Berlin / Russell (dpa) – Some lessons are learned early in life. People can be very different – and still live together as good friends, for example. Helmy Heine also tells this in his children’s book Friends.
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But how do you convey what friendship is? How do rooster, mouse, and pig fit together?
Heine also thought about this for a while. The author, who turns 80 on Sunday April 4, is one of the world’s most successful comic book artists. Waldemar didn’t just invent the Fat, Johnny Mauser and Franz von Hahn. He also painted other characters, such as the Little Dragon Tabaluga.
Sure, she looks cute. But as always with good stories, there is more to it. This also becomes evident when you speak to Helme Heine on the phone. In his adopted home of New Zealand, it was already too late when he sat in front of his screen.
The Friends Story is not about characters who go on adventures together. “I’m not interested in that,” says Heine. What interests him are the elementary stories. For example, on the question of what friendship actually is.
Think for a long time about a good photo. Then it became the bike. “None of them can ride this bike alone,” says Heine. But the three make it together. This makes sense for all children. “My books are sold in Japan, Korea, Argentina, and everywhere and all over the world. Every child understands that, too.”
You also need good personalities. The fat damar, for example, was made in the time of Helmut Cole, Heine says and laughs to himself. Hine’s life sounds like an adventure novel in its own right. He was born in Berlin, traveled a lot, studied economics and art, lived in South Africa for a long time, and also ran a cabaret there.
His first picture book in the 1970s was “Elefanteneinmaleins”. To date, he has written and illustrated many stories. For example, he developed the TV series “Sauerkraut”. It also gives an insight into his work on the new version of “Friends” Workshop, which has just been published.
In it he says, for example, that Johnny Mauser loves chocolate and is very interested in Buddhism. On the other hand, the chubby Waldemar is afraid of mosquito bites and sunburn. Ultimately, the reader doesn’t have to figure it out, Heine says. But this is important to him. He does not like one-dimensional characters.
Heine has now lived in New Zealand for nearly 30 years with his wife Gisela von Radwitz. He calls her kiki and works with her a lot. As Heine recounts, he talks about Goethe’s “Faust” and his exhibitions in Paris, the transformation of tadpoles, the subtlety of English language and psychoanalyst CJ Jung.
He usually spends two or three months a year in Europe. In Hamburg, Berlin, Leipzig or Switzerland, for example. Then he uses cultural life and collects impressions through his diary, which he takes back with him. Life in New Zealand is different. “The most important thing here is that you have a sailboat and you can go fishing.”
When fishing, he was especially fond of kingfish. You have to get the fish out within twenty minutes, otherwise the sharks will take it off the hook. There are many sharks, but fear not. Heine says that for an 80-year-old, there are sure to be no more sensitive spots anymore. And if so, that’s great news. “Children’s author brought by the shark”.
Helme Heine has nothing to do with the fact that some people believed his stories were too philosophical for children. The children, he says, wanted access.
“Coffee trailblazer. Social media ninja. Unapologetic web guru. Friendly music fan. Alcohol fanatic.”