Short interview with Juraj HorváthHas any big comic book work come out in the Czech Republic recently?
I'm not really a specialist in comics. I was always more of a book-reader, but of course as an illustrator and also a lover of film, comics naturally interest me. In the Czech Republic there's really not a lot of original comics, and a comic book scene is just starting to be created or come to life. In terms of longer original comic book works, it's important to mention Alois Nebel, which in sharp black-and-white drawings depicts the intricacy of tales from the Sudetenland. (The War, Communism, Czechs – Germans). The writer was Jaroslav Rudiš, who has also been successful as a novel-writer. The comic was adapted for the theatre and is now being filmed. More fantastic is the comic Fred Brunhold's Monstrkabaret. The whole story is quite hallucinatory, but not far off from reality – inspired by film noir. The process that the main protagonist is undergoing is called 'Trunkisation'.
For the art the authors use old magazines (and films) and draw in the action on top of them. No more essential graphic novel has come out in recent years. Back in 1988 a nice and funny comic for kids from artist František Skála Jr – "Putování Vlase a Brady" (translated as The Wanderings of Hair and Beard) - came out. No one, not even Skála himself, has outdone it yet – though Skála's photo-comic "Jak Cílek Lídu našel" (How Cílek Found Lída) is artistically amazing…
You studied under Šalamoun at VŠUP (The Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague) and now you teach there. What’s the situation regarding comics like there?
I think a certain comicisation is taking place, both of illustration as well as of drawing and graphic arts. Story-telling and artistic playfulness are coming back into works. A number of authors have crystallised that deal with comics alongside illustration and the creation of author’s books. Certainly this is true of the group of people from KOPR (www.koprbooks.org), who put out a collection of comics in the packaging and format of butter and called it "Máslo" (Butter). Comics naturally blend together with other genres, which you can see well in the diary book by Martin Kubát: "Je večer, vypusťte Čerta" (It's Evening, Let Out the Devil).
It's a strange, lively and diverse book. A number of comic book projects were created in our department and published: "Noc" (Night) – a collection of comics, "Krabička" (Box) with fictitious diaries, "Sešity" (Notebooks) – Biographical comics (for example: of Ibrahim Ferrer, Laika, Zikmund and Hanzelka, Marilyn Monroe…). As I've been able to watch a half decade go by the understanding and use of comic book processes is more and more a matter of course…
Comic book authors are also recruited from the department of animated film – there this combination of script and illustration is quite natural. Jarda Plachý's dry and depressing comics and animated films are excellent…
And what about comics and your publishing house Baobab?
In the last while there's been the illustration blending into comics in the book Cirkus Chauve – drawn by Dora Dutková, who also published in the women's issue of Stripburger. That's drawn with great enthusiasm. I also like the dreamy Moomin-ish book Laddugandy by Darja Čančíková. In Laddugandy comics are intertwined with instructions, recipes and journal entries.
And what do you like from international comics?
Thanks to the publisher Mot (which was headed by two French people living in Czech Republic – which is significant) I had the opportunity to read comics from L'Association in Czech ... That is, Max Anderson, David B. and Joann Sfar. By the way, we are now publishing translations of the latter’s “The Rabbi’s Cat” (following our merger with G plus G). Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan also definitely had an effect on me ...
Juraj Horváth (*1974) was born in Bratislava. He is an illustrator, graphic artist and graphic designer. In 2000 he founded the publisher for children's books Baobab along with his wife Tereza. (www.baobab-books.net). Since 2003 he has been leading the studio for illustration and graphic art at Prague's VŠUP. He lives with his family in South Bohemia along the train line from Ljubljana through Tábor to Prague …