It is the element of life but also brings death. It offers refreshment and relaxation, sometimes lurking in it eerie threats. And often it is an artistically attractive backdrop. In comics, water fulfills a wide variety of dramaturgical and graphic functions.
At the beginning of the summer, we asked comic creators and other experts for recommendations and added tips from the editors.
The idea came from comic networker Jakob Hoffmann, on whose YouTube channel “Stories
Here is a selection of the titles collected by the Tagesspiegel.
• “An Ocean of Love” by Wilfrid Lupano and Grégory Panaccione. What is special about this book is that Lupano (including “Die alten Knacker”) is first of all a really great author, whose stories and adventures unfold in front of you at the pace of a lively comedy as a film, while you laugh and cry with joy and emotion. .. or both.
“An Ocean of Love” is told entirely non-verbally, no speech bubbles, no spoken word. It’s about a couple who live in a small village on the coast. The man is a fisherman and drives out to sea in his tiny cutter every morning before sunrise. However, this time he has an accident, his boat is damaged, he cannot go back and has to fight for his survival at sea.
The wife waits for him at home anxiously and then, after a few days of worrying and hoping, decides to look for him on her own. A cascade of unfortunate and fortunate coincidences follow as both of them, separated by worlds, have to fight their way through hair-raising adventures and insane situations in distant lands that ultimately have repercussions on the entire planet. Among other things even on Karl Lagerfeld and Fidel Castro.
The drawings, in this case watercolours, by Grégory Panaccione hit the nail on the head, you fall in love with his cartoon characters immediately, you rejoice and suffer with them and you wonder when this adventure, which tells so much without words, will be filmed becomes. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. It’s a real experience as it is. Big cinema. On paper. Published by Splitter.
• Right off the bat and the first thing that comes to mind is Martin tom Dieck’s “The Innocent Passenger”, together with Anke Humidity Berger he has reinvented the graphic depiction of water, flowing, standing and in the form of waves in comics!
In the meantime, I discover the special circles and lines in comics and illustrations almost as often as the famous “Tim Burton trees”.
• I was also very impressed by Gipi’s “The World of Sons”, a family drama in/with a swamp… In general, it seems to me that something as “vague” as water is best captured with a black and white ink line.
• Hugo Pratt’s lulls with one to three horizontal ink lines are also in my mind.
• I find the “Watchmen” scenes, the comic within a comic, in which a shipwrecked man is floating on a raft made of corpses at sea, difficult to bear…
• In Bastien Vive’s “The Taste of Chlorine” the ink line ends on the water surface, that’s beautiful too… But the water here is a “safe place” and has nothing natural, no character of its own.
• “Version” by Hisashi Sakaguchi, an amazingly far-sighted underwater artificial intelligence thriller for the ’90s. One of the greatest comic depictions of the classic theme: what’s lurking beneath the surface?
• “Tropic of the Sea” by Satoshi Kon. The slightly different Ariel! An exciting mermaid story that also brings you closer to Japan’s traditional Shinto thinking.
• “A summer by the lake”: I really don’t know of any other comic in which summer immersion in a lake is staged in such a sensual way.
• Equally sensual and all adult erotic: an episode of Kan Takahama’s “Still Waters” in which a woman meets her lover in the bathhouse.
• The violence and beauty of the Antarctic waves and still waters is beautifully drawn by Emmanuel Lepage (“Voyage to the Kerguelen Archipelago”).
• “Naru Taru” – Appeared by Ehapa many years ago and has not sold well. For me, manga was key to how I make comics today. I can recommend volume 1 to everyone, after that the series is to be enjoyed with great caution and at times quite problematic. The first volume accompanies our 12-year-old heroine Shiina to a small Japanese island where she will spend the summer with her grandparents. Rarely have I felt the summer by the sea as much as on these manga pages. When city kid Shiina has a swimming race to beat all the local kids, I still hold my breath. Also when she makes a special discovery while diving, just before she loses consciousness and almost drowns.
• “After the Rain” – Published by Altraverse. A love story between a 17 year old and a 40 year old? This can only be a bad manga. But in “After the Rain” it touched me a lot because the manga does so many things right. It rains a lot in the story, especially when the heroine Akira appears, who we usually meet with an umbrella. And in Japan, when two people walk under the same umbrella, it means they are a couple. That’s why sometimes it’s better to get wet than start rumours…
• “Isaac the Pirate” by Christophe Blain. The sea is drawn there in so many different ways, in the most varied of moods, always simple, always to the point. Whenever I need an ocean template, I flip through these albums.
