Antal Bayer: Comics were born in Geneva with Rodolphe Toepffer, but for quite some time, the French-Belgian school played the dominant role. You’re a member of that generation of young artists who has drawn attention to the French-language Swiss comics. Is there anything that is specific to Geneva, to „Suisse romande” in the work done by artists like Zep, Frederik Peeters, Tom Tirabosco or yourself?
Pierre Wazem: No, we do very different things, in very different graphic styles. You could never tell that Tirabosco, Peeters and me are neighbours. But we have often worked together, I’ve written scripts for both of them, for example.
AB: You were first published in Switzerland, then in France by Humanoïdes Associés. Was that an important change? Does a Swiss author become „more important” in the eyes of the Swiss readers if he’s published in France?
PW: My first work came out in Swiss fanzines, but my first professional publication was at Humanoïdes, in France. While still being published in France, I’ve remained faithful to Switzerland by proposing stories to Atrabile, for example. This is what I still do today. Currently, I’m published in France by Futoropolis and in Switzerland by Atrabile. Being published in France gives you an usurped aura of professionalism, as the quality of the Swiss publications is much better than that of many French publishers. This a kind of inferiority complex of small countries at work…
AB: Most of your work is very personal, and it seems that this kind of real or fictious autobiographical comics is well received by the readers, you could even say that it’s quite popular. What does it mean in professional terms, is that enough to make a living out of it?
PW: No, I make about 50% of my living out of comics. The rest is made up by press illustration, drawings in weekly magazines, posters and other types of cultural related graphic work. I’m trying to never do advertising work with my drawings, and so far, I’ve managed to avoid this. I respect the art of drawing way too much, I don’t want to use it to sell stupid things.
AB: You did an episode of Les Scorpions du désert, reprising the series of Hugo Pratt. This is rather different from your other work. How did they choose you, and how did you manage to adapt to this realistic style that you normally don’t use very often?
PW: That was because of a comic I published at Humanoïdes, Bretagne. This is a very graphic, black and white graphic novel, very close to the Italian school and therefore to Pratt. It was his rightholders who came to me after this book. I had no problem adapting to this style, since I used it regularly at the time. But not so much any more.
AB: You also write for other artists. Who does this work? Do they ask you, or is it you who go looking for them with stories?
PW: Well for example for KOMA, it was Peeters who came to my workshop with a piece of paper with the drawing of girl and a monster and asked me „Could you write something for me about these?” That was quite a funny situation. Of course I said yes, because the request was so bizarre, and because I love Peeters’ work. So I wrote the main plot of the story in a single afternnon with Peeters looking behind my shoulder (he still talks about it, saying he’s never seen anyone write a story so fast), and then continued this way with every album by doing the dialogues and the stories. But with Tom, I’ve offered him fully finished scripts which I didn’t feel like drawing myself.
AB: Have you ever been to Hungary? What do you know of Hungarian comics, or for that matter of Eastern European comics in general?
PW: I’ve never been to Hungary. I’ve visited many Eastern European countries and I’m of Ukrainian origin through my father. It surprises me that comics never broke through in these countries while there was a lot of exciting animation films, illustrated children’s books and movies. Were comics considered subversive and uncontrollable, because you can make them on your own and say anything you want in them? I still wonder.