Approaching political issues through graphical stories – “Drawing the Times”

Comprehensively communicating and discussing political and social issues and creating engagement – definitely not an easy undertaking these days. After all, we’re living in times of often intransparent mass media and an increasingly, or at least so perceived, complex society.

New forms of communication and methods of engagement are required. Our international comic competition “Animate Europe”, currently running in its third round, is one attempt to do just that. It is one examples, how graphic arts and the often neglected comic scene in particular, can be a valuable approach to discussing and presenting social and political issues.

We talked to Eva Hilhorst, graphic journalist and finalist in our previous comic competition, who approaches journalism through storytelling on her platform “Drawing the Times”:

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“Re-Animate Europe”: Meet the Jury

For the third round of our international comic competition “Animate Europe” we are bringing together a seven-head strong international expert jury.
They will evaluate all the incoming comic entries, select the finalists and – of course – the winner of “Re-Animate Europe”.

We are excited to have a good mix of new and familiar faces from previous competition rounds.

Meet them one by one:


Maura McHugh mauramchugh-2016

Comic Book Writer

Professional Background:

Maura McHugh lives in the West of Ireland, and writes across various media. Her comic book writing has been included in the IDW anthology Womanthology, and she’s written two series for Irish comic book publisher Atomic Diner – her work on Jennifer Wilde with artist Stephen Downey has been nominated for various awards, including an Eagle, and a British Fantasy Award. She’s also co-written a Witchfinder comic book series for Dark Horse Comics in the USA. She’s been on the jury of several international literary and film awards, as well as the British Comic Awards.

Why did you agree to take part in the Animate Europe jury?

I believe in the transformative power of art and the importance of cultural communities – by sharing our creative visions we invite insight and understanding in deep and meaningful ways. The Animate Europe competition is an opportunity to open up a channel for communication that transcends borders and bonds us on the human level.

What does Europe mean to you?

I have grown up with the concept of being both an Irish and a European citizen, and that greater political and cultural connection to the world outside of my island has always been an important part of my identity. It’s a recognition of the value of my home, and an acceptance that it is part of a wider community of nations. It’s being a participant in a complicated and engrossing conversation about shared issues such as progress, culture, trade, justice, and our environment. It’s about dialogue, characters, and our joint narrative – which are also aspects of writing that I enjoy. Europe is our shared story, one we shape through interaction, and that’s something I want to be part of developing.

How do comics and politics/ political education go together?

Comics, like any artform, has a wide variety of expressions, from comedy to tragedy, and that includes the ability to provoke, subvert, or challenge politics. There have been many moving graphic novel memoirs, political cartoons, and works by comic book journalists that have used the medium effectively to tell important stories about our lives and political systems. Comics can be a uniquely expressive lens through which we can focus the spectrum of our lived experiences, and I am constantly impressed with its power and versatility when directed with finesse and imagination.

Find Maura McHugh at / Twitter: @splinister


Kalle Hakkola kalle_hakkola_portrait


Professional Background

Artistic director of the Helsinki comics festival and the director of the Comics center in Helsinki. Has done a lot of international projects all around the world.
Why did you agree to take part in the Animate Europe jury?

It’s an interesting competition with a good approach to the medium 

What does Europe mean to you?

I identify as European, so Europe is my home.

How do comics and politics/ political education go together?

They go together quite well, as long as the medium is used properly. So quality of work need to be high, as with any other medium.

Find Kalle Hakkola at


Andreas C. Kniggeknigge

Comics expert

Professional Background:

Andreas C. Knigge is a publicist, lector, translator and literary agent. He was co-founder and editor of the magazine Comixene and later editor-in-chief at Carlsen’s. He published several books on comics, lastly the biographies of Charles M. Schulz and Hansrudi Wäscher. He is the curator of the upcoming exhibition »Comics! Mangas! Graphic Novels« which will be shown at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn/ Germany 12.05. – 10.09.2017.
Why did you agree to take part in the Animate Europe jury ?

Since I love the European idea as much as I love comics: Comics from the different countries come from different traditions, have different strength (and limits) – now artists from different places know each other and can learn from each other which results in much better comics.
What does Europe mean to you?

To join forces and share ideas for a common and colorful future.
How do comics and politics/ political education go together?

Comics are a universal language and can be an interesting way to reflect our world, express our hopes (and doubts) and understand each other better.

