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Comic Strip / Nick Knatterton

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"I conclude: I am a classic!"

Nick Knatterton is a German Newspaper Comic by a Manfred Schmidt that ran from 1950 to 1959 in the weekly illustrated magazine Quick. It was adapted as a live-action movie in 1959 and a 15 part animated television show that came out in 1977.

The comic was meant to be a parody of American comics of that era, with lots of text in screens and the main hero making nearly impossible deductions combined with wordplay. Since American comics were not easily available most people didn't know it was meant to be a parody.

Provides examples of:

  • Acquired Poison Immunity: In one story Nick says he has been chloroformed so often that the gas acts as a stimulant to him. Career diplomat Kuno von Birnweich has a different one with a healthy dose of Take That!. In Veridium 275, he hires Nick Knatterton on behalf of the West German government to retrieve a stolen quantity of the titular Applied Phlebotinum, a radioactive substance which forces people in its close vicinity to tell the truth. As Birnweich carries a sample of Veridium in his umbrella, there's an obvious question.
    Nick Knatterton: And how does Veridium affect you?
    Birnweich: It doesn't. I served eleven governments! That's why a lie and the truth are the same for me!note 
  • Alliterative Name: Trudchen Taste, Bruno Bluff, Barbara Beerbottle, Felix Finster...
  • Arm Cannon: Schießfinger-Joe has a flesh-colored gun barrel for an artificial index finger. The gun is semi-automatic, it is explained to always be loaded, and it is never explained how he can reload it or discard the spent shells.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: Legationsrat Kuno von Birnweich of the Auswärtiges Amt (German foreign ministry) in Veridium 275 combines this with Asshole Victim. He for instance is unable to provide a useful description of the man who attacked him because due to his profession as a diplomat he has a completely distorted image of reality.
  • Body Sled: Whenever he goes to the mountains in winter, it's almost a given that he will get to use captured criminals as a sled.
  • The Bonn Republic: The strip casts a satirical glance at social trends in the first decade of the Federal Republic of Germany and occasionally takes side-swipes at politicians of the day (especially chancellor Adenauer), controversial issues such as West German rearmament and so on. The adventure Veridium 275 is to a large extent set in various ministries in the "provisional capital".
  • Bulletproof Vest: Pryscilla Cornflake's Christmas present for Nick. Although so primitive that she could solder all holes in it, it eliminates all kinetic energy of any projectile that hits it.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Mi-Tse Meyer, recurring half-Chinese, half-German female villain. Also, a number of characters with English names turn out to be (German) impostors or — if they actually are American — descended from Germans. For instance, in Nick's first adventure, Evelyn Nylon's father, the American multi-millionaire Lucius X. Nylon, is the son of a Bavarian immigrant called Xaver Neiloser.
  • Catchphrase: "Kombiniere..." ([I] conclude...)
  • Celibate Hero: Nick used to say: "My bride is justice." Later, he marries though.
  • Clothing Damage: Happens to Nick more often than anyone else, mostly to his pants which then need stitching or replacing.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Nick wears an artificial back-head in case someone wants to shoot him there, and has a fake beard which also contains a parachute, just in case of. He has red lights in his heels to stop oncoming trains in the rare case of being tied to rails.
  • Dating Catwoman: With Virginia Peng (German for bangnote ). Although rather one-sided.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Nick. In fact, also Manfred Schmidt as the narrator.
  • Disguised in Drag: Nick did this more than once.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Nick once, by a movie poster.
  • E = MC Hammer: Happens whenever Nick is calculating trajectories etc. in his Thought Bubbles.
  • Exotic Backdrop Setting: A lot of the stories are set at least in part outside of Germany, but usually the protagonists and antagonists are German. But Manfred Schmidt often knew what he was showing from first hand, as besides Nick Knatterton he also wrote and illustrated a series of humorous travel articles. These were collected in the anthologies Mit Frau Meier in die Wüste ("Into the Desert with Mrs. Meier"), Frau Meier reist weiter ("Mrs. Meier Travels On") and Auf Kreuzfahrt mit Frau Meier ("On a Chartered Cruise with Mrs. Meier").
