Barbara Stok’s Autobiographical Comics

It all started during her career as a journalist and photographer for free door-to-door newspapers. “That work was way too busy for me. It was forty hours a week with evening shifts and weekend shifts. Everything always had to be done quickly, so it also made me feel a bit stressed,” says Stok in NOS With a view to Tomorrow† “To take that frustration out of me, I started making comics. In the end I resigned and continued drawing comics.”


“The first few years of my comic book career I only made autobiographical stories, then I did make many stories continuously. At a certain point I got rid of that autobiographical and I wrote a book about Vincent van Gogh and recently about philosophers. So the last few years have been a bit of a gap. I’ll have to make some again soon.”


The book ends with the advice: “Don’t let impulses pull you back and forth. Be like a rock against which the waves break. Choose what is most important and hold on to it”. That advice is inspired by several philosophy books. “I have collected several texts together. They were Stoic philosophers, they helped me a lot. I thought that was good advice myself.”

Stok alone does not always succeed in complying with it. “Sometimes just for a while, I do my best. Above all, and I think that is something that emerges from this new collection, there is always a lot of compromise. The main character, yes that is me, but I always portray myself as an anti-hero who tries very hard, but it also often fails.”


“The last part of this collection is about that success I had with Vincent. It has been translated in over twenty countries, so that was of course fantastic. I was also invited to all those countries and then I was allowed to tell something and give lectures,” says Stok. “I’m just an introverted person by myself.”

“I love to work alone in my cave behind my drawing board. It is also very nice to meet readers, to hear that they are enthusiastic about telling my books. But that doesn’t quite fit my nature. That made me dead and tired. I suffered from a sore throat, then I thought: hey, how is that possible?”, she explains. “It took a very long time to find out. But that’s just the tension and the stress. It all just gets too busy for me.”


Drawing still helps. “With this subject it was also very nice to sign it off from me. There is also some humor in the drawings. Even if it is a more serious subject, the drawings always put it into perspective. It also suits me very well. Even if I think something is very bad, there is always a little voice that says: well well, come on.”

“It is also that certain very beautiful memories do not become a drawing. Then I think: it should remain a memory. As soon as I start drawing it, the memory gets clouded in a way. The annoying things are the most fun to draw. Those are, of course, the best stories.”

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