Antal Bayer: You studied dramaturgy and even worked in this field for a year. Why did you leave this area, and why did you choose to return to the theatre in your comics?
Lucie Lomová: It was in August 1989 that I started working in theatre. Actually I wasn’t sure how long I would stay there, but three months later the revolution came and everything turned upside down. I spent one very nice season in the North Moravian Theatre in Šumperk, but then I decided to return home to Prague and become a freelancer, which wasn’t so easy then. I worked as a journalist for some time, but soon started doing comics as a main job. I still like the theatre very much and feel close to it, not only as an art form, but I love also the world behind the scene, where people have very close relations and are completely dependent on mutual cooperation and trust. Working together on a performance has its ups and downs but it is obviously completely different from working alone at home as a comic author. I have some personal experience both as a theatrical creator and critic, so when I was asked to make comics for one theatre magazine, naturally I decided to choose this milieu. For the first time I made a comics called Tyl’s guard, and when they asked me again, I decided to try a detective story linked to the theatre environment.
AB: By the way, how did you start out in comics? Were your influences mainly Czech or foreign? Who were your favourite characters or artists, and who do you like now?
LL: I have been drawing and writing since childhood. I loved the Punťa comics from the 1930-s inherited from my mom, and also a milestone of Czech comics, the Rychlé šípy series (Speed Arrows, a group of five boys experiencing different adventures) by Jaroslav Foglar (script) and Jan Fischer or Marko Čermák (drawings), which are still very popular. When I was five, our family moved to Chicago because my father, who is a parasitologist, got a job at the university there. I discovered colour TV with long Sunday morning cartoon shows and American comics magazines for children and I fell under their spell. After a year in the US, we returned to Czechoslovakia in 1970. This felt like a cold shower and I started having dreams about going back. I think this American year had a big impact on me, but I was influenced by everything I saw and read and experienced, I can’t pick out just a few things. I’ve always loved Art Nouveau illustrations like those by Artuš Scheiner, but also Czech illustrators Radek Pilař, Helena Zmatlíková and of course Josef Lada, who is probably the most famous Czech illustrator. You may know his drawings for Good soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek.
Today I have very many favourites, let’s mention at least comics authors Chris Ware, Nicolas de Crécy, Blutch, Igort, Manuel Fior, Pascal Rabaté, Marc-Antoine Matthieu, Seth, Brecht Evens, Shaun Tan, David B and many more.
AB: Are you interested in the history of comics? According to Czech comics historian Tomáš Prokůpek, you’re the first Czech artist whose albums have been published in France. How do you look on this achievement, and do you think that this could help other Czech artists follow in your footsteps?
LL: I like discovering the comics history and artists of the past. Right know I’m reading a book about another of my favourites, the genius Winsor McCay, creator of Little Nemo in Slumberland. For me, entering the French scene was a moment of capital importance, because I discovered the fruitful richness of modern comics, met many of the artists in person and got the opportunity to bring my work to a wider audience. I don’t think my being published in France could help other Czech authors. It was such a special and unique series of coincidences that led to my French publisher that it can’t be repeated. But now I’m not the only one being published in France, there are other Czech authors, like Vojtěch Mašek, Jaromír 99 and Jaroslav Rudiš.
AB: Is it true that Sortie des artistes was first published in French? How did this come about?
LL: It is already my third book published in France, by the same publisher Éditions de L’An 2/Actes Sud. This is quite an extraordinary story. Back in 2002, my uncle told me he found someone called Lucie Lom on the internet, who has some exhibition in France. I googled it and found out that “Lucie Lom” was not an actual person, but two men who had formed a company – one of them a comic author, the other one had studied theatre, and they were doing scenography, posters, graphic design, etc. I liked very much the pictures I discovered on their website, so I wrote them saying “MY name is Lucie Lomová, I studied theatre and I am a comics author”. We agreed we should meet and two month later I arrived in Angers where they lived. It was like meeting old friends. Later that year they were working with Thierry Groensteen on an exhibition at the Musée de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême. Thierry had just started his publishing house and was looking for female authors from abroad (!). They told him about our encounter, that I was thinking of doing a comics for grownups, and then Thierry asked me whether I have something I could show him... It was that easy. The first book was Anna en cavale, next one Les Sauvages. Both were first published in French. Sortie des artistes was published almost simultaneously in French and Czech.
AB: You’re labeling your book “a crime comic”, but this is certainly not a classic thriller. The solution isn’t very complicated and your detectives are no masterminds, things more or less just happen. Do you have any favourite crime novel writers who inspired you?
LL: I like playing with genres and maybe instead of "crime comic" we could call this a "comic crime". I don’t feel good analyzing my own work so I leave it on my dear readers, to consider what it really is. I wanted to create detectives as “ordinary heroes” and play with some genre stereotypes. However, I’m not a very keen reader of crime stories or thrillers. As for comics, as a kid I liked the short one-pagers Otazníky detektiva Štiky (Questionmarks of detective Štika) by Jiří Kalousek, published in a children magazine. They were brain teasers for children to guess “whodunnit”. I later realized that this detective looked a bit like my own detective Oulibský. By the way, this old comic series has been recently published in Norway. As for crime stories, I´ve read Igort’s masterpiece 5 is the Perfect Number, I also admire Will Eisner’s Spirit or the works of Jacques Tardi.
AB: Is this your first visit to Hungary? Do you know anything about Hungarian comics, do you see any similarities with Czech comics?
LL: I’ve been to Hungary twice before, but many years ago, in the 1980’s. I don’t know too much about Hungarian comics, I have just read an article in Aargh magazine by Tomáš Prokůpek and saw several examples there. So I’m looking forward very much to meeting the Hungarian comics scene and walk on Budapest streets.