Totally unrelated to today’s comic, you know what used to freak me the fuck out as a kid? Strewwelpeter. For those of you not in the know, the Strewwelpeter was a Victorian era children’s book from Germany all about horrible fates befalling naughty children. Like the girl who burns herself to death playing with matches or the thumb sucker who gets his fingers chopped off by a crazy tailor. It’s pretty gruesome stuff when you look back on it, and people love to point to this book as either evidence of the prudishness of Victorians in general or the brutality of Germans in particular. In reality, although the book was wildly popular in its day, there’s some debate about whether it was ever really read to children — or even if it was intended for children. More likely, adults just really loved its grisly gallows humor and bought it, much like today’s modern a-go-go hipsters, for the irony. The book’s author, Heinrich Hoffman, also seemed to think the book was more funny than horrifying, since he had long observed children’s love for the grotesque and violent. You might even say that the book was about as shocking in its day as seeing an anvil fall on Wile E. Coyote was in ours.
But whatever, that’s not the point. The point is I lived a large portion of my childhood in Germany where Strewwelpeter was ominpresent. Not that I ever read the book. I wasn’t even aware that it was a book. What freaked me out was seeing the picture of Strewwelpeter, completely divorced from any context, slapped up in book shop windows and playground murals. You’d often find collages of popular characters from kids’ entertainment, you know, in kiddie menus or carnival fliers, so you’d see Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny standing right next to this HORRIBLE SAD-FACED DWARF MONSTER.
Somehow that juxtaposition made Strewwelpeter all the worse. Who was he? Why did he invade otherwise completely innocuous gatherings of beloved children’s characters? Not to mention that half the time the reproductions were so shoddy that I mistook those long nails of his for, I dunno, pins shoved under his fingernails. There’s a statue of Strewwelpeter in the center of Frankfurt am Main, Hoffman’s hometown. Try being a little kid and thinking that you only had to worry about that awful thing in pictures and then you turn a corner and OH SHIT
Once I figured out what Strewwelpeter actually was, he wasn’t so scary anymore. But still.
In other news, Between Failures had a guest week last week, and some pretty sweet guest comics. My favorite was the one by Woot, because I love tits. I’m not saying that ironically or anything, it’s pretty badass. But Jackie also included that one comic I did of Between Failures in Guttersnipe style. It’s fun, check it out.