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Julie Doucet Interviewed on Lemonhound

Updated April 4, 2013


"Words into Pictures: An Interview with Julie Doucet"

Frederik Byrn Køhlert
Lemonhound, 19 February 2013

Julie Doucet is a Montreal-based artist who reached an international audience with her personal and innovative comics from the ’80s and ’90s. While her comics work is considered groundbreaking and continues to influence new generations of artists, Doucet quit drawing comics around 1999 and has since worked in a number of other art forms.

Frederik Byrn Køhlert: Can you tell me a little about your current projects? I know you have been screen-printing, doing collages, publishing a large number of mini-zines, doing illustration work, and making short abstract animation projects, in some cases in collaboration with others. Compared to your earlier career when you mostly made comics, this is a very wide variety of work. Was that a conscious choice, or was it just something that happened organically when you started following different interests? Do you see your current work as very different from your comics, or is there a natural progression for you—perhaps even a certain maturity?



Julie Doucet: You did an accurate listing of what I’ve been doing the past 10 years! The only choice I made was to go back to printing. Which was my specialization at the university. Started with woodcuts and linocuts, then moved on to silkscreen printing. The rest was organic, like you say. Yes, there is a progression and a thread uniting all of it, the starting point being comics… It’s words into pictures, or words used in a visual form one way or another. Most of the time as a narrative. Some would insist that it is all so close to comics that I am obviously Still into it… but no, I sure don’t feel like that’s what I’m doing. I would say that what I’m doing is closer to poetry, if you have to put a word on it. I don’t really like the word poetry, but I think that’s what it is.

FBK: Your recent work has featured a lot of drawings of abstract geometric shapes. In some ways, I feel that this interest in perspective, shape and various shadings is a natural progression from your comics work, but it is also extremely different because it of course lacks a narrative element. Are you still interested in narrative at all?

JD: Yes, I am still interested in narrative. But in writing only, no pictures.



FBK: Most of your current work incorporates a lot of words, but not in traditional comics way. Instead you use phrases and words in isolation, and play with French, English and German. How important are words to you even in a non-narrative context? Do you think you could ever be a purely image-based artist?

JD: I quit comics 14 years ago! It is so far away from me now! I don’t even read comics anymore. Only the ones drawn by my friends and ok one exception: Anouk Ricard’s “Anna et Froga.” The words are the essence of my work… I did two series of portraits in woodcut in 1999-2000, that was the first thing I did after leaving comics. Although I liked the experience, I don’t think, no, that I could produce images without words. I kind of feel like that images are not… pertinent anymore. Too over-used. They have become meaningless to me. I love images, but couldn’t produce any anymore (figurative, at least).

FBK: What is it about collages that interest you? A lot of your raw material seems to be very ordinary stuff such as mainstream magazines and advertisements. Is there a political project of re-appropriation going on, or is it simply that you like the aesthetics?

JD: I like the aesthetics. Also it’s because there is a big variety of fonts in those old magazines and not too often put into pictures or photos, which makes them easier to cut out and use. It’s not the case for more recent magazines.

FBK: I am interested in your collaboration with Michel Gondry, the French filmmaker, for My New New York Diary. It seems throughout the project that you were being dragged out of your zone of comfort by Gondry, and I wonder if that was a conscious decision on your part—to do something that you were perhaps not entirely confortable with.

JD: I was very excited to work with Gondry, I loved his films and his crazy imagination. I trusted him… which was a mistake!! I really didn’t like the experience of being filmed and looked at by a dozen of people at a time, no. The whole thing was supposed to be an essais, not such a big project (18 minutes). He got more and more ideas for it along the way and dragged me into it. It is mostly his project, not mine.

FBK: Your comics were published internationally, and reached a relatively large audience. There are probably many people outside of Montreal who are unaware that you are still making art. How do you feel about returning to hand-crafting art even if it reaches a much smaller and more local audience? Are you able to make a living? Do you see the mini-zines as something of a return to the earlier comics work and how you began your career?

JD: It’s more about the amazing pleasure of silkscreen printing. It is a total addiction. I create material just to be able to screen-print a book out of it. I don’t think it is so much the fact that I am hand-crafting my art but the fact that I am writing in French (or even worse in bad German) now. That leaves an awful lot of people out. I could always get something like real publications out of those small projects and exist for people outside of MTL and make some money, if I were writing in English. But it wouldn’t make sense to me to write in English, as it wouldn’t make sense to me to draw comics now. My work in French is appreciated, from people in visual arts as well as in literature (and in comics) that’s all I want. I make a living from this and that…

FBK: Your comics work has often been considered to have a bit of a feminist bent, an interpretation you have mostly resisted, preferring to not align yourself with a political agenda. I notice that some of your recent illustration work engages with specific feminist issues such as the various slutwalks, for example. You also seem to be preoccupied with images of the female body in many of your collages, and I wonder if you see your current work as political or even feminist in some sense?

JD: Because I am a woman and that I did the comics I did people tend to call me only when they have womens related topics to be illustrated. Which is very annoying, because I don’t get as much jobs because of that. I never had intentions of expressing anything political, it just happened that way. That’s the reason why from the beginning I never wanted to have that feminist label. In the late ’80s and beginning of ’90s it was not really sexy to call yourself a feminist… I got influenced by that. Today I would say OF COURSE I’m a feminist! I do put more intention in my work now. Feminist yes, sure, but political the word sounds a bit too strong to me.

FBK: When you stopped making comics over ten years ago, you often talked about how the comics world was a boy’s club that never made you feel at ease or part of it. Since then, this has of course changed significantly, and there are now a great number of prominent and successful women cartoonists, many of whom cite you as an inspiration and part of the reason why they wanted to do comics in the first place. Does this change of affairs ever tempt you to create comics again, or are you completely happy to never do another comic ever again?

JD: I never said I never felt at ease in that boy’s crowd. I was very much at ease in the most part, me being more confortable with men than with women, at the time. I felt I was at the right place… it’s later that I started to not relate with those guys anymore. They were not much interested in anything else than comics and that killed me. NOOOOO I don’t want to draw comics anymore!!!… So many things to do!!
 
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Featured artist

Julie Doucet

          



  Autobio comics on AV Club: ONWARDS, MY NEW YORK DIARY, I NEVER LIKED YOU

Updated January 10, 2012


December 15, 2011
Sam Adams

Shigeru Mizuki’s Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is a stunning account of life as a Japanese soldier during World War II that could only have come from the pen of a veteran, but he also avails himself of the fiction author’s ability to reorganize and compress as needed.

Julie Doucet’s My New York Diary is the closest the former Dirty Plotte cartoonist has gotten to memoir, but it’s still deliberately unreliable, chronicling her six-month attempt to live in New York City with the lucid strangeness of a fever dream.

The Essentials:

4. I Never Liked You by Chester Brown
A slim but painful volume, told in Brown’s characteristically deadpan style, recounting his adolescence with melancholy wit. The tiny panels adrift in a sea of blank space are like flashes of memory torn from the past; they fit together, but not without gaps.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Julie Doucet
Shigeru Mizuki

           Featured products

I Never Liked You: The New Definitive Edition
My New York Diary
Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths




LYNDA BARRY, JULIE DOUCET and TOVE JANSSON are all notable women in comics

Updated August 15, 2011


As a lady who frequently rants about lady issues, I have been selected by the Hooded Utilitarian to write a piece about lady cartoonists that will somehow not make all ladies reading it roll their eyes and groan. This is my punishment for all the ranting. I've learned my lesson.

Eleven years ago, when The Comics Journal put out its big Top 100 Comics by English-Speaking White Men of All Time Ever Except Dave Sim Because Seriously, Fuck That Guy, five women made the list: Lynda Barry, Julie Doucet, Carol Tyler, Debbie Dreschler, and Françoise Mouly for her work as co-editor of RAW. When the preliminary votes for the HU list were being counted up, it looked like only four women would make that list. Interestingly, it was four completely different women, which led me to suggest that maybe this stuff has nothing to do with talent or recognition; the comics industry simply has room for only four or five women at a time.

By the time all the votes had rolled in and the final tally was made, the HU 115 included a grand total of nine ladies. Is that better? Worse? Essentially the same? I don't know. Mining the list for observations on which to pontificate, I notice that most of the artists are fairly recent-or, in the cases of Tove Jansson and Moto Hagio, new to U.S. audiences. There seems to be little love for classic old-timey creators like Nell Brinkley, Grace Drayton, Gladys Parker, or Marge Buell. No women from the underground era made the list either: no Trina Robbins, Lee Marrs, Dori Seda, Carol Lay, or Shary Flenniken, whose Trots and Bonnie is currently poised to take over as the Family Feud #1 answer to "Inexplicably Unavailable in a Sweet Reprint Edition" the moment someone finally does a Barnaby book. Autobio pioneer Carol Tyler, one of the four women on TCJ's list, didn't make the HU list, despite recently emerging from semi-retirement with the new graphic novel series You'll Never Know.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, very recent cartoonists were, understandably, also left out; if my brief skim of the list is accurate, the HU 115 includes no webcomics. I can imagine a future list making room for works by Dylan Meconis, Spike Trotman, Jenn Manley Lee, Jess Fink, Dorothy Gambrell, Kate Beaton (of course), and other webcartoonists.

And Carla Speed McNeil. And Lea Hernandez. And Gail Simone. And Fumi Yoshinaga. And Jill Thompson. And Jessica Abel. And Wendy Pini. And Riyoko Ikeda. And Colleen Doran. And Vera Brosgol and Jen Wang and I am going to have to stop before I get in trouble for everyone I'm leaving off.

Julie Doucet, the Dirty Plotte stories, including My New York Diary

Of all the countless autobiographical indie zinesters of the late 1980s and 1990s, Julie Doucet has best survived the test of time. Is it her big, swaggering art style? Her unique French-Canadian-punk-in-New-York perspective? Her willingness to get gruesomely confessional in stories brimming with sex, shit, and menstrual blood? Or is it just that she left her audience wanting more? After her series Dirty Plotte and the collection My New York Diary, Doucet stopped drawing comics. In interviews at the time, she expressed dissatisfaction with the comics world, interest in being taken seriously as a fine artist, and good old-fashioned lack of money.

Since then, Doucet has focused on fine art and on mixed-media projects like Long Time Relationship and 365 Days: A Diary, projects that employ elements of comic art but skirt the standard definition of "comic book." The Dirty Plotte stories survive as a snapshot of this particular woman, in that particular time, gleefully kicking down the walls of an art form. Dirty Plotte is as perfect an encapsulation of the '90s as Peter Bagge's Hate, but coming from a messier, bloodier, hairier place. Yeah, that place.

Lynda Barry, Ernie Pook's Comeek & the RAW stories

Remember when the "Masters of American Comics" show came out, and some cranky feminists like me complained that there were no women among the Masters, and other people responded with, "Well, what women would you dare put alongside like likes of Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, and the Hernandez Brothers?"

I'm coming out and saying it here: I'd have dumped one of the modern-day Masters to make room for Lynda Barry. In American comics she comes second only to Charles Schulz, the same way Moto Hagio comes second only to Tezuka. Barry's simple (but deceptively appealing and well-composed) artwork is the perfect vehicle for her harrowing four-panel reports from the bowels of childhood. Seldom have imagos and logos been so perfectly paired, and never has a cartoonist so perfectly captured the voices of her awkward, bespectacled, scribble-haired characters.

In college I didn't know there were book collections of Ernie Pook, so I used to photocopy the strips out of back issues of the Village Voice in the campus library and make my own. Some of those strips have never been reprinted, so it turned out to be worth it. And few lines from comics have stuck in my head as persistently as lines from Ernie Pook. A single caption from "The Night We All Got Sick" - My land which was gorgeous and smelled like perfume from France - has haunted my skull for ten years.

Tove Jansson, Moomin

Tove Jansson is best known as a writer and illustrator of children's books, particularly the internationally beloved Moomin series, but Drawn & Quarterly's swanky reprints of the Moomin comic strip, which ran in newspapers through a British syndicate for 20 years, have inspired a reassessment of her work as a cartoonist. And it's worth reassessing: the most successful Finnish comic strip is also one of the smartest, most inventive, and most charming strips ever drawn.