The following titles catch my eye on my bookshelf: • “Father and Son”, e.o. plauen (fishing, being by the sea, fountain, water as the place of the game) • “Calvin and Hobbes” of course again (fishing with the father, landing in the water with the handcart, water pistol games) • “Lucille” by Ludovic Deberme (the sea as Violence, but also as a hiding place when Lucille dares to undress while bathing, but can also hide in the water)• “The Lightness” by Catherine Meurisse (water as violence, as a nightmare scenario)
• My favorite water-themed comics are: “The Innocent Passenger”, “One Hundred Views of the Warehouse District” and “One more Word…” by Martin tom Dieck. Martin is an incredibly important draftsman and a role model for me. I got to know these publications in my early days as a comic artist and also saw them in exhibitions, they are strongly connected to Hamburg, the port, Comicsalon, and the discovery of the field of work and important influences. (“Influences” also goes with water – unlike the innocent passenger, I was happy, although I was literally swept away by my discoveries in comics. And I love Martin’s decisive, reduced and, for me, emotional style. Still the epitome of comics for me to this day.
• I’m also very fond of “Chalk Lines” by Miguelanxo Prado. The whole story takes place on an island, is a bit spooky, mystical, a kind of crime thriller too, with obscure characters, and I’m still not sure if I’ve discovered “the story behind the story” that the Miguelanxo Prado told me once indicated.
I was lucky enough to take part in seminars with both artists at the time, which I benefited greatly from and which I like to think about.
• My favorite title: “Into the floods!”. The volume takes me back in time to the trips I took with my parents to the French coast, it was like that! The many different people, completely overcrowded beaches, the smell of grilled fish. Like a little time travel. And always this feeling that the locals make fun of us all the time. David Prudhomme and Pascal Rabaté take me straight to the beach with the tape!
I find the panels on page 25 the most beautiful. A boy who runs into the water and laughs out loud, only up to his ankles. To run out laughing and tell everyone that the water is great. It’s always so exciting when you arrive at the beach.
• And spontaneously I would also think of these titles, which I find very beautiful: “The Taste of Chlorine”. Bastien Vivès lets me slide through the pool with him. The movements of the bodies with missing outlines once they are underwater amazes me. A truly impressive anatomical study. And a wonderfully tender and romantic story.
• “March of the Crabs”. My first memories of the beach and the sea include my enduring fascination with crabs. I can spend hours watching crabs in their pools filled with sea water!
In the “March of the Crabs” trilogy I now also get my own story. Revolution, anarchy and perfect punk names define these crabs. Honestly, with a crab named Guitar, I’d get the hang of sitting on the beach philosophizing until sundown.
• “An Ocean of Love.” When I think of the sea, I also think of fishing boats and the loud screeching of seagulls. The completely text-free story tells of one of these fishermen and the infinity of the ocean, the friendship with a seagull and love, and the enduring one, the eternal one! That which makes us dream when we look at the curvature of the horizon that we only see at the sea.
In “An Ocean of Love” the precarious situation of our polluted ocean is also pointed out. And not with the finger raised, but in a sad, real way. My absolute water scene begins on page 96, when the fisherman, his seagull and his cutter get caught in a heavy thunderstorm in distress.
• “Moon Face”. Nobody can draw more impressive pictures of water than Francois Boucq. The wave that adapts to the movements of the face of the moon and breaks in all shades of blue and turquoise. The water wave rolls across entire pages towards the holy egg republic. The most moving moment is of course in the first volume on page 135, in which Moonface forms the pillars of a cathedral with water over two full-page panels.
• Definitely Mawil’s “beach safari”. • Hellboy “The Third Wish”. • Reinhard Kleist’s “The Dream of Olympia” does not have water as its main theme, but it is very impressive.
• The waves and the sea are a diverse theme in comics, but hardly any comic artist could draw waves (and the swell) more beautifully than Hugo Pratt with his “Corto Maltese”. The beginning of the “South Sea Ballad” where Corto lies tied to a wooden frame on the waves is an iconic moment of the comics.
• Then the devastating force of the waves in “Valerian and Veronique” Volume 1 (“The City of Rushing Waters”), where the Statue of Liberty is knocked over and New York is submerged in lush vegetation. A harbinger of climate change.
