Today at The Comics Journal, we're pleased to break up the last few weeks of bad news with some good: after twenty years, Jason Lutes monumental Berlin project sees publication this week from Drawn & Quarterly. He spoke with Josh Kramer about what it was like to commit so hard to something, the man he became over the decades of work he put into it, how he grapples with cultural appropriation, and what he thinks about when he watches the news.
I had some highfalutin ideas about what I was going to get across, what I was going to "lay down." And I also wanted to explore as much of the kind of spectrum of human experience as possible using this medium. One of my goals was to see what I could do with comics. How do you convey emotion? How do you convey something like the sense of taste or smell? How do you tackle these sensory things? Every medium has its own challenges as far as those things go. And I was really curious about what I could do with comics. The conscious part was this weird combination of, "here are some big themes I want to address and here is the formal stuff I want to tackle with this medium."
And then I got, you know, 24 pages in and thankfully, once I was in that story and I had these characters and I was paying attention to them as characters, those bigger ideas just kinda dropped away. And I was just dealing with the people. So any time I wrote a scene I would just imagine being each of the characters in that scene and imagine how they would interact with one another. And then I would look after I drew, I would look at the actual, physical space they were in. Sometimes that would trigger the next part of the story. Even though I was drawing everything and thinking of everything myself, I wanted it to be a kind of lively and active environment where I could pay attention to anything I wanted to. And in the beginning of the book there's this scene with a police officer in a traffic tower. The first traffic light in Europe. And that just came out of me actually drawing that. I drew that street scene and I drew that traffic tower and after I drew it I thought, "Well, who's in that?" So I had a little one-page digression where we go in there and pay attention to that guy and that couldn't have happened if I hadn't drawn the physical space and then considered my relationship to it or the relationship of the characters to it.
And we've also got a classy coincidence, if your definition of classy involves the artist Simon Bisley: two different reviewers, one book. It's TMNT Bodycount, newly re-released by IDW, and we've got the words from Matt Seneca AND J. Caleb Mozzocco. And yes: it's that J. Caleb Mozzocco, who is joining the squad in the most traditional of fashions--being inadvertently tacked into a stunt simply because he picked the one random old Simon Bisley comic to submit to us the same day that I asked Matt Seneca to write about because I thought it was high time Matt read a Turtle book. Welcome aboard, Caleb! And yes: next time we doubleteam, it'll be on a book that deserves the scrutiny.
[Okay, i'm not going to keep that promise.]
Over at Dustin Harbin's place, he's posted yet another touching and succinct diary comic--this one is on his neighbor, Bea.