Comic Book / Die Abrafaxe

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/be60b7d60834410d7e91044bd11d26b6.jpg

Die Abrafaxe are a trio of kobold-like characters designed by artist Lona Rietschel and writer Lothar Dräger. They have been having adventures across time since their debut in January 1976 in the relaunch of the East German comic-book magazine Mosaik, which netted them an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest continuing comic-book story. They consist of dashing Abrafax, smart Brabax and chubby enjoyer of the fine things in life Califax. Since issue No. 200 they are accompanied by a nameless rat. With the Abrafaxe Mosaik continued to go from strength to strength, reaching a maximum print run of a million copies in 1984 (the total population of the GDR then numbered 17 million); it also successfully mastered the transition to capitalism after 1990. They continue to appear in Mosaik and various spin-offs, and since 2008 there is a quarterly spin-off series featuring their distaff counterparts, Mosaik: Die unglaublichen Abenteuer von Anna, Bella und Caramella ("The Incredible Adventures of Anna, Bella and Caramella"). In both versions the protagonists get from one historical era to another via time portals for which they sometimes have to search a long time.

Both versions feature child-friendly adventures with a big helping of humour and education. Thus an issue of Mosaik will always contain, besides the monthly episode of the saga, some illustrated text features that deal with aspects of the country and historical era it is set in, from biology to, e. g. the legal status and living conditions of slaves during the Roman Empire or Latin words that entered the German language.

The adventures of the Abrafaxe have been translated into a number of foreign languages including Catalan, Chinese, Greek, Hungarian (Hungary is the series' most successful market outside of Germany), Russian, and Spanish, but so far not into English. Two Abrafaxe graphic novels were published in Welsh, though. German-speakers can consult the Mosapedia.


Tropes:

  • Action Girl: Anna. Not that Bella and Caramella are shrinking violets. Also Max, the Eurasian girl who accompanied the original Abrafaxe in their short-lived spin-off title Die Abrafaxe, and Marian (daughter of Robin Hood and Maid Marian) in the graphic novel Mach's noch einmal, Robin! ("Do It One More Time, Robin!"). Also in the Japan-China Series, the masked rebel leader Black Wind is revealed to be the fair Lu.
  • The Ageless: As kobolds, the Abrafaxe do not visibly age and are apparently immortal.
    • This became very noticeable in the spin-off series Die Abrafaxe, where Max is clearly growing from a little girl to a young woman.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: Abrax, Brabax, and Califax, and their female counterparts Anna, Bella, and Caramella.
  • Alternate Continuity: While e. g. the adventures of Anna, Bella and Caramella take place in the same universe as the main title (as became obvious when the male Abrafaxe saw a statue erected in Bella's honour in Carthage), the continuity of the spin-off title Die Abrafaxe, which ran for ten issues from 1998 to 2001, is explicitly a different one. Here the Abrafaxe are joined by Max, the daughter of a British archaeologist and an Indian woman, in the year 1959, they fight against the recurring villain Lennox, and the time-jumps are effected not by time-portals, but three electronic bracelets.
  • Ancient Egypt: The Abrafaxe and their companion Sibylla arrive during the Amarna period and meet Queen Nefertiti (Mosaik No. 234-254). Much to Brabax' regret, Sibylla finds her Mr. Right in the shape of Jadu, a priest of Aton.
  • Ancient Greece: Mosaik vol. 2 No. 218-233 sees the Abrafaxe in Athens, Delphi and elsewhere on the eve of The Peloponnesian War. In the end they and the former Pythia Sibylla travel to Egypt, where they are sent back in time.
  • Australian History: The two-part Australian series ran from Mosaik No. 430 to 458.
    • The Flinders arc (No. 430 to 446) sees the Abrafaxe joining the crew of H.M.S. Investigator for Matthew Flinders' circumnavigation of Australia (1801-1803). The Abrafaxe then jump forward in time 44 years for
    • The Sinclair's Treasure arc (No. 447 to 458), set in 1848.
  • Babies Ever After: In the "ten years after" epilogue to the Roman arc (Mosaik No. 382) the alpha couple (Titus Julius Prudentio and Selene) and the beta couple (Trauthelm and Thusnelda) are shown with a grand total of twelve children. Nine of them are Trauthelm and Thusnelda's.