The Moomin characters move through a world that's both whimsical and hauntingly melancholy. As depicted in the comic strip, it's also a visual feast, every panel packed with weird flora and fauna. In a touch I can't recall seeing in any other four-panel strip, Jansson likes to build panel borders out of symbolically relevant objects: knives and forks for a cooking scene, twigs for the outdoors. The plots have the simple profundity of good children's literature, often revolving around wistful searches for love or identity, and the sequence in which the Moomintroll family sets up a home in a lonely lighthouse strikes me as one of the most beautiful stories I've read in a comic. But I always wanted to be a lighthouse keeper.
 
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Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Tove Jansson
Lynda Barry

          



  The Globe and Mail talks JULIE DOUCET, SETH, AND CHRIS WARE

Updated February 18, 2011


Among diehard comics fans, news of a book by Montreal’s Julie Doucet is cause for celebration. There’s only one problem: Se hasn’t really produced any comics in more than a decade.

The creator of the influential series Dirty Plotte, Doucet famously renounced comics in 2000 to explore collage, printmaking and poetry. But her resolve has done little to deter her ardent admirers (which include Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly) from trying to persuade to come back to the party.

The results of these courtships have been intriguing and even beautiful (2007’s 365 Days: A Diary being a standout), but have lacked the exuberant qualities that fuelled such seminal comics as the autobiographical opus My New York Diary.

So what should one make of My New New York Diary, a collaboration between Doucet and Michel Gondry, the mercurial filmmaker behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Green Hornet?


The brainchild of Gondry (who admits to sweet-talking the reluctant artist into taking part), My New New York Diary is an attempt to revisit Doucet’s most enduring work, and the result is as fascinating as it is frustrating.

The book features Doucet’s distinctive black-and-white illustrations, which track her misadventures in New York with the impish, impulsive filmmaker. If she has a brave face, she surely had it on when she sat down to draw this book.

Under her pen, Gondry comes off like a slacker Stanley Kubrick: Ambitious and manipulative, he is willing to do anything to achieve his vision, even if it includes lying to his “star.” Over the course of 100 pages, Gondry feeds her burned pancakes, drags her to a strip club to sketch and leaves her to buy her own groceries and restock the beer fridge.

Gondry doesn’t fare much better in his 18-minute film, which features filmed footage of Julie interacting with her drawings. Though not terribly inventive, the film is sure to be a rush for any Doucet fan, as it does an excellent job of bringing her inimitable style to animated life (wait for the dream sequence featuring her original drawings). As captivating as it is, one can’t help but sympathize with Doucet, who seems ill at ease with the entire project. At one point in the film, she calls Gondry “a bastard” for persuading her to take part.

As a sort-of sequel to a more accomplished work, My New New York Diary falls far short of its title’s promise. In the end, this project ends up revealing more about the gregarious, high-profile Gondry than it does about Doucet.

A seismic shift has taken place in the field of comics since Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library made its debut more than 17 years ago. But Acme is still with us; a sturdy, reliable stage for one of the world’s most innovative and thought-provoking cartoonists to show his stuff. Though he has earned his greatest acclaim thanks to graphic novels such as Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, he has always seemed most at home as an artist in the pages of Acme.


And for the landmark 20th issue of his flagship title, Ware refuses to disappoint, with a cradle-to-grave story of a hapless financial-services executive faced with a crumbling personal life, several crises of faith and a financial meltdown. The result is one of the best comics of 2010.

The story really begins with the cover, designed to like an old photo album or scrapbook, replete with embroidered blue fabric and an embossed gold “LINT.” That would be Jordan Lint, to whom we are introduced on the inside pages as an infant trying to make some sense of the world. Jordan retains much of the same facial expression and general disposition over the next 70 or so pages, as he frantically pursues – then falls under the wheels of – the American Dream. Like countless millions who have come before him, he is ever striving, yet, in the end, barely surviving.

In mining contemporary events – the ongoing financial turmoil in the United States – this feels like one of Ware’s riskiest stories. But it’s unspooled with such finesse and humanity that you can’t help but empathize with his philandering, felonious and ill-fated “hero.”

Of course, there are bravura moments as well. The pages featuring an excerpt from an autobiographical graphic novel by Lint’s son are unexpected and effective, while the final half-dozen pages that project us – and a feeble Lint – 10 years into the future are as complex and heartbreaking as any comic I’ve read recently.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Chris Ware is good friends with Canadian cartoonist Seth. They are both masters of their craft who share a nostalgic, deeply introspective world view. So it seems fitting that the landmark 20th issue of Palookaville, Seth’s long-running comic series, would hit the shelves at approximately the same time as Ware’s Acme Novelty Library. But somehow Seth’s latest seems like more of a milestone.

That’s probably because it also marks his departure from the familiar “floppy” format (i.e., traditional stapled comics) of the previous 19 issues, in favour of a more substantial – and more marketable – hardcover format. Like many lifelong comics fans, Seth harbours a strong emotional bond with the disposable four-colour comic books of his youth.


But the demands of retailers who require comics that are easily “shelfable” have rendered traditional comics extinct, save for a few holdouts. As Seth explains in the introduction of his handsome new Palookaville, he didn’t come to this decision easily, but did so with “no regrets.”

I don’t believe him for a minute.

Melancholy has always been an active ingredient of Seth’s best work, but with this issue he has doubled the recipe. From the apologia-as-introduction to the downhearted autobiographical strip at the back, Palookaville #20 is profoundly elegiac. On one page he reprints, in miniature, all 19 covers of his comic to date; as if they were old high-school buddies. In less able hands, this would be overwhelming, but Seth balances it all off by including a range of material, from a portfolio of his Dominion City art project to excerpts from his sketchbook.

But the main draw here is the latest instalment of his long-brewing graphic novel Clyde Fans. Set in the 1970s, this chapter switches from the delusional life of Simon Matchcard to the dilemma of Abraham Matchcard, the president of his family’s financially racked fan company. Faced with a strike by his workers and falling fortunes, Abraham sits in his office and contemplates the inevitable, as his mind wanders to hate-filled reminiscences of his largely absent father. Rendered in muted blues and blacks, it’s a stark tale of the dark side of capitalism.

As farewells go, Palookaville #20 is as bittersweet and beautiful as they come. If this is what the future holds for Seth – and for comics – I just might be persuaded to say goodbye to comic books as well.

Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Seth
Chris Ware

           Featured products

Palookaville Volume 20
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




Acme 20 and Palookaville 20 in the Globe and Mail

Updated February 8, 2011


Reluctant stars of the comix universe: new works by Julie Doucet, Chris Ware and Seth
REVIEWED BY BRAD MACKAY
January 21, 2011
The Saturday Globe and Mail

Among diehard comics fans, news of a book by Montreal’s Julie Doucet is cause for celebration. There’s only one problem: Se hasn’t really produced any comics in more than a decade.

The creator of the influential series Dirty Plotte, Doucet famously renounced comics in 2000 to explore collage, printmaking and poetry. But her resolve has done little to deter her ardent admirers (which include Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly) from trying to persuade to come back to the party.

The results of these courtships have been intriguing and even beautiful (2007’s 365 Days: A Diary being a standout), but have lacked the exuberant qualities that fuelled such seminal comics as the autobiographical opus My New York Diary.

So what should one make of My New New York Diary, a collaboration between Doucet and Michel Gondry, the mercurial filmmaker behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Green Hornet?

The brainchild of Gondry (who admits to sweet-talking the reluctant artist into taking part), My New New York Diary is an attempt to revisit Doucet’s most enduring work, and the result is as fascinating as it is frustrating.

The book features Doucet’s distinctive black-and-white illustrations, which track her misadventures in New York with the impish, impulsive filmmaker. If she has a brave face, she surely had it on when she sat down to draw this book.

Under her pen, Gondry comes off like a slacker Stanley Kubrick: Ambitious and manipulative, he is willing to do anything to achieve his vision, even if it includes lying to his “star.” Over the course of 100 pages, Gondry feeds her burned pancakes, drags her to a strip club to sketch and leaves her to buy her own groceries and restock the beer fridge.

Gondry doesn’t fare much better in his 18-minute film, which features filmed footage of Julie interacting with her drawings. Though not terribly inventive, the film is sure to be a rush for any Doucet fan, as it does an excellent job of bringing her inimitable style to animated life (wait for the dream sequence featuring her original drawings). As captivating as it is, one can’t help but sympathize with Doucet, who seems ill at ease with the entire project. At one point in the film, she calls Gondry “a bastard” for persuading her to take part.

As a sort-of sequel to a more accomplished work, My New New York Diary falls far short of its title’s promise. In the end, this project ends up revealing more about the gregarious, high-profile Gondry than it does about Doucet.

A seismic shift has taken place in the field of comics since Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library made its debut more than 17 years ago. But Acme is still with us; a sturdy, reliable stage for one of the world’s most innovative and thought-provoking cartoonists to show his stuff. Though he has earned his greatest acclaim thanks to graphic novels such as Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, he has always seemed most at home as an artist in the pages of Acme.

And for the landmark 20th issue of his flagship title, Ware refuses to disappoint, with a cradle-to-grave story of a hapless financial-services executive faced with a crumbling personal life, several crises of faith and a financial meltdown. The result is one of the best comics of 2010.

The story really begins with the cover, designed to like an old photo album or scrapbook, replete with embroidered blue fabric and an embossed gold “LINT.” That would be Jordan Lint, to whom we are introduced on the inside pages as an infant trying to make some sense of the world. Jordan retains much of the same facial expression and general disposition over the next 70 or so pages, as he frantically pursues – then falls under the wheels of – the American Dream. Like countless millions who have come before him, he is ever striving, yet, in the end, barely surviving.

In mining contemporary events – the ongoing financial turmoil in the United States – this feels like one of Ware’s riskiest stories. But it’s unspooled with such finesse and humanity that you can’t help but empathize with his philandering, felonious and ill-fated “hero.”

Of course, there are bravura moments as well. The pages featuring an excerpt from an autobiographical graphic novel by Lint’s son are unexpected and effective, while the final half-dozen pages that project us – and a feeble Lint – 10 years into the future are as complex and heartbreaking as any comic I’ve read recently.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Chris Ware is good friends with Canadian cartoonist Seth. They are both masters of their craft who share a nostalgic, deeply introspective world view. So it seems fitting that the landmark 20th issue of Palookaville, Seth’s long-running comic series, would hit the shelves at approximately the same time as Ware’s Acme Novelty Library. But somehow Seth’s latest seems like more of a milestone.

That’s probably because it also marks his departure from the familiar “floppy” format (i.e., traditional stapled comics) of the previous 19 issues, in favour of a more substantial – and more marketable – hardcover format. Like many lifelong comics fans, Seth harbours a strong emotional bond with the disposable four-colour comic books of his youth.

But the demands of retailers who require comics that are easily “shelfable” have rendered traditional comics extinct, save for a few holdouts. As Seth explains in the introduction of his handsome new Palookaville, he didn’t come to this decision easily, but did so with “no regrets.”

I don’t believe him for a minute.

Melancholy has always been an active ingredient of Seth’s best work, but with this issue he has doubled the recipe. From the apologia-as-introduction to the downhearted autobiographical strip at the back, Palookaville #20 is profoundly elegiac. On one page he reprints, in miniature, all 19 covers of his comic to date; as if they were old high-school buddies. In less able hands, this would be overwhelming, but Seth balances it all off by including a range of material, from a portfolio of his Dominion City art project to excerpts from his sketchbook.

But the main draw here is the latest instalment of his long-brewing graphic novel Clyde Fans. Set in the 1970s, this chapter switches from the delusional life of Simon Matchcard to the dilemma of Abraham Matchcard, the president of his family’s financially racked fan company. Faced with a strike by his workers and falling fortunes, Abraham sits in his office and contemplates the inevitable, as his mind wanders to hate-filled reminiscences of his largely absent father. Rendered in muted blues and blacks, it’s a stark tale of the dark side of capitalism.

As farewells go, Palookaville #20 is as bittersweet and beautiful as they come. If this is what the future holds for Seth – and for comics – I just might be persuaded to say goodbye to comic books as well.

