Preamble: Why I'm posting this really old, long, German comic inspired by "Die Hard" (wait for it - politics first)
Up here in Canada, we're watching what looks like a worldwide trend towards extreme right-wing political parties in government. I'm proud to have been able to lend a hand to some local political happenings in recent years (such as the non-partisan "Get Out The Vote" volunteer initiative VoteKit, and helping on campaigns for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi) - but I'm no political expert. In 2016, like so many other people, I've felt a strong desire to get myself educated really fast, about what's happening in the US political scene and beyond - so that I can be prepared for whatever's coming next.
Enter American journalist (and regular contributor to the Globe and Mail), Sarah Kendzior. I was first introduced to her work early in the 2016 American election campaign, as my favourite children's literature professor (and tireless political activist) Phil Nel frequently retweeted her comments on Twitter. The more I read, the more I appreciated her stalwart commentary, unwavering and pragmatic. Hers has been a voice of reason amidst so many confusing online narratives.
Jens-Peter & Christian
However, this isn't about real life or American politics. This is about Die Hard, of all things! I haven't thought about this movie in years, and I only saw it once, in 1991. In German.
I was an exchange student in Germany for one year, and during this super-formative year, my main cultural influences were the two young men who became my best friends, Jens-Peter and Christian - of whom I've written elsewhere - here, for example.
It's thanks to these two that I still have terrible German B-side pop/heavy metal songs echoing in my head (songs my heart loves while my head begs me to hate them). Like this, for example. Sorry about that.
So, because it's Christmas (well, it was when I started writing this), and because it's "surreal" 2016, I thought I'd post this never-published strip.
1. It's really long.
2. It's also really bad, but remember, I was 17!
3. It's full of jokes that no one will get, so I've added notes to keep it sort of understandable. Translations from German are at the bottom of each page.
4. Hopefully my friends won't be too annoyed that I'm posting this ancient stuff.
5. It's not really anything like Die Hard (although there are good guys, bad guys, a hostage-taking, and a lot of guns) - Die Hard just provided a premise. So, in case readers like Sarah Kendzior are actually drawn in this direction, please don't feel any pressure to read this. I just wanted to give you a shout-out for the work that you do. A shout-out, too, to Canada's journalists, Canada's Kenziors and pen-wielding McClanes, who may yet write about happy endings, against all odds. Yippee-kay-yay and a belated Merry Christmas!
Ok, so the story's set in the town of Bretten, about two hours south of Frankfurt.
The characters in the story are myself (in the first frame with the camera); my friend Daniela; and our heroes: Jens-Peter (with glasses and pointy nose) and Christian (with bolo tie and dark hair). For weeks we'd been trying to make "flambierte Kirschen" for dessert - no idea what this is called in English - you douse cherries in alcohol and light it all on fire). The story begins as we finally succeed...
He asks Alexa if it's true that Bruce Willis is coming to Bretten, and rejoices in the news since he apparently bears Bruce a long-standing grudge. It seems that, long ago, the Phantom loved a young opera singer - but she loved Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny (as per the original Phantom story). They fought, and the Phantom thought Raoul died... but no! He escaped with the girl and they fled to America....
He asks Alexa for help and she asks, "What's in it for me?"
"What do you want?" he asks.
"I'm in love with this boy," she responds. They agree that he'll help to kidnap Christian in exchange for her help. He explains his plan: since Bruce is always surrounded by people, they'll have to take hostages. Alexa is charged with finding "two killers" to help them. After all this, she asks - "wait! Who are you?" But the Phantom strides off into the night...
It's Markus on the phone, a creepy older guy who (in real life) been arbitrarily pursuing Sam, Christian's sister Andi, and numerous other local girls (hence the many phone numbers on his wall). He calls Sam "Zementa," a joke about how he can't keep track of who's who, along with another joke about how some Germans thought my name ("Samantha") sounded like the word for "cement" ("Zement").