Find Andreas C. Knigge at


Mélanie Andrieu
(French/ living in Belgium)

Coordinator of exhibitions and conservation service

Professional Background:

I’m French and I ‘m coming from Toulouse. During 11 years, I worked in different bookshops (in Toulouse, Alès, Marseille, Bruxelles), responsible of Comics section. This pleasant job gave me a chance to discover comics authors, editors and learn more about fascinating universe of the books and comics. I read a lot of comics of all kinds. At the same time, I studied Art History and prepared and got my doctoral thesis. In January 2016, I joined the team of the Comic Strip Museum, combining my passion for Art and Comics.
Why did you agree to take part in the Animate Europe jury?

It’s a pleasure for me to join your team and discover people related to comics and Europe cultural organization. It’s always exciting to take part in such a programme, discovering current creation, maybe future authors, and having different looks of people, on the Europe and Europeans, on the world!

What does Europe mean to you?

For me, Europe represents open-mindedness, the possibility to learn from the other, share culture, heritage, expertise, economy…It’s a force and a possibility for countries to support each other, for positive projects or rough times by pooling and sharing ways.

How do comics and politics/ political education go together?

Comics are a privileged way of expression for artists and readers, easy to transmit and share. Writers of comic books are today relatively free in their topic discussed (of course it depends of the country). For me, comics are a popular way to deal with the delicate topics (dictatorial, war, conditions for women, illness, racism…) and are able to get information out to the greatest number. Comics can help with the comprehension of society, and for the youngest, it’s a good way to make them aware. Open, comics could contribute to raise awareness and train the citizens of the future!


Gert Jan Pos

Portraint by/Copyright Jeroen Funke
Portraint by/Copyright Jeroen Funke

Teacher (illustration) at Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam, editor, photographer

Professional Background:

Appointed between 2009 and 2012 to promote Dutch comics in the Netherlands and abroad and organizing since exhibitions and other presentations of Dutch and Flemish comics. The last time during the Buchmesse in Frankfurt in 2016.
Why did you agree to take part in the Animate Europe jury?

When it comes to comics there are no borders, comic makers should venture outside their countries, a competition as this provides a platform.
What does Europe mean to you?

No borders, no limits, in the literal and figurative sense. People (should) have an endless possibility in expressing and developing themselves.
How do comics and politics/ political education go together?

Comics can put news and politics into perspective. With humour but also with well- chosen comment on a situation; a good comic sums up the most important in images.

Find Gert Jan Pos at &


Tobias Dahmenautorenfoto_tdahmen_farb
(German/ living in the Netherlands)

Author & comic artist

Professional Background

After my study of Visual communication I stated to work as a professional Illustrator. At the same time I founded the comic anthology ‚Herrensahne‘ in Düsseldorf, which won several prices.

My first collection of short stories ‚Sperrbezirk’ was awarded the Icom award for best short story in 2007. In 2011 I started the Webcomic ‚Fahrradmod‘, in 2015 the complete story was published by Carlsen in Germany and was nominated in 2016 for the Max und Moritz-Preis for best German comic and also the public’s choice award. Fahrradmod will be published in Serbia and the Netherlands as well.

Why did you agree to take part in the Animate Europe jury?

Not only that I draw comics myself, I also read a lot of them, so I think I know sufficient about the art form. I sometimes miss the exchange with colleagues, though.

Talking and discussing about comics is something I really like to do. It didn’t need much persuasive power to make me agree to take part.
What does Europe mean to you?

Being German and living in the Netherlands, traveling through a Europe with no borders feels natural to me. I do remember different times though, I still remember my visit in the former GDR, where my mother comes from. The great freedom that has been achieved for Europe since these days I consider very important and worthy of protection.

How do comics and politics/ political education go together?

I think that comics are always a good medium to reach people. For any subject.

Find Tobias Dahmen at


Valérie Constantconstant


Founder & Director

Professional Background:

Valérie Constant is the founder and director of the communications agency Apropos. She started her career as a journalist, worked as Head of Communications for several cultural institutions, among which the Belgian Comics Strip Center, and the comics publishers Casterman and Fluide Glacial.

