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!
Original interview by Jacek Slaski