23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Reinhard Kleist
© Hartwig Klappert

Reinhard Kleist

Reinhard Kleist, born in 1970 in Hürth near Cologne, is a Berlin-based illustrator. He created his first longform comics while he was still studying graphic design at the University of Applied Arts in Munster. The album »Lovecraft«, which he co-authored with Roland Hueve, received the Max and Moritz Prize for Best German-language independent production at the Comic Salon in Erlangen in 1996. Initially strongly influenced by illustrators such as Dave McKean and characterized by photo-realistic, colored watercolor paintings with elements of collage, Kleist’s style has developed a more singular, expressive line in subsequent years, which is characterized by flowing lines, a slight over-exaggeration and caricature of the figures, and dramatic light and dark contrasts. His expressively atmospheric and predominantly black-and-white images are at times reminiscent of the work of Will Eisner, a pioneer of the graphic novel. From 2003 to 2008, Kleist collaborated with the author Tobias O. Meißner on the trilogy »Berlinoir«, a dystopian vampire story that can be seen as a political parable of German history. In recent years, Kleist has made a name for himself internationally with comic biographies of well-known figures, such as »Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness« (2009), his multiple award-winning biography of Johnny Cash, and the graphic novel »Castro« (2010). Both works combine key biographical elements with fictitious components. He researches every detail meticulously, but leaves space for poetic licence if it serves the narrative. »Der Boxer« (2011; Eng. »The Boxer«, 2014) is based on the biography of Jewish boxer Hertzko Haft, who was forced by the Nazis to fight against fellow inmates while interned in a concentration camp, which he turned into his survival strategy. This story, which was also highly successful abroad, was first serialized in the national daily newspaper »Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung« (FAZ) before appearing in book form, and received the 2013 German Youth Literature Prize for Non-Fiction. »An Olympic Dream: The Story of Samia Yusuf Omar« (2016), Kleists graphic novel biography of Somali sprinter Samia Yusuf Omar, who represented her country at the 2008 Olympic Games and died during an attempt to flee to Europe in 2012, was also first serialized in the »FAZ« in 2014, and subsequently published in book form in 2015. It received a number of awards, among them the 2016 Gustav Heinemann Peace Prize for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. From 2013, Kleist’s comic series »Berliner Mythen« (tr. Berlin myths) was serialized in the bi-weekly Berlin city guide »zitty«. »Kawergosk – 5 Sterne« (tr. Kawergosk – 5 stars«), a graphic novel reportage about Kleist’s experience in a Syrian refugee camp in northern Iraq, was published on the European TV network ARTE’s website.

Kleist regularly gives workshops and presentations, and organizes exhibitions in Mexico, Brazil, China, Italy, Jordan, Algeria, Spain and Canada, among other places.


Cash – I See A Darkness
Hamburg, 2006
Berlinoir 1–3
Hamburg, 2013
Der Boxer
Die wahre Geschichte des Hertzko Haft
Hamburg, 2011
Der Traum von Olympia
Die Geschichte von Samia Yusuf Omar
Hamburg, 2015
Berliner Mythen
Hamburg, 2016