Brad Mackay is co-editor of The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist, to which he contributed a biographical essay.
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Seth
Chris Ware

           Featured products

Palookaville Volume 20
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  365 DAYS reviewed by Metapsychology

Updated February 27, 2009


365 Days
Christian Perring
December 23, 2008
METAPSYCHOLOGY

Julie Doucet is a graphic artist from Montreal. Her original language is French, and this diary of one year of her life from November 2002 was originally written in French, and published in 2004 as Journal. She translated it into English herself, and often the translation is clumsy ("Nice weather since a couple of days") but it sounds like a French person speaking English. Historically it was an interesting year with the start of the Gulf War: Doucet's appalled perspective on the actions of the USA is salutary. However, that plays only a small role in her diary: the bulk of it is about the details of her day to day life, who she had lunch or dinner with (she has a busy social life), what she is working on, and who has or has not paid her. She goes on a couple of trips to Europe during the year, and she goes to a few signings and comic conventions. Some of this will be much more interesting to those who know the people she is talking about: for example, she often mentions her dealings with Chris at D&Q, and at one point it looks like D&Q might fold, which worries her, but then they become financially viable again. She mentions other comic book artists she meets at conventions, and readers who know all about the comic book / graphic novel world may be particular fascinated by her depictions of them. For the rest of us, this inside information is not very revealing, especially since she often refers to people by their first names or by their initials, so we have very little idea who they are. However, the book does give a sense of what it is like to be a relatively well known alternative graphic artist -- it is far from being a glamorous life, and Doucet is obviously a hard worker. The simple dedication involved in creating this diary while doing all her other projects demonstrates that. It is a visually interesting work: Doucet's drawing are full of energy and she keeps her format very varied, occasionally using cutouts from old magazines or decorating the pages with illustrations. However, only the truly dedicated reader is going to read every page carefully, and, as with life, it would have been helpful to be able to skip to the interesting bits -- after a while, "another day of working on linocuts" gets old. 365 Days in an unusual work, and while it is probably not the best place to start if you are interested in Doucet's art, it will appeal to her fans.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Julie Doucet

           Featured product

365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet




Doug Wright Awards, Friday August 8th

Updated August 6, 2008


Come out to the 2008 Doug Wright Awards this Friday night in Toronto. D+Q nominees include Julie Doucet (365 Days), Joe Matt (Spent), Laurence Hyde (Southern Cross), Julie Morstad (Milk Teeth) and Chris Von Szombathy (Fire Away).

Doug Wright Awards
August 8, 7:00 pm (doors @ 6:30)
Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge St
 
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Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Joe Matt
Laurence Hyde

           Featured products

Southern Cross
Spent
365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet




  WHITE RAPIDS, PAUL GOES FISHING, & 365 DAYS reviewed by the Montreal Gazette

Updated July 21, 2008


The 100-mile cultural diet:
A look at some new releases from Drawn & Quarterly and Conundrum Press
CHRISTINE REDFERN
Montreal Gazette
Saturday, July 19

"Art is a very different industry than agriculture, but one that also often promotes and imports the exotic, while local produce withers on the vine. Montreal is known for having the right environment for the development of graphic novels, so I recently packed a bag full of the most recent crop and headed out to the woods to read.

The first question I was asked by one of my fellow forest-dwellers was: "What is a graphic novel?" I'm not sure what he was expecting, but I believe it was more lascivious than my response of "ah... comics." But soon everyone who was old enough to read was poring over the selection of books. At times funny, insightful or dark, they can usually be consumed (though not always digested) in one sitting - perfect summer reading...

White Rapids is the first English translation of award-winning Quebec cartoonist Pascal Blanchet's work. This story uses a minimal number of words, combined with artwork inspired by 20th-century design, architecture and jazz. It is pure eye candy that convincingly takes us back in time. He tells about White Rapids - a company town founded in 1934 on a northern stretch of the St. Maurice River. The Shawinigan Water and Power Company dammed the river and built White Rapids to house its employees and their families. Situated deep in the wilderness, its only link to the outside world for years was by train. Blanchet constructs an idyllic tale of this half-French, half-English town: from its inception, through log drivers, fishing and hunting trips, its first cars, to the changes in technology that ultimately caused its demise in 1971.

Paul Goes Fishing, by Michel Rabagliati, is once again an English translation of an award-winning French comic - the fourth in his semi-autobiographical Paul series. Rabagliati uses a more traditional comic book style in his work. This latest instalment finds Paul off for a summer vacation at a fishing camp with his pregnant wife. The narrative weaves together moments from his childhood with the adults and children who surround him in the present, as he slowly moves toward becoming a parent himself. You will find yourself identifying many Montreal and Quebec locations when you read this engaging yarn. Also filled with many local places and individuals is 365 Days, a graphic diary by Julie Doucet. Featuring principally ink drawings with the occasional collaged element, this diary offers a portrait of the artist as she travels, contemplates life, buys shoes, creates art and mops her kitchen floor.

For a complete view of what's out there in graphic novels, head over to the Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore, where all these and many other books can be procured. Or if you want to see some original work, stop by Le Cheval Blanc Brewpub, where an exhibition of birdhouses built and painted by many of Montreal's finest comic artists, including Suicide, just opened.

For further information go to www.conundrumpress.com and www.drawnandquarterly.com or visit the Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore located at 211 Bernard St. W., 514-279-2224.

The exhibition Cou Cou runs until Aug. 15 at the Cheval Blanc, 809 Ontario St. E. For more information, go to www.lechevalblanc.com or call 514-522-0211."
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Julie Doucet
Michel Rabagliati
Pascal Blanchet

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365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet
White Rapids
Paul Goes Fishing




365 DAYS mentioned in the National Post

Updated July 15, 2008


Your best bets on bettering yourself
Nathalie Atkinson
NATIONAL POST
Wednesday, July 09, 2008

"Summertime, the living is easy and the reading vicarious ... On a more eccentric note, Julie Doucet's diary 365 Days offers an unfiltered glimpse into the life of an artist with a sketchbook chronicle of the Montreal cartoonist's day-to-day existence, from who and what inspires her to applying for grants and studio and sales woes. The narrative isn't linear but its voice is more authentic than many of its counterparts - likely because, like the sketchbooks of Chris Ware and R. Crumb, it was not originally intended for publication."
 
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  WHAT IT IS and 365 DAYS reviewed by The Republican-American

Updated June 11, 2008


New titles push the cartooning envelope
By ALAN BISBORT
REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
May 20, 2008

When Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker, was first shown James Thurber's cartoons by his friend E.B. White, he was reported to be equally amused and confused. White, who had fished the now famous doodle-like work out of Thurber's office trashcan, wanted Ross to print the cartoons in the magazine.

"Yes, these are pretty funny, but where are the finished drawings?" Ross asked.

"No, you don't understand," White explained. "These ARE the cartoons. These ARE the finished drawings."

Ross eventually relented, and published Thurber's child-like scratchings, and the cartoons are now considered classic American humor. We still derive as much delight from them as we do from Thurber's short stories and memoirs.

Modern readers might have a similar reaction as Ross's to "What It Is," a new book by Lynda Barry. Barry, a cartoonist, painter, illustrator and teacher, is best known for her nationally-syndicated strip "Ernie Pook's Comeek," a staple of alternative papers since the 1980s. Her work shares certain "simple" qualities with Thurber's but her aim has always been to do more than just amuse.

Indeed, "What It Is" (published by Drawn & Quarterly) may be one of the most important books published this year. Never mind that it looks as if it were drawn by a child and pieced together by manic monkeys. It is nothing less than a primer on (and to) the human imagination. Ostensibly a step-by-step guide to her own quirky creative method, "What It Is" quickly lurches into the unknown.

By page 6, she is already asking readers such profound questions as "Where do sudden troublesome thoughts come from? Why is there anxiety about a past we cannot change?" Her answers are also provocative: "The top of my mind has no answer for this - I find myself arguing in my head with people I haven't seen in 15 years. Or apologizing or trying to explain…it's like there is a place in me where it is all still alive."

"What It Is" recalls the work of Kenneth Patchen, whose painted poems in the 1950s have a startling power. Barry asks, "Does your imagination know what year it is?," whereas Patchen asked, "Do the dead know what time it is?"

Each of the 210 pages in "What It Is" lays out questions that prod the mind in unexpected directions, augmenting them with watercolor, ink, scribbles, doodles and collage elements from old letters, books and catalogs. The pages can be studied for minutes at a time, and revisited continuously, without losing their hold. The effect is captivating. Her work resonates as strongly with adults - at least those who will allow it - as with children, who need no prodding when it comes to things in the imaginative realm. Barry seems to have a special gift for capturing the losses, fears, panics and joys of childhood, noting, "I believe a kid who is playing is not alone. There is something brought alive during play and this something, when played with, seems to play back."

It is clear from her earlier work and implied throughout "What It Is" that Barry had a painful childhood. Her mother was a monster, depicted herein as a Gorgon with whom little Lynda dared not make eye contact for fear of being frozen in place. Hers was the drunken, chain-smoking mom who never spoke when she could shout and said absurd things like "You don't know how lucky you are." Children treated in this manner can go in two different directions, to anger and defiance - or toward the imagination.

Lucky for us Barry took the latter route. "What It Is" is the pinnacle of her artistry.

As great as Barry is, she must be hearing the footsteps of another talented and engaging cartoonist: Julie Doucet. Doucet is, in fact, catching up with Barry for the "Most Lovably Eccentric and Bizarrely Confessional (or Confessionally Bizarre) Woman Cartoonist of the New Millennium" Award. With "365 Days: A Diary" (also published by Drawn & Quarterly), the younger Doucet has made giant strides toward Barry's throne. Like Barry, Doucet fills every teensy corner of every page with oddities - squiggles, cut out letters (like a kidnapper's ransom note), marginal doodles, provocative collages, fortune cookie sayings - and yet recreates her own highly personalized world. And, like Barry, her profusely personal perspective has strong elements of the universal in it.

She may be soul-bearing but she's not self-absorbed. She's humane and never needlessly cruel to or about other people.
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Julie Doucet
Lynda Barry

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365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet
What It Is




365 DAYS reviewed by Bookslut

Updated April 10, 2008


365 DAYS BY JULIE DOUCET
Bookslut.com
APRIL 2008

A lot can happen to a person in a year: relationships may erode or take root; illnesses can strike from out of nowhere; bank accounts, like the tide, can rise and fall. But much of what takes place -- the eating of meals, the hours spent in slumber, the machinations of the mind that turn non-stop, as if propelled by a hamster-driven wheel -- ranks low on the excitement meter. In fact, much of what we call existence is about as enthralling as washing a load of dirty clothes. So how do you explain the pleasant experience of reading Julie Doucet’s 365 Days, her sweet hodge-podge of a journal that covers every single day of an ordinary year?

Is it because she leads a wild life? Not even close. Doucet’s an illustrator based in Montreal who’s acquired a modicum of fame, having published the comic-book series Dirty Plotte, while other works have been collected in a few anthologies. But outside of the alt-comic world, she’s not well known. She stays at home or travels to her studio, thinking up drawings, visiting art shows, spending time with friends and eating dinner out. Actually, Doucet takes her meals out a lot, if her journal’s to be believed -- sushi, Italian, Vietnamese and French fries, which apparently, she doesn’t like.

The pleasure, for the person turning pages anyway, derives partly from the visual of the book itself. The pages themselves are literally canvases, each one holding some sort of pen-and-ink artwork. Some days consist of line drawings, with 31.10.02 (or Oct. 31, 2002), the journal’s second day, revealing Doucet crying in her home office over an interviewer’s e-mailed question, “Why are you drawing comics, Julie?” By 20.03.03, she’s staring at TV placed on top of the fridge, the screen displaying a robot-like figure, while the text informs us that President Bush has ordered the bombing of Iraq. Occasionally, as on 19.05.03, there aren’t even illustrations, at least not of anything naturalistic. Instead, an abstract series of ever-shrinking rectangles grace the page, the blank spaces filled in with dots or prose that tells us, of a visit to a river, “It was really nice.”

But as the journal progresses, two events can be charted: one is the growth of Doucet’s illustrations. It’s as if, when the drawn journal begins, she’s not exactly sure how to best represent her life on the small blue-lined leaves that make up the book. But somewhere in December, two months along, her drawings relax into themselves, so that what had seemed rather ungainly in the beginning, feels more comfortable and loose. Quickly, distinguishing her friends visually becomes a cinch.

