Born as Karel Saudek, he is likely the most popular Czech comics author – known also as “the king of Czech comics” (Diesing 2009, 51) – as well as an illustrator and a poster painter. Most of his famous works were created in Czechoslovakia during the Communist era (1948-1989), when comics were considered a decadent medium and as a result weren’t given much space in publishing industry, and Saudek himself was persecuted by the regime.

Inspired by American comics and cartoons, Saudek started drawing comics early in his youth, but became famous only in 1960s, when he embarked on working in a movie studio, some of the illustrations he designed being used in Who Wants to Kill Jessie? (Kdo chce zabít Jessie?, 1966) and later in Four Murders Are Enough, Sweetheart (Čtyři vraždy stačí, drahoušku, 1970)– both wildly popular Czech comedy movies parodying the superhero comics culture. At that time Saudek had already begun drawing comics for several magazines, including Pop Music Express; among his early stories belonged the series Johnny Thunder (Honza Hrom, 1968) and Joe the Hippy (Pepík Hipík, 1969) featuring non-conformist and free-spirited protagonists. Later, followed several historical romances with strong sexual undertones, such as Lips Tullian: The Most Redoubtable Leader of Bandits (Lips Tullian: Nejobávanější náčelník lupičů, 1972) and Black Philip (Černý Filip, 1974), as well as the sci-fi Expedition from Sixia (Výprava ze Sixie, 1971-1972) or Arnal and the Two Dragon’s Teeth (Arnal a dva dračí zuby, 1988). He also drew several comics based on popular boys’ novels by Jaroslav Foglar (1907-1999), including The Blue Ravine (Modrá rokle, 1984) and Lost Friend (Ztracený kamarád, 1987). Saudek’s dynamic, pop-art influenced style paired with slightly psychedelic, absurd sense of humor was a great success with the readers. Perhaps the greatest examples of his style are the two sci-fi comics stories, Muriel and the Angels and Muriel and the Orange Death, which Saudek authored by the end of 1960s together with a scriptwriter Miloš Macourek (1926-2002). The stories were supposed to be a part of a longer series centring on a Barbarella-inspired sexy heroine Muriel and her journey to the future. However, the comics were banned and remained unpublished until much later – the former story was released shortly after the fall of the Communist regime, the latter only in 2009.

After the end of the Communist era, many of Saudek’s older works were reprinted, including some which were banned under the previous regime, such as Muriel and the Angels or an action drama Major Zeman and Six of His Cases, based – albeit in a rather subversive way – on a popular propaganda TV series from 1970s. In 1990s Saudek cooperated with a short-lived comics magazine, Comet (Kometa), which reprinted some of his comics based on Foglar’s novels, but after the magazine folded in 1992, he devoted more time to painting and providing illustrations for magazines, including a well-known pornographic periodic, Nei Report. In 2006, he suffered an accident that seriously undermined his health and has been on a hiatus as of 2015.

— Anna Krivankova

Further Reading

  • Diesing, Helena. “Kája Saudek: The King of Czech Comics.” International Journal of Comic Art 11, no. 1 (2009): 51-62.
  • Formisano, Lawrence. “Kája Saudek, the Story of a Pencil That Bit.” Progetto Repubblica Ceca. June 30, 2013. Accessed May 7, 2015. http://www.progetto.cz/storia-di-una-matita-pungente/?lang=en.
  • Kořínek, Pavel, and Tomáš Prokůpek, eds. Signals from the Unknown: Czech Comics 1922-2012. Prague: Arbor Vitae, 2012.