Find Valérie at


„Animate Europe“ goes Strasbourg: our comic exhibition at the World Forum for Democracy

Alina Valentin, intern at the European Dialogue Programme of the FNF in Brussesls, shares her experiences presenting our international comic competition “Animate Europe” at the World Forum for Democracy.

20161107_145221The World Forum for Democracy (WDF) is a platform which fosters democratic participation and strengthens democracies by showcasing innovative projects and grassroot initiatives by decision-makers and activists. Considering that this years’ forum evolved around the relationship between education and democracy, 20161107_103848we knew it would be a great opportunity to bring our international comic competition “Animate Europe” to Strasbourg. After all, the competition aimed at generating interest and curiosity about Europe and thereby creating civic engagement and democratic foundations for a strong Union and beyond. The feedback we received from the international participants of the WDF very much reinforced both our decision to exhibit the comics (competition round 2015) at the Forum and the value of the competition as such: it gives citizens the power to express their opinions and visions creatively, by combining politics and art and comics in particular.

„This is brilliant! Our people are searching for innovative ways to communicate politics and reach different groups of people apart from those constantly participating – and they haven’t come up with such a great idea! I’m going to tell them about this, this is awesome!”

As I presented the comics to people from all over the world, I was particularly happy to get into conversations with people less involved in comics and arts in general. I especially kept two young English-speaking men in good memory. They themselves were not fond of drawing, but they were so impressed by the idea that they started to think of a strategy to compete anyway: “Well, if I come up with a really good story, I wonder if only drawing stick men would influence my winning chances. We still have three months… we will be sitting under the Christmas tree drawing”. I encouraged them to give it a try and am now very eager and exited to find out if they will actually participate!


Compliments reached us from all sides – from associates of the Council of Europe as one of the organizers of the WDF, over a representative of the English Parliament to collaborators of the Civic Education Academy in the Kyrgyz Republic. I was very impressed not only by the great interest of everyone who stopped at our table, but also by the effect and impact such a creative, innovative ideaas launching a comic competition about Europe can have on citizens from different countries, age groups, organizations and backgrounds.

Overwhelmed by the large number of people interested in the comics, impressed by the diverse stories and experiences they shared with me, enthusiastic about the wide range of audience we reached and pleased with making so many individuals happy with our printed comic books, I returned to Brussels with the feeling that the next competition round, “Re-Animate Europe”,  will turn out to be a great success!

Alina Valentin161006_fns-team_colour_96dpi-52-von-53
European Dialogue Programme

“Re-Animate Europe”: launch of third round of International Comic Competition

Twice already, in 2013 and 2015, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom organised the International Comic Competition “Animate Europe”.


We’re thrilled to announce that “Animate Europe” will be running for a third round, starting now!

This time, we’re looking for your creative ideas to „Re-Animate Europe“!

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Upcoming Event: Exhibition Launch – Animate Europe goes Leeds!

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When: Thursday, 27 October 2016, 17.00-20.00

Where: Staircase Gallery, Leeds Town Hall The Headrow, Leeds LS1,3AD, United Kingdom

About the event:

What will Europe, what will the European Union look like in 50,100, 250 years?

That is what we, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, asked graphic novelists and comic artists from all over the world, as part of the second round of our Animate Europe International Comics Competition.

Join us for the launch of our exhibition, find out what our artists have envisioned for Europe and let’s have a chat about what the future might hold – for Britain, for the EU, for Europe.

Alexander Marston

Arts Officer, Arts Development Team, Leeds City Council

Opening Remarks: “Animate Europe” –
Combining Comics and Politics

Anna Reineke

Project Coordinator, European and Transatlantic Dialogue
Programme Brussels
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

A Conversation with
Jenny Robins

Illustrator, artist & educator
Finalist of the “Animate Europe” International Comics
Competition (2015)

Anna Reineke

Project Coordinator, European and Transatlantic Dialogue
Programme Brussels
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom

Find the pdf version our our invitation here. 

*The exhibition of a selection of our Animate Europe comics will be running from 27 October 2016 – 16 January 2017 at Leeds Town Hall*

The event is organized in cooperation with

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Kindly register for this event by 25 October 2016 at .

Please note that you will be forwarded to a Google Drive sheet. Should you wish to register directly or want further information, please send an email to Photographs will be taken at the event for use on the FNF website, social media, in the press, FNF marketing materials, and other publications. By entering this event, you consent to FNF photographing and using your image and likeness.