Which leads to the second noticeable occurrence: suddenly, you become interested in the people closest to her, though perhaps none of them is more intriguing than C. Early on, Doucet admits that this friend of hers doesn’t want to be identified through her illustrations. So Doucet, in deciding how best to represent him, attempts various potential characterizations (including giving his body a head shaped like a letter B, even though, two pages later, he’s called C, but… maybe she changed the name afterwards, to ensure anonymity?). After a sketching out a few ideas, she settles on drawing him with the face of a cuddly bear. Whenever his adorable mug pops up, it’s hard not to smile.

Though, really, all of her acquaintances, and their successes and travails, keep your interest. And as Doucet’s career begins to take off, she finds herself flying to Paris, visiting Berlin, meeting foreign magazine editors and musicians, and eating more food and drinking too much wine and… living a completely normal artist’s life. Almost all of it wonderfully evoked.

If 365 Days has one drawback it’s the text itself. Most of the time, she writes (draws?) her musings in big block letters. But every once in a while, she spools out her thoughts in cursive, a good portion of which is nearly impossible to read and, given the ease of the rest of the book, is pretty frustrating.

But as the year unwinds, and you follow Doucet recalling an epileptic seizure she had in the middle of the night, as you learn of an illness afflicting a close relative, you find yourself pulled into her not-so-unusual life. It’s a testament to her talent that, as the book’s last pages approach, you find yourself not really wanting it to end, because you realize you’ve gotten quite attached to Doucet. You find yourself wishing, as strange as it seems, that she’d written a book called 670 Days, just so you could spend a little more time with her. Even if it means watching her do her laundry one more time.
 
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365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet




  365 DAYS reviewed by Feminist Review

Updated March 20, 2008


365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet
Review by Cynthia Schemmer
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2008
FEMINIST REVIEW

Nearly nine years after Julie Doucet’s official break up with comics in 1998 through the release of the last issue of Dirty Plotte, the two worked out their issues and 365 Days was released. Reuniting has never felt so good.

Doucet works with a multitude of mediums, and comics are only a fraction (but an amazing fraction) of her artistic talents, which are portrayed in 365 Days. The illustrated diary chronicles Doucet’s everyday life as a working artist from the end of 2002 through 2003. It begins in her hometown of Montreal and follows her through a brief stint in Paris and back to Canada. She ascends the traditional panel of comic books by combining collage and non-linear storytelling. This experimentation is visually heavy; whitespace never stood a chance. That doesn’t make it a burden to read, but rather keeps the reader on his or her toes, and engrossed in its content.

The intense visuals also make up for the lack of plot. The first couple of pages into it, I sort of forgot that this was a personal diary about her life. Although there is no storyline compelling you to turn the page, that doesn’t make the book any less enjoyable, and sometimes life isn’t all that exciting when you document every day of an entire year.

It’s rare you get to peek inside the life of an artist that you appreciate, especially when they are living a life that is the opposite of a grueling 9 to 5 existence. Doucet doesn’t distance herself from her work. She embraces what she is going through during this period with raw and honest emotion. She addresses the creation of this book, in all of its painstaking translation (her first language is French). Doucet fans will appreciate 365 Days for its experimentation and it’s reminiscence of her comic days.
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365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet




365 Days reviewed by Time Out New York

Updated February 22, 2008


365 Days
By Julie Doucet
—Hillary Chute
February 6, 2008
TIME OUT NEW YORK

The Montreal-based Julie Doucet has been an adored figure on the comics scene since she first published Dirty Plotte (translation: “dirty cunt”) as a xeroxed minicomic in 1991—a raw, sometimes surreal, often grotesque series that frequently satirizes bodily issues (including plenty of menstrual blood and detached penises). In 1999, Doucet’s star power was sealed with the publication of My New York Diary, a gorgeously rendered account of living with her jealous, drug-loving, New York–residing boyfriend; it’s possibly the best book ever about a soured relationship.

For some time now, though, Doucet has not been as present to a wide audience as she was in the late ’90s, when Le Tigre gave her a shout-out on “Hot Topic.” That’s because five years ago, she renounced comics and turned her attention to high art. What’s so exciting, then, about 365 Days is that it feels like comics, even as it nods to other art forms like illustration and collage.

365 Days is a record of every day of Doucet’s life for a year, starting on October 31, 2002. The narrative is delightful on multiple levels. Unlike many comics autobiographies, Doucet’s is engaged with politics and history, and her French-Canadian revulsion to the U.S. invasion of Iraq feels fresh. So does her sense of place: Anyone interested in the Montreal scene or underground publishing will have many specifics to feast on, as bands, bars, printing practices and art openings take up much of the story. Best of all, the book presents us with the textures of an artist’s life—the just-scraping-by anxieties, creative breakthroughs and freedom of unstructured days. Funny and unpretentious, Doucet is snappy and irritable and optimistic—often all at once.


 
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  365 Days reviewed by Hipster Book Club

Updated February 22, 2008


365 DAYS
By JULIE DOUCET
REVIEWED BY: Marie Mundaca
February 2008
HIPSTER BOOK CLUB

Before the age of blogs, reading someone's journal was a special, illicit treat. For true fans of the journal, there were the diaries of Samuel Pepys, a Seventeeth Century member of the British Parliament whose published diaries and correspondence spanned ten years and multiple volumes dealing with mostly mundane topics. Today, many people put large chunks of their lives online, and we can all be privy to their gossip, scandals, and deepest thoughts. But at all times, the bloggers knows that their writing is for an audience, and they censor and edit based on the image they are trying to project.
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This is what makes Julie Doucet's 365 Days, her illustrated diary from November 2002 to November 2003, such a charming book—it is both an homage to the Pepys style of journaling, cataloging the minutiae of her day, and like a blog. Her friends are only identified by the initials of their first names, and one of her friends has been requested to be drawn with a bear head.

Montreal-born Julie Doucet has been a recognizable force in underground comics since winning Best New Talent at the Harvey Awards in 1991. Her best-known works are her autobiographical comics: the graphic book My New York Diary and the comic book Dirty Plotte. Doucet has been a polarizing figure for much of her career. Her brutal portrayal of her romantic relationships has caused some to label her a man-hater. Her comics were sometimes held up by Canadian Customs. And in 2006, she declared that she would never draw comics again, saying "I just don't understand… how you can spend 50 years of your artist life doing the same thing over and over again."

365 Days was begun by Doucet specifically as a project for publication, and so readers see some of the development of the project in real time, like when she brings her first few pages to her publisher, Drawn and Quarterly, and gets what she feels is a less than enthusiastic response. Doucet's reason for the project was simple—she needed money. As a full-time artist, she lives mostly off grant money, and throughout the book there is much fretting about grant applications and selling art. There are months when Doucet makes no money at all. Although her life sometimes seems quite glamorous—My New York Diary has been optioned for film, she spends her days at an art studio working on linoleum prints, she goes to Paris—much of the time she is worrying about how she will pay for things.

365 Days retains much of the trademark Doucet illustration style—people have large, expressive heads and hypnotic eyes, and backgrounds are chaotic. But 365 Days has a cleaner line than much of her typically darker and visually heavier comic work. The book production and design is amazing—it is printed in two colors, with blue lines on each page to emulate the look of a notebook. It also has four color printed endpapers, and the small trim size and heavy paper give the book a feel that is both cute and substantial.

Even though each page is illustrated, it is not a quick nor light read. Most pages are delightfully cluttered with text and complex illustrations, and many require the book to be turned sideways, making it easy for readers to be absorbed by each entry.

In 365 Days, Doucet never whitewashes herself, or her life. She draws herself vomiting, with chapped lips and saggy breasts, her bangs curling weirdly or sticking to her forehead. She reads her horoscope and tarot cards with the obsession of a teenager, then dismisses the predictions because they always say the same thing. Her combination of naïveté, insecurity and self-awareness make 365 Days incredibly compelling
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JULIE DOUCET slideshow on CBC

Updated February 22, 2008


Julie Doucet
February 8th, 2008
CBC

For nearly two decades, Montreal artist Julie Doucet has wrestled with the need to expose herself. She has held every unsavoury impulse up to public scrutiny — the dirty dreams, the evenings snorting coke off her drafting table — detailing them in her erstwhile comic book series Dirty Plotte. So frank was she about her sexual misadventures that her books were sometimes confiscated as obscenity by Canada Customs.

Doucet has just published 365 Days, a sketchbook diary of a single year in her life. Its entries are less prurient than the confessions she laid bare in Dirty Plotte, but they’re no less revealing. Her candor and wit have made her a heroine in the comics world, where women are chronically distorted, or absent altogether.
 
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  365 DAYS reviewed by Newsarama

Updated February 21, 2008


365 Days
Newsarama

"Doucet’s designs are astonishing. She crams her pages with as much detail as possible. The characters seem to all but literally fighting for space, and in danger of breaking out of the panels. The words themselves refuse to stay in one direction but move at right angles or spiral around. She slaps magazine and newspaper collages in, perhaps just to amuse herself (at one point her nose becomes the letter R). Even when she just decides to present an abstract image or (if you prefer) “doodle,” the intricate patterns are breathtaking.

It’s this constant re-invention of design, of not knowing where Doucet will take you visually, that made me want to keep reading 365 Days."
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365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet




365 DAYS reviewed by The Gazette Books Section

Updated February 14, 2008


A year in an artist's life
Julie Doucet is more engaging than ever
ANNE CHUDOBIAK, Freelance
THE GAZETTE
Saturday, February 09


St. Lambert native Julie Doucet first came to international attention while she was still in her 20s.


In 1991, only six months and three issues into its official run, her alternative comic book series, Dirty Plotte, got a plug from one of the most unlikely places: the mainstream U.S. magazine Entertainment Weekly.
Sixteen years later, people are still talking about Doucet, who has long since expanded her repertoire. Her newest English-language book, 365 Days, (first published in French in 2004 as Journal) is an illustrated diary chronicling one year in her life, post-comics. It showcases a lot of the same storytelling and drawing skills as did her earlier work, but is being billed as an all-new hybrid art form.

Although she has done away with some comic conventions, e.g., thought bubbles, the real change seems to have been in sensibility. The most memorable scenes from her early work are the most outrageous. What stands out now is her restraint.

Doucet once drew herself spilling her own guts onto a sidewalk in a strip called The Artist. This level of drama and gore was typical of her early work. In 365 Days, she turns her focus to the more literal, less obviously dramatic challenges of both the artistic life and life in general, as in this entry about housework from the first day of spring 2003: "I took my courage in both hands and went to the Laundromat to do my washing. I had to use three machines." In hands as skilled as these, everything, even laundry, becomes entertaining.

It would seem that, over the course of her career, "courage" has taken on a new meaning. Before, in the notoriously male-dominated world of comics, she was a girl beating the boys at their own game, with some of the rawest comics around. She often drew herself naked and exposed. The new Julie still has some of her old vulnerability, but the way Doucet draws her nipples - which are made painfully apparent to the reader from beneath Julie's cotton camis and wool sweaters - also signals a new toughness: this is no pushover.
Although it must have taken Doucet, the comic book artist, a lot of courage to tackle all of the taboos that she did in seminal collections like Lift Your Leg, My Fish is Dead! and My Most Secret Desire, Doucet, the graphic memoirist, is bolder still: she's not afraid of any topic, no matter how small or unassuming. She has to trust that her readers won't balk at her domestic details, that they will see the humour in a monumental trip to the laundromat.

What makes this all the more courageous is that 365 Days is essentially an improvised book. Doucet had to take it on faith that she'd be able to make something readable out of her daily life in the year she set aside for this project. (Every morning, she'd write about the previous day.) This uncertainty about where the book was headed gives it a momentum that's unusual for a diary, as Julie confronts various obstacles with potential French- and English- language publishers.

In one entry, Doucet deadpans: "It's still raining.
I caught a cold and didn't have time to work on my autobiography." An autobiography in itself is a pretty big project, but, in Doucet's case, it's even bigger. The autobiography of her childhood,
J comme je, which has since been published in France, was written, beginning in 2003, with words cut out from magazines. Will she have the further audacity to translate it into English herself, as she did with this diary? That must have been quite the task, not just because of the difficulties of translating into one's second language, but because of the technical constraints of working with hand lettering. The English text had to take up exactly the same space as the French - not easy!
But Doucet is no normal diarist. Her dreams, as big as they are, tend to come true. "It's not because I'm lucky," she said in a 2006 interview. "I work very hard."

