Altcomics: the intensity of the gruesome sensation on TOTT novels

What is Altcomics?

“Alt” comics can be described as underground comics that do not follow traditional comic book conventions, in short. Different kinds of expression forms in altcomics can be alternative and even unique, as in the case of Cinema Panopticum by Thomas Ott.

So, let me introduce you to this dark talented fellow.

He is a freelance comics artist and illustrator, as well as an animator, musician, and political cartoonist. Ott uses cutters and scratch board to create most of his wordless cartoons, which frequently have an eerie and grim tone.

obviously Ott, while craving a scratch board

Take a look from here at the scratch boarding process of Thomas Ott:


Aside from the richness of its art, there is no denying the pantomimic roots of language-free comprehension enabled by wordless comics. It is beyond any language how sharply expressive his technique is. The artist very well knows a way or two about intriguing your emotions; a single storyboard is enough to make you almost shiver out of its gruesome tension.

The macabre intrigue turns the book into a palpable experience.

All of his works share common features like layered narration, loops and deep dark fears that he emphasized with light and shadow. He entwines the reader with the stories. Along with his visual poetry, his development as a storyteller over time lighten up.



  • Tales of Error, 1989, Edition Moderne
  • Phantom der Superheld, 1994, Edition Moderne
  • Greetings from Hellville, 1995, Edition Moderne
  • Dead End, 1996, Edition Moderne
  • La douane, 1996, L’Association
  • La bête à cinq doigts, 1996, L’Association
  • La grande famiglia, 1997, L’Association
  • t.o.t.t., 2002, Edition Moderne
  • Cinema Panopticum, 2005, Edition Moderne
  • The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8. Zürich: Edition Moderne 2008, 2nd edition 2013. ISBN 978-3-03731-025-0
  • Unplugged. Das Skizzenbuch, Zürich: Edition Stephan Witschi, 2009
  • R.I.P. Best of 1985-2004. Zürich: Edition Moderne 2010. ISBN 3037310529
  • Dark Country. Zürich: Edition Moderne 2013. ISBN 978-3-03731-114-1
  • Black Island. Zürich: Hammer-Verlag 2013
  • A Hell of a Woman. (Jim Thompson) Editions la Baconnière, 2014
  • Louis Vuitton – Travel Book – Route 66. (Thomas Ott) Editions Louis Vuitton, 2017
  • Wo die Liebe hinfällt. (Illustrations by Thomas Ott) Diogenes Verlag, 2018
  • Der Wald. Carlsen, Hamburg, 2021, ISBN 978-3-551-76020-3


Ott claims that he had a typical crisis—his fourth at the age of 50—before going on this trip in his Travel Book Route 66.

“We ask some questions on the road and get lost, and eventually there are no answers, and all we have is the feeling that we know nothing, and every time we make the same mistakes, so we just have to accept. “


Certain works of Ott:


  • Cinema Panopticum:
The Girl from Cinema Panopticum

In the first frames, an excited poor girl is looking for something that indicates her money is sufficient, but she finds nothing. She only has five coins. Then she realized that Cinema Panopticum had five different movies inside. Then both the girl’s and your adventures begin.

Tales of six chapters are named; “The Girl,” “The Hotel,” The Champion,” “The Experiment,” The “Prophet,” and “The Girl”.




  • The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8:
a frame from The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8 of Ott

A jail guard discovers a little piece of paper with a string of numbers on it while cleaning the cell of a prisoner who was given a death sentence and then executed. He throws it into his pocket on the spur of the moment. The numbers on the paper pique the guard’s interest as he leads a lonely, routine life. From grief through perplexity, obsession, hope, joy, fear, wrath, and eventually despair, he evokes a wide range of emotions.




  • Dead End:

“Dead End” is a cinematic style in panel design that is wonderfully portrayed with fish-eye viewpoints that generate dizziness. It is like a short noir film. Ott’s work brings to mind a visual history of literary suspense with calls to The Twilight Zone and Kafka.

from Dead End



Comic Expert Cuno Affolter spoke of TOTT as its preface of Tales of Error:

An expert in comics, Cuno Affolter, stated why TOTT does not require language, as its preface of Tales of Error:

“The comics of TO.T.T. do not need language for another reason: the protagonists are themselves mute. Their connections extend beyond the oral and into the dark layers of the unspoken, where the harmless “error” can turn into the “terror.”

On his black scratch card, T.O.T.T. gets closer, layer by layer, to these most secret funds. His scratching knife pulls the light out of the dark. It blinds us, this light, like that of Harvey Kurtzman, Alberto Breccia or José Muñoz, perhaps because it shows us the shadow, the underside of the medal.

Seen from this eye, T.O.T.T. does not know the anguish of the white sheet, but rather that of the black cardboard like the night and of what is hidden underneath. But I’ve said it before: a T.O.T.T. board replaces a thousand words. His images and his stories make you mute.”

Intro of Tales of Error

Some another wordless comic recommendations:

  • Passionate Journey, Le Soleil, Capitale by Frans Masereel
  • The Arrival, Tan Shaun
  • Mooncop, Tom Gauld





A researcher and freelance translator, who draws inspiration mostly from ornithology, graphic novels, black metal, and linguistics.

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