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KING OF COMICS: A TRIBUTE TO ILLUSTRATOR RALF KÖNIG (review)

Review by Clay N Ferno

Germany has it’s own King of Comics, and that man is Ralf König.

The 2012 documentary of König’s life is now streaming on digital platforms and is a wonderful exploration of cartooning dealing with sexuality, censorship, religion and König’s rise to popularity and his life today as a treasured hero to both the comic book and homosexual communities.

Filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim (The Einstein of Sex, I Am My Own Woman, Rent Boys) invades Ralf’s loft for some heartfelt interviews as well as connects with the important people in Ralf’s life.

König’s most infamous comic, The Most Desired Man, was made into a film in 1994 starring Til Schweiger. Der bewegte Mann (International title: The Most Desired Man, U.S. title: Maybe … Maybe Not) is a highly regarded cult film in which König makes an appearance as a drag queen.

The 53 year-old Ralf König came to prominence after coming out in the early 80s by producing humorous cartoons about the gay lifestyle, dating, drag queens and gay fantasies.

In the past couple of decades, König has taken on religiosity, live-in relationships and even the radical Islam.

Many German homosexuals credit König for the bravery to come out, via his humorous and matter-of-fact take on gay stereotypes in his early comics. Of course König’s comics deal with 80s AIDS fear as well, encouraging safe sex and dealing with the death of his friends from the disease as well.

The documentary is well paced and is interspersed between Ralf reading his comics aloud in front of a sold out crowd, voicing each of the characters. The first of which is a boy coming out to his mother. Like all good Python comedy, the man’s voice as the high-pitched mom is hilarious, even if I don’t speak German (thankfully, the documentary is subtitled)!

One such touching story of his life is of his first girlfriend Illona—of whom he was quite fond, in the village in which they grew up. The two remain close to this day, but they always fooled around just to the point of going all the way. Truly touching and wonderful stuff here as the physical love between the two was a near impossibility and they remain such great friends after König came out.

König left his home as a teenager and on one fateful trip to Frankfurt, he went to a homosexual gathering called Homolulu. It was here he lost his virginity and embraced his gay side.

Other milestones followed for König. A stint at Düsseldorf Arts Academy, his books Gay Comix and The Most Desired Man and more made him a hero to the community, as he partied with drag queens and made a name for himself in the comics community.

For a great portrait of a man and to show how art can transform lives, please check out this documentary. Ralf König’s honesty and bravery are quite amazing, the openness he has about his art and his life are spectacular. There are moments he shares in the movie, of course, about his successes. But also, he digs down and shares with you intimate moments of his most difficult relationships with family and partners over the years, as well as bouts of depression.

We recommend this movie to any aspiring comics artist of any gender or sexuality. While the market sure has changed since the 1980s, König’s work has evolved with him and he is able to inspire people, make them laugh and confront subject matters they may be uncomfortable with.

Art school students, freaks, queens, tops, bottoms, and the strangest beast of them all — the strip cartoonists should consider this required viewing!

King of Comics is available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox , Google Play and YouTube.

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