About this Issue


»Made in Austria – ah, right, so we’re talking about old, smelly cheese« (Kraus, 91, our trans¬lations),1 mocked Karl Kraus – who else but him? – a hundred years ago. Yet, it is not curdled milk that concerns us now, but comics artist Nicolas Mahler, who was, himself ›made in Austria‹ in 1969. With it being fifty years since his birth, it is timely to have a special issue in his honor. »Moving on from old, smelly cheese,« Kraus continues in a scornful vein, informing us that »each Viennese stands alone in the wide world, ready to be seen« (ibid., 92). This can be understood as each Viennese being unique: »The Viennese does not flounder« (ibid., 92). Aspiration or threat? Maybe just a polite phrasing to say ›ill weeds grow apace‹ (ibid., 94). No doubt, Kraus was adept at ›Schmäh,‹2 particularly against Austrians and Viennese. Similarly to Kraus (Helmut Qualtinger, Thomas Bernhard, Josef Hader, Wolf Haas …), Nicolas Mahler is an exponent of the biting, yet melancholic, but always charming Viennese humour. Mahler is not only able to express this particular sense of humour in words (although he does so with aplomb!) but is also superb at capturing this wit in images and graphic narratives alike. The contributions in this issue aim to develop an understanding of Mahler, but not by making him »stand alone in the wide world« (as Mahler does with his character Kratchovil), but by contextualising this versatile artist and his work.

As an introduction, Christian A. Bachman provides an overview of the work produced by the Austrian comics artist and how this has been discussed in contemporary, academic comics research.

For this issue of CLOSURE, Angela Guttner met with Nicholas Mahler at the 18th international Comic-Salon 2018 in Erlangen for a conversation about comics, literary adaptations and his plans for the next fifty years.

In his contribution Grenzfälle und das Fallen von Grenzen, Robin-M. Aust discusses Mahler’s ›borderline comics‹ that test the conventional categories of the medium. Aust traces frameworks that Mahler draws or refers to in his experimental pieces, such as genre boundaries, book mediality, paratextuality, and poeticity.

With the ironic title It’s a beautiful story. You made me a very happy man, Kalina Kupczynska observes the melancholia of the ›Homo Viennensis‹ Mahler, as depicted in his comics focusing on the themes of loneliness, fiasco and love.

Sunghwa Kim discusses Nicolas Mahler in respect of Thomas Bernhard, taking a close look at Mahler’s adaptations of Bernhard’s texts. She argues that the comics form is the consistent continuation of anti-mimeticart that is already articulated by Bernhard.

In her comparative piece, Ernst Jandl und Nicolas Mahler: Variationen über ›das Gedicht‹, Monika Schmitz-Emans takes a novel approach in comics studies, comparing the work of the renowned writer Ernst Jandl with that of comics artist Nicolas Mahler as ›poems‹.

As a concluding contribution, Das kleine Schwarze. Wedekind, Mahler und die nackte Ikone einer Zeit, Daniela Kaufmann close-reads Mahler’s adaptations of Frank Wedekind’s Lulu-plays, Earth Spirit (1895) and Pandora’s Box (1904), which she frames through Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square (1915) painting.

Despite the range of approaches assembled for this issue, this collection of articles marks a beginning of research into the work of Nicolas Mahler and should be read as an indicator for further and more detailed research into his comics.
The guest editors wish to thank CLOSURE’s editorial team, in particular Gerrit Lungershausen. We would also like to thank all those who have contributed to this special issue, including those scholars that intended to write a contribution but for various reasons were not able to. Thank you to Svenja Engelmann-Kewitz for her help with copy editing. And finally, we want to thank Nicolas Mahler who kindly consented to the use of one of his drawings for the cover of this issue. We would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations on his 50th birthday and wish him all the best.

Berlin and Seoul, April 2019
Christian A. Bachmann
and Sunghwa Kim

  • 1]   Kraus, Karl: Nachts. 2. Ed. Leipzig. Verlag der Schriften von Karl Kraus (Kurt Wolff), 1918.
  • 2]   A characteristic aspect of Viennese humour, being a somewhat odd and paradoxical mixture of charming and endearing insincerity and unfriendliness.