Happy Birthday, Switzerland! It’s been 724 years to the day when Willhelm Tell, after shooting the apple off his son’s head, killed Gessler and founded the Swiss Confederation. In David Boller’s comic Tell – Die Legende Lebt, Tell rises again to mete out justice!
Switzerland. A dainty little country in the heart of Europe where the rivers flow with milk and the people live in houses made of chocolate and eat a lot of cheese. We all speak three languages fluently and surely, English isn’t that big a deal either. That’s the common preconception of Swiss life in the eyes of the world. While that’s not true at all, and everyone at least halfway knows this, there’s at least a bit of truth to it.
To date, Switzerland’s most famous image in the media comes out of Japan in the form of the infinitely charming and absolutely awesome Heidi anime titled Alp no shoujo Heidi (translation: Girl of the Alps, Heidi)
It’s getting a live action movie, by the way, heavily leaning on the style of the Japanese series that was produced in 1974.
While we’ll write about this movie in due time, the point I’m trying to make is this: Switzerland is not a country for big heroics. We’ve had one hero. That was to the day 724 years ago today. It was on this day that Wilhelm Tell shot an apple off of his son Walter’s head and swore revenge on Bailiff Gessler for the cruelty of making him use his expertise a crossbow marksman to show his submission to the Habsburg rule. Tell assassinated Gessler and on the evening of August 1st, 1291, Tell and his compatriots swore the following oath on the Rütli
Wir wollen sein ein einzig Volk von Brüdern,
in keiner Not uns trennen und Gefahr.
Wir wollen frei sein, wie die Väter waren,
eher den Tod, als in der Knechtschaft leben.
Wir wollen trauen auf den höchsten Gott
und uns nicht fürchten vor der Macht der Menschen.
Translated, it reads
We want to be a united people of brothers,
undivided by distress or danger.
We want to be free, as our fathers were,
rather die than live in submission.
We want to trust the highest God
and not be afraid of the might of man
That was 724 years ago. Since then, Switzerland has become the land of chocolate and tennis God Roger Federer whose feats with a racket occasionally defy physics.
But after 9/11, the world is in need of heroes. The Avengers are among the highest grossing movies ever and publishers Marvel and DC have plans to churn out at least one superhero movie a year. But what about Switzerland? No heroics there?
David Boller changed that. The Swiss man who has drawn issues of Batman comics and worked and lived in the USA for years has returned to his homeland but is still drawing comic books. One of them is Tell, starring Wilhelm Tell in a postapocalyptic Zürich.
Corporatism has taken over and journalist Finn Meyer is investigating not just the corruption in local government when he witnesses a mugging gone wrong. When two youths from the lower echelons of Swiss society try to rob an old man, they’re interrupted by a man clad in rags, wielding a crossbow.
So that’s awesome, right? Finally Switzerland has a hero. And he kicks ten different kinds of ass. But the Swiss of the future are as apprehensive about a people’s hero as they are about everything these days in Switzerland. Calling the mysterious figure calling himself Tell a creature, they’re still fighting against a corrupt government by having nightly riots and being generally fed up with the government.
Political Satire at Its Most Local
The politics is where the book really gets to be its funniest. Because satire is pretty funny when it’s local. In Tell, the country has been corrupted by a party known as SPF, the last party in Switzerland, led by a certain Mister Cholbert. The SPF is a rather right wing party.
To everyone with a cursory knowledge of Swiss politics, it’s obvious that the SPF is a thinly veiled analogue to the SVP, the Schweizer Volkspartei (Swiss People’s Party) and their charismatic, sometimes obnoxiously loud and perpetually wrong ideological leader Christoph Blocher.
The book is not without its faults, though. But considering David Boller does every single thing about this book on his own, including writing, drawing, colouring and lettering, I think that the few typos can be overlooked. Besides, Tell is just so much fun due to being incredibly different and fully of tongue in cheek humour.
Oh, and Gessler is there too.
Most comic book stores in Switzerland carry Tell, if not, you can order it on David Boller’s Website. It’s worth it.
Happy Birthday, Switzerland! I hope you have a wonderful weekend watching the fireworks.