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.
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!
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