Graphic Novel

Five Questions for Felix Mertikat

Felix Mertikat

His distinguishing feature is a hat, and Felix Mertikat enjoys extravagance generally. With his debut album Jakob (2010) he took his readers' hearts by storm, and shortly thereafter followed his detective story Steam Noir - Das Kupferherz (i.e. steam noir - the copper heart). Mertikat creates fantastic worlds for his mournful, gloomy tales.

What did you study, and how have your studies influenced you?

Copyright: Katja PfisterI studied animation at the Film Academy in Stuttgart, and was able to attend the École de Gobelins in Paris for a half year. These experiences were phenomenal and influence my work to this day. I do not see myself in the tradition of a particular artist. But I want to continue developing my style and trying things out. Right now I'm in a realistic-naturalistic phase in my creative work, although I'm discovering more and more tendencies towards abstraction and simplification.

Your first comic, “Jakob” was a fable about a little boy whose mother dies; “Steam Noir” is about a fantastic world and beings with supernatural powers. What was the greatest challenge in these projects?

Gaining acceptance and trust for our work. Jakob is a story with an unusual dramaturgy. We wanted to tell it differently and use different means. It cost a lot of energy to convince everybody involved about the soundness of our work. The fact that both books - Steam Noir and Jakob - are about ghosts, souls and supernatural powers is more or less fortuitous, and has to do with the projects' history. The stories arose out of two completely different, older projects. The fact that they both deal with death is a coincidence: I don't see myself as a spiritual person, but would describe myself as an atheist instead.

Your comic projects arise through team work. What do you value about it?

Teamwork has lots of advantages. My maximum creativity always emerges when I'm in exchange with others. “Goofing around” and designing works best in a team. Furthermore, each one of us has to do only half the work. That saves energy and ensures that each can concentrate on what he or she can do best. If one absolutely wants to go looking for drawbacks, then difficulties agreeing about the vision of a project or about the place of the ego. If you can manage both, then there's nothing better than working with a compatible author - in my case that's Verena Klinke.

In “Steam Noir” you create a very complex fantastic world. How much planning and conception is involved in creating this universe, and how much room remains for creativity and chaos?

Our world is indeed very complex and finely interwoven. I can keep the overview because I am constantly moving in this world and have an inner plan before my eyes. Here, the issue is less the correct position of individual cities than of the right feeling and of the entanglements of this world. Creativity is there in any number of places. Even after ten years there are still spots that haven't been concretised.

What's more important, artistry or salesmanship?

Everybody has to create his own “space” and demonstrate artistic resolve. I believe in the courage of creating something new and unknown: the courage to make oneself vulnerable on account of one's own work, the courage to set a trend rather than following one. But of course you have to make sure that your work can be sold, because in the end as an artist you are paid for creating something that other people like. I am an artist wholeheartedly and intend to

stay that way. But that can only work if I can sell my work, too. I don't want to have to sit at a checkout counter to finance my art. That would be awful for me.

Rieke Harmsen conducted the interview.
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
November 2012
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