  • Been There, Shaped History: In the final issue of the Roman arc, Mosaik No. 382, the slave Franquinus faces punishment for "spoiling" a column destined for Emperor Trajan's new Forum by carving a picture relief (a three-panel version of Sisyphus rolling his rock uphill and then having to run to avoid being crushed as it rolls downhill) on it. Luckily Brabax is on hand to persuade the emperor to have the obviously talented Franquinus sculpt a picture chronicle of Trajan's great deeds on a much bigger column. On the final "Where Are They Now" double-page splash set ten years later, Franquinus can be seen working busily on Trajan's column.
  • Berlin: A spin-off series of shorter gag strips was produced for the newspaper Berliner Kurier. It is a rare example of the Abrafaxe appearing in the present and in the city in which they are produced.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Abrax (blond), Brabax (redhead), and Califax (black hair) and their respective counterparts Anna, Bella, and Caramella. They do not entirely conform to stereotype as in both trios the blonde is the fiery one, the redhead the smart one and the brunette the one who cooks and to whom you turn for making and mending clothes.
  • A Boy and His X: Califax and the Rat.
  • Breakout Character: 16th-century Spanish villain Don Ferrando. He also travelled through time, and while travelling to Egypt during the time of Akhenaton the Abrafaxe discovered that he had become Pharaoh Odnarref Nod in another era, though he was (like Akhenaton) "erased from history" by later Egyptian rulers and priests. He also got a distaff counterpart in the form of his cousin Dona Ferentes.
  • The Cavalier Years: A number of stories are set here:
    • The very first arc (January 1976-December 1977) was set in Dalmatia and Venice in the 17th century.
    • This was followed by an arc set in Hungary, Austria, Bavaria and France at the time of the War of the Spanish Succession (January 1978-December 1980).
    • The Baroque series (No. 406-429) sees brainy Brabax as Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's private secretary in the 1690s while Abrax and Brabax are stuck in the France of Louis XIV.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: While the Abrafaxe usually adapt their dress to the period they find themselves in, Abrax and Anna usually dress in red, Brabax and Bella in green, and Califax and Caramella in blue.
  • The Great Depression: The two-part spin-off graphic novel Hollywood Pursuit is set in Los Angeles in the early 1930s. The Abrafaxe alternate between working in the movies and as parody Chandleresque private investigators.
  • Dating Catwoman: Bella with recurring antagonist and occasional helper Count Tenebroso.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tchimbota in the graphic novel Congo.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Anna, Bella and Caramella to Abrax, Brabax and Califax.
  • Eastern Zodiac: A plot point in the arc set in Meiji era Japan was that former Samurai Toru was more amenable to the idea of Westerner Heinrich von Himmelgut becoming his son-in-law because his daughter Toshiko was considered all but unmarriageable by Japanese, having been born in 1846, a Bingwu (Fire Horse) year. note 
  • The Gay Nineties:
    • The Orient Express arc (Mosaik No. 283-299) is set in 1895 and takes the Abrafaxe from Victorian London to Mesopotamia, where they see the beginnings of the building of the Bagdad Railroad.
    • The Abrafaxe return to the era for an international race around the world in the year 1898 (No. 344-357).
    • Kleine Detektive: Die Abrafaxe auf heißer Spur ("Little Detectives: The Abrafaxe Hot on the Trail"), a spin-off comic-strip series produced for the newspaper Berliner Kurier, is set in London and the British Isles in the 1890s. It was later collected into hardcover albums.
    • Anna, Bella and Caramella visit Paris in 1893, where they become friends with a young Polish science student (No. 24-26 of their title).
  • Gentleman Thief: Played with Angélique de Beautéville in the Race Around the World arc; she is a former (?) cat-burglar who married French aristocrat Louis comte de Beautéville.
  • The High Middle Ages: An extremely popular period with the creative collective, especially considering it had also been extensively treated in the Digedags stories:
    • The final third of the Don Ferrando arc took him and the Abrafaxe through Palestine, Egypt and Mesopotamia in the 1270s. After the Don's disappearance in time the Abrafaxe have further adventures in India, Malaya and Japan before reaching Yuan Dynasty China in 1282 (January 1983-December 1991).
