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The Liebestrasse Interview With Greg Lockard & Tim Fish

Greg Lockard and Tim Fish collaborated on the graphic novel Liebestrasse which tells the story of two men falling in love just as the German Weimar Republic has fallen. They were joined on the project by Hector Barros and Lucas Gattoni, colorist and letterer respectively.

Lockard is a comics writer, editor, and educator whose most recent work is a short story in DC’s Pride anthology featuring The Ray. ComiXology Originals, Tiny Onion Studios, and Image Comics are among his current clients and at Vertigo he edited The Unwritten, Sweet Tooth, and iZombie among others. Tim Fish may be most widely known for his fan favorite Cavalcade Of Boys series and as the creator of the Young Bottoms In Love that ran for four years on Pop Image before being collected in print. Fish’s work has appeared in other creator owned series, anthologies, and Marvel.

On the occasion of Liebestrasse coming to comic shops and bookstores Greg and Tim and colorist Héctor Barros were generous with their time in answering questions and reflecting on their story. We hope you enjoy the conversation and the preview pages and pinups!

Gay League: Your graphic novel Liebestrasse (Love Street in English) was published digitally in November, 2019. How does it feel to have a print edition in comic shops and bookstores?

TIM FISH: It is such an honor and the printing looks so good!—very happy to see it on the shelves soon.

GREG LOCKARD: We’re both very excited to have the book on the shelves now and the opportunity to potentially connect with another reading audience.

GL: Tim’s cover art gives a hint about the story that’s told inside the covers, but it’s really much more than what’s hinted at by the image of these two men, Samuel and Phillip. Would each of you talk about the premise of the story, its inspiration and its evolution?

TIM: The idea stemmed from my visits to concentration camps. Some of the stories of the people at the camps, as told in the camp museums, made me think of what it would have been like to have your world turned upside down just for being in love. I didn’t have more than a scene or two in mind when I asked Greg to collaborate on the story with me. Agreeing to move forward was largely because we felt the story still feels relevant today. 

GREG: After Tim and I started brainstorming our story, I looked to the World War II-era fiction that I loved and thought about the ways that our modern day telling could look at it through a more obviously queer lens. Centering two queer men in the narrative was always the heart of our story— the true stories of queer individuals before and after World War II had been widely erased around the world.

GL: Reading non fiction books such as Gay New York, The Boys of Fairy Town, and Buying Gay which research queer history and queer people carving out lives in a heteronormative society is one of my passions. A gay period romance set in the twilight of Weimar Germany and the rise of the Nazi government fits right into that niche for me. What were each of your concerns about research and how did you balance that aspect with telling Sam and Phillip’s story?

Tim, what did you find to be the most challenging and rewarding experiences drawing Liebestrasse?

TIM: Something like 80% of Berlin was destroyed during the war, and I found it challenging drawing real places. Not finding vintage photography to work from, but knowing how much was destroyed beyond the buildings. And though Sam and Phillip are fictional, we know men like them lived and loved, and the stories of their era aren’t often told, and that was immensely rewarding to draw. 

GREG: Non-fiction narratives of the time period were extremely helpful but unfortunately limited as well. GAY BERLIN by Robert Beachy, I, PIERRE SEEL by Pierre Seel and THE PINK TRIANGLE: THE WAR AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS by Richard Plant were very valuable to our research (amongst others that we document in our print editions back-matter).

We were both very concerned about proper representation of a time-period in Germany that we had not directly witnessed and hope that our story does justice to the people of the Weimar Era in Berlin.

GL: There’s an interesting juxtaposition between Samuel being a banker and Phillip as an art critic. They’re both punished for transgressions while art ultimately becomes a transformative force in Samuel’s life. I’m interested in both your thoughts on this dynamic and how or if it affected you during the work on the book.

GREG: Samuel needed to have a job that justified his existence in Berlin and his reasons for staying. Philip’s connections to the art world and queer community were important in how we shaped the narrative and provided lovely ways of quietly illustrating how the experience echoed throughout the rest of Samuel’s life as you noticed.

GL: Art plays a role in the story in other ways. For instance, Phillip’s sister is a painter and two scenes in two different art museums are very important. The first scene focuses on a Rothko painting and the other painter is, correct me if I’m wrong, Paul Klee. How do these two painters encapsulate themes in Liebestrasse? 

GREG: Great eye! I am an art history nerd and very happy to include both these references in the creation of our book. The title of the Paul Klee we were referencing is “Durchdringung (Penetration)” and intended to be both a dirty joke and a reference to the artists of the Bauhaus movement who were all under attack by the Nazis regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation. Similar logic was applied to the Rothko reference and Samuel’s work later on the board of the museum in New York City in the ’50s.

GL: Most photography and film from this period is black and white while art in painting and other media uses color in often very incredible, sometimes shocking, ways at the time. How was color used to bring Samuel and Phillip’s world to life?

HÉCTOR BARROS : I coded the color palette as a shortcut to make scenes and characters distinct as the scene cuts are quick! Sam tends to dress in professional dark blues, Phillip in casual tans, I “saved” more saturated purples, golds and specially greens for scenes where they were together, happy, and pure reds are only present during the horrors of the Nazi rise. The rest of the world I painted in more muted and neutral tones for contrast. 

My main references were ads and posters from the era, and the work of José Villarrubia.

GL: Most of Liebestrasse is told in one large chronological sequential flashback, roughly in the months before and after Kristallnacht happened on November 9th and 10th, 1938, which is framed by scenes of Samuel in his present day in November, 1952 based on the newspaper headline which intentionally or not places it in the middle of the paranoia of McCarthyism. This creates a sense of personal history spanning roughly a decade and a half within a greater historical context and you show how little the queer community was allowed to change by society and government. There’s the Santayana quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There are interesting parallels between those times and Liebestrasse’s publication in November, 2019 during the rising backlash to and hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ community. Even more so now in the wake of Ron DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay legislation, the push to ban LGBTQ books, and being made targets by a certain radical social media presence. Given that you certainly couldn’t have anticipated the events of the past several years while working on Liebestrasse I’m likely heaping more on to the work by asking what message you hope readers will take from your story and has reaction changed over the years since you both started the project?

TIM: Not at all. The idea had been stuck in my head for years, but it was the election of 2016 and the immediate concern that our rights were at risk that prompted us to proceed with the creation of the book. Messages I hope readers take away are queer love has existed and been targeted for generations, and our fight for the freedom to love is never over. The digital edition was released just before the pandemic hit, so getting reader reaction has been challenging without comic conventions, panels, and book signings. I’m excited to start interacting with fans and readers again!

GREG: The hysteria over queer literature in recent months has been completely unnerving as we awaited the publication of the print edition with DARK HORSE and looms heavy in my thoughts as our friends and colleagues are receiving threats and having their books banned. My hope from the start has been that the readers (in high schools and beyond) who need this book can find it and the rapidly deteriorating state of politics and democracy in the United States and around the world has only solidified my feelings to our work here.

On a much lighter note, where can people keep up with you and are there any projects you’re working on now that you can tease about?

GREG: Tim and I are so grateful for the opportunities this graphic novel has created and I cannot wait for the chance to repeat the process on another project!

TIM: We both have many irons in the fire! Hopefully everything will pan out and you’ll hear more soon.

GL: Thank you, Tim and Greg! And thank you too, dear reader!  

Look for Liebestrasse at your local comic shop or bookstore! The Diamond order code is FEB220293 and the ISBN-10 is 1-50672-455-8 and ISBN-13 is 978-1-50672-455-3. Comic Shop Locator can help you find a comic shop! Or try IndieBound or Bookshop. Or from Amazon if you prefer.

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