From Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet, courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly.
It’s impossible to convey, to anyone who didn’t stumble across the stuff on their own, the evanescent but ferocious intensity to be found in the photocopied page of any zine or comic from the late eighties and early nineties. Self-publishing in those days showed you, the reader, a culture being ripped apart, at the seams and straight through the middle, while on fire, the raw guts of oppression and abuse and injustice exposed and left behind to rot while you watched with a beer from a spot near the stage. The French Canadian artist and comics creator Julie Doucet invented a character, named Julie Doucet, who let you tag along as she did exactly that, can in hand, enjoying the show. Starting in 1987 in the pages of the fanzine Dirty Plotte and then continuing on through a comic-book series of the same name as well as several graphic novels, Julie-the-character gallivanted semi-innocently about the club, the city, the country (any country), concerned primarily with her own pleasure as the Berlin Wall crumbled somewhere behind her, a sign that the cultural undoing you felt in your bones had tangible political effects.
The daring adventures of Julie Doucet’s smart, hot, disheveled, and sometimes rageful imaginary self just goofing off or engaging in semierotic play with an array of mammalian coconspirators have seared themselves into the minds of a generation of readers. These fanciful images from a world in flux pointed the way for creators seeking inspiration from nocturnal visions and creators with stories to share from their own experiences. Not to mention creators—women and nonbinary ones, in particular—who hadn’t had impetus to imagine themselves in the creative role before coming across Doucet’s work. Among other merits, Doucet’s strips gifted the field of comics with the hope that creators who are not male might eventually see mainstream acceptance. I can’t stress enough how important this is. Yet I admit that when I’m asked about important comics, or the importance of comics, the signature scenes from Doucet’s oeuvre—Julie the man, Julie at a club, Julie hopping into a tub to scrub her cooter, Julie in flagrante with her elephant lover—are not the images that immediately pop into my head.
The panel that springs to mind instead is a quiet, domestic scene. Julie-the-character plays a minor role while her various home goods—discarded beer bottles, half-used condiments, an iron, forks, lamps, et cetera—carry the action. The panel comes toward the end of one of her many dream comics, a plethora of narratives in which the renowned creator presumably lays bare the machinations of her subconscious mind. These are often transcribed in gruesome, delightful detail: Julie as a gunslinger dies alone in a saloon. Julie is upset that she can’t find a decent brassiere at a basement warehouse sale (clearly a dream; Julie-the-artist didn’t wear bras at the time). Julie turns into a man overnight and—lucky her—meets up with Micky Dolenz of the Monkees and makes a sex date with him. The very definition of dreamy! Read More