Frankfurt: German Comic Book Scene Grows in Partnerships

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At Frankfurt Book Fair’s comics center, German publishers say they’re expanding into manga and manwha.

Cécile Béran from Ludwigsburg-based publisher Cross Cult gives a talk at Frankfurt Book Fair’s comics center. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Jaroslaw Adamowski

By Jarosław Adamowksi | @JaroslawAdamows

German Publishers Bet on Manga, Manwha
Germany’s comic book creators are seeing a rise in demand for their work from established French and American publishers, and they say they can count on an increasing number of state-run programs to support their activities.

At the same time, German publishers are heavily betting on Japanese manga, sales of which are booming. They say they also hope South Korea’s manhwa comic books might be the next big thing in the German market.

Thilo Krapp, a German comic book creator and member of the Illustratoren Organisation union—which represents the creators’ interests—says at Frankfurter Buchmesse that the past years have brought a rapid increase in French-German comic book collaborations. American publishers are also reaching out to Germany’s creators with job offers,Krapp says.

“More and more comic book creators from Germany are now working for Disney or big French publishers such as Dargaud, he says. “This is making our industry more visible, and makes it possible for us to receive more support from the authorities.

“The state of Bavaria wants to support its comic creators, and they came to us for help and advise on how to distribute it,” Krapp says.

“There are also other German states that want to support our creators. Our union organizes events which highlight the importance of our work for the German culture, and we have also produced a movie on Germany’s comic book creators.”

Growing Interest in Comic Books for Mature Audiences

From left: Thilo Krapp, a German comic book creator and member of the Illustratoren Organisation union; Marion Pauls from German comics publisher Carlsen; and Michelle Wilde, the key account manager at German manga specialist Altraverse. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Jaroslaw Adamowski

Marion Pauls from the German comics publisher Carlsen says that the company’s portfolio of Franco-Belgian comic books, featuring beloved characters including Tintin, Spirou and Fantasio, and Gaston, remains very important for the company and has a loyal following among German readers. At the same time, Carlsen continues to expand its offer with titles designed for mature audiences, and is keen to explore challenging, often politically charged topics.

“We publish Turkish creator Ersin Karabulut who specializes in politically engaged comics, and explores various themes, such as freedom of expression,” she says. “Another of our releases, Kate Charlesworth’s United Queerdom, is a graphic memoir which depicts what the 1950s were like to LGBT persons.”

German Publishers Add South Korean Manwha to Portfolios

Michelle Wilde, the key account manager at German manga specialist Altraverse, says that some five years after the company entered the market, it’s now the country’s No. 3 manga publisher.

“Altraverse posted 80-percent growth during the pandemic, and are excited to see that our sales continue to progress. We publish Japanese manga, but we also publish manga by German creators whose ranks are expanding,” she says.

Wilde says the company hopes to capitalize on the dynamically rising interest in South Korean “K-pop” culture, adding manwha, the country’s comic books, to its portfolio in 2024.

In line with that, Cécile Béran from Ludwigsburg-based publisher Cross Cult says that the company is also determined to expand its portfolio with South Korean comic books, increasingly popular among European readers.

“Our biggest intellectual property right now is Japanese Demon Slayer manga, but we’re also working on many other categories. In 2022, we launched a young adult book imprint.”

Among the company’s major recent launches is I’m Still Alive, a comic book by Italian journalist Roberto Saviano and Israeli artist Asaf Hanuka, It describes Saviano’s ongoing battle against the Mafia, according to Béran.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on comics is here, and more on international rights is here.

Now available here for your free download, our 2023 Publishing Perspectives Frankfurt Book Fair magazine

Our 75th Frankfurt coverage from our Frankfurt Book Fair Magazine, which has been available throughout the trade show in print, is also available for your free download.

The magazine has more interviews with fellows and grant-program recipients from international publishing markets, as well as previews of programming from our Publishing Perspectives Forum at Frankfurt including our Executive Talks with Penguin Random House worldwide CEO Nihar Malaviya and Nanmeebooks’ Kim Chongsatitwana; highlights of key events at the 75th Frankfurter Buchmesse; and coverage of Frankfurt’s upcoming guest of honor programs (Italy, the Philippines, the Czech Republic) and this year’s Guest of Honor Slovenia.

There’s also news of literary agents and agencies; award-winning books from guest of honor markets; focus articles on artificial intelligence, sustainability; and a forthcoming effort to get more Korean literature into world markets; as well as 75th-anniversary “Frankfurt Moments.”

About the Author

Jaroslaw Adamowski

Jaroslaw Adamowski is a freelance writer based in Warsaw, Poland. He has written for the Guardian, the Independent, the Jerusalem Post, and the Prague Post.

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