Instrumentalising Media Memories

The Second World War According to Achtung Zelig! (2004)

in European Comic Art
Maaheen Ahmed Ghent University

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Krzysztof Gawronkiewicz and Krystian Rosenberg's Achtung Zelig! recounts an unabashedly absurd story about the Second World War, involving an encounter between a Nazi commander who was a former clown and a Jewish father and son with monstrous faces. To understand the construction and function of the Polish comic's narration of the war, this article introduces the concept of media memories. Such memories encompass techniques and works that ‘haunt’ cultural productions. Achtung Zelig! interweaves key media and contexts, layering its story through the media memories of carnivals, comics (e.g. Maus) and films (e.g. The Great Dictator). In instrumentalising media memories, the comic engages in a heavily mediated dialogue with the issue of representing traumatic realities.

Contributor Notes

Maaheen Ahmed is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Ghent University and Principal Investigator of COMICS, a five-year project on children in European comics funded by the European Research Council. Openness of Comics: Generating Meaning within Flexible Structures (2016) is her first book. A second, Monstrous Imaginaries: The Legacy of Romanticism in Comics, is forthcoming. She has edited anthologies and journal issues on diverse themes ranging from comics legitimation, representations of the First World War in comics and comics authorship. She recently co-edited Comics Memory: Archives and Styles (2018) with Benoît Crucifix. Email:

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