The fourth edition of the GRRR! International Festival of Comics, organised bz Pancevo Cultural Center, was held in Pancevo in September, 2005. Among the guests was Ralph Palandt, Munich 's underground filmmaker, photo-comics creator and (for this occasion) curator of an exhibition dedicated to Superhero comics during the WW2…
Ralf Palandt: ” As a child I wanted to make movies. But no one would give a film camera to some green kid. Then I discovered comics as an alternative way to tell stories in pictures. As I couldn't draw, I made (and still make) photocomics…In the early 90s I published them along with the works of other comic artists in my own underground comic magazine KROMIX (later my stuff was printed in other magazines as well). Each time a new issue came out I would throw a party with live punk and 60s garage bands, with screening of short trash movies made with cheap “super 8” camera. That's how I finally was involved in film making, so besides comics I made “super 8” films as well.
Comics can be used as an instrument to manipulate people's opinions. If you want to learn how comics work and about their influence on people, just have a look at propaganda comics like superhero stuff during WW2, as shown at the exhibition that I curated for the latest GRRR! Festival. I studied communication science (how communication works, that is), and probably that's why I believe that working with and looking at little pictures in sequences is nice, but media research is just about necessary. That's the background of my involvement in theme-exhibitions such as this one in Pancevo. In Germany I curated an exhibition about comic book depictions of the holocaust...
Still, in Western Europe, most people (and even some organizers of comic conventions!) would identify comics with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and not much else. For this reason I'm very happy that Aleksandar Zograf and his team have a sophisticated view of comics and invited me to take part in the GRRR! Festival with the possibility to present all sides of my work.
As for the situation in Germany, we have had a lot of comics festivals in the past. Each event was projected to be as large as possible, and most often funded through the local communities. But the local authorities have started to look for the ways to save money, and that's why many events of this type were canceled in the last few years. Culture events are usually the first on the list to be cancelled by the authorities. The crazy thing is that it's much more difficult to do a small event - getting money is much easier if you plan something large, despite the fact that they are more expensive and there's a higher risk of failure. And it's harder to get visitors for a little festival, too.
The largest event on-going in Germany is the Comic Salon in Erlangen (held over four days in June). They organize a lot of exhibitions and programs, and comic industry along with top cartoonists and publishers from all over Europe are there. For this reason people from all over Germany are coming there to spend much money and time on comics. The festival is so large that they can't hold it every year. So it's a biannual event. For most of the visitors the program is too large to see in its entirety. And that's a pity. And after each festival there is this questioning by the local authorities whether they should be financing it next time or not.
In Munich, we have the Comicfest München (www.comicfest.de) and my own project, called Comicologischer Congress (www.comiccongress.de and www.comiccongress2004.de). Now there is a plan to join these two events together and make a larger one, named Comicfestival München. It should take place every two years like the Comic Salon in Erlangen, but in years when the Comic Salon in Erlangen is not held.
Compared to these festivals in Germany, GRRR! is a much smaller event, but motivated by a love of the art form of comics. And this format has its advantages, too. As a visitor you can see all the exhibitions and the entire program. And you can afford to organize it every year. Plus the atmosphere is more intimate - you can get in direct contact with all of the artists. That's good because at GRRR! festival you can really meet cartoonist from all over the world! That's great, actually.
In some ways, GRRR! is similar to the “Fumetto” festival in Lucerne, Switzerland (www.fumetto.ch). In Lucerne, the art of comics is more the focus than comics as a product for a mass marketplace (with merchandising and so on). But, as I said before, events of that kind are not possible to hold any more in Germany.
Before the GRRR! festival I knew nothing about comics in Serbia. I knew only the work of Zograf because a small part of it was shown at the Comic Salon in Erlangen and published in Germany. Now I'm fascinated to see that Serbia and/or Yugoslavia was an el dorado of comics (both domestically produced and in translation) in the past.
The new Serbian comic scene - as far as I could see - is very social-political, with rough and dark drawing styles. Most of the cartoonists seem to be self-educated. This reminds me of the comic scene in Germany in the ‘80s and ‘90s. That scene was influenced by the American and French underground comics from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Today most cartoonists active in German comics are coming from art schools. They are creating light and harmless stories without any political content, delivered in a very nice and "stylish" way, and are motivated by a wish to get into the much more prosperous field of advertising. I miss the power of stories that come out of the author's wish to communicate his or her ideas. For this reason I feel a lot of sympathy for the new Serbian comics creations that I saw at the GRRR! festival”…