Rosa von Praunheim’s documentary King of Comics (König des Comics, 2012) explores the life and work of Ralf König, one of Germany’s most celebrated comic book writers and artists – best known for his work The Most Desired Man, which was adapted into a film in 1995. Fearless of almost any subject matter, König’s uncompromising work deals with urban living, gay stereotypes, the impact of religion on the gay community and Islamic extremism.
Von Praunheim’s documentary takes a highly formulaic and traditional approach, briefly covering almost all aspects of the artists personal and professional life. The emergence of overt gay culture in Germany is dealt with in an effective manner, yet any treatment of wider sociological issues are dwarfed by a number of trite interviews that come across as both staged and forced. It is certainly disappointing that the director did not give more space to the issues at hand, instead attempting a shuttle run through every aspect of König’s life.
The most interesting aspect of King of Comics is undoubtedly its open and frank attitude towards sex and stereotypes. König himself is an intriguing figure – clear in both his motives and beliefs – but the documentary fails to capture the man at his best. Its saving grace is the humour of the comics, which is frequently used. Though certainly not to everyone’s taste and possessing a great deal of similarity to Viz, one can’t deny its power in breaking down stereotypes.
It is easy to imagine that fans of König would take greater pleasure from this somewhat clumsy project – yet for the uninitiated, King of Comics remains disappointingly inaccessible.
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