  • Fanservice: The comic has many buxom women. In some countries, their breasts were removed by the censors. In Turkey however, they were enlarged because they weren't fanservicey enough.
  • A Foggy Day in London Town: In Nick's London adventure Ein Kopf fällt in die Themse ("A head falls into the Thames") his investigations are intermittently hampered by the fog. In one scene, he visits a suspect at her home, and when the conversation is finished he leaves. Opening the front door he asks in puzzlement: "Why is there a curtain in front of the door?" — "That's not a curtain, that's the fog."
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Nick smokes pipe. As did his creator, who was given an award as "pipe-smoker of the year" in 1973.
  • Gratuitous English: The first story drops "Damned" into the dialogs every now and then. In a comic in otherwise German that takes place in Germany. Not to mention that most characters in that story have English names.
  • Great Detective: Guess who.
  • Hartman Hips: Well, the Quick editor wanted female characters with remarkable proportions. In fact, the Turkish Milliyet editor wanted even more extreme proportions.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: So the residents of Killville can shoot out each other's Christmas tree candles. Well, Nick can do this Firing One-Handed, over his shoulder, while aiming through a mirror.
  • Kid Sidekick: 14-year-old Toni Knatter, in one story. The Meaningful Name is lampdshaded by our hero.
  • Kill It with Water: In the story Veridium 275, the titular radioactive substance, which compels people in close range of it to tell the truth, becomes inert when it is splashed with brandy.
  • Lingerie Scene: Evelyn Nylon wears only underwear and stockings when Nick rescues her from Nackie Nutt for the first time.
  • Love Triangle: Standard occurrence before Nick's wedding.
  • MacGuffin: The titular suitcase which Nick has to transport from India to Europe for the Maharajah of Lextropur in The Indian Diamond Suitcase. In the end it turns out that it was just a decoy, the Maharajah took the diamonds to Europe himself in his own luggage.
  • Mad Scientist: Prof. Bartap invents a shaving foam which is also a very effective explosive. Unintentionally.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Starting with Nick's surname Knatterton ("rattling sound"). Other examples include Professor Bartap, which is pronounced exactly like Bart ab "beard off". In an Italian adventure, Nick encounters gangster Macco Maffiano, movie starlet Silvana Busonia (a play on Busen "bosom") and fisher and amateur singer Camillo Tenorani.
    • Nick's eventual bride is photographer Linda Knips; Knips is German for "click", and knipsen a slang word for "to take a photograph". Before that his secretary Trudchen Taste (Taste is the German word for "key" - as in "(piano or typewriter) keyboard") was infatuated with him.
    • A self-referencing example: One of Nick's clients is businessman Egon Knicker (Knicker is an old-fashioned German idiom for "miser"), who named his daughter Rabattina (from Rabatt "rebate"). She prefers to be called Tina.
    • The town of Killville.
  • More Dakka: Killville's air is so oversaturated with lead that Virginia Peng mounted an MG42 on her bed to be on the safe side (since Nick Knatterton was set in the present, using a WW2 machine gun in a Western setting is not as crazy as you might think).
  • The Movie: Der Raub der Gloria Nylon.
  • Mystical India: The state of Lextropur in The Indiand Diamond Suitcase mixes traditional tropes about India — faqirs, snake charmers, Indian rope tricks, elephants, tigers, cobras, etc. — with modern items. For instance, when Nick is bitten by a cobra, the maharajah just whips out the electric soldering iron he carries with him all the time for such emergencies.
  • Named After Someone Famous: Sheriff Peter P. Rubens of Killville. Business tycoon Karl Murx (who changed his name from Marx) in "The Million in the Bucket".
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: "The ladies accuse each other of having un-ladylike jobs." (during a Cat Fight)
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Nick's skills are revealed this way.