The Julie persona has grown up over the years, and Doucet, now 42, has honed her skills along the way. Her early work was brilliantly out-there, but the plain-Jane detail of 365 Days is, surprisingly, more engaging.
 
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Julie Doucet

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365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet




  365 DAYS reviewed by The Gazette Books Section

Updated February 14, 2008


A year in an artist's life
Julie Doucet is more engaging than ever
ANNE CHUDOBIAK, Freelance
THE GAZETTE
Saturday, February 09


St. Lambert native Julie Doucet first came to international attention while she was still in her 20s.


In 1991, only six months and three issues into its official run, her alternative comic book series, Dirty Plotte, got a plug from one of the most unlikely places: the mainstream U.S. magazine Entertainment Weekly.
Sixteen years later, people are still talking about Doucet, who has long since expanded her repertoire. Her newest English-language book, 365 Days, (first published in French in 2004 as Journal) is an illustrated diary chronicling one year in her life, post-comics. It showcases a lot of the same storytelling and drawing skills as did her earlier work, but is being billed as an all-new hybrid art form.

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Although she has done away with some comic conventions, e.g., thought bubbles, the real change seems to have been in sensibility. The most memorable scenes from her early work are the most outrageous. What stands out now is her restraint.
Doucet once drew herself spilling her own guts onto a sidewalk in a strip called The Artist. This level of drama and gore was typical of her early work. In 365 Days, she turns her focus to the more literal, less obviously dramatic challenges of both the artistic life and life in general, as in this entry about housework from the first day of spring 2003: "I took my courage in both hands and went to the Laundromat to do my washing. I had to use three machines." In hands as skilled as these, everything, even laundry, becomes entertaining.
It would seem that, over the course of her career, "courage" has taken on a new meaning. Before, in the notoriously male-dominated world of comics, she was a girl beating the boys at their own game, with some of the rawest comics around. She often drew herself naked and exposed. The new Julie still has some of her old vulnerability, but the way Doucet draws her nipples - which are made painfully apparent to the reader from beneath Julie's cotton camis and wool sweaters - also signals a new toughness: this is no pushover.
Although it must have taken Doucet, the comic book artist, a lot of courage to tackle all of the taboos that she did in seminal collections like Lift Your Leg, My Fish is Dead! and My Most Secret Desire, Doucet, the graphic memoirist, is bolder still: she's not afraid of any topic, no matter how small or unassuming. She has to trust that her readers won't balk at her domestic details, that they will see the humour in a monumental trip to the laundromat.
What makes this all the more courageous is that 365 Days is essentially an improvised book. Doucet had to take it on faith that she'd be able to make something readable out of her daily life in the year she set aside for this project. (Every morning, she'd write about the previous day.) This uncertainty about where the book was headed gives it a momentum that's unusual for a diary, as Julie confronts various obstacles with potential French- and English- language publishers.
In one entry, Doucet deadpans: "It's still raining.
I caught a cold and didn't have time to work on my autobiography." An autobiography in itself is a pretty big project, but, in Doucet's case, it's even bigger. The autobiography of her childhood,
J comme je, which has since been published in France, was written, beginning in 2003, with words cut out from magazines. Will she have the further audacity to translate it into English herself, as she did with this diary? That must have been quite the task, not just because of the difficulties of translating into one's second language, but because of the technical constraints of working with hand lettering. The English text had to take up exactly the same space as the French - not easy!
But Doucet is no normal diarist. Her dreams, as big as they are, tend to come true. "It's not because I'm lucky," she said in a 2006 interview. "I work very hard."
The Julie persona has grown up over the years, and Doucet, now 42, has honed her skills along the way. Her early work was brilliantly out-there, but the plain-Jane detail of 365 Days is, surprisingly, more engaging.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Julie Doucet

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365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet




JULIE DOUCET in The National Post

Updated January 25, 2008


A life less cartoony
Julie Doucet's comic-book days are behind her, but her drawings continue to win new fans
Mark Medley
Thursday, January 24, 2008
NATIONAL POST

Part of Julie Doucet's November 8th entry in her impressive visual journal, which has recently been released as 365 Days.
Every morning between Oct. 31, 2002. and Nov. 7, 2003, Julie Doucet woke up, sat down at her drawing table, and illustrated what had happened to her the previous day. There was no sketching beforehand or editing after the fact: For two hours, the Montreal artist simply drew what came to mind. When she didn't feel like drawing she simply wrote, and when she was travelling she took notes, which she later illustrated. Over the course of a year (and a few days) she compiled an impressive visual journal, which has recently been released as 365 Days.

The book is a hybrid creature: part dream-diary, part daybook, part travelogue, rendered in illustration, words and collage.

"You know, there aren't that many things you can tell about a day," says Doucet, on the phone from Montreal. "It's pretty repetitive."

That's true, and Doucet doesn't shy away from the mundane details of an artist's life, whether it's filling out grant applications, updating her CV or doing the laundry. But at the heart of the book is a woman in transition.

"Those years," she says, "were kind of a turning point between the world of comics and the world of visual arts."

365 Days -- which was originally published in French -- often feels like a reporter's notebook, with Doucet jotting down the things she saw around her.

"I didn't want to put too much of myself in it," she says. "It's kind of funny, because it's a description of what I'm actually doing but I almost never talk about how I feel."

Born and raised in Montreal (with stops in New York, Seattle and Berlin) Doucet, 42, first gained acclaim for her mini-comic Dirty Plotte, which debuted in 1987. A francophone, Doucet drew inspiration from comic artists like France's F'murr rather than the North Americans she's often compared to: "I must say, everybody says that [R. Crumb] was my biggest influence, but definitely it's more the European artists."

Her worlds -- brought to life in such works as My Most Secret Desire (1995) and My New York Diary (1999) -- are comprised of feverish dream-scapes, combining the pyschosexual and the surreal.

"She is probably the most acclaimed or respected female cartoonist of her generation," says Peter Birkemoe, owner of Toronto comic shop The Beguiling (which also sells Doucet's artwork). "Her style is so particular that she doesn't even have a lot of imitators. She doesn't really have imitators at all."

Since leaving the world of comics in 1998 (she returned for the one-off novella The Madame Paul Affair in 2000) Doucet has focused on other art forms, including engravings, linocuts, sculpture and collage. But though she sometimes finds it frustrating, comics are still inextricably linked to her name.

"I knew it would be hard to change. But I didn't expect it to be so hard," she laughs.

Her work has been exhibited in galleries around the world and she runs a silk-screening studio in Montreal, which she says is "probably the only place in the world where I could live off my art."

Drawn & Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros has been impressed by her post-comic career: "It's really funny to see how she keeps on progressing," he says. "She certainly has not stayed in one place."

But had she stayed in one place -- comics -- it's likely she would be as well known as some of her Canadian contemporaries, such as Chester Brown and Seth. Oliveros remarks that "had she done a graphic novel now, she probably would have had maybe some more mainstream acceptance." Birkemoe calls her "very much ahead of her time."

Doucet, though, doesn't feel like she missed a gold rush.

"Oh, I really don't care about that. I felt so trapped," she says. "You know, when you're a cartoonist it's like being a priest: If you quit, everybody around you goes crazy … I mean, when you're a cartoonist you're supposed to be doing the same thing over and over again until you die. And I didn't want that. It was very frustrating and I needed to try a different thing."

Eventually, Doucet wants to write short stories and novels, but jokes she's too "scared" to try. She also began work on a fictional journal, but gave up after about 40 pages. "It doesn't make sense to do the same thing all over again," she says. "You kind of have to reinvent yourself."
 
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  365 DAYS in The Hartford Advocate

Updated January 18, 2008


Truly Julie
Alan Bisbort
Friday, January 18, 2008
HARTFORD ADVOCATE

Hey, Lynda Barry! You hear those footsteps? It’s Julie Doucet. She’s catching up with you for the “Most Lovably Eccentric and Bizarrely Confessional (or Confessionally Bizarre) Woman Cartoonist of the New Millennium” Award. The award is given out every thousand years by Imogene Coca’s ghost.


With 365 Days: A Diary (Drawn & Quarterly), the younger Julie Doucet has made giant strides toward your throne, Lynda. And I never thought any other woman cartoonist could touch you, Lynda?Of course, Julie D. is probably on steroids, but there is no oversight panel in the cartoon world. Besides, she lives in Montreal, so it would be hard to extradite her here (though her graphic novel My New York Diary totally captured the American urban vibe).

Like Lynda Barry, Julie Doucet fills every teensy corner of every page with oddities—squiggles, cut out letters (like a kidnapper’s ransom note), marginal doodles, provocative collages, fortune cookie fortunes—and yet recreates her own highly personalized world. And, like Lynda B., Julie D.’s profusely personal perspective has strong elements of the universal in it. She may be soul-bearing but she’s not self-absorbed. She’s humane and never needlessly cruel to or about other people. Or animals.
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365 DAYS reviewed by The Daily Cross Hatch

Updated January 17, 2008


365 Days
January 14, 2008
Brian Heater
DAILY CROSS HATCH

Julie Doucet is a hostage of the sequential art mafia. Every so often she seems to denounce the form as a soul-sucking medium, and like clockwork, they keep pulling her back in. To her credit, 365 Days isn’t technically a return to form for her—the work collected in the book was all produced between 2003 and 2004, but for her fans it should serve as a bittersweet reminder of what was and what could have been.

Doucet has never made her thoughts on the topic a secret. Prompted during an interview to speak on the subject, the artist will gladly expound on the less than rewarding nature of her Sisyphean output. She puts far too much work into what she does and, at least monetarily, gets far too little back. Fair criticisms of the medium both of them, and hell, we’ve all become quite accustomed to self-loathing in our cartoonists—Ivan Brunetti, Joe Matt, actually it’s probably a lot more difficult to produce a list of underground cartoonists who haven’t engaged in a round of mental self-flagellation.


Opening up 365 Days, it takes one full page to find Doucet engaged in the act again. This is, after all, a diary book, and the subject is clearly on her mind fairly often—in fact, it might actually be construed as something of a ripoff, had Doucet not devoted some of the book to taking the piss out of the medium. Staunch defenders need fear not, however, like any good diarist, the author devotes a good amount of time to taking said piss out of everything, most often herself.

As a biographical work, 365 Days succeeds quite well, with an immediacy that strips down the boundaries that many authors often construct to distance themselves from their work, either the result of elapsed time or something more artificial designed to absorb some of the emotional immediacy.

The work’s true success, however, lies in Doucet’s willingness to experiment with the medium, through collage and non-linear storytelling, largely doing away with traditional panels. Whether the product is a result of being strapped for time, or merely her oft-muttered disillusion with the form, the author rarely holds back from experimentation, and the work is richer from it.

Doucet fans will find a lot to like in her diary—it’s both thick and visually dense, and as such serves all the more a bitter reminder of the form she’s largely abandoned.

 
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  365 DAYS in Entertainment Weekly

Updated January 17, 2008


THE REVIEWS: BOOKS; What's New in...Comics
DRAWN FROM LIFE
Jensen, Jeff; Tucker, Ken; Gopalan, Nisha
18 January 2008
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

365 DAYS Julie Doucet (hardcover) Ostensibly a journal begun in 2002, 365 Days is less a cartoon diary than 365 art-works by the Montreal-based creator. Each page contains prose and images summarizing her 24 hours. For Fans of... Gary Panter, The Nation. Bottom Line Days is cunningly crammed with ideas that range from the stress of designing rock-album art to anger about U.S. involvement in Iraq. A-

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365 DAYS mentioned by Pop Candy

Updated January 10, 2008


POP CANDY
Whitney Matheson
01/04/2008

The week in Pop: My favorite things

It's time for my weekly roundup of pop-culture amusements. What has put a smile on your face this week? Please share in the comments:

I'm also reading: I hate to say it, but I didn't like the debut Angel comic! However, I'm infatuated with Julie Doucet's new book, 365 Days: A Diary. This comic diary is so inspiring that I've kept it in my purse so I can devour it on the go. It's also incredibly dense, so it might actually take me a full year to read the thing.
 
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  JULIE DOUCET interviewed by The Walrus Online

Updated December 12, 2007


JULIE DOUCET
Paul Isaacs
WALRUS ONLINE
December 10, 2007

Julie Doucet’s Dirty Plotte (1987-98, Drawn & Quarterly) was one of the vanguard comic-book publications of the last two decades. A visceral but occasionally — very occasionally — tender examination of Doucet’s life in her twenties, Plotte was a huge influence on a generation of artists, both inside and outside the world of comics. Entertainment Weekly called Dirty Plotte “id with an ink bottle.” The blurb on publisher Drawn & Quarterly’s website is no less frank: “What lies between the covers would make most parents cry.”

