Interview with Miriam Katin, Author of We Are On Our Own

By: Michele Kirichanskaya
Jan 27, 2024
Miriam Katin is a Hungarian-born American graphic novelist and artist. She worked in animation from 1981 to 2000 in Israel and the United States. She has written two autobiographical graphic novels, We Are on Our Own (2006) and Letting It Go (2013). She has won an Inkpot Award and the Prix de la Critique.

I had the opportunity to interview Miriam, which you can read below.

First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?  

I was born in 1942 in Budapest and survived the war with my mother “hiding in plain sight” with faked Christian ID papers. In 1957 after the Hungarian Uprising we went to live in Israel where I apprenticed in a graphic art’s studio, then I served in the IDF as a graphic artist. In 1963 I arrived in New York, where I worked in MTV and Nickelodeon and Disney’s New York studio. I did background designs for the animated pictures “Doug”, “Daria’ “PB&J Otters” and Nickelodeon’s Bible stories.  From 1981 to 2000, we lived in Kibbutz Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea, where I also worked in animation for Ein Gedi FIlms. We also did work for the Israeli Sesame Street.

What can you tell us about your work, We Are On Our Own? Where did the inspiration for these stories come from?  

We Are On Our Own comes from the stories my mother told me about our year of hiding from the Germans in the Hungarian countryside. 

Much of your work is autobiographical. What made you decide to explore the personal in your work, especially in such a visual space?  

The stories my mother told me about the war, they were like running narratives inside my mind, a daily, painful, uninvited, unwanted presence. They begged to be told. But I am not a writer and also, I thought who needs another Holocaust story.   

How did you find yourself getting into storytelling, particularly comics /graphic novels? What drew you to this medium?  

So when I discovered comics for myself, I knew I could draw the stories.  This was while working in MTV I saw the young artist around me doing comics. So I decided I had something to say.   As a creative, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration?   For story telling, it was Ben Ketchor, also I love his style and he is so New York. My influence for color is the Italian artist Lorenzo Mattotti.   

Besides your work as an author/illustrator what are some things you would want readers to know about you?

I always bring out the fact that my formal education was nine years and after that I never went to school. I don’t recommend it, but it tells you how much you can learn in life from the people around you. Lucky to have met many generous people willing to teach and help.  

Are there any projects you are working on or thinking about that you are able to discuss?  
My father was in a bicycling army unit during WW2. I could never learn bicycling until after he died. I think I like to work on the subject of Military Bicycling. It started in France.  

Finally, what books/comics would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?  

Oh. Just go to a good library and sit on the floor with the other fans sprawling around and read as many books as you can. And start drawing. And be completely honest. Don’t leave anything out, no matter how embarrassing it may be. And I also tell students that comics is very forgiving, you don’t have to be an accomplished artist to start. There are great stories told just with stick figures. But the story, it has to be good.   

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