• And most recently, in Maurice Tillieux’s Jeff Jordan series, Deadly Tide, where the heroes’ car on their way through the middle of the sea stops and the long, agonizing wait for the tide begins, there is no way ahead and no one back. And the sea rises relentlessly…
On the one hand, there are the classics that I read as a child and where the water scenes always gave access to the big, wide, strange world.
• For example with Tintin and Struppi. There are memorable scenes at sea in various adventures, especially since Captain Haddock has been a constant companion in the comics. This is the case, for example, in the two-volume stories The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Or also in “Coal on Board”.
• Water has always been absolutely important in the adventures of Prince Valiant, who is always travelling. Whether in boats on rivers for hunting or fishing, or with the Vikings on their long boats on their way to Africa or the New World. And then later, when he marries Aleta, Queen of the Misty Islands, the growing family is constantly traveling back and forth on some waters between the Mediterranean and Scandinavia. Of course, I found it particularly great because Hal Foster is a brilliant draftsman. His nature pictures are always impressive.
• And in Carl Barks’ Donald Duck stories there are plenty of wonderful scenes or stories that take place on, in or under water. Whether it’s a beachcombing competition with cousin Gustav Gans, deep sea diving, water skiing or fishing, Barks has the full range of water activities represented.
• Away from the classics, in the field of more modern comics, the first things that come to mind are Bastian Vivés’ “The Taste of Chlorine”, which takes place in the indoor pool, or “Rein in die Fluten!”. by David Prudhomme and Pascal Rabaté, in which they take aim at the summer joys of the city dwellers with a wink. And for youngsters, I recommend Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s A Summer by the Lake, although the lake doesn’t play that big a part in this holiday story. And for children, of course, “Jim Curious”, where you can dive into underwater worlds with 3-D glasses.
• Leanne Shapton deals with her time as a competitive swimmer in her book “Train Tracks” – in text and pictures. Not a classic comic, but a personal approach that brings memory and collecting into a serial form. Can be profitably brought together with “The Taste of Chlorine” and read.
• “Wonderful Summers”: Zidrou and Jordi Lafebre stage water and in particular the Mediterranean Sea perfectly as the place of longing for family holidays at a time when five people were still traveling in a Renault 4. Bittersweet.
• The sea in Goscinny’s The Great Crossing
• “The Wake”: Around the year 2200, land is beneath on planet Earth. The poles have melted, only the ruins of America remain. In his thriller “The Wake” Scott Snyder tells how it came to this. To do this, he mixes submarine survival horror and end-of-the-world sci-fi, stirs up sailor’s yarn like the legend of the mermaids with conspiracy theories about the “bloob”, that mysterious noise that scientists have recorded in the depths of the sea.
That Snyder doesn’t get lost in the jumble of action blockbuster plot, cultural history, pseudoscience and evolutionary biology underscores his skill as a writer. In 2014, “The Wake” consequently won the Eisner Award for Best Miniseries.
• “Red Rackham’s Treasure”: A sunken pirate ship, a treasure hunt, a futuristic one-man submarine in the shape of a shark: these are the ingredients of this classic Tintin adventure that is not only famous for its im underwater scenes drawn in a timeless Ligne Claire style can still fascinate younger readers in particular.
• “Strandsafari”: Charming early work by Mawil (“Children’s Land”), who later drew the Tagesspiegel, from 2002. Against backdrops reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts such as Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, the anti-hero named Supa-Hasi has a romantic confusing encounters with female beach beauties and faces the challenges of the sea – with mixed success.
• “The Underwater Welder”: Canadian Jeff Lemire uses black-and-white watercolors to tell the story of the fears and trauma of a professional diver and father-to-be. In this book, published in 2012, the sea becomes more and more a place of escapism and a gateway to another world in which he searches for his missing father – with eerie consequences that are reminiscent of the TV series “Twilight Zone”.
• “Dept.H”: The scratchy, sketchy line and the watercolor coloring that matches the theme give Matt Kindt’s underwater thriller series, which will be released in 2016, a handmade, personal impression. Although the story about the murder at a research station is more genre mainstream, the US cartoonist’s dark images, which work with narrow sections, fit perfectly with the claustrophobic plot.
• “Water Serpents”: Surrealistic fairy tale infused with elements of horror, in which the sea and its inhabitants play a central role. It has just been published in German by Cross Cult. In sometimes drastic images, the Mexican Tony Sandoval tells of the erotic relationship of a young woman with a magician in the form of a girl, at whose side she is drawn into a life-or-death struggle.