In 1999, soon after the publication of My New York Diary, Doucet suddenly announced she was quitting comics. “I just don’t understand how you can spend fifty years of your artist life doing the same thing over and over again,” she told The Design. Instead, Doucet’s work — although still recognisably Doucet-ian — focused on writing, sculpture and collage. Her French-language autobiography, J Comme Je (Seuil, 2005), was written using only letters and phrases clipped from 1960s magazines. Her latest book, published in December 2007, is the visual diary 365 Days, once again published by D&Q.

Earlier this month, The Walrus caught up with Doucet in Montréal via email:

The Walrus: How long have you been living in Montréal?
Julie Doucet: I have been back in Montréal since 1998. Almost ten years!

TW: Is Montréal an influence on your work?
JD: I don’t know... it’s been an influence in the sense that it’s only in Montréal that I can afford to have a silkscreen studio... and there is more freedom because I need less money to live.

TW: Is it more difficult to have your artwork seen in Montréal? Would you prefer to have more recognition?
JD: It’s true that I have a lot more recognition in the US and in Europe. But I have more recognition in the rest of Canada than in Québec. I suppose that’s because I was first published in English. You get used to it... maybe a little more recognition wouldn’t hurt. But not too much please.

TW: Your modern work seems a lot more optimistic than the comics you produced in the eighties and nineties.
JD: I may be more joyous, but also angrier, I would say. It doesn’t show in the pages I did for The Walrus but very much in my more recent work, which is mostly writing, in French.

TW: Do you miss making comics — or at least, do you miss the specific storytelling conventions of comics? Is narrative still important to your work?
JD: No, I don’t miss drawing comics and its conventional laws. There will always be words in my work. I would very much like to write short stories, maybe eventually a novel. But I need to write in a visual way... for example, with cut-out words. Writing is what I am all about.

TW: Is it frustrating to still be considered a comic artist when you’ve more-or-less ditched the medium for nearly a decade?
JD: Yes it has been very frustrating. I knew it would be difficult to make people admit that I can do something different, but not THAT difficult! But it is finally changing now, at least here in Montréal, because I did many group shows, a solo exhibition, and last summer the Biennale de Montréal, that kind of did the job. It seems that the world of contemporary art got curious about comics in the past 3-4-5 years... and the comic world opened itself to more experimental work. So yes, it was natural... in the end. I still live from my royalties, and comics original sales... art is not very lucrative!

TW: Tell me about your current project, the Slow Action Movement.
JD: Uuuh, yes, I am still working on it, but very slowly. Le Mouvement Lent, or the Slow Action Movement is there to promote slowness. It started with a series of posters, that we (a friend, Benoît Chaput and I, the two founders) would post on the street. Then I printed some slowness-inducing tools, a membership card... we are working on a website... please be patient.

TW: You also just published a volume of poetry, À l’école de l’amour (L’Oie de Cravan, 2006).
Yes, that book just came out. Poems about love, written with cut out words from old women’s magazines and illustrated with collages. I am trying to get started on another book project, but I am having a lot of trouble to figure out where the hell I am going at the moment. So I cannot tell you.
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MY MOST SECRET DESIRE reviewed in Sequential Tart

Updated May 25, 2007


SEQUENTIAL TART
Grade: 9

In this collection of short, fantastical, and perverse stories, Doucet shares dreams she had from the late 80s to mid 90s. Many involve what things might be like if she had a penis or was a man — not the same thing, I might add!

Doucet seems to spend a lot of time thinking about having a penis, either because she wakes up and is one, has an operation, or (in one of the more disturbing dreams) is given one by her European pen-pal. These were all interesting and while some also made me cringe, others had me laughing, especially the story in which Doucet contends that if she had a penis, it would be useful. — She would store things in it, use it as a vase, etc.!

Her style will be familiar to fans of her work; frenetic quivery lines, claustrophobic crowded panels, and high-contrast black and white "coloring". Most interesting to me was the disturbing nature of these personal visions. Doucet shares a lengthy dream of being pregnant with a child that comes out and goes back in several times while she is bathing, is born premature with a tail, is actually a cat, or explodes out of her abdomen. I can't help but wonder what this means, what Doucet thinks of motherhood, whether she is one or not.

Because these stories are presented as real recurring dreams, we have to assume they are important and meaningful, but most are quite dark, some are violent, and the last ends with what seems to be Doucet's welcome demise. Since the jacket says she's now concentrating on "post-comics" work, I have to wonder if we should read this as a requiem for her work in comics.
Written: March 30, 2007
Published: April 1, 2007
 
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  NY Sun praises Lucky

Updated March 7, 2007


Cartoonish Prestige
Books
By NADIA BERENSTEIN
March 5, 2007

Ms. Bell's illustrations are simple, efficient, and serene, yet they transmit a palpable current of vulnerability. Ms. Bell is a keen observer of the small frustrations and serial disappointments that afflict the young, artistic, and indifferently employed, and her understated humor simultaneously diffuses the pervasive melancholy of her stories and hones its edge. In contrast to Ms. Bell's spare arrangements, Ms. Doucet's feral, gamy work is like a caterwaul from a forgotten underground. The work collected in this recent volume depicts her characters inhabiting a collapsing, claustrophobic world littered with hostile objects.
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My Most Secret Desire New Edition




New and recent titles from D+Q reviewed in the Santa Fe New Mexican

Updated November 30, 2006


The Santa Fe New Mexican
November 26th, 2006

WEEKEND, SU-09

PANELHEAD: BEST OF THE YOUNG & RESTLESS
by BRANDON GARCIA

CANADIAN PUBLISHER'S QUALITY CONSISTENT IN STABLE OF ARTISTS

For years now, some of the best-looking books have been produced by a tiny Canadian publisher, Drawn & Quarterly. And by that, I mean the physical appearance of the books and not the enticing panels within. I'm not knocking their quality either: Drawn & Quarterly's catalog is the only one I browse, excitedly noting upcoming releases.

Many of their authors are foreign or young and often both. Take Kevin Huizenga, for example, who at 29 is only two years older than me. D&Q recently published Curses, a collection of his stories that live up to its namesake. It opens with philosophical musings on pagan superstition, juxtaposing modern and Victorian examples. Then it segues into contemporary stories about suburbia and infertility before changing themes and reconsidering the nature of curses altogether.

My reaction to Huizenga is mixed. His imitation of Victorian prose is eerily good, but the story is dull and I found myself skimming to the end. Yet his modern stories, told through the lens of folklore are much more entertaining, even if they lack the depth of the collection's opener.

As Huizenga has Glenn Ganges, our hero throughout the collection, meet his wife because of the pair's insomnia, I decided he's a big ol' softie.

Next up is Shenzen, Guy Delisle's account of his visit to the industrial Chinese city. Having already won acclaim with his journal from Pyongyang, Delisle seems determined to visit Asian cities that no one wants to visit.

Shenzen is a series of anecdotes without an overriding story. That doesn't trouble me much because I accepted the book as journalism. Shenzen looks filthy and forcibly isolated and those conditions plague. Delisle seems detached as he recounts translation problems and adventures with public toilets. The Chinese seem friendly and curious, but also distant, as does the author.

Delisle has a good eye for detail, like his sketches of shiny modern buildings amid the urban decay and his illustrations of how throngs of bicycles manage to maneuver without catastrophe. I'll also give him this: If he ate everything he claims to -- including goat lung and dog -- he has a more adventurous palate than I do, and I once applauded myself for eating veal kidney.

As brave an eater as Delisle is, I have to nod toward Julie Doucet and admit that drawing comics as discomfiting as hers takes some guts, too.

Doucet's collection, My Most Secret Desire, is mostly a series of dreams, many of them nightmares about femininity. (I guess Huizenga chose his title first.)

Here, Doucet recounts dreams of rape, menstruation and captivity. Her work is weird and sometimes repulsive. She also seems very fascinated by gender transformation, but in trite or narcissistic ways, as in the self-explanatory If I was a Man I'd Have to Shave and The Double, an ode to self-love. Most confusing was If I Was a Man, which could be read several ways, but where I think she reveals that she'd be a rapist. I don't know if its intent is to slander men for their supposed chauvinist entitlement or praise women for their supposed preening virtue.

Normally, I judge comics on entertainment value, but Doucet is aiming higher. I don't like what she has to say, but I grudgingly have to admit she's good at what she does. She challenges us while expressing an existential fear and loathing of humanity while maintaining a smile. It's quite a balancing act and I hope no one tries to duplicate it. One Doucet is enough.

Last month, I reviewed a group of anthologies, but I left one out for this column: Drawn & Quarterly Showcase No. 4, three stories by Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch that provide a sample of the publisher's
taste.

Everything I've bought by Bell has been worthwhile, and this story is no exception. It's an ominous story about art and artists filled with self-doubt and a touch of self-loathing. But it's also hopeful, too, making the story an apt metaphor for the lives of artists I've known.

Cendreda matches Bell's strange mood with a story about kids and dogs running around separately during a sweltering summer with an unseen serial killer on the loose. Oddly, a grandpa and his Filipino superstitions hold the story together. I haven't managed to do it, but I think the key to this story is figuring out how all those pieces add up.

Zettwoch's story about the 1937 flood in Louisville, Ky. closes this collection. It's a straightforward story, but people who've never lived through a flood should check it out. All kinds of weird things happen that are well-suited to illustration and Zettwoch finds plenty of them for his story.

I started off by writing about D&Q's quality. Check out this sampler to see what I mean.

Contact Brandon Garcia at 995-3826 or at bgarcia@sfnewmexican.com.
 

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Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China
My Most Secret Desire New Edition




  MONTREAL GAZETTE review the new edition of JULIE DOUCET'S My Most Secret Desire

Updated August 4, 2006


Comic confronts angst, shame
Julie Doucet's work has been highly influential

JON PAUL FIORENTINO, Freelance
Published: Saturday, July 29, 2006

After Julie Doucet's five-year hiatus from publishing comics, Drawn & Quarterly this spring reissued her highly influential comic-strip memoir, My Most Secret Desire, as an elegant hardcover with never before seen material. It's the perfect gift for the graphic-novel fan or emotionally unstable member of your family. Watch as Doucet's comic-strip persona loses her teeth, is stabbed in the eye with a syringe, is shot in a classic western, is humiliated by rock star Nick Cave, dies in various disturbing ways, masturbates in outer space and grows a penis, all in the convenient form of the classic comic strip.

When a book is reissued in a special edition like this, it signals that the work has canonical value. My Most Secret Desire meets this description and then some. It is a fiercely original and well-documented dream journal, but it is also a modern-day classic.
The promotional material claims that this is Doucet's most important work and, further, that Doucet is arguably the most influential female comic artist of all time. After spending some time with this book, it's easy to see why such bold claims are made.

Doucet has a knack for making the most familiar subject matter her own. And though we often know the material, we are nevertheless thrilled with the unique way it is being conveyed.

We've all experienced the classic dreams of losing teeth, being embarrassed at school, the narrative of wish fulfillment gone wrong, and so on. What Doucet manages is the always difficult task of taking recognizable subject matter, tropes and motifs and injecting new life into them. The key to her success is her highly developed persona. Julie, the comic-strip character, is delightfully sympathetic - even as she reveals too much, she remains humble, charming and inquisitive.
Many of Doucet's texts are focused on the theme of shame. Like Toronto artist Shary Boyle's 2004 masterpiece, Witness My Shame, My Most Secret Desire mines the territory of female sexuality and psychosexual angst. It is also indicative of a kind of comic-strip lyric poetry: a confessional style of text coupled with a rough, dense and highly skilful drawing style. I don't think it's a stretch to say that the groundbreaking female comic artists of today like Boyle and Jillian Tamaki owe a great debt to Doucet.

