If you don’t know the work of Lynda Barry, you should. She is an amazing comic artist. Her syndicated comic strip, Ernie Pook’s Comeek, has run for years and years. I first came across her via some small book collections of these comics and then saw a play based on her wonderful coming-of-age book The Good Times are Killing Me. For many reasons she sort of faded from view, but fortunately is now getting some well-deserved attention again with the publication of her latest book, What It Is, published by the terrific Drawn & Quarterly.
Comic-Con is on here in NYC and I may go later today so this seems like an apt subject.
I spent 2nd grade in Germany (as I’ve written before I’m the daughter of German-Jewish refugees and have spent a lot time there) while my father had a Fulbright and did research and lectures. I started the year in a city school and ended it in a village school. Now I realize that my experience was pretty similar to new immigrants to the United States. I knew almost no English when I started at the first school and, boy, did I learn it fast!
I also was learning to read in two languages —and didn’t much like it in either. One thing I did like was comic books. And my favorite one in German was Petzi.
Turns out Petzi (that plump bear in polka-dots) was originally a Danish comic strip character, Rasmus Klump, created by Carla and Vilhelm Hansen in 1951. (Most sites I found are not in English; this one is in German, for instance.) Boy, did I love the adventures Petzi had with friends like Pelle and Pingo. I could pretty much follow the stories through the pictures, rarely relying on the text below each box. I’ve scanned in a page from one of my old books, because those I’m finding online seem later and use speech bubbles.
There was something so straightforward about the Petzi stories. All of the books I have involve the pals building something to live in. I think I loved these as they were just like the houses I loved to make. I also loved playing with plush animals (little Steiff ones we bought with our pocket money at the Puppenkoenig toy store in Bonn).