GLAAD Award-nominated graphic novel, Liebestrasse, which has made the jump from digital comic to print, is more timely than ever. The tale of an American in inter-war Berlin finding freedom and romance as the threat of Nazism creeps closer, is at once familiar and prescient in its depiction of an accepting and open world sliding towards fascism.
First released as a Comixology Original in 2019, Greg Lockard and Tim Fish’s tale instantly brings to mind Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin stories as an outsider, an American businessman named Sam, comes to Berlin and falls for a German art dealer Phillip in the last days of the Weimar Republic. But this is no rehash of those stories. While the trappings may be familiar, and the history inevitable, the story feels original and honest.
Far from home and let loose in a city of excess, Sam finds himself free for the first time. Free to be himself and to love another man without the constraints of family and societal expectations. The mood in Berlin, however, is shifting with the rise of the Far Right, unleashing anti-LGBTQ behavior on the streets. And Sam realizes that if he is caught, as a foreigner in another land, the consequences may be life changing…and even worse for those with no escape.
Reading Liebestrasse now, the parallels between the 1930s Berlin and 2020s America feel sharp, sharper than they did even in 2019. In a modern world where LGBTQ rights are questioned at the highest levels, and politicians look for scapegoats to distract the masses with, Liebestrasse is less a look back than a reminder of how these things can play out.
Tim Fish’s art excels at rendering emotion in small moments, showing flirtation with the cock of an eyebrow or sadness with the tilt of a brow. He elevates Lockard’s uncompromising text that is both charming and sweet, and frightening when needed. In one of the stories harsher moments Sam is confronted by a Nazi official who threatens to deport him, but instead sets him free because “letting you stay will be worse”.
A quick and compelling read, Liebstrasse will echo in your mind long after you’ve finished the last page. A constant reminder that we have come so far, but also that we have so much to lose to those with narrow minds and colder hearts.
By Chad Armstrong
Liebestrasse by Greg Lockard and Tim Fish is out now. Order from local independent bookstore or the usual online outlets.
Greg Lockard will making an instore appearance at Word Bookstore in Jersey City on Wed 13 July in conversation with writer/artist Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman, New X-Men). Book your place here.
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