  • No Knees: In an interesting subversion, not only do the characters have knees, but their knees are always bent, no matter whether they're standing, lying, sitting, walking or whatever.
  • Private Detective
  • Prophetic Name: For instance the male main villain of the first story, Nacky Nutt. In German Nutte is a slang word for "prostitute", so the name is appropriate for Nacky, who among other things is a pimp. In another story there is Max Klaut ("Max Steals"). In the case of diplomat Kuno von Birnweich (a rough English translation of his surname would be Softinthebrain) it's lampshaded as a caption notes: "A confirmation of the saying 'nomen est omen!'"
  • Punny Name: One story features businessman Otto Heitz, of the firm Sicher & Heitz, which produces the famous Sicher-Heitz-Schlösser, i. e. "Secure-Itty locks".
  • Satire: Originally, Manfred Schmidt wanted to mock the comic genre as a whole and ridicule it in a way that the Quick readers will learn to despise it as much as he did. Didn't work.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Tilly Clipper in the longest Nick Knatterton saga, The Indian Diamond Suitcase.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Most cases turn out so be such, often by the culprit and the victim forming an alliance, marrying or similar.
  • Shed the Family Name: Outside the stories itself, first in a promotional article in Quick, it was revealed that Nick Knatterton is really Nikolaus Freiherr (baron) von der Knatter. His aristocratic family insisted that he used a pseudonym lest the fact that he works in such an unsavoury business like criminal investigation besmirch the family name.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Nick Knatterton's first name probably references Nick Carter. In the story where he ends up getting married, a female antagonist is called Rita Heuwurz, which translates into English as "Rita Haywort" (no "h"), and one has to wonder if it was just a coincidence that his wife, a photographer and heiress to a fortune made in manufacturing cameras, has the same given name as Linda Eastman McCartney.
    • As revealed by Word of God, Nick Knatterton's look refers back to Sherlock Holmes, in particular to the 1937 film comedy The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes, in which Hans Albers played a private detective who dresses up as Sherlock Holmes to drum up customers and looks rather like Nick Knatterton on the poster. You will note that at that time in Germany the deerstalker was not yet iconic and that it was more common to depict Sherlock Holmes wearing a plaid or tweed flat cap.
  • Snake Charmer: When he travels to India it is revealed that Nick is not just a past master in the art of snake-charming, he also is privy to the secret of the Indian Rope Trick!
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The brawl scene in The Movie is accompanied by Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" after Nick sent a baddie against a jukebox. Subverted in that the brawl choreography follows the music perfectly.
  • Special Attack: Nick's one is his four-fold K.O. He jumps up and knocks out two opponents with his fists and another two with his heels.
  • Speech Bubbles: Schmidt commented that they were a primitive tool in his POV — "bubbles coming from the heads, eyes, ears, noses or mouths of characters to indicate what they think, see, hear, smell or say". So he ended up using one and the same bubble type for everything except for the first story in which thought bubbles (and only they) have a shape of their own.
  • Theme Naming: Occurs in a few stories. For instance in "The Secret of the Super-Bee", three characters are Waltraud Will ("Waltraud Wants"), Kasimir Kann ("Casimir Can"), and Sieglinde Soll ("Sieglinde Shall").
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: In an adventure set in Italy, Our Hero uses the alter ego Nico Knattertonio.
  • Truth Serums: Veridium 275 works as one, but with nuclear tests, nuclear power and the possibility of equipping the nascent Bundeswehr with nuclear weapons continually making headlines, it was more topical to make it a radioactive substance.
  • The Wild West: One story takes place there. It's The '50s, but the West is still Wild. It's obvious that Manfred Schmidt despised Westerns as much as comics, not only by the way he takes this trope to the extreme, but also by Billy Rillkratz, Jr.'s bookshelf which contains 279 different Western novels of the same content.
  • Written Sound Effect: Nick Knatterton is among the comics which don't have any. Probably the only exception is Virginia Peng.