Tag Archives: Drawn + Quarterly

CBC talks to Canadian cartoonists, part 2: Peggy Burns, Kate Beaton and Nina Bunjevac


(“Famous Alexanders” by Kate Beaton)

Here’s is the second collection of highlights from interviews with Canadian cartoonists under the CBC’s Canada Writers banner:

Canada Writes is talking to some of Canada’s best known cartoonists and graphic novelists on the different techniques, challenges, and advantages of working with both text and drawings.

Peggy Burn, Associate Publisher at Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly, reflects on 13 years in the industry. Here, she offers a peek into the selection process.

What characteristics make a manuscript jump out of the slush pile?

We never, ever read scripts. We like to read fully formed comics. We mostly prefer to see mini-comics or pamphlets to truly read the cartoonist’s storytelling abilities. For us the art and the words are one, and reading a script gives us no idea if we will like a comic. Most of the submissions that come to the office aren’t in tune with our mission, it is more like the artist got out name off a website of comic publishers. We have published submissions, though, notably from Keith Jones of Toronto and Brecht Evens of Belgium. And reactions to their submissions were immediate. We received the package, opened it, were completely floored by their ability and immediately made plans to publish them. Otherwise, we rely on shows like TCAF in Toronto, Expozine in Montreal and SPX in Bethesda MD to look for new artists with new minicomics.  (Minicomics are self-published comics, similar to zines.)
D+Q publish out some really fine material, including Seth‘s Palookaville series and Kate Beaton‘s award-winning Hark! A Vagrant.  The rest of the interview with Burns is interesting, you should give it a read.

Speaking of Kate Beaton, here she offers a few words about making comics. The widespread attention to her work beyond comic circles has a lot to do with her subject matter: putting a humorous spin on historical and literary figures. But I have one good friend who considers Beaton’s cartoons to be chauvinistic, and I think she’s partly right.

Here Beaton describes her creative process:

My process, when I do the historical comics, is a lot of research. Read about a subject until you know it inside and out as best you can, then write the jokes about it. It’s like getting so close to your best friend that you feel like you can rib them about something, and really nail it, but not in a mean way. I think it’s easy to be crass and make a mean joke, and I’m guilty of that too sometimes, but I would rather be clever and make an insightful joke, if I can. I doodle as I research and use those drawings to inform the final drawings for the comics, but on the whole, my process for drawing the comics themselves is pretty loose and simple.

Check out the rest of the interview for her artists influences and advice for aspiring comic creators.

Finally, we have Nina Bunjevac, the 2013  winner of the Doug Wright Spotlight Award (aka ‘The Nipper’) for her graphic novel Heartless. She, like Beaton, also plays in satire and says cartooning offers an advantage:

What are some of the advantages of working with text and drawings vs. just text? What do you think that this genre can do that text-only genres can’t?

There are certainly many advantages to working with text and drawings, especially in satire. I enjoy using the first-person soapy narrative, juxtaposed with the grim and ironic imagery to create the sense of naiveté or wishful thinking. In other words, my drawings do illustrate the narrative but not the sentiment or the yearning of the narrator. My characters are often ignorant of the true nature of their circumstance—this knowledge is reserved for the reader alone, who gets to experience the story through both the images and the narrative.This way the reader becomes an integral part of the story, a true witness, and their absence makes the story incomplete.

In the rest of the interview, she offers an impressive list of artistic influences.
BONUS LINK: I also just stumbled upon this CBC radio documentary about D+Q by David Gutnick.

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Filed under Aritsts and writers, Comic books and graphic novels

Doug Wright Award winners 2010

Added May 15: This video tribute is a nice showcase of the Best Book nominees.

On the evening of Saturday May 9, the 2010 Doug Wright Awards for Canadian “cartooning” – as it was described so quaintly at Friday night’s TCAF kickoff event with Daniel Clowes – were handed out to the following individuals:

  • Best Book went to Seth for George Sprott (Drawn and Quarterly)
  • Best Emerging Talent: Michael DeForge whose work includes Lose #1 (Koyama Press) and Cold Heat Special #7 (Picturebox)
  • Also something called the Pigskin Peters Award, a category described as unconventional, “nominally-narrative” comics: another D+Q book, Hot Potatoe by Marc Bell
  • Martin Vaughn-Smith was named to this year’s Hall of Fame

Best emerging talent: Michael Deforge
Pigskin Peters: Hot Potatoe by Marc Bell
Founded in 2004 (in a dimly lit Toronto bar) to celebrate the finest in English-language comics and graphic novels, The Doug Wright Awards have since evolved into one of North America’s foremost comics awards and one of its most anticipated events.

Wright Awards finalists defy easy categorization, and include past and present masters of the form and off-the-beaten-path newcomers alike, all vying for one of the most unique and coveted trophies in comics.

This year’s nominees were chosen by a five-member panel who chose from works released in the 2009 calendar year. The panel included: comics historian and author Jeet Heer; filmmaker Jerry Ciccoritti; cartoonist Chester Brown; Walrus comics blogger Sean Rogers, and; writer and Sequential.ca publisher Bryan Munn.

The winners were chosen by a jury that included Toronto Star books critic Geