Graphic Novel

“Always in Service of the Story” - Interview with Ulli Lust

Ulli Lust, Avant-VerlagUlli Lust Ulli Lust has been distinguished with the Erlangen Comic Salon’s 2010 Max and Moritz people’s choice award for her book Heute ist der letzte Tag vom Rest Deines Lebens (i.e. today is the last day of the rest of your life). In addition, she has also received the Independent Comics Prize from the Interessenverband Comic (i.e. association of comic artists, ICOM).

Congratulations, Ulli Lust! What do these distinctions mean to you?

I’m very happy. One likes to hear that one has done a good job. Of course, with the Max and Moritz Award my newcomer status is over with now. What’s important to me is that I won the people’s choice award. It shows just how positively readers reacted to my book. That’s gratifying. Unfortunately, the prize has no purse. You get a medal and a big piece of hard bread shaped like Max and Moritz. The ICOM prize is a small award only given to works issued by independent publishers. But the initiators are decent enough to attach a bit of money to it.

Your book appeared in September 2009. What has happened since then?

Reactions to the book are unbelievably positive. Most people react extremely enthusiastically. For example, I get mails from little girls who write me that they couldn’t sleep because they had to finish the book. Hopefully, the girls weren’t too young (laughs). No, reading it is a substitute. After all the girls read that just taking off doesn’t always have a happy end. To that extent, the book even has a pedagogical effect, although this was not intended.

What significance do the story and the drawing have for you?

I always start out with the content and narrative, before I even think about drawing. The drawing emerges from the content. There are draughtsmen who work very formally and produce wonderful panels. In my case, drawing always serves the narrative. If highly atmospheric images appear in my drawing, it is intentional; then this belongs to the atmosphere that must be generated. This pragmatism sometimes also results in some of my pictures looking very matter-of-fact.

Ulli LustHow do you work?

The process is a bit like writing. First you have an idea, which crystallises little by little. Then I start drawing, working forward slowly. I often rework the drawings. This is always in service of the story. I know a few comic artists who can’t draw all that well, but tell awesome stories that totally engross one. If the drawings are good, but the draughtsman has nothing to say, the charm quickly evaporates.

Does one’s view of one’s own book change with time?

One is unable to judge one’s own work for the first months after it has appeared. But after one or two years, one can look at it again as if one has never seen it before. Right now, I can’t read my book, and can’t evaluate it at all. I lack the parameters for rating it. When people tell me that they enjoyed reading my book, I believe it just as I would believe it if they said they think it is totally lousy.

What happens now with your comic?

The book has been extremely well received by both the public and the publishers. In October, it will appear with Rizzoli,the Italian publishers, in France with the publishers Ça et Là and in Spain with Libros Cupula. Galago, the Swedish publishers, asked the Goethe-Institut for help in translating the book, because they can’t finance it alone, but negotiations are still underway with them.

What are you working on at the moment?

I want to adapt a novel as a comic. But a number of things have to be discussed with the publisher. I also regularly hold workshops. I have a university lectureship for the coming semester, And then there is also Electrocomics-Verlag in the Internet. I could do an incredible amount of work there, but I really don’t want to get into that. I want to have fun doing my work, too.
Rieke C. Harmsen
asked the questions. She is an art historian and an editor at the Evangelische Pressedienst (Protestant press service, epd) in Munich.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
June 2010
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