He asks what she's doing that day and she says she's going to be an extra in the film. He says he might drop by there too.
JP, Christian, Sam and Rike head down to the Melanchthon-Gymnasium (our school) where the film will be shot, to the sound of Pink Floyd's "On the Turning Away." Sam asks who's making the soundtrack to the film, and Rike responds: "Matthias Reim!"
Matthias Reim was a singer who made a sensation in 1990-1991 with his album, "Verdammt, Ich Lieb' Dich." Jens-Peter was a big fan, and alas, I still feel nostalgic for these truly awful songs, which nonetheless did a lot to help me learn German.
Anyway, there's Matthias at our school, surrounded by many caricatures of real people I knew, including Christian's older sister Andi, a dentistry student who is admiring Matthias's teeth.
"Here's your money and your MPs [I guess that's a kind of gun? Pardon my ignorance] - hide them," Alexa instructs. She tells them to take out the guns when they see her talking to Bruce.
Meanwhile, Bruce himself is being forced to listen to Matthias Reim's music, and pronounces that he hates it! "You're an idiot. It's a super song," responds Matthias. Overhearing this, Alexa asks Matthias if he'd be glad if Bruce were dead, and the thin-skinned Matthias confirms that he would.
Meanwhile, Otti escapes from Rike's arms and runs into the boys' washroom. Rike asks JP and Christian if they can bring Otti back for her...
The crowd is taken hostage by Herr Becker, Andreas, and Matthias! "What's up?" demands Bruce. Alexa tells him: "Be quiet and come with me." The other bad guys are told to take the crowd into the gym.
"What should we do?" asks JP. "It's dangerous to go downstairs."
"But we have to rescue the others," says Christian. "Where can we find help?"
JP, looking out of the window, calls, "Hey! Who's that?"
JP makes another joke about Germany in general: "It's useless to ask anyone else for help, since it's Saturday and everyone knows that everyone in Germany washes their cars on Saturday."
"Chris - we're really alone," proclaims JP, and they shake on it to the tune of Dire Straights' "Brothers in Arms."
Christian reappears, and JP gives him the gun, saying, "You're welcome." They tell Otti to stay there...
Alexa: "But not Christian!"
Matthias: "Ok, but his friend."
JP: "I don't want to die!"
Christian: "Death is better than Alexa!"
"You know, Matthias, you were my hero! I loved your music! I bought your cassettes! You were a person I could really identify with! But now I see the real Reim - a killer! What would your mother think?? Chris and I are young - we have our whole wonderful lives ahead of us. And you just say "hmm." What does that mean? Does "hmm" mean something important or symbolic? No! You only say it, because you have no heart! You are cruel!"
JP: "We can rescue the people."
To keep JP from answering, a girl from our school who JP kinda fancied, falls gratuitously into his arms.
The Phantom announces: "You can all go free. I have my revenge! Goodbye!"
When Markus comes in, clad in the Phantom's attire, JP responds, "What! Again already!"
The director demands again to know Bruce's whereabouts. JP brings the sad news that Bruce is dead. But a voice calls: "Wrong!"
Bruce appears with Otti, and "Dr. Toth" says, "But Bruce, you were really dead!"
"I was just a little bit dead," says Bruce in an echo of The Princess Bride... "I'm like The Highlander and I can't die! It's very practical for an actor. In "Die Hard 1" I died three times!"
Then in comes the mayor of Bretten: "Are you Jens-Peter Berk? You killed three people today.....
... you've killed ENOUGH people. You won't have to go to the army!"
(German boys had to do a year of military or volunteer service after they finished high school, and this was something JP had been dreading a lot. Does this still happen in Germany?)
After Christian is picked up by a talent scout for tennis players, JP reflects: "Wow! We are rich and famous! We can be really happy!"
C: "We won't have to be depressed!"
Sam saves the day: "Come with me, I have candles and music - everything we need. Don't worry. Let's go!"