A theatrical release of a documentary film about a German comic artist is quite an event. As I write this, König des Comics might still be shown in some German film theaters, and it has yet to be released in other countries. Therefore, I thought I’d post a short review of it (although there already are competent reviews online, e.g. an English one by Joe Walsh at CineVue and a German one by Lida Bach at kino-zeit.de).
This comic artist is, of course, Ralf König. Despite his gay subcultural background, he is probably Germany’s best-known living comic author, so the film title is more than just a pun on his last name. As a biographical documentary, König des Comics succeeds in telling us a lot about Ralf König that we (or at least I) didn’t know before. Instead of using a lot of original early video footage (of which there simply wasn’t much, I guess), the film relies primarily on interviews with König himself and other people who either played some role in his life, or who are just gay celebrities (e.g. Hella von Sinnen). In between we get to see König doing a reading of his comics, talking to a Swiss fan, or hanging out with friends.
There’s nothing wrong with that as a method, but my problem is that the film shows a very personal side of König. Given that the film was made by gay director Rosa von Praunheim, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it emphasises König’s homosexuality, his coming out, his gay rights activism, etc. While such a perspective surely needs to be covered in a film on an author of gay comics, I would have liked to learn less about him as a person and more about him as an artist.
König is shown reading his comics along to a slide show, but hardly ever drawing them. That is a pity, because the film only hints at both the quantity and the quality of his output. I must admit that I haven’t been following his work since Sie dürfen sich jetzt küssen (2003), but König has published at least one book a year since that. For me, König des Comics was also a reminder of what a masterful draughtsman König is, however fleetingly the film treated this aspect. In itself, I don’t think it’s a particularly good film, but at any rate, it makes you want to read König’s comics again, and that’s not the worst thing a film can achieve.
Rating: ● ● ○ ○ ○