Friday, October 03, 2014

The Good, the Dead and the Spiky One

I know that I promised to cover DEATH IN COMICS next but since Today is the Day of German Unity I´m writing about a german comic instead. But don´t worry, there are still plenty of dead people in it like one of the main characters who is a dead cowboy ( not a zombie ). The other is a cactus.

Yes, from all the western comics that are - or have been so far - published in Germany this is one of the weirdest but also one of the most rewarding once you have discovered it. And there always was a big yearning for the days of " Yesterdays thundering hoof prints " were things were easier, or at least that´s what we think looking back from a romantic viewpoint.

And this fascination with cowboys and indians has been as strong - if not stronger - here in Germany as in its nation of birth. I already wrote about the western comics of my youth in WILD WILD WEST GERMANY but since it mostly covered western comics from BASTEI and in such publications as MV COMIX and ZACK I might do another one. For the moment let´s just say that western comics have always been a big part of german comics.

Originally the review of KAUBOI UND KAKTUS should have been part of my discontinued Erlangen 2014 Diary but I realized that I would do this under appreciated comic gem a great disservice by not giving it its own post.

And because the story of KAUBOI UND KAKTUS - at least my story with the comic - doesn´t start in 2014 but rather in 2010 so let´s borrow Doctor Doom´s time machine for a little joyride to the days of wild adventures.


In 2010 I attended the International Comic Salon in Erlangen, like I have done since I first discovered it´s existence. And like with most of my past Erlangen Diaries I only got around to cover the first day ( part 1 / part 2 ) so at least I´m not repeating myself. Because I didn´t discover the comic at the comic convention ( shame on me ) but rather at the release party in celebration of the release of the third issue entitled ZUM TEUFEL .

But like I said, I was oblivious to that. Back then I was still relatively young and relatively agile so activities after the comic convention had closed were still on the agenda. And when you´re in Erlangen - you know.

So my brother always had strange ideas about activities when we´re in Erlangen. Like for instance getting something to eat is not an activity for me. It should not be an activity. I mean, you have a car, you drive to the place where you want to eat and you drive back to the hotel afterwards. Right ? It´s not that easy for my brother. My brother´s idea of " going " to eat - and going is the operative word here - is to drive somewhere with the car and then walk for half an hour or one hour to where you are going to eat. And then walk all the way back to the car afterwards which makes you question why you used the car in the first place. Especially if it would have been quicker if you had walked from your hotel to where you ended up eating or if you chose a restaurant nearer to your hotel to begin with.

He´s all into climbing mountains just because they are there while for me there has to be a reason to climb a mountain. Okay, on our first night in Erlangen in 2010 we were looking for some nightly activities and as always money was a big factor. If you have been at a comic convention - any comic convention - you know that you never have enough money so you want to economize where you can. So going over the list of panels, discussions, exhibitions and parties that took place on the first night there was this country fest. For all country and western fans with country music and corresponding drinks like lemon grass beer and waldmeister wheat beer. Now that didn´t sound like your ordinary comic party and country and western is a music genre that is largely ignored in Germany.

I remember that the old house I grew up in in Neckarweihingen ( before we moved to Höpfigheim then Oberstenfeld and back to Neckarweihingen again ) had an old radio tuned into this station that only played Schlager, evergreens ( which in Germany is a word not used for the trees which are called Tannenbäume, but for songs which you would call oldies in the english language ) and country music. So I heard the Kufstein song as often as You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, Coward of the Country or Jackson. There were not a lot of german country bands so when Truck Stop entered the german Hitparade it was something special.

So there are not that many occasions to hear country music in Germany. I don´t think people know who Taylor Swift is here. Plus - and this was one of the main reasons - the entrance was free and at most parties you had to pay or be invited. I know, shockingly I´m still not part of the german comic vip scene even if I have connections to some comic veterans.

Anyway, we went to the party ( at least I know I did, my brother seems to have no recollection of it ) and I had a great time. Erlangen is kind of always the same in that you normally meet all the people at the parties you also bump into during the con so this was a welcome change of pace. Don´t get me wrong, part of Erlangen´s charme is that you can connect with the usual familiar suspects but it´s always nice to meet new people like when I stayed at the Vanishing Hotel with some MOSAIK fans.

The next day I went looking for the comic and as usual with german independent comics the booth was in the most remote and tiny area of the convention floor. I remember speaking with Landrömer ( the creator ) at length because I wanted to know in which issue the secret origin of Kauboi und Kaktus was. Like so often I planned to buy the comic at the last day but either I ran out of money or I forgot or both, in any case, although I liked what I had seen of the comic so far I never bought it.

So when I was wandering around the con in 2014 and came across his booth again I bought all 3 issues and even got some sketches. Normally I prefer to get sketches in my special sketch book but since he was already signing all issues he made a little sketch into each one. I got a chance to chat with him again as he was signing the comics and he was surprised that I remembered him from 4 years earlier but it was a really good party.