    • Following that a leap in time brings them back to 1176, around the time of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa's defeat in the battle of Legnano (No. 193-207).
    • The Templars arc (No. 358-381) is set ca. 1118 and involves the beginnings of The Knights Templar and a search for the treasure of Prester John. It is followed by
    • The Johanna arc (No. 382-405) set ca. 1250, in which the Abrafaxe meet Albertus Magnus and encounter Nicolas Flamel (who had appeared under a different name in the Templars arc).
    • Anna, Bella and Caramella visit Salzburg in 1237 in No. 18-20 of their title.
  • Historical Domain Characters: The heroes travel through time and it's a series that combines entertainment with education, so of course a number of supporting and background characters are taken from real life. This is not always immediately obvious, for instance in a story arc that took place in Germany and France in the middle of the 13th century (No. 382-405) it only emerged at the end that Johanna, the little girl who accompanied the Abrafaxe on their journey, would later become St. Gertrude the Great (she changed her name on taking her vows).
    A partial list includes Albertus Magnus, Alcibiades, Francis Bacon, Nicolas Baudin, Napoleon Bonapartenote , Anne Bonnynote , Bungaree, Catherine the Great, Sir Francis Drake, Nicolas Flamel, Matthew Flinders, John Franklin (as a young midshipman), Frederick Barbarossa, Robert Hooke, Hugues de Payns, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Ludwig Leichhardt, Louis VI the Fat of France, Louis XIV, Marcus Aurelius, Queen Nefertiti, Isaac Newton, Peter the Great, MarcoPolo, Ferenc Rákóczi, Socrates, Maria Sklodowska, Sophocles, Tacitus, St. Thomas Aquinas, Trajan, and Wilhelm IInote .
  • Holy Roman Empire: The setting of a whole slew of stories, all in different time-periods.
  • Imperial China: The Abrafaxe visit Yuan-Dynasty China ca. 1282 in the final third of the Japan-China series, which mostly centres on the lovers Li and Lu.
  • Japan: The Abrafaxe have been there twice.
    • The first time was during the Japan-China Series (January 1989 to December 1991), set ca. 1280 to 1282 at the time of Kublai Khan's attempted invasion.
    • The second time (Mosaik No. 323 to 343) was in the year 1872. There they meet the Prussian engineer Heinrich von Himmelgut (on a mission to help build Japanese railways), who falls in love with Toshiko, the daughter of a former samurai.
  • Long Runner: The main story of the Abrafaxe has been appearing in monthly instalments in Mosaik since 1976.
  • Marry for Love: The story arcs often involve a love story, which usually ends in this. A recent Anna, Bella and Caramella arc culminated with the historic wedding of Archduke Ferdinand (1529-1595) and merchant's daughter Philippine Welser.
  • Meaningful Name: Often the domain of original supporting characters and villains, but also applicable in the case of Bella and Caramella.
  • Napoleonic Wars: Can serve as an illustration of the child-friendly ethos of the serie, which tries to minimise on-panel violence:
    • A special graphic novel produced for Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig about the Battle of Nations (16-19 October 1813) and the Völkerschlachtsdenkmal, the monument built for its centenary, shows the Abrafaxe arriving and leaving on 15 October 1813, i. e. the day before the battle.
    • The only arc (so far) set in that era in the regular series, the Matthew Flinders arc (Mosaik No. 430-446) takes place on the coast of Australia on the British exploration ship H.M.S. Investigator; although at the time Britain and France are at war, the meeting with the French exploration vessel Le Géographe under Nicolas Baudin at Encounter Bay is peaceful (as it was in real life).
  • Noodle Incident: A conversation between Abrax and Califax in the graphic novel Congo: Die Abrafaxe in Afrika reveals that the Abrafaxe worked for French counter-espionage during World War I.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: A strategy much used by Tchimbota in Congo. As in this conversation with a "Great White Hunter" (actually an arms smuggler. Who is unaware that Tchimbota is an undercover agent for the Belgian government).
    Corneau: A whole crate of... surveying instruments simply gone... sunk like a rock... it's beyond comprehension!
    Tchimbota: Tchimbota understand you well, Bwana Corneau! Tchimbota cried three days when he lost bag of colourful glass beads white man gave him.
