The Comics Get Serious logo

Breakthrough. Written by various. Illustrated by various. Edited by P. Christin and A.C. Knigge. Translated by various. New York: Catalan Communications, 1990. 79p. $13.95. ISBN 0-87416-097-9.

General fiction, history

Adults, teens; sophisticated situations

Breakthrough is an anthology that celebrates the fall of the Berlin Wall. Twenty-seven "of the world's best comics artists and writers" contributed their vision of this significant historical event: Enki Bilal, Francois Boucq, Max Cabanes, Lothar Drager, Jean-Louis Floch, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons, Annie Goetzinger, Andre Juillard, Bane Kerac, Ilona Kiss, Dave McKean, Milo Manara, Jean-Claude Mezieres, Moebius, Victor Mora, Zeljko Pahek, Marciej Parowski, Boguslaw Polch, Miguelanxo Prado, Dimitri Savitski, Matthias Schultheiss, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jacques Tardi, Francois Thomas, Daniel Torres, and the Zonic Collective. Countries represented include France, the former East and West Germany, England, the former Yugoslavia, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, the former USSR (ah, so many changes in ten years), and the US.

Contributions range from mood pieces to short stories. The overall tone is positive, of course. Some stories describe Communists who commit suicide or go mad rather than accept the changes. Some deal with the differences between the two Berlins. Others focus directly on the destruction of the Wall. Parowski and Polch's "Destruction of the Idols" is a mini-history of a statue of a despised Polish Communist and its fate on the day that the Berlin Wall came down. Manara's sweet untitled four-pager has a colorful graffiti fiddler dance off the wall, sweep up a black-and-white woman (presumably an East German), get her dancing, and bring her into the wall, thereby giving her color and (when the wall is destroyed) letting color seep into the rest of the world. However, there are a couple of extremely cynical offerings, such as Gibbons's wordless "Boss," in which a superhero figure with a $ on his chest takes control of East Germany, handing out Coke and jeans and CDs to the East Germans.

This is a really first-rate topical collection. Only a few of the stories hit what I considered flat notes, and the inclusion of cynical and cautionary tales lends the collection great honesty. There's no faulting the art, which is by turns joyful and dark, colorful and drab, straightforward and expressionistic, realistic and cartoony. No sour notes here! The book is made even more useful by its inclusion of biographical information on all of the major participants, including the two editors. I suspect that some of this information will be hard to find elsewhere, at least outside of Europe. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if this book is one of the very few easy-to-find places where one can see work by some of these individuals, especially the ones from former Communist countries.

Highly recommended as both a general anthology of important European comics professionals and as a historical document.


Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


Return to The Comics Get Serious archive

Return to The Comics Get Serious main page

Return to Rational Magic Current Issue

Return to Rational Magic Home