In one series of strips, Doucet explores what it would be like to be a man and has perverse adventures shaving - and downright perverted adventures testing the limits of her new penis. In another strip, she gives birth to numerous kitten-like creatures (even breastfeeding them) and explores the identity issues surrounding motherhood. There is a peculiar sense of pride in the retelling of these dream narratives; and so through the reportage, the fear and angst encoded in the original dreams are stripped of their power. Doucet always develops fully the dramatic, comedic and philosophical possibilities of her surreal dreamscapes. In my readings of the text, I was consistently taken aback by how economical each strip is - how much can be said in sometimes as few as six frames. It's a testament to how skilfully Doucet works her craft and avoids the traps of her genre.

It is not the material that is particularly new in My Most Secret Desire. In fact, the idea of a dream journal as a viable literary project may seem dubious to some. What makes this book so compelling, so vital, is Doucet's insistence on her own psychic exhibitionism, her own emotional nakedness. This is a highly literary book about the neuroses, pathologies and intricacies of female desire. But it's not just a book about desire. It's more important than that. It's a step toward conquering shame.

Jon Paul Fiorentino is a Montreal writer.

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MY MOST SECRET DESIRE in Chicago Sun Times

Updated June 8, 2006


Books
Dreams to Die For: Julie Doucet's night thoughts tap into sex, fear, gender politics and life in the city

Jessa Crispin
Special to The Chicago Sun-Times
14 May 2006


Is there anything more boring than someone else's dreams? Someone insists, "Dude, I had the craziest dream last night," and suddenly you're trapped
listening to some incomprehensible tale about opossums, bananas and that guy from "Beverly Hills 90210." Such a subconscious should just not be tapped into.

But in her new collection My Most Secret Desire (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95), Julie Doucet has managed to turn a dream journal into a fascinating
look at gender politics, sex, life in the city and fear.

Originally published in 1995, this updated and expanded reprint reminds us why Doucet is one of the most important cartoonists working today. She is known for her bold content in books like My New York Diary and her comic book series Dirty Plotte. Without the filter of her consciousness, her writing takes on an almost lighter tone. At the end of a particularly odd dream involving her mother and a naked space ride, the last frame shows Doucet in bed, shrugging with a sheepish smile. Even she can't believe what her brain comes up with sometimes.

Even if the stories in My Most Secret Desire weren't really Doucet's dreams, they would work as surreal feminist vignettes. The recurring dreams in which Doucet discovers she has a penis brings her great delight as she learns how to swagger and demand sexual attention. In another series of dreams, Doucet is pregnant, but gives birth to kittens instead of a baby. The dream nurse explains, "I'm very sorry but the hospital is out of babies right now -- a cat's better than nothing, no?" In "The Jack-Knife," Doucet's date takes out a knife, cuts off his penis, and presents it to her as a gift. She thanks him and takes a swift bite out of it while thinking, "I wonder -- do penises grow back?"

Not that they're all heavy, philosophical wonderings. There's also the standard dream of showing up to class on exam day and not having studied, as well as dreams with Mickey Dolenz from the Monkees and Nick Cave. But certainly Freud would love this girl, even though Doucet insists in her loopy French-based English, "I am not too much in the habit of taking dreams as some sending for guidance for my every day life."

Her artwork is thick and inky, filling every available space with litter, leering men, and rats. She's not afraid of drawing gore, whether it be an eye punctured by a hypodermic needle or a cat bisected by a guillotine. My Most Secret Desire is as funny as it is anxious, as repellant as it is intriguing. Her drawing style echoes this, with constant motion and clutter. Each panel holds the balance, with a small girl eating an ice cream cone in the background and a half-dead starving dog in the corner, all adding to the cacophony. Doucet's dreams seem like a noisy place to be, but we should all be grateful she decided to share.

Jessa Crispin is the editor-in-chief of bookslut.com.

 

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  MY MOST SECRET DESIRE in Nashville City Paper

Updated June 8, 2006


My Most Secret Desire
By Julie Doucet
(Drawn & Quarterly)
drawnandquarterly.com

A startling, unnerving and enthralling graphic novel, My Most Secret Desire is a dream diary by cartoonist Julie Doucet. Originally released in 1995, this edition contains new material and a sharp-looking design.

The cover shows three images of Doucet, crying in all of them, but with different emotions on her face; and so it is with the content inside — each dream is extremely personal, but they represent a different facet of Doucet’s warped and enticing subconscious.

None of the stories make sense for very long, like most dreams, but you quickly get into the rhythm of the absurdities of Doucet’s mind, creating a reading experience where you can switch off the “story” part of your brain and just enjoy the fluid, logic-less dreams.

Doucet’s cartooning style is indebted to R. Crumb, certainly, but over the course of the book you see her growth as an artist, as it collects material from 1988-1995. The book’s subject matter — Doucet’s strange, vivid dreams — would be enough to hold your interest alone, but it’s her raw, alive cartooning that really makes this book a dream to remember.
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JULIE DOUCET in Entertainment Weekly

Updated April 3, 2006


7 April 2006
Entertainment Weekly 66

Books
GRAPHIC NOVELS 101: DRAWN FROM LIFE
Hannah Tucker; Whitney Pastorek; Ken Tucker


MY MOST SECRET DESIRE Julie Doucet (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95)

Writer-artist Doucet offers a dream journal of comics: short summaries of nocturnal reveries and nightmares about everything from losing a friend on a subway to a priceless series of "If I Was a Man" fantasies. Graphic Goal Doucet's faux-primitive style perfectly renders dreams' messy stream of consciousness. Comix Effect She conveys the universal anxiety, dread, and bliss of our sleeping lives. A-
 

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  Montreal Hour on the art of JULIE DOUCET

Updated March 21, 2006


March 16th, 2006
Julie Doucet: Zur Erinnerung an Melek

Woman of words
Isa Tousignant

Local comics celeb Julie Doucet loses her imagery for the sake of words

With a name like Dirty Plotte, it would be hard to forget Julie Doucet ever made comics. But that's what so many people are pleading. Over the last couple years I've gotten promo from Galerie Graff, Galerie Clark, publisher Drawn and Quarterly and now Galerie B-312 stating, emphatically, that Doucet has left comics behind after a decade-long career to concentrate all her energies on "high" art. Now to me, this is a non-statement, the kind of gobbledygook I hear so often in the art world but that interests only those prone to making grand distinctions to start with. That anyone in their 30s can state that they have left something by the wayside, never to return to it, strikes me as a brutish approach to life. And that galleries and publishers choose this as a promotion angle strikes me as an act of desperation.

After seeing Doucet's current exhibition at B-312, though, I realize my irritation had perhaps more to do with what has been touted as the artist's replacement career than the abandonment of the previous one.

Zur Erinnerung an Melek: En souvernir de Malek, the exhibition at B-312, presents work that's a couple of years old, a series of lithographic prints Doucet made at Graff. The series was born when the artist found a bunch of photographs in a Berlin trash, and she paid homage to them by reproducing them, magnified and flipped over, in print portraits resplendent with her signature "gros trait" style. Originally printed in a beautiful book by L'Oie de Cravan, accompanied by abstracted "found" prose by Benoit Chaput, Zur Erinnerung an Melek introduced a reflective, delicate Doucet content to apply her artistic talent to portraying the whimsical poetry of humanity.

Anyone who knew her through her darkly scrawled Plotte zines of yore, or her comics proper, or her New York Diary, would be disappointed by the resurrection. The prints are pretty, yes, Doucet's stroke is unique, and the whimsy of lost and found emotive power is worthy of artistic extrapolation. But gone is that flavour, the slightly rank darkness, even the beloved self-obsession of her comics self. The ongoing installation she began at Galerie Clark this summer, À l'école de l'amour - which at least in theme promises more edginess - went a long way to confirming the white-bread so-what-ness of Doucet Fine Artist too. I wouldn't have thought any grouping of phallic-shaped papier-mâchés could ever seem so innocuous.

But just as I was turning to leave B-312 (after enjoying the ocular trickery of Thomas Bégin's makeshift camera obscura, We're Looking for You, in the big room at the back), I was invited to sit next to the front desk and peruse the real stuff Doucet is doing lately, which has nothing to do with gallery walls at all.

There, unsuspecting, I sat in the little corner and found the treasure trove, quickly becoming engrossed in the intensity of word play Doucet has been creating in the form of art books. Among them, her Journal, from 2005, which begins simply as a diary with daily entries of moderate but voyeuristic interest, slowly becomes infiltrated with invented words. Steadily, these words - a language all Doucet's own that appeared at times in her comics, but here reaches new dimensions - multiply and repeat so that by the end of the book, language has been reinvented, à la Dada, bringing into question the relativity of humanity's shared codes. The book is accompanied by a lexicon, making it possible, if so inclined, for readers to actually comprehend every word of this complex puzzle - a delectable and involving experience. Next to the books you'll get the treat of some good old plotte-worthy raunchiness too, in the form of a series of collaged dirty poems. My advice to you: Put the headphones at your disposal on, let the words give you wet willies and try to forget anybody ever said anything about artistic categorizations.
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Featured artist

Julie Doucet

          



My Most Secret Desire, by JULIE DOUCET, reviewed in the QUILL & QUIRE

Updated March 14, 2006


My Most Secret Desire

Julie Doucet; $24.95 cloth 1-896597-95-5, 120 pp., 7 x 10_, Drawn & Quarterly, Apr.

Reviewed from advance reading copy

The top three things to know about comix artist Julie Doucet are: the 39-year-old francophone made her reputation with the autobiographical underground series Dirty Plotte, which painstakingly inked out her chosen territory of obsessiveness, body issues, drugs, bloody hallucinations, gender chaos, and the phantasmagorical strangeness of the downtown scene; “dirty plotte” translates as, variously, female genitalia, a slutty girl, a sexy girl, or a timid male; and there’s a lot more to her work than the gore. Doucet’s comix are rife with stabbings and sliced off penises. The latter are what everyone remembers, but, taken in context, they don’t seem gratuitous, or evidence of a blunt imagination. In Doucet’s hands (!) sex and horror become archetypal, like the transformed bodies found in Greek myths or dreams.

Dreams are the real subject of My Most Secret Desire – this new book is a reworked and updated version of her 1995 collection of stories chronicling the innermost reveries of a jittery young comix artist. The location is usually Montreal – featuring her trademark mix-ups of French and English – and sometimes New York. Most of the pieces, prefaced with the date of the dream, start with Doucet in the street, in bed, or trying to function in her cramped apartment, with or without boyfriend and cat.

Doucet’s panels are dark and dense, with a scribbly yet meticulous attention to the rubble of everyday life. Her bottles, faucets, drinking glasses, lamps, mailboxes, spoons, half-read books, socks, wall sockets, bras, and teddy bears with knives in them teem and sluice through every panel – and that’s just her apartment. Out in the street, eggs walk on tiny legs and dogs hang out, smoking. Everyone in Doucet’s stories is either on edge or half-awake.

Like Madonna, Doucet wants to tell us what it feels like to be a girl. The number one rule in Doucet’s universe is that women are physically vulnerable. Not only to weirdos on the street, but to mother nature’s messy commands. The number two rule is that women have a crazy kind of power that is the flip side of mere biology.

And you’ve got to love Doucet’s daydreams about being a man – about swaggering down the street with a bulge and whipping it out any old where. Doucet’s genius lies in taking things that one step further: anyone can sketch a girl with a new penis strutting around a bar, but how many artists would bring together a bar, a girl trying out a penis, and former Monkee Micky Dolenz? (Micky: “Two men together, it’s possible, you know. You’ll see how well I make love to you.” Julie: “Oh yes Micky.”) My Most Secret Desire has no secrets, but the desires are all there, and then some.

– Adair Brouwer, a freelance writer in Toronto.
 

Featured artist

Julie Doucet

          



  BOOKLIST reviews JULIE DOUCET'S My Most Secret Desire

Updated March 1, 2006


15 February 2006
Booklist
Volume 102; Issue 12

Doucet, Julie. My Most Secret Desire. Apr. 2006. 120p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95 (1-896597-95-5). 741.5

Doucet returns after a five-year absence in a collection of 1988-95 dream-journal stories that, often sexual, generally grotesque, aren't for the fainthearted. In them, she contends with such outlandish situations as having all her teeth fall out, coming home to find her cat bisected by guillotine, being injected with drugs by a sinister friend, and repeatedly giving birth to catlike creatures. Several involve her not-unwilling transformation into a man (in one, however, she has last-panel regrets: "Ooh-What if I miss my vagina?"). Others, such as one in which she's driven insane by her job in a copy shop, are more mundane. All display constant, underlying anxiety coupled with postfeminist insouciance. Doucet's panels, drawn in a rubbery yet dense style, are packed with loopy, off-kilter detail, and the dialogue, delivered in slightly skewed, French-inflected English, adds improbable charm. Unlike most autobiographical comics, Doucet's don't give any sense of what the artist is "really" like. Yet her feisty, resilient dreamself comes vividly to life.

