Last weekend we posted our review of indie comic book Liebestrasse by writer Greg Lockard, artist Tim Fish, colorist Héctor Barros and letterer Lucas Gatoni that’s out now on comiXology Originals. Well, keeping up our coverage of this indie darling we’ve managed to score an interview with Greg and Tim about the book, it’s inspirations and more.
Olly MacNamee: Minorities and minority groups, such as LGBTQ+, have been persecuted throughout the ages, so why Berlin in the 1930’s set against the backdrop of Hitler’s rise to power?
Greg Lockard: The setting (Berlin in the 1930s) came before the characters in this instance. We knew we wanted to tell a love story set in that unimaginably horrible time. Previous representations of gay/queer life in Berlin have been somewhat chaste in their presentations– we wanted a love story that showed two men truly in love. As you said, all minority groups have been persecuted and discriminated against throughout time and around the world. All those stories should be told! This is just one story of an infinite multitude–good and bad and a thousand variations in-between.
Tim Fish: As a history student, the interwar period has always fascinated me. It was full of joy and hardship, progressive thinking and the conservative backlash. It was normal, and then it was insane. I knew a lot about the Nazi rise to power and persecution, but walking through Boston’s Holocaust memorial was the first I was aware that gays, too, were persecuted. It’s a story that’s not as often told.
OM: And what are your own relationship with Berlin and Germany? It’s a beautiful city that I never tire of visiting myself, and one that does not shy away from it’s past, either. Tim, you’re on record as having visited two concentration camps previously. That in itself must have been very thought provoking, to say the least?
TF: Essentially as a tourist. I’ve visited Munich, and Berlin a few times, and throughout the east between Berlin and Prague. In Berlin, the reconstructed buildings, riddled with bullet holes and using the remains of the originals with new material to fill in are haunting.
My visits to the camps created a long-lasting impression. I marveled at Berlin today and then was face to face with its brutal past.
GL: I have travelled to Berlin twice in my life and I was very lucky to have these experiences to pull from as we started research on this graphic novel. It is a wonderful city and it is full of history– both wonderful and terrible. I think it is important that I met Germans on my trips to Berlin. I saw the city alive and vibrant. Of course, the amazing museums and memorials in Berlin are very important and helped form parts of the story for us as well.
OM: How did you go about researching this particular period in time? Your Berlin is very much a city with dual identities; a very vibrant, albeit clandestine underground scene, but with a fearful public life. Firstly, from a narrative point of view and then as an artist.
GL: In addition to the travel to Berlin, I did a significant amount of reading and watching films. My reading list included: Jason Lutes’ Berlin graphic novel; Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories as well as his memoir, Christopher and His Kind; Gay Berlin by Robert Beachy was a priceless historical resource; An Underground Life – Memorios of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin by Gad Beck and I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror by Pierre Seel were two very important memoirs to my research.
TF: The city’s history is mixed blessing. There are lots of photos of neighborhoods and buildings pre-war. But, I think about 80% of the city was destroyed during the war. Researching the reconstruction was much more difficult. For the part set in the 1950s, I tried to capture the essence of the progression rather than precise accuracy. Fashion was also fun to research, from old magazine ads and patterns.
OM: Your story deals with the rise of fascism and the devastating effects on the seemingly healthy gay community of Berlin. How can it not draw parallels with our own current political situation, both in America and here in the UK, with the rise of the right and prejudice views allowed to be given airtime? Was this intentional?
TF: 100%. I toured the camps about 10 years ago, that’s when I first had the idea for the premise of the story. But it was the 2016 election that made me finally bring it to life. There are many parallels between then and now. And whatever hope I had about the Trump presidency were dashed as he announced his anti-LGBTQI+ cabinet picks. We made an effort to mention Hitler, and Nazis, as little as possible. It was tougher to avoid drawing swastikas.
GL: This was completely intentional as a way to process our own terror at the rise of the alt-right and neo-Nazis around the globe. It was something you could hear in the U.S. but the return to the spotlight and political conversation around the 2016 election in the U.S. was previously unimaginable in our lifetimes. History was repeating before our eyes and seeing the parallels to our story really informed its creation and the emotion it contains.
OM: I was struck by the beauty of both Berlin and rural Germany you present in this book. Considering the ugliness of the situations, why present Germany so positively? Being half-German myself, I must admit, to have a great deal of bias towards the country, but even I can’t think of many comics that portray this gem of Europe so idyllically at times.
TF: There was joy, there was beauty, for sure. My time in the east was Spring, so I probably saw things at their best. The countryside is both stunning and the villages are quaint. Of course, I also had on the rose-colored glasses of the tourist.
OM: Now, we met briefly at Thought Bubble this year, but I believe that it’s also the place you were scouted by the good folks at comiXology Originals. And, a year later, you’re back to sell your book. How does that feel?
GL: It feels amazing! Thought Bubble is the friendliest show on the planet and the organizers and all the volunteers really make you feel at home– which is even more special as a group of Americans travelling very far from our homes to attend. Everyone there is so supportive and it feels like we’ve really started to create a community at the show.
TF: The pace of production was exciting. We pushed hard, and didn’t phone anything in. To see it come together and get out there, with the full support of comiXology is even more exciting, and incredibly gratifying.
OM: And, any further pals for a collaboration in the future? Or, any other projects you might be working on that you’d care to mention?
TF: We’ve been discussing our next steps, nothing to share yet. I’ve got a graphic novel completed…I’m trying to decide whether to shop to publishers, put up online, or kick-start. I’ve also been working on a collection of short stories that I’ve been producing, primarily through the French magazine La Revue LGBT BD.
GL: Tim and I have been friends and collaborators for a long time… so there are always ideas in the works! As an editor, I’m currently working with Alex Segura, Monica Gallagher, George Kambadais, Ellie Wright and Taylor Esposito on The Black Ghost, also for Comixology Originals. I’m also editing the debut titles of Iván Brandon’s Offset Comics and some other projects that will all have announcements and release dates very soon.
Liebestrasse is available now on ComiXology Originals here.