Several years ago, Julie Doucet announced she was largely abandoning comics for other projects, a statement that came as quite a surprise to her fans as her work in her series "Dirty Plotte," which began as a minicomic before being published by Drawn and Quarterly, and graphic novels like "My New York Diary" showed her to be one of most talented comics artists of her generation. Despite her public comments, however, she hasn't actually abandoned the form. When filmmaker Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and the upcoming "The Green Hornet") contacted Doucet to say that he wanted to make a movie with her, she jumped at the chance.
"My New New York Diary" is Doucet's latest book, published through Picturebox. The graphic novel journal also contains a DVD with the short film that Gondry and Doucet collaborated on. The comic itself is the story of their collaboration, which resulted in a movie about them collaborating, which comes off on-screen as much less meta than it sounds. Gondry described Doucet in the book's introduction as "awesome," saying, "her work portrays the most violent secrets of the human heart."
Doucet spoke with CBR News about her return to comics and collaborating with Gondry.
CBR News: Did you know Michel Gondry or his work before he approached you with the idea of working together on this project?
Julie Doucet: Yes, of course I did. I love all his movies. When I saw "The Science of Sleep," I thought, in a perfect dream world, he would be the one I would work with, if I ever make a movie. You can imagine my amazement when I received that email from him!
Was "My New New York Diary" the kind of project he had envisioned from the beginning when he was trying to get you on board, or were you talking about adapting something you'd already done?
No, not at all. Actually, he didn't have a very precise idea of what he wanted to do with me. He just wanted a collaboration. Eventually, soon enough, he came up with this not-quite-animation concept that he already had in mind but didn't get the chance to use. It was supposed to be a tiny project, just to have fun. We needed an excuse of a story to make the film. He suggested we make a movie about making a movie together. That was fine with me.
Gondry commented at one point about how you were only self-centered on the page and not in the real world. That's interesting, because I would imagine that most people who craft autobiographical comics are not what we would expect. Do you think that's the case?
Yes, I suppose. You don't put everything in your comics. I think most cartoonists tell it like it is, tell the truth about their lives, except that you omit a bunch of stuff, put aside complete aspects of yourself and/or life. At least, that's the case with me.
How did the book happen and how did you approach putting it together? Was the book your take on things where you had the final say or was it more of a collaboration?
At first, Michel wanted to include that "New New York Diary" film on one of his collection of videoclips, but I figured I wouldn't make much money that way. It happened that we went to the Picturebox office together. That's when and where we got the idea. Since I already had a book published by Picturebox, and Michel, too, it was natural to go with that publisher. The book is pretty much the movie - same pictures, same texts. The only thing left to do was the cover and back cover and an introduction. I took care of the visuals with Dan [Nadel] and Michel wrote the introduction.
What was the thinking behind you playing you only in the scenes set in New York after Michel begins filming you, as opposed to incorporating you through the film?
That was Michel's idea. It was his concept. He wrote the script and I [wrote] the narration, the part I read myself. The whole static background drawings with real life actors was the concept he wanted to try, so he took all the decisions. Which I didn't mind. I didn't know a thing about film-making. And he moves very fast and me very slow. I spent too many years alone at a drawing table!
How did you end up connecting with Dan Nadel and publishing the book through Picturebox?
Like I said, I had already made a book with Picturebox ("Elle Humour"). I had met him through a mutual friend. It had been very easy and fun to work with him, so...
You announced a while back that you had mostly abandoned comics. What was your thinking behind that decision? Do you feel it was a positive choice for your life and your art?
I just wanted to try different things, different forms of art: printing, collages, artists books, writing, film. The comic world was not very open to anything too different at the time. I felt stuck. And I have to admit, I was not too comfortable with that all-boys crowd, anymore. I couldn't relate anymore. No, I don't regret making that decision. It's not like I can't come back! I just want to be free, try whatever I want to try.