-Gordon Flagg

Featured artist

Julie Doucet

          



D&Q artists reviewed in the CANADIAN BOOK REVIEW ANNUAL

Updated February 16, 2006


Reviews of D&Q books from the 30th-anniversary volume of the CANADIAN BOOK REVIEW ANNUAL

Brown, Chester. Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2003. 272p. illus. biblio. index. $34.95. ISBN 1–896597–63–7. CCIP. DDC 741.5'971.

Was Louis Riel a madman or a messiah? The story of this charismatic Metis leader continues to vex Canadians more than 120 years after his death. His struggle with the fledgling and ambitious Canadian government inspired a Metis nation — the part Native, part white, mostly French-speaking Catholics who were held in contempt, if not outright hostility, by English Canadians. While hundreds of books have been written about Louis Riel, only a handful of comic strips have attempted to tell his story in a graphic form. Chester Brown’s exquisite and compelling version fills that gap.
Brown points out that for the sake of brevity he skipped long periods of time and ignored some aspects of Riel’s life. However, these judicious omissions only add to the superb narrative. Although it is evident where Brown’s sympathies lie, he doesn’t create one-dimensional portraits of any of the characters. His depiction of Sir John A. Macdonald shows a flawed politician who was willing to do almost anything to unite the country and who justified his actions with the belief that he was acting for the greater glory of Canada and the country’s future. Riel is portrayed as someone who was charismatic, passionate, conflicted, and obstinate. Both players acted in accordance with their inner values and vision.
Brown’s storytelling and exquisite drawing make Louis Riel a jam-packed action adventure story that both teens and adults will enjoy. An added bonus is the unusual inclusion of a short index, extensive notes, and a list of recommended reading.
Tami Oliphant


Gallant, John. Bannock Beans and Black Tea: Memories of a Prince Edward Island Childhood in the Great Depression. Illustrated by Seth. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2004. 168p. $24.95. ISBN 1–896597–78–5. CCIP. DDC 971.7'7.

A lifetime of bitterness and resentment poison this slim collection of memories of a childhood in Prince Edward Island during the 1930s.
The spokesperson — the author’s father — grew up in extreme poverty. The basics of life, such as food, clothing, shoes, and adequate heat in the home, were missing. He left school after Grade 2 because he did not have shoes to wear or enough to eat. When he was able to obtain work in a fish processing plant, he had to wear his grandmother’s Victorian high-button boots to work.
The book is a litany of constantly scrambling for food or to earn a few cents by gathering wild berries, fishing, or doing odd jobs. He blames his father for the family’s destitute state and expresses his resentment toward the village priest, from whom he had to beg a dollar to save the family from starvation.
The book is an eye-opener in that few readers today realize the depth of poverty that existed in Canada at the time. But it is too narrow in scope to be either local history or even a family history. While not a social history, either, it makes some very strong comments on life in Eastern Canada during the Great Depression.
Janet Arnett


Mayerovitch, Harry. Way to Go. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2004. 96p. illus. $12.95pa. ISBN 1–896597–82–3pa. CCIP. DDC 741.5'971.

This entertaining collection of drawings by Harry Mayerovitch, a Renaissance man who has worked as an architect, teacher, graphic designer, town planner, cartoonist, and painter for the last seven decades, is divided into three sections. The first section, “The Other One,” explores the intriguing subject of shadows. They can’t exist without us; they confirm our physical existence; they can appear menacing at times by being larger than the person they are attached to; and they can startle their owner when they appear unexpectedly. Mayerovitch playfully draws on these contradictions by sketching shadows that are defiant or contradictory. For example, one man’s shadow is actually a woman, another is a judge condemning the defendant, and another is an appalled shadow of a proudly naked man. These drawings are delightful; they show how all human beings are multiples and how one never knows what lurks in the shadows of their own psyche.
Section 2, “Pot Pour Rire,” is a set of random drawings. Many of them are surreal and feature two-headed men and removed body parts. Others include a perfectly contented polygamist hugging his four wives while their facial expressions reflect their placement in line, and an angry bull looking at Picasso’s painting of it.
The final section, “Way to Go,” encourages the reader to exit this mortal coil in style. These drawings show caskets that reflect the occupiers’ personality, such as a cat with eight coffins in front of him, a beauty queen with a huge sash jauntily hanging around her curvaceous casket, a coffin as a bar, and a magician sawing his coffin in half.
Mayerovitch’s drawings are simple, witty, and effective. This collection reveals an artist who is not afraid to explore all aspects of life.
Tami Oliphant


Doucet, Julie. My New York Diary. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2004. 110p. illus. $21.95pa. ISBN 1–896597–83–1pa. CCIP. DDC 741.5'971.

Julie Doucet, creator of Dirty Plotte, has laid bare her most intimate and painful moments in My New York Diary. The autobiographical graphic novel is infused with grim realism from its opening story, “My First Time,” in which the Catholic schoolgirl loses her virginity to an aging hippie. From there the reader follows Doucet to art school, where Julie dates a pitiful suicidal artist, then on to New York, where she lives with another pathetic and emotionally needy boyfriend.
Her move from Montreal to New York unnerves Julie. Her apartment is infested with cockroaches, and she spends her days and nights doing drugs, binge drinking, worrying about her work, and having alarmingly intense epileptic seizures. At the same time, she is gaining recognition and success in the comics world (Art Spiegelman makes a cameo appearance and congratulates her on her work) while her boyfriend, who is also a cartoonist, languishes. His envy of Julie’s success is palpable, yet as time passes he becomes more and more reliant on her. Julie realizes that she needs to get out of New York and secretly plans her escape while trying to deal with an increasingly needy and unstable partner.
Though all this sounds grim, Doucet brings humour and hope to her story. She deals with the hassles of being female in a humane, bittersweet, and hopelessly honest way. All of the characters have been drawn with bubbleheads, making them appear cute even when they aren’t acting cute. Each panel is heavy with detail and contains unexpectedly funny or touching backgrounds.
Tami Oliphant


Rabagliati, Michel. Paul Has a Summer Job. Montreal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2003. 140p. illus. $26.95pa. ISBN 1–896597–54–8pa. CCIP. DDC 741.5'971.

This charming graphic novel captures one young man’s passage into adulthood over the course of a summer. Paul is a typical teenager — he resists doing things he doesn’t like (e.g., school work), and is passionate about things he does like (e.g., art). When Paul is kicked off a school art project he spearheaded because of his less-than-stellar grades, he resentfully quits school to find a job in the “real world.” He quickly finds work in a printer’s shop, but soon becomes disillusioned with the life of a working stiff.
Paul is rescued from his burgeoning depression by a friend who offers him a summer job as a camp counsellor. Despite thinking he is psychologically and physically ill-equipped for the job, Paul eagerly accepts and heads out to the Quebec woods. However, this is no ordinary summer camp — it is run by a footloose Catholic priest for underprivileged kids. From living in primitive conditions and digging latrines to fighting his teammate, Paul’s first few weeks are difficult. Eventually he finds small successes in mastering mountain climbing, connecting with the kids and his co-counsellors (by showing his sensitive side), and falling in love.
Even though the novel takes place in 1979, readers will be engrossed by the author’s simple, yet quirky and effective, storyline. There isn’t a single false note in this graphic novel — the story is nostalgic, but not sentimental. The characters, including both the camp counsellors and the kids, and their relationships with each other are richly drawn. Rabagliati gracefully and effortlessly portrays Paul’s tentative steps into adulthood.
Tami Oliphant
 

Featured artists

Chester Brown
Julie Doucet
Michel Rabagliati

           Featured products

Paul Has a Summer Job
My New York Diary




  KIRKUS REVIEWS: JULIE DOUCET'S "MY MOST SECRET DESIRE"

Updated December 15, 2005


Kirkus Reviews 12/15/05

Doucet, Julie
MY MOST SECRET DESIRE
Drawn & Quarterly (120 pp.)
$19.95
April 15, 2006
ISBN: 1-896597-95-5

A dirty mind proves creatively liberating and socially subversive, as this Montreal native finds catharsis for her deepest fears, desires and neuroses through these drawings of her dreams.

Graphic narratives don't get much more graphic than the comix of Doucet (My New York Diary, 1999). Within this journal of dreams, one strip that she titles "If I Was a Man" shows in explicit detail how she'd have sex with a woman, one who would have to have huge breasts, because Doucet would have such a large penis. Penis envy (or at least obsession) informs a number of the other dreams, as one of them allows the artist with her surprising new appendage to have a different kind of fun with her girlfriends (and attract a very interested Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees). Many of the strips transverse or dissolve the boundary between dreams and Doucet's conscious state, with some of them showing her awakening to the discovery of what a weird dream she'd been having, while others reflect dreams within dreams. She crams her drawings with obsessive detail, to humorous and occasionally claustrophobic effect. From menstruation to masturbation to motherhood (she births and nurses a cat), she proceeds in fearless fashion, as if she has never experienced an impulse that she feels is forbidden to illustrate and share. All of the dreams and drawings are dated, mainly from the late 1980s and early 90s (when Doucet was in her early-to-mid-20s). Over the passage of years, the panels become larger and lighter, with a little more breathing room, as if the pressures on the artistic subconscious have eased a little. As with Harvey Pekar's early collaborations with Robert Crumb, she presents the work as straightforward confessions from a mundane existence, never romanticizing herself or belaboring the humor. Even the reader who hasn't experienced such fantasies will likely know just how Doucet feels.

Doucet's dreamscape is an intriguing place to visit, though it might be a little scary to live there.

Featured artist

Julie Doucet

          



The latest from JULIE DOUCET: PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY STARRED REVIEW

Updated December 15, 2005


My Most Secret Desire
JULIE DOUCET.
Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95 (120p) ISBN 1-896597-95-5

Originally published in her comic book Dirty Plotte, then collected in 1995 (and slightly expanded for this edition), Doucet's adaptations of her dreams are some of her weirdest, strongest and funniest work. The French-Canadian artist writes in hilariously crumpled English (one story is called "An Happy Ending Nigthmare" [sic]) and draws herself as an abject, bedheaded mess ambling through a world littered with garbage. She doesn't seem to hold anything back from her subconscious—sexual fantasies, genital mutilations, messy apartments—they're all represented. One section is devoted to dreams in which she turns into a man; another long piece presents a series of dreams about having a baby (who variously has a tail or is a small cat or "wants to go back in"). Doucet's sense of humor is intimately tied to her cluttered but striking visual style: one of the book's funniest strips is a one-pager in which she imagines what it would be like to shave if she were a man, mimicking the facial contortions (and bloody nicks) of men looking into a mirror with a razor and concluding with an ear-to-ear grin as she yells, "Haaaaaaaaaaaa!!!" The more screwed-up her fantasies are, the more entertaining they get, and almost every panel is a scribbly, quirky delight. (Apr.)
 

Featured artist

Julie Doucet

          



  Rick Moody Reviews David B. in the NYTBR

Updated January 25, 2005


Novelist Rick Moody reviews David B's new full-length EPILEPTIC release by Pantheon. In the review, Moody spotlights other D+Q cartoonists including Chris Ware, Julie Doucet, Joe Matt, Joe Sacco and Chester Brown.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Julie Doucet
David B.

           Featured products

I Never Liked You: The New Definitive Edition
My New York Diary
Babel #1




Going Underground, Underground Comix--A CBC Radio documentary

Updated February 25, 2003


Speaking of Canada, this country has its own radio station called the CBC. It featured a radio documentary this past month about comics and on the companion web site you can find great stuff like interviews and audio clips on D&Q artists Seth, Chester Brown, and Julie Doucet, as well Jessica Abel and the great Ho Che Anderson.
This link should take you there, or you can go to the CBC Arts Canada site and search for "Going Underground"

http://artscanada.cbc.ca/artscanada.jsp?startingPieceLabel=go_under&

 

Featured artists

Chester Brown
Julie Doucet
Seth

           Featured products

It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken (PB)
Long Time Relationship





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