After this rather long prologue let´s finally talk about KAUBOI UND KAKTUS the comic. The art is deceptively simple and some would say the stories are very childlike. However if you care to look a bit deeper there is a sophistication to it akin to the teachings of the great philosophers.

In this strip cactus ( he can walk and talk )  helps out a sand glass who´s unhappy because " his time is running out " by turning him upside down.

This doesn´t solve the problem because even though the sand glass has now " gained time " he still " can´t get the loss of time out of his head ".

Cactus solution to the whole neverending viscious circle : to lay the sand glass down since " time stands still when you´re lying down ". Both the sand glass and time are at rest at the same time which is symbolized in graphic form by the sand glass´ shape that looks like the sign for infinity.

So what about the dead cowboy ? The story of the comic begins when this dead cowboy skeleton saves a walking and talking cactus with his lasso.

When the skeleton tries to shake the cactus´ hands he is warned that he will be stung but he replies : " Nobody stings the Kauboi. His hand has no flesh. Only bones. No pain. " which is the start of a long friendship. The eternal dessert is the setting where all their adventures take place as they start their long trek together. There are a lot of low puns and corny jokes but that´s all part of this world that works a lot with play of words and where the devil or Johnny Cash are character in the stories and cactus comes with his own water supply which is helpful in the dessert.

Judging from the title of the first issue VERRECKTE HUND you might think they are tough guys but besides their scary exterior that doesn´t seem to be made for making many friends deep down they don´t want to be alone.

All three issues are done in a different colour, but sadly I could only find some strips from the first issue on the old blog of KAUBOI UND KAKTUS .

You can see that Landrömer is just starting with the strip because he´s still sticking to the old three panels per strip formula. In the second issue, where the main color is black or at least a really dark blue, he starts doing panels across the entire length of the strip, full page splashes and vertical panels. In SCHNORCHELN OHNE BADEHOSE ( snorkeling without bathing trunks ) the desert takes a backseat as our fearless duo of heroes goes underwater to reclaim the Kauboi´s magic hat which he got from the devil. They encounter such strange creatures as Eelfredo, Calamarie and beeranhas and the cactus has to fight an underwater duel with the devil which he wins because he was clever enough to store some holy water.

I don´t want to get too deep into detail about issue 3 because this is where the secret origin of Kauboi is really told ( parts of it have been revealed in the first two issues ) and the heavy stuff happens. Fittingly the color of that issue is read even if the cover is yellow and black.

Now I didn´t find a lot of pictures of these 2 comics because most of the images I found were from the upcoming FLUSSFAHRT ( river trip ) album.

According to Landrömer the birth of the comic began at the river Lech on a hot summer day in 2001 when he doodled some skeletons on a piece of paper. He gave one of the skeletons a hat that looked like a lying down eight - the sign for infinity - and because he reminded him of a cowboy and since cowboys live on the prairie he drew a desert cactus next to him.

Even a man made of bones needs a friend.

The comic is not out yet but it looks like our two protagonists are taking a page out of Mark Twain´s TOM SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN down the river. This is clearly a much more ambitious project since Landrömer uses more colors here and even includes a few examples of art history.

But I´m sure that like its predecessors it is going to be a mixed bag of fun, adventure, philosophy and life lessons. If you don´t have them in your comic library already you can find them at all the finer comic shops.

For more about the comic you can check out the KAUBOI UND KAKTUS homepage or visit KAUBOI UND KAKTUS on facebook . There is also this review of the comic on TEXTEM ( sorry, only in german ) and I have to mention the homepage of the PULP COUNTRY DEEJAY TEAM which was the band at the release party and where I found the poster from said party.

Todays first video is from Truck Stop but I´ll keep Der Wilde, Wilde Westen, Take it easy altes Haus, Hello Josephine or Durch Sachsen ohne Anhalt for the right occasion. So here is a song about road safety : Die Frau mit dem Gurt ( The woman who wears nothing except for a belt ).

It´s a song I heard a few times on the radio but I never knew from which band it was so making this post did at least answer that question.

Another big country hit was Ruf Teddybär Eins - Vier by Johnny Hill.

I mentioned it in the post so here is Heino´s Kufstein song.

And since I just can´t end the post with Heino here is Frank Zander with Hier kommt Kurt which was probably the first german rap song ever.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best

1 comment:

Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

I cannot wait for comics.

Anyway, I'm guessing German fascination with the Wild West which was HUGE when I was a kid in the 1960s, is in no part due to the huge number of Germans who migrated there from the 1700s to 1900s -all those letters home about "the red men" and cowboys (who were, in fact, an outlaw gang but then the name stuck to all ranchers and ranch hands.
WAIT!!! I'm writing all this now before you've even finished the post!!!
I'm off.