    Corneau: Colourful glass beads?! Pah! Those aren't worth anything...
    Tchimbota: Not worth anything!?...
    Corneau: (silently goes: "oops!")
    Tchimbota: Tut... tut... Interesting! Tchimbota definitely must remember that.
  • Overly Long Name: Don Ferrando's full name is Marchese Ferrando Esteban Carotto Ruinez Totales en des Tillas Randales Festos.
  • Public Domain Characters: A number of characters appearing in the Abrafaxes' adventures are this. During their early years they for instance met many folkloric jester archetypes such as Hans Wurst, Harlekin (Arlecchino from the Commedia dell'Arte), Hodsha Nasreddin etc. They also encountered Don Quixote, Sancho Pansa and Dmitri Karamazov. In the 1996 graphic novel Mach's noch einmal, Robin!, they shared an adventure with Robin Hood and his Merry Men in a Shout-Out to Robin and Marian.
  • Punny Name: Have been known to appear. For instance in the Meiji Japan arc, two prominent antagonists was a Ninja duo called Ori and Gami.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: The British team in the 1898 race around the world consists of Lord Conrad Hummingford and his manservant James.
  • The Renaissance:
    • The first two thirds of the Don Ferrando Series (January 1981 to December 1982) were set in Spain and North Africa ca. 1578.
    • The Wido Wexelgelt series (Mosaik No. 255 to 282) is set a few weeks later, also in 1578. Here the Abrafaxe and a young German merchant travel to South America in search of El Dorado (still fighting against Don Ferrando's machinations). Later they take a crystal skull to England on Francis Drake's Golden Hind.
    • Anna, Bella and Caramella visit Augsburg in the year 1556 and help Philippine Welser to overcome the obstacles to her marriage to Archduke Ferdinand (No. 21-23 of their title).
    • The current Abrafaxe arc, beginning with Mosaik No. 483, is set in Thuringia and Saxony in 1517 to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
  • The Roaring Twenties:
    • The arc from Mosaik No. 301 to 322 is set in America in 1929. Prohibition-era gangsters abound, Abrax is a G-man and Califax makes a fortune selling hotdogs, but as he invests his profits on the stock market he loses it all on Black Friday.
    • The graphic novel Congo: Die Abrafaxe in Africa is set in the jungles of Belgian Congo in 1924.
  • The Roman Empire: Both Abrafaxe teams have visited.
    • The female Abrafaxe in 24 B.C., during the reign of Emperor Augustus, where among other things they passed through Carthage (No. 15-17 of their title).
    • The male Abrafaxe's much longer Roman arc (Mosaik No. 459 to 482, 2014-2016) is set during the reign of Emperor Trajan. The Abrafaxe have to help bring two Germanic children (the son and the daughter of two chiefs who want to have good relations with Rome) from the Rhine to Rome. Which brought them to Gaul, Carthage (where they found a statue of Bella), Libya, Egypt and finally Rome.
  • Sexy Spectacles: Bella is the only one with a recurring romantic subplot.
  • Shipper on Deck: Caramella for Bella and Tenebroso.
  • Shout-Out: Some of the participants in the 1898 international race around the world (Mosaik No. 344-357) are this:
    • The American, a former bank-robber turned business tycoon, is called Rock E. Feller.
    • The Italian nobleman Umberto Mobile, who is also a balloonist, is accompanied by his chubby, bemustachioed servant Mario.
    • The German representative is Lieutenant Erich von Ribbeck, whose name refers to a well-known ballad by Theodor Fontane.
  • Spin-Offs: Many, including newspaper comic strips, various graphic novels, adaptations into audio play and an animated movie (2001). The quarterly series centring on Anna, Bella, and Caramella still continues today.
  • Team Chef: The role competently filled by Califax and Caramella in their respective teams. Califax' signature ingredient is (extract of) rosemary.
  • Tomboy: Anna, who does not like to wear dresses. Also some of the ever-changing supporting characters.
  • Witch Doctor: Tchimbota in Congo at first glance appears to be one, but it turns out he served as a medic in the Belgian army during World War I and latinate terms like amnesia due to a commotio cerebri roll off his tongue easily.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ComicBook/DieAbrafaxe