So she notes in relation to the representation of the scenes:
    "I visited Tokyo in 2000, but I have no idea what it looked like and what it was like seventy or eighty years ago. I spent a lot of time looking for photos and found that it was in In contrast to European metropolises, there is almost nothing at all. [...] What I then had available were three issues of National Geographic from the thirties, a Japanese illustrated book with photos across everyday Japanese life and a book with Japanese architecture from the Time. I then reassembled the details from the few pictures to create new street scenes. [...] "
So much for the difficulties of image research and how to deal with it (see Fig. 2).
Fig. 2: The thing with worry, p. 127, p. 1

With regard to the plot research, she names several monographs from different places of publication as the basis of the material, which are quite controversial to one another, or recently published sources, such as radio messages from Sorge, which were picked up in Vladivostok and others.

With regard to the question of the historical content, it can thus be briefly attested: Kreitz probably used all available sources for both the plot and the drawings. She has neither added people nor events or deliberately withheld essential aspects. Accordingly, Kreitz does not present a historical fantasy; it can actually be assumed that she wants to work out a historically valid account of history in the form of a comic. But a complete exclusion of your own fantasies is not possible despite this self-claim. This is already clear from the thought and speech bubbles used in the medium. So it is impossible to know what people "really" thought and it is only rarely possible to record with certainty what they "actually" said. The comic artists therefore not only have to close visual gaps (design of the panels), they also have to fill verbal gaps. What we are offered in the history comic are the imaginations of the artists on a certain historical issue. This also applies to history films and, in general, to any story telling. For the reader, these historical imaginations initially mean a confrontation with "foreign imaginations" that can stimulate the formation of their own ideas. The artists stage a past world of facts and fictions for their readers whose constructive character is already evident the graphics and aesthetics of the medium become recognizable. Ultimately, it is the historical awareness of the respective artist that reveals a history comic. If one regards the fictitious closing of the gaps as "obligatory fictions", then a history comic is like "The thing with Worry "a product that is based on" non-obligatory "additions, such as B. the use of fictional people, completely waived. Such history comics could be categorized as history non-fiction comics.

"Without bearing" by Isabel Kreitz

This history comic is set mainly in Hamburg in the 1980s, but also delves into the historical depths of the Second World War in sequence. About the plot: The student Jens doesn't really want to hear anything about National Socialism, this epoch has already been the subject of his school lessons three times. What his grandfather had to say about back then, however, now arouses interest from Jens. During the last months of the war, his grandfather was a mechanic during the final assembly of a new type of submarine, Hitler's last hope for a turnaround in the naval war. Having become curious, Jens and his friends go to look for the bunker "Elbe II". There they meet an old man at the port of Hamburg whose function there is not apparent; he tells them his story. that the old man took part in one of the last patrols as a submarine man (his military rank remains unclear). Finally, he gives each of the boys a Nazi badge as a souvenir of this "history lesson", as he says. Back at school the next day, these badges - the boys wear them for fun, as they claim - attract negative attention. Eventually the school principal collects the badges and suspends the students from class for a week as a punishment; rather, the students perceive this as a reward. Obviously right-wing classmates then offer the boys to want to pay a lot of money for such original badges. Driven by the intention of this profit, the boys make one more trip to the old man. The old man now turns out to be in the literal sense of the past, who, in his opinion, is still in the Second World War (see Fig. 3).
Fig. 3: Without bearing p. 36, p. 1-3

He interprets fireworks, fired on the occasion of a port birthday, as an attack by the "Tommys". He armed himself to defend the bunker systems and wants to make the boys responsible as a team. When the old man's madness becomes too much for them, they become the old man first threatened as deserters with his old war pistol and finally shot, making them the last victims of the Second World War in the port of Hamburg (see Fig. 4).
Fig. 4: Without bearing p. 44, p. 3-5.

What historical content or value can one ascribe to this historical comic production? First of all: the history comic is an astute and pointed topic of coming to terms with National Socialism in the 1980s in the FRG: the learners are admonished to be concerned, are given the topic over and over again - and still cannot really get anything from the topic. Or is it? Through the main character Jens, Kreitz relentlessly confronts us with a fascination with National Socialism and war that apparently is never really meant - or is it? What should adults do when teenagers walk through school with swastikas - trivialize or criminalize? The headmaster ultimately does both, but only half-heartedly. Instead of entering into an intensive dialogue with the students, there is no school. But even at Kreitz, fun becomes serious: the insane old man, who is serious about his ideology, kills the kids of the fun society. No more fun.

