Maybe… Maybe Not and Maybe… Maybe Not Again!


By Ralf König, translated by Jeff Krell (Northwest Press)
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I’d like to think that most of the social problems humanity suffers from can be fixed by a little honesty and a lot of communication – especially when it comes to relationships. Being able to laugh together probably helps too. In regard to sexual politics and freedom it’s an attitude Germany adopted decades ago. As a result, the country has an admirable record of acceptance of the LGBTQ community and a broad penetration (yes, I’m awful! And Not Funny!) of gay comics into the general population.

Undisputed king of home-grown graphic novels is Ralf König, a multi-award-winning cartoonist, filmmaker and advocate with almost fifty titles (such as Suck My Duck, Santa Claus Junior, Stehaufmännchen, and Kondom des Grauens – released in Britain as The Killer Condom) under his belt.

He was born in August 1960 and came out in 1979, crafting an unceasing parade of incisive and hilarious strips and sagas set in and around the nation’s ever-evolving gay scene. Much to his own surprise, he discovered that his work had vaulted the divide from niche market to become a staple of popular mass market book sales. The two collections covered here – curated, “Foreworded” and translated by American cartoonist Jeff Krell (creator of gay domestic sitcom strip Jayson) and available as eBooks from Northwest Press even inspired the largest grossing film in German history…

Originally published as Der Bewegte Mann in 1987 (and appearing in a UK paperback from Ignite! Entertainment in 2005 if you can find it), Maybe… Maybe Not introduces a cool and comfortable group of gay men enjoying their glamourous, gossipy days and nights in Dusseldorf. However, after ambiguous – and curious – hetero hunk Axel enters their lives, Walter Ruhmann AKA Waltrina and Norbert find composure increasingly rocked and jarred out of kilter…

After failing to trick his girlfriend Doro into taking him back via a fake suicide attempt, Axel rudely returns to the Men’s Support Group where Waltrina acts as the expert voice on homosexuality and related issues as a representative of the Dusseldorf Gay Alliance.

Waltrina cannot take his eyes off Axel, and astonishingly, über-macho Axel seemingly responds. Maybe he’s not totally ‘On the Straight and Narrow’

The confusion mounts in ‘Clothes Make the Man’ as Axel agrees to go to a party with Walter and Norbert also falls under his brawny spell…

An ever-escalating comedy of errors and sexual impolitics launches as Axel adjusts surprisingly well to the alternative lifestyle and scene of those turbulent times, before grudgingly revealing a few secrets from his own past. Before long, he’s couch-surfing with his new pals, but everything comes to a hedonistic head after ‘Attack of the Killer Penis’ exposes the clearly-confused and conflicted brute to the pros and cons of Gay culture, proving he is still ‘Deep in the Closet’ one way or another…

Doro, meanwhile, is having second thoughts about the useless lump she thought she was well rid of. She’s been to the doctor and has some news…

The hilarious and still-outrageous volume ends with a happy event in ‘Epilogue: Two Months Later’ when Axel’s two worlds collide and have to play nice at the church…


Sequel volume Maybe… Maybe Not Again! opens scant months later with ‘Trouble in Paradise’ and Axel still undecided on whether he’s Gay or Straight (modern shades of gender and sexuality being largely unestablished way back in 1988), but definitely less than enamoured of his impending membership in a traditional nuclear family. He’s also blithely unaware of the fallout he’s left in the now-acrimonious friendship circle inhabited by Watrina and new rival Norbert.

A new disruptive element arrives when ‘Muscle Queens’ introduces spitefully provocative bitch Frank Hilsmann – who thrives on infidelity and innuendo. He targets poor Norbert even as Axel’s manic old flame ‘Elke Schmitt’ resurfaces and tempts the undecided oaf with yet another bad choice… hot, commitment-free hetero infidelity while Doro is at her most shouty and unattractive…

Of course he succumbs, and of course he drags in his still-smitten Norbert to provide cover and a comfortable liaison space. And of course, such ‘Commitment’ to friendship and fidelity only makes things worse for poor Norbert as he finds himself overwhelmed by the cost of everyone else’s ‘Primal Urges’. Thankfully the chaos is derailed when Doro turns up on her way to the delivery room…

Simultaneously wry and witty and coarsely hysterical, these books manage to bawdily entertain whilst asking questions that still vex many of us to this day. Maybe… Maybe Not and Maybe… Maybe Not Again! certainly won’t appeal to everybody, but if you love a big raucous belly laugh about how daft we can all be about one of the most basic drives we’re afflicted with, these might well become some of your favourite reads.
© 1987, 1988 by Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag GmbH, Reinbek bei Hamburg, Germany. All rights reserved.