On The Ledge With Marzena Sowa
I landed in the world of comics somewhat by chance.
I had studied literature, and I always dreamed of writing, but I never imagined I’d become a comic book author. It’s all thanks to Sylvain. Before meeting him, I didn’t really read comics (I must have read Tarzan when I was 13, and my next comic book was Blue Pills by Frederik Peeters when I was 23).
Stupidly, I believed that comics were for children, for men who refused to grow up or for people who didn’t like to read very much. In Poland, where I was born, no one tried to change my mind. There, during my childhood, comics were a marginal art form. Thanks to Sylvain, I plunged into comics not only as a reader but almost simultaneously as an author. The MARZI adventure started in 2005.
In the beginning, I struggled with my role. I was always hiding behind Sylvain who had an established career as a comics artist. He’s the one who carried MARZI on his shoulders for several years. But little by little, with the publication of each new volume, I learned (and I’m still learning) to better manage my work as scriptwriter, and my place in this world became more stable. I began to understand the importance of my work. It wasn’t by chance. Not anymore. And I didn’t want to be the author of only one comic book.
One day, I met a Polish illustrator: Krzysztof Gawronkiewicz. I liked his drawings a lot, and I wanted to work with him. At the time, I was in the midst of reading the poems of a Polish poet who wrote about the war. A few of them referenced the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
This uprising is often confused with the uprising of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943. It was the last hope, the last attempt—powerful and at the same time desperate—of the Polish people to regain their freedom from the Nazis. It was expected to last 4 or 5 days, but it ended after 63 days. It was a true death knell to Warsaw. The Red Army had arrived on the outskirts of the city, and halted near the Vistula River, waiting for the Germans and the Poles to kill each other. Then, they arrived as the victor in the lifeless capital, and established communism. The Russians, thanks to their non-intervention, kept that historic event in the shadows (and made sure it stayed there) which is why it barely exists in Western minds.
The uprising isn’t an easy topic. It’s vast and has always stirred up a number of controversies about its meaning. But it’s a real-life story that needs to be told, and it will be the subject of my next comic, working with Kryzsztof. It’s a huge job for us and a terrific challenge that we have thrown ourselves into with great enthusiasm.
I don’t know if, working on another project that once again takes the history of Poland as its subject, I run the risk of being categorized as a Polish author, but at the same time, I know I have many other stories in my bottom drawer that aren’t necessarily about Poland, but in which no doubt my Polish sensibility, my Polishness, shines through. It’s something I’ll never escape, but I also don’t want to escape it. It’s where I find my strength. And for me, for now, it feels vital to write about my country.
--Marzena Sowa, writer of MARZI: A Memoir on sale this October