Sunday, January 14, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #14: Home and Away by Mawil

I first discovered the German cartoonist who uses the single name Mawil from his books Beach Safari and Sparky O'Hare, Master Electrician (both of those links go to round-ups that include something like a review of each book) a few years back, filed him as someone fun to watch out for, and promptly didn't manage to see anything else by him for roughly a decade.

It's entirely possible I wasn't paying attention, I admit.

But I re-read Sparky O'Hare recently, and was reminded of how much fun Mawil is. So I looked up what else he'd done, made some lists, and ended up getting his book Home and Away as a Christmas present.

This collects comics that originally appeared in 2005-07 in various German outlets (not specified here), then were collected into a German-language book in 2007 and finally translated into English and brought out by the UK publisher Blank Slate in 2011.

From this book and other evidence, I understand Mawil is known mostly as an autobiographical cartoonist; I think he has had semi-regular strips in German magazines and newspapers, mostly using his life (or the funnier, semi-fictional version of it, as usual) for material. And the stories here are all in that vein: the book opens with a number of shorter strips, about his life growing up in then-East Germany, or his then-current life and career, and then dives into two longer chunks of comics. The first longer chunk is still not that long, just eight pages of related comics about his first car, a Skoda -- which means very little to Americans like me, but I gather is one of the premier lousy cars of the world.

And then, to close out the collection, is the longest story, "Welcome Home." At forty-six pages, it's about half the book, telling the story of Mawil's week-long trip to a summer "hippy camp" in the South of France. A friend went in a past year -- and, apparently, met his then-girlfriend there -- giving Mawil the bug. But the friend bowed out this year, leaving our hero to hitchhike with strangers and end up in a big swirling mass of peace and love and roughing it essentially alone. Mawil is a introverted, self-tormenting sort -- he makes comics for a living! -- so his personality doesn't entirely mesh with the vibe of the gathering. He tries to meet girls, but it doesn't really work out. But he does manage to unbend a bit along the way...and he now has the same not-quite-true stories to tell to others that his friend told him!

Home and Away is a fun, light-hearted collection of slice of life comics, in a cartoony style that's basically the opposite of bigfoot. (Mawil draws feet very tiny, particularly on women.) You can easily see how it could be widely popular, and well-suited to be published in general national magazines. I liked it, and I hope it doesn't take me another decade to find more of his books.

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