Comic artist anke kuhl: “children like existential themes”

Comic artist Anke Kuhl: "Kids like existential themes"

  • For your children’s comic "Manno!"Anke Kuhl has been awarded the Max and Moritz Prize for her work.
  • Many of her stories are inspired by her own childhood.
  • A conversation about Wilhelm Busch, digital media and the best comics for young readers.

Ms. Kuhl, for your children’s comic "Manno!"This year you were awarded the Max and Moritz Prize. What do Max and Moritz mean to you??

When I was a kid, I had a volume of Wilhelm Busch’s pictures and verses, and I loved it very much. There were paintings by Busch in the back of the book, and even then I was fascinated by the fact that someone could not only draw wittily but also paint properly. I also always found the rhymes very funny. Busch had a flair for rhyming in unconventional ways, while always being accurate and deft. Some of his rhymes have entered our family jargon.

Do you think this "boy’s story" is still recommended for children today?

In any case. I think that still has wit.

Dive into childhood once again

"Manno!"is an autobiographical comic. They look lively and imaginative in the stories. Were you a self-confident child?

In a way yes. I was fortunate that my parents encouraged my sister and me in our development and creativity. As a result, I had a self-confidence in terms of language, humor and creativity. I was a fun-loving kid and enjoyed funny stories early on. But of course there was also insecurity and fear – for example, of Mr. Goebel’s three boxers, which I always had to pass on my way to school.


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What was it like for you to go back to your childhood for the book?

There’s still a lot of child in me, and I’m a person who remembers my childhood in quite a lot of detail. Preferably together with my older sister and with my friends who are in the book. This keeps it all very much alive. It was very intense to immerse myself in this time and not just talk about it with friends, but to depict everything – in other words, to stage my own childhood like a director. I couldn’t do it all the time: After all, you relive everything, the beautiful, but also the painful.

Carefree childhood through love and understanding

There’s also something historical about your book: living in a house with grandparents, raving about Abba, making prank phone calls. Isn’t it a very strange world for today’s children?

People of my generation, of course, easily recognized themselves in the stories and discovered much from that era. But I also got a lot of reactions from children: They feel addressed by the existential themes and experiences – like the fear of big dogs, fights with the sister or that we were caught stealing. On the emotional level, there are numerous themes in the book that are independent of time. This seems to be working for children and young people.

Was your childhood in the seventies easier and – cue social media – more innocent than a childhood in 2020?

It was definitely clearer. Today everything is faster and denser, and children experience deadline pressure early on, at least that’s the case in my environment. Digital media is already taking a good bit of wildness and freedom away from kids today, I think. But whether it was easier in the past? Hard to say. My sister and I had a good childhood: a house with a garden and places to retreat, there was always someone in the house for us, and yet we could be to ourselves. But I also had friends who grew up in very unhappy circumstances. In my view, whether a childhood is carefree depends above all on whether you are accompanied with understanding and love.

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