Fatherland Before The Falling In Babylon Berlin

 

by Vince Brusio

PREVIEWSworld was fortunate to catch up with writer and artist Arne Jysch for his new graphic novel, Babylon Berlin (NOV171960), which is an adaptation of the Volker Kutscher book that inspired the new TV series on Netflix. In this PREVIEWSworld Exclusive interview, Jysch elaborates on the story in 1929 Berlin which revolves around Detective Gereon Rath, who is pulled into a web of drugs, sex, political intrigue and murder.

Babylon Berlin (NOV171960) is in comic shops February 14.

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Vince Brusio: So we know that this book has inspired the TV series on Netflix, but what inspired this book?

Arne Jysch: The same original novel by Volker Kutscher that inspired my comic book also inspired the TV series on Netflix. To make it more confusing: the original title of the novel and my book is Der nasse Fisch (“The wet fish” is what the police called a cold murder case). But the original novel, when it was translated to English, was called Babylon Berlin, what is now the same title as the TV series. So, it’s just a logical conclusion that my adaptation got the title Babylon Berlin.

I have to point out that my comic book is not inspired by the TV series in any way. When I started drawing my final version, they had just started to shoot the series. And fortunately, they had been very, very reluctant to publish some images, so I was able to create my very own vision of the novel without being affected by the movie. The influences for my interpretation of the novel were drawn from many different sources. Of course, Kutschers novel was the main guideline. He already brilliantly managed to mix the reality of 1929 with an entertaining fictional crime plot. For my preparation, I immerged in the world of 1920s Berlin by studying contemporary movies, music and novels. There are a lot of picture books with photographs not only to see the architecture, the mood and the fashion but also to get a feel for the humans. I studied their body language, their expressions, always looking for distinct differences from today. I also visited a car museum, a technical museum and the historical police collection in Berlin. But most important, inspirations were the work of artists, illustrators of the 1920s like Jeanne Mammen and Russell Patterson, just to name two of them.

Vince Brusio: Tell us about detective inspector Gereon Rath. Who is this character? What drives him? What is the color of his soul?

Arne Jysch: Rath is a maverick, driven by ambition. His biggest dream is to be accepted and respected in the Berlin homicide division. This comes right after the desire to finally get rid of the overpowering influence of his father, who is the chief of police in Cologne and does everything in his power to use his relations to steer the fate of his son from a distance.

Vince Brusio: This is historical fiction, yes? What research did you uncover about 1929 Berlin that people might not recognize? 

Arne Jysch: Volker already had done so much research on the social, political background. So when I closely studied photographs for my visual approach I was looking for little discoveries that might not be in the novel and are very different from today, or look quite weird for the eyes of the present day viewer. That’s how I found that strange advertising parades seemed a common sight in the streets. Performers were dressed up in elaborate costumes to promote stomach medicine or soap, for example. So, I showed one of the strangest parades when the heroes tumble it to catch a crook during a foot chase sequence.

Another interesting detail: Women were allowed to leave their hat on when they were inside, visiting a restaurant or entertainment venue, while men usually had to put it off.

Vince Brusio: What was it like writing the story as compared to illustrating it? Was one creative endeavour more demanding than the other? Why or why not?

Arne Jysch: For me, writing is much harder than drawing, that’s why I was happy that Volker already had fleshed out the plot and characters so well in his novel. When I was working on the script, it was the task of recognizing the meaning of the scenes and changing them to fulfil my needs, essentially shorten it and find ways of “showing instead of telling.” It was very helpful that I had attended a screenwriter’s workshop and an acting class before I dared to start the adaptation. The Illustration, especially the first storyboard sketches are the fun part for me. That’s when the movie begins to roll in my head. I love to find the best angles and the flow of a sequence, to create the acting of the characters and the mood of a certain location. The most demanding thing while doing the illustrations was to hit the deadline of the publisher.

Vince Brusio: If you could isolate a particular scene in the story that would make for a one-minute trailer for the book, what would that scene be, and what would we see? How is it representative of the heartbeat for Babylon Berlin?

Arne Jysch: It’s a before-mentioned scene about a foot chase thru the streets of Berlin. Our hero and his boss at the police vice squad are in pursuit of a fugitive porn actor. A petty crook, actually. After they followed him on a giant construction site they finally manage to arrest him. It’s a cool and important scene because we see a lot of the Berlin streets until we end with a wide view at the climax of the chase. Beyond that, it’s the first time that we experience Rath and his colleague Bruno Wolter on duty together. Rath, becomes involuntarily part of Wolters questionable methods when he witnesses him beating up the crook. We get an intense introduction to their relationship that is uncomfortably between fellowship and distrust.

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Vince Brusio writes about comics, and writes comics. He is the long-serving Editor of PREVIEWSworld.com, the creator of PUSSYCATS, and encourages everyone to keep the faith...and keep reading comics.

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