Julie Doucet remains one of the most influential artists to come out of the underground comics movement of the 1990s. In her work, especially the comic-book series Dirty Plotte, she chronicled the surreal, messy, and often hilarious life and dreams of a semiautobiographical character also named Julie Doucet. The invention/projection allowed the artist to explore the lives of women in a way few comics creators had before.
Even though she announced her retirement in 2006, she's never been able to fully escape the comics world: Drawn & Quarterly recently issued a retrospective, Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet, and now Anne Elizabeth Moore has published Sweet Little Cunt, the first book-length critical examination of her work. (Doucet in French is a diminutive of "sweet" while plotte is a slang, slightly friendlier term for "cunt.")
Doucet, who lives in her native Montreal, spoke with Moore for the book, in an interview that has been excerpted here. To see more of their conversation, pick up a copy of the Reader out Thursday.
In an interview for Carpet Sweeper Tales, the interviewer asks you about identifying as a feminist.
I'm happy that [people read my work as feminist] but at the time I didn't realize it. As a woman I felt very unfit, I was very self-conscious. I thought I was ugly and I don't dress properly for a woman, I didn't put on makeup, I wasn't wearing a dress. I just felt I was not proper. I was a tomboy. I didn't have the same interest as lots of women around me. So in that sense, what I drew was expressing that in some ways, but also, because I didn't feel like a proper female, I could never ever imagine that another woman could ever relate to what I was drawing and talking about. So in that sense I didn't think it was feminist in the sense that I didn't think it would, that anybody could relate to that. Most of my friends at the time were men, cartoonists, of course, so I didn't really have that feedback that much.
Of course, you know, I was a feminist, but feminism at the time was something else, you know?
What didn't help was that I was distributing my comics in bookstores and record stores, and I went to a bookstore—La Librairie Alternative, something like that, a feminist bookstore—and I gave them Dirty Plotte to read to tell me if they wanted to sell it, and I came back and they just told me no. No thank you, it's too violent against women. And I thought, OK, this is just not it for me. I don't fit. So I couldn't really identify as a feminist in so many words.
Last time we spoke, over a decade ago, you were quite articulate about how your relationships were affected by your work—negatively. Where are you at on these matters now?
When a woman has more success than her mate, that screws everything up. And since the beginning I was getting a lot of attention. And right away—right away! I had problems in my relationships with men because of that. Jealousy. Competition.