At the start of this year I met Hans Stein at a pub get-together, and we got talking about Brussels, politics and comics, which are three enthusiasms which as it turned out we shared, though they are surprisingly rarely combined. He told me proudly that he had managed to organise an international competition for people to write comic strips about the spirit of Europe – with a prize, and everything; we made sure to stay in touch.
And two weeks ago he announced the award, at a very nice reception at the Comic Strip Museum, along with this rather nice book including the winner and four other finalists (five, I suppose, because one entry is by two brothers). The winning entry is a pleasingly surreal tale by Hamburg-based artist Marco Tabilio of Erasmus and a talking seal having postmodern adventures in the belly of a whale. The judges made the right decision; the other stories are all OK (perhaps I woudn’t have included the second of the five) but this is the best of them.
If Hans’s party had managed a little more than 100,000 extra votes out of 44 million in September’s election, he would now be a member of the Bundestag; but as it is he remains in Brussels. Berlin’s loss is our gain.