Cartoon by Manfred Deix
Manfred Deix cartoon from the 1980s.

Manfred Deix was an Austrian cartoonist, graphic artist, musician, novelist and illustrator. He has an instantly recognizable style, characterized by gorgeously looking aquarel cartoons of very chubby people with grotesque facial features. In his home country his name even became an eponym for people who look like his characters. Deix was a masterful satirist. He shamelessly ridiculed politicians, religion, police officers, the porn industry and the average everyday civilian. It gained him a cult following and many awards but also made him controversial. In 1994 one of his cartoons was sentenced for blasphemy, though overturned in appeal. 

comic art by Manfred Deix

Early life
Manfred Deix was born in 1949 in the lower Austrian town of St. Pölten, as the second child of Johanna and Franz Deix. His parents owned an inn named 'Zur blauen Weintraube', in Böhemkirchen and it was expected that he'd continue the family business. Yet Deix was more interested in cartooning. At age nine he already constructed an erotic flip book featuring 100 drawings of a woman undressing. He also sold nude drawings to his schoolmates. In 1965 Deix enrolled at the Graphic Education and Research Institute in Vienna, together with his friends Bernhard Paul, Josef Bramer and Gottfried Helnwein. He was kicked out after two and a half years. He continued his studies at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, which he also left after 14 semesters. Ironically it was his Religion teacher who helped him publish his first cartoons in the weekly Niederösterreichischen Kirchenzeitung. Deix' main graphic influence was Robert Crumb

Cartoon by Manfred Deix

Cartooning career
By 1972, he was publishing his first professional work in magazines like Profil, Trend and Economy. In 1973 Deix adapted Wolfgang Kudrnofsky's novel 'Klappe, Mr. President' into a comic strip. He furthermore made cover drawings for Stern, Der Spiegel, Pardon, Titanic and Playboy. His advertising posters for Casablanca cigarettes were once very well known. From 1992 until March 2015 Deix had a weekly cartoon in the news magazine News. In 1980, his first book 'Cartoons von Manfred Deix' was published. Several collections followed, such as 'Cartoons de Luxe' (1983), 'Satiren aus Wien' (1985), 'Mein Tagebuch' (1986), 'Der dicke Deix' (2004) and 'Der heilige Deix' (2013). 

Style & controversy
Deix worked with gentle watercolours. His cartoons are often accompanied by poetic commentary, written underneath the images. It has the tone of a nursery rhyme, though with a witty, ironic edge. Most resemble text comics, but some are balloon comics too. Despite their inviting, seemingly childlike image Deix' cartoons often broke taboos. Institutional and personal misconduct were his favorite targets. He often portrayed politicians (especially extreme-right politician Jörg Haider), religious people, porn consumers and average people in less than flattering lights. The characters in his work are always grotesque, ugly, obese, plump, pathetic nincompoops, much how foreigners imagine what a stereotypical German civilian looks like. In Austria a person with typical behaviour and looks resembling his charactes is called a "Deixfigur", an eponym which even made it into the Austrian dictionary! Yet despite their exaggerated features all these "Deixfiguren" are still hilariously universally recognizable caricatures.

In 1994 Deix made a cartoon ridiculing Jesus which led to a sentence for blasphemy, though he won his case in appeal. On 11 December 2009 Catholic clerics in Vienna sued him again for two cartoons on the website NEWS.at  which satirized the prohibition against crucifixes in schools and depicted God. Famous Austrian celebrities like chancellor Bruno Kreisky, comedian Helmut Qualtinger (Remigio the bearded monk in 'The Name of the Rose', 1986) and writers Thomas Bernhard and Elfriede Jelinek felt personally offended by his work. 

Cartoon by Manfred Deix
'Grazer Bürgerwehr', 2002

Recognition
Deix received many cultural awards throughout his career. The Karikaturmuseums Krems celebrated his 60th birthday with a large exhibition, and the publication of the book 'Der goldene Deix', in 2009. 

Personal life and death
He lived near Vienna with his wife, whom he had married in Las Vegas, and about 80 pets. He was active as a musician and in 1995 recorded a cover album with songs by The Beach Boys, sung in Viennese dialect. Deix led an excessive personal life, which consisted of "working, drawing, smoking and boozing". By 1987 he had to be hospitalized because of a pulmonary emobilism. In 1994 he collapsed once again. Twenty years later he suffered from a pulmonary infarction, which motivated him to give up smoking in favor of the e-cigarette. On 25 June 2016 he passed away after a long illness. 

Celebrity fans
Manfred Deix' work was admired by artist and painter Gottfried Heinwein, comedian Lukas Resetarits, circus director Bernhard Paul (who all three attended his funeral), Dutch cartoonist Willem, rock singer Bono (U2) and film director Billy Wilder ('Sunset Boulevard', 'Some Like It Hot'). 

Documentaries about Deix
For those interested in Deix' life and art, Peter Hajek's documentary, 'Küß die Hand, Österreich – Manfred Deix und seine Bilder' (1987), produced by ORF and ZDF, is highly recommended. 

Cartoon by Manfred Deix

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