In comparison with "The thing with worry" the following results: The characters in "Without bearing" are all made up. But, with the exception of the insane old man, there could have been them. This also applies to the plot: apart from her horror utopia in the last third of the volume, Kreitz realistically depicts the handling of National Socialism in the FRG in the 1980s. And the image details here again reveal extensive image research that the Production has preceded. In "The Worry thing" all the characters appearing are authentic; they existed. The events, the known "facts", were also taken into account. The presentation of history is therefore factually correct. The question of authenticity is different in the case of "Ohne Peilen": Inventions added to history are made here - but they do not lead to a counterfactual representation of history. And here, too, the following applies: the artist's awareness of history becomes evident. History comics such as "Without Bearing "can be used as History novel comics describe.

"Adolf - Der Bonker" by Walter Moers

As an example for History Fantasy Comics the series "Adolf" by Walter Moers is used here, which is now available in three volumes. The third volume "Der Bonker" from 2006 has been selected for consideration in the following. Moers mentions in the editorial that he really wants to report the truest truth about the life of Adolf Hitler in the Führerbunker in this volume. He satirizes the statements of the historians Guido Knopp and Joachim Fest, who actually claimed in the context of the premiere of the film "Der Untergang" (2004) by Bernd Eichinger to know exactly what was there in those last days really happened.

First, Moers presents the driver's bunker from the outside and inside (see Fig. 5).
Fig. 5: The Bonker - inner cover o. S. (reduced)

At the center of the plot is Hitler's confrontation with - all of them fictional - unwanted visits or calls from prominent people, such as B. Mahatma Gandhi, Eva Braun, Hermann Göring, Michael Jackson and others. in the last days before the surrender (see Fig. 6).
Fig. 6: The Bonker, undated

In the context of the film release of "Der Untergang" Moers' satirical effect on the claim to truth made by Fest and Co. was appropriate irony. On the other hand, viewed a little more soberly, it emerges that Moers only combines certain aspects beyond the limit of shame and thus creates comic: It is a matter of fact here about the shame boundaries of sexuality, not only in relation to the matter, but also in relation to the language, and the funny view of National Socialism. In the two previous volumes one and two this combination was chosen by Moers even more drastically, from history is There is at most a hint of it, but this third volume does work with historical particles. They are necessary for entertainment and this is in the foreground in the production of a historical fantasy comic. Readers should not expect anything that is historically instructive here. Even historical awareness the artist does not reveal a story fantasy comic. However, this does not necessarily mean that the artist has no idea of ​​the respective historical subject, on the contrary. Even "Der Bonker", through many subtle allusions to details, allows the conclusion that its producer, Walter Moers, must have dealt intensively with the history of National Socialism in advance.

The sub-genre of history comics

The processing of history in history comics can therefore be described as qualitatively different. The history didactician Michael Sauer comments on this as follows:
    "Sometimes a historical situation only serves as a backdrop, sometimes a comic book plot and historical background are closely intertwined; sometimes historical characters play a leading role, sometimes they just appear as a mark of the historical situation." [7]
Whether a history comic offers a meaningful (i.e. historically valid), perhaps even instructive approach to history depends mainly on the artist's intentions and the resulting creative process. This "intention" is the decision for or against the claim to want to develop a historically valid product. If the decision is positive, historical research in the further creative process is inevitable. This often leads to a collaboration comic artist Pascal Croci, who wrote a history comic about the concentration and extermination camp "Auschwitz", sums up the goal of all these efforts as follows:
    "I am neither a historian nor do I write documentation, but I have tried to reconstruct the course of events as factually as possible." [8]
Research into a comic book product is made up of two aspects: the plot and the image detail research.From a historical didactic point of view, both aspects are at most equal to each other. A researched, authentic image detail such as B. a medieval knight's armor or an early modern explorer's ship certainly has a high intrinsic value in a visual historical narrative; but if the associated plot is to be assessed as ahistorical, the image detail also loses its relevance with regard to historical learning. Depending on how intensively and how competently this image detail and plot research is carried out, and what role fictional elements then still play, a not only entertaining, but also historically instructive product of historical culture will emerge. The historian and history teacher Hubert Mittler rightly points out in his dissertation that those who are historically knowledgeable should handle an analysis of the image representation more generously than that of the plot. In principle, it cannot succeed in producing completely visually authentic past worlds. This also applies to the plot, but here the primacy of facticity can certainly be applied more closely as a guideline. Such rigor would not be very productive with image details - especially from a didactic point of view. Mittler writes in relation to his comparative study of "Prinz Eisenherz" and "Die Türme von Bois-Maury": "There is expressly no attempt to identify everything and every thing depicted in the comic, i.e. clothing, furnishings, architecture, agricultural representations and To examine descriptions of different social groups and to compare them one to one with the specialist literature. It is not very productive if comic drawings and historical sources are constantly weighed against one another. It seems more interesting to analyze the effectiveness of the mass drawing material; the didactic aspect in to the foreground. "[9] If an artist decides against the claim of historical validity, the aspect of research becomes optional. As a rule, fantasy products are now created with the intention of entertainment; the reader must not expect historical education as a reading result. That it was in this fantasy realm However, there are also mixed forms that can then even be historically instructive. B. the series "Asterix": The plot of "Asterix" is ahistorical and therefore it is a fantasy product: There was no Gallic village that was 54 BC. Was able to evade Roman usurpation by means of a magic potion. But z. B. the depiction of ancient Rome, which is often the setting for the series, is historically correct and is based on intensive research efforts by the artists.

For the didactic positioning of historical non-fiction comics and historical novel comics in history and politics lessons

  • Reading historical comics motivates the students and should arouse their interest in the respective historical topic.
  • Reading historical comics can illustrate historical aspects: The students concretise and deepen their knowledge of the respective historical facts.
  • The main characters of history comics are very often the "little people" who are not in the spotlight of history; reading history comics can thus add perspectives to a historical issue and contribute to a multi-perspective history lesson.
  • Due to their narrative, but rigid structure, history comics always offer reasons for deconstruction: the history comic immediately reveals that history was 'made' with it. Starting from him, the constructive character of all history can be discussed.
  • target groupPupils in secondary levels I and II
    materialInstead of a complete reading of comic albums, it is better to use selected sequences (approx. 3-5 album pages) in history lessons.
    procedureThe students receive the selected comic sequence in copied form or in the original, provided that a class set of the comic is available. The reading work is done individually. Then both the content of the sequence and the historical content conveyed in it should be discussed in a joint classroom discussion (or first in small groups and then in the large group). Not only the plot itself, but also selected image details that are considered remarkable by the teacher or the students as well as aesthetic criteria can be taken into account. Afterwards, it is advisable to give the students a work assignment that prompts them to develop their own related narrative action.
    Didactic placeAlthough history comics can be used both in the introductory and development phases, it is recommended to use them as a medium for deepening: Based on the knowledge they have acquired about historical facts, the students can now competently examine the narrative plot of the respective history comics and its constructive ones Easily recognize character. In addition, the "power of narrative images" could now ensure that the content is permanently anchored in the knowledge of the students.

    further reading

    Memminger, Josef: Students write history. Creative writing in history lessons between fictionality and facticity, Schwalbach / Ts. 2007.

    Mounajed, René: History in Sequences. About the use of history comics in history lessons, Frankfurt / Main 2009.

    Mounajed, René / Semel, Stefan: Comics tell a story. Sequences from comics, manga and graphic novels, Bamberg 2010.

    Palandt, Ralf: The Holocaust in Comics - Taking stock of an uncomfortable subject. In: Comixene (2005) H. 86/87.

    Semel, Stefan: Comics in Problem-Oriented History Lessons: They're crazy, the comic artists. In: New contributions to problem-oriented history teaching, ed. by Uwe Uffelmann, Idstein 1999.

    Used literature

    Kreitz, Isabel: The thing with concern, Hamburg 2008, Carlsen.

    Kreitz Isabel: Without bearing, Hamburg 1995, Carlsen.

    Moers, Walter: Adolf - Der Bonker, Munich 2006, Piper.