Rutu Modan Interview

Comic-Festival in Angoulême

Author: Heinrich Raatschen

When the Angoulême International Comics Festival opens on January 24th, 200,000 visitors will crowd the streets of this small town in the west of France, and publishers of comic books from many countries will set up their stands. Among the numerous exhibitions will be the first comprehensive retrospective of the Israeli comic author Rutu Modan.

She became famous with her graphic novels »Exit Wounds« (168 pages) and »The Property« (232 pages), both originally published by the Canadian publishing house Drawn & Quarterly. Together with artists Yirmi Pinkus, Itzik Rennert, Batia Kolton and Mira Friedmann, Rutu founded the self-publishing group Actus Tragicus in 1995. Today she is a professor at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem.

We met her in a café on the beach of Tel Aviv.

How important was international exchange for your development?

Rutu Modan: In the early 90s we met Henning Wagenbreth, Atak (Georg Barber) and Anke Feuchtenberger in Berlin. Yirmi Pinkus stayed in Berlin for a few months and established the relationship. Their self-published little books were an inspiration for us to do the same. If they can do that, we thought, we can do it in Israel. There weren’t many comics in Israel back then. Not even commercial comic books were common, not even for children.

In the past, retrospectives were made for dead masters.

It’s a big deal for me to have a retrospective in Angoulême. On our first visit in 1996, I had a culture shock. All the artists, publishers, visitors. Then we went with Actus Tragicus every year to find publishers and distributors. In Angoulême we met Drawn & Quarterly in 1998. That opened the American market for us. We would not have made it without Angoulême. In Angoulême we understood what we could do and how we could do it. I tell my students how important it is to understand the industry. You don’t have to obey. You still do your own work, but you learn how to carry it into the world. That is what Angoulême showed us.

Are you involved in the exhibition design for Angoulême?

Thomas Gabison, from Actes Sud, my French publisher, curates the exhibition. I’m curious to see what he will do with the material I brought him to Paris. It’s a challenging task. It’s not natural for comics to hang on a wall. It’s impossible to choose a page that represents the whole book. But it can succeed. I saw a very good comics exhibition about Hergé at the Centre Pompidou, another from L’Association in Angoulême. Thomas will choose themes that will guide the exhibition so that you won’t be overwhelmed by the amount of material.

You received the 3 × 3 Award as Educator of the Year in 2017?

I am a professor of illustration and comics at Bezalel Academy. I teach basic courses for grades 1-2, children’s book illustration and all final courses. Teaching professions are something that Israeli illustrators aspire to early in their careers. At least in our generation we had good opportunities to do this. Israeli society is new, Israelis love everything new.

Will you publish something in 2019?

I’m drawing a new book, with a really bad person and a tragic end. It’s kind of political. I’ll probably be working on it the whole year of 2019.

Exposition Rutu Modan – Un théâtre tragi-comique
46th International Comics Festival
Angoulême, January 24th–27th, 2019

Sources: The Property, Exit Wounds, Jamilti and Other Stories, The New Yorker