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Jordi Lafebre, the success and risk of drawing emotions on the surface | Culture

by News Room
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As a child, Jordi Lafebre doodled on the floor of his house in Barcelona. Today, at 45 years old, he receives messages even in Turkish congratulating him on his comics. Or so he hopes: since he doesn’t understand the language, he relies on emoticons with hearts next to the texts. In reality, Catalan’s work is translated into more languages ​​that he does not control. He doesn’t need it: his stories seem to speak to anyone. “I strive to make universal books, without forgetting my roots. I’m not trying to give lessons. I simply write and design things that I have seen or know exist,” he summarizes. A love capable of defeating time, in White card, his celebrated solo debut. Now in I am your silence (Norma, like all his comics), a mix of thriller, sexist violence and mental health, all bathed in cava. And soaked in humanity, humor and hope, the author’s usual hallmarks. Lafebre remembers that his parents always supported the passion of their hyperactive son. The boy who painted pavements to relax has grown up. He now puts smiles on the faces of hundreds of strangers.

“I’ve been drawing all my life,” he smiles. So much so that his professional destiny was decided almost alone. When, as a teenager, he announced that he wanted to be an artist, the family already took it for granted. No surprise, just support. His first employers were somewhat surprised: he called a magazine insisting that they sign him. On the other end of the phone, they did not imagine that a 20-year-old boy would show up in the newsroom. His talent and desire opened doors for him. Of course, he played a few before going for the most desired one: “I did everything. Small commissions, one week, advertising things, erotic things, for events of any kind, animation. But he was clear that he wanted to write books.”

The cartoonist Jordi Lafebre, photographed in Madrid, on Friday, March 15. Mario Bermudo

First, in company. Although in the comics of him with the screenwriter Zidrou (The good summers, Lydia) what would come next was taking shape: the launch in France, before arriving in Spain; a warm and dynamic drawing, with a distant Disney aroma; the vindication of poignancy and tenderness; everyday, intimate and, precisely for this reason, transcendental themes. “I am interested in the human soul. I believe that things can be treated lightly while respecting that they are important issues,” he defends. In his works, Lafebre dares to walk the tightrope of emotions. One false step is enough to fall into the sugary, or the melodramatic. There will, in fact, be those who will accuse him of this. However, thousands of readers loved White card because it stayed right on the ideal line: without excesses, but always on the surface.

“In the books that I have written there are sincere questions that I ask myself, without having clear answers. I like to think that the same thing happens to the reader. There is a certain fear of addressing emotional issues, cynicism and hopelessness are tools that we use a lot to protect ourselves. I think there is a way to be optimistic without being tearful,” says the cartoonist. So, in I am your silenceRetry.

Cartoons from ‘Carta Blanca’, by Jordi Lafebre, edited by Norma.

He also plays again with the timing of the narration, as in White card. Although now, in his second graphic novel, the creator puts a few more cards on the table: his protagonist, Eva, a psychiatrist as unstable as she is overwhelming; the police plot; the wide universe of secondary characters; But, above all, Lafebre’s new cartoons touch on topics such as legacy, globalization, feminism, sexist violence or mental health.

“I had the idea of ​​a thriller in Barcelona, ​​but I was missing pieces. A book needs an architecture, support points. I found them when I focused on mental health. It seems to me to be a necessary topic, one that is talked about more now, but not enough. Sometimes an author has a frustration trying to fix something that generates a very beautiful energy. Before, we cornered people who suffered from these problems: on the contrary, we must support them together,” says the artist. In the talk, Lafebre alludes to personal experiences that he does not want to delve into; although he also says that he resorted to extensive documentation, which can be sensed in some references; In addition, he met with psychiatrists, and with patients with bipolar disorder. “The respect it gives you is what allows you to approach it very carefully. I wanted to understand it from within. The reader is going to fly over something that you as an author have to know much more about,” he reflects.

Cartoons from ‘Lydie’, by Zidrou and Jordi Lafebre, edited by Norma.

Still, it is worth asking whether 112 pages are enough to address so many complex arguments. When you put all that meat on the grill, is it possible that no piece is cooked thoroughly? “I claim the book is accessible to anyone. It seems like a compliment to me when they tell me: ‘I gave it to my mother, who never reads comics.’ And, at the same time, it is sophisticated in the sense of a very elaborate drawing, color and script. There are much more complex works, and obviously I have brutal respect for them. But I am very interested in the balance between both aspects. I am not an essayist, nor a philosopher. I like to make comics that can reach everyone and invite the reader to reflect,” Lafebre responds. He adds, “without any complexes,” that the comic is also an evasion. Although he hopes that, upon return, the trip will leave traces.

From his future adventures, he is clear about what he wants to say: “Nothing,” three times, between laughs. Apparently there are two scripts in the works. But Lafebre believes that this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of his job: “I don’t do something to repeat myself, I don’t try to fill in anything, but rather build a career as an author. I have the sincere feeling that each book is an opportunity to speak to people. Before getting up to the microphone, you must think very carefully about what you are going to dedicate those five minutes to, if you are going to live up to the sophistication of the subject, if you have the right tone… It is very demanding.”

More so, perhaps, since he has gained some fame in comics. There are readers who already expect something from Lafebre. Faced with this, he champions daily work. “A book strips you, it shows you who you are. There are many days in a row. Sometimes you are more fluid and other times it is about putting on your overalls and carrying on. There are times when you don’t know if it will work out. With my friend (illustrator) Javi Rey, we always say: ‘You have to trust the Jordi of the past, who decided to make this comic. And in the future, he is going to take it forward.” Without ever forgetting the tiny Jordi who painted on the floor.

‘The good summers’, by Zidrou and Jordi Lafebre, edited by Norma.

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