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“I was ahead of my time”: Cartoonist Julie Doucet on dealing with gender

Montreal-born underground cartoonist Julie Doucet was addressing sexuality, gender and violence in her illustrations decades before the #MeToo movement was born. Next month, the award-winning graphic artist returns to Berlin — where she lived and worked in the 1990s — for a book signing and artist’s talk. tip Berlin’s Jacek Slaski caught up with her.

Graphic artist Julie Doucet returns to Berlin next month (Photo: Kate Mada)

You lived in Berlin during the 1990s. What do you remember about this time?

I was living in Berlin between 1995 and 1998. I remember the Potsdamer Platz construction site very well, I was bicycling through it a few times a week to go from Mitte to Kreuzberg and back. I was living in Prenzlauer Berg…I remember the grey winters, coal heating, buildings not yet renovated, falling apart. The general atmosphere was so dark! I loved it. Until it got a bit too much to take…

Did you have any contact with the local comic scene back then?

Yes, of course, being published by Reprodukt, I got to meet many of the other artists: Atak, Anke Feuchtenberger, Fil, Gabi Rets, Martin Tom Dieck, Henning Wagenbreth…and more. There used to be a comix bibliothek in Mitte, which was very funky, exciting, like a candy store. I don’t remember what it was called? I was quite impressed with Berlin comic artists’ work because it was more artistic, more free, more experimental. 

Did Berlin have any impact on your work (drawing/specific topics)?  

I can’t say that it had any impact while I was there, but seeing such different work from my own, so full of possibilities, it definitely inspired me a bit later to try different things.   

How do you see Berlin today?

The last time I was in Berlin was in 2003, so I don’t know. 

What will you do in Berlin when you come here in March (besides your work/book readings)?

I will be on a signing tour so unfortunately I will only spend one day in Berlin! I am afraid I won’t have time to do anything else…hopefully see old friends..

What can you say about the new (German) book, that will be published here soon?

It’s a collection of old comics of mine, short stories, featuring my own character. Stories about female troubles, gender questions, dreams I had at night…

Feminism and gender are central to your work, do you see yourself as a pioneer of these topics in the comic genre?

I didn’t do it on purpose. It’s not like I had a political agenda…I was just talking about my own questionings, fears, obsessions. When I started drawing comics I had no idea, couldn’t even dream of being published so I was pretty much putting whatever was going through my mind on the page. I could not imagine anybody could ever relate to such crazy stories about sex changing and all…

How can your work relate to current discussions on feminism/equality etc., such as #MeToo?

People have mentioned to me they were amazed reading the gender-themed comics, how relevant they seemed to be today. How I was ahead of my time…I don’t know about that! 

(Photo: Julie Doucet)

Julie Doucet will be signing copies of her new book at Modern Graphics, Oranienstraße, on 12th March. Afterwards, she invites you to Pablo-Neruda-Bibliothek in Friedrichshain for an artist’s talk.

Original interview by Jacek Slaski


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