“Is the comic the right medium for such an important topic like WWII?” – this is a really obvious question. And the answer is short: It is exactly right.
Please consider: In the german speaking world the common association with the word “comic” is mostly wrong. Almost always people think about the cartoony-style like Micky Mouse or Garfield when they hear comic in contrast to the franco-belgian or anglo-american parts of the comic-world where the expression means sequential storytelling with pictures.
There are several works, that use the medium comic for a documentary way of telling a story and that pick up difficult topics and make them understandable and concrete. Let’s look at some examples:
A true classic. If not THE classic of the modern comic in the field of graphic-novels. Spiegelmann tells the story of the Holocaust and the experiences his family made. He uses mice and cats as characters and uses them for the mentioned abstraction without leaving the horrors out.
This comic taught me, Markus Freise, more about the conflict between Israel and Palestine that I learned in 40 years of history-classes and news reading. The book is about a young palestine man who becomes friends with a french comic-artist and tells him his story. With a lively stroke of his pencil and strong storytelling those two let the reader understand the complex matter.
One of the most important inspirations for “Großväterland”, even if our project has a different structure. Tardi, a french comic-artist, narrates more in memoryshreds than in episodes about WWI. He manages to show the horrors of war with his unique style of drawing, leaving any gore or splatter-effects out. It is pretty difficult to describe his Style. Just take a look at the following examples. There are a lot more mentionable works by Tardi, that pick out WWI as the central theme. And there is one book in which he tells the story of his father as a POW of the Germans in WWII.
Joe Kubert was one of the really great figures of the american comic and “Yossel” his legacy as a jewish comic-artist. I was a bit taken in by Kubert because I thought all the time Kubert was telling his story. The story of the young jew Yossel in Nazi-Germany in an awesome almost scribblesque pencilstroke. When I read his biography on Wikipedia I figured out that Kubert was able to leave Germany early enough with his family for the USA. Yossel is his form of fiction: “What if…not?”