The Beautiful and Disturbing Comic That Chronicles the Rise of German Nazism

It took author and illustrator Jason Lutes 20 years to complete his ambitious graphic novel trilogy. He‘s in NYC now with “Berlin: City of Light.”

Comic creator Jason Lutes’s just-released final installment of a three-volume, nearly 600-page graphic novel trilogy, Berlin: City of Light, looks at the destruction of Germany’s democratic institutions and the rise of Nazism. The story is told though a sprawling cast of characters whose various personal failures and desires make them deny, despair, or bring about huge changes to their country.

Its author started on the series more than 20 years ago, as a “cockily energetic” 26-year-old, in his words, and has been working to finish it ever since. It’s an accident of history that its final volume should come out at a time when its story is vitally relevant to the world, and America in particular. Lutes will be in New York for a pair of appearances in November, one at Brooklyn’s Greenlight Books and the other as part of the New York Comics Symposium.

It’s playing on people’s fears and tribalist tendencies by a very few people to maximize their own benefit.

The world Lutes evokes so masterfully in his beautifully drawn Berlin series isn’t a place where Fascism is an inevitable historical tragedy, but one where it begins as ridiculous—who could believe the insane things these insane people do—and progresses to inconvenient, before becoming an immensely sad reality that’s very hard to know what to do about. Should you just get used to it? Fight in the street? Run away? His characters, born across social classes and political leanings, all grapple with these questions, their plans and ideals shifting in Lutes’s lens.

Flipping through Berlin‘s pages, connections to today’s America are hard to miss.

“It’s not even parallels,” Lutes said via phone. “It’s the same stuff; it’s the same thread; it’s the same forces that have been present and manipulated to different levels, with different levels of obviousness throughout the history of our country. It’s playing on people’s fears and tribalist tendencies by a very few people to maximize their own benefit. That’s all exactly the same; there’s nothing that has changed about that.”

Why You Should Go: A cathartic and insightful look at hateful forces surging through world politics.

Greenlight Bookstore
686 Fulton Street, Clinton Hill
Monday, November 12
7:30 p.m.

New York Comics Symposium
63 Fifth Ave, University Center, Room UL105
Tuesday, November 13
7 p.m.

Jason Lutes self-portrait / Courtesy of Drawn & Quarterly 

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