Comics Alternative Interviews: Jason Lutes

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:26 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:50 – Interview with Jason Lutes
  • 01:20:31 – Wrap up
  • 01:21:13 – Contact us

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Stones, Smoke, and Light

Jason Lutes began his Berlin series in the spring of 1996, with plans to publish his ambitious project over a 24-issue run. Over the years, he pared down the number of issues to 22, and the last of those was released in March of this year. Earlier this month, Drawn and Quarterly released a complete single-volume edition of Berlin, clocking in at over 550 pages, as well as a third volume of the series, City of Light, for those who had already gotten the previous two collections, City of Stones and City of Smoke, and didn’t want to get the completed series in just one volume.

Berlin is a massive narrative with an ensemble cast. It takes place in that volatile city during the last days of the Weimar Republic, 1928-1933, when Germany was struggling with its economy and war reparations, and a variety of political factions — in particular, the Communist Party and the National Socialist Workers Party — were vying for power. Lutes’s story primarily focuses on the lives of Kurt Severing, a world-weary journalist, and Marthe Müller, an uncertain art student moving to Berlin and longing to define herself in this newly adopted city. But there are a variety of other characters, as well, and Lutes even peppers his fictional cast with several historically based figures, including the jailed journalist Carl von Ossietzky, Joseph Goebbels, Josephine Baker, and, yes, Adolf Hitler himself. The result is an expansive narrative that not only captures the Weimar culture at the time, but also explores individual desires and unpredictable relationships in the midst of political and economic upheaval. In his interview with him, Derek talks with Jason about the origins of the series, the amount of research that went into the project, how the city of Berlin became a point of inspiration, the various challenges he faced maintaining such an ongoing series for over 20 years, and where Jason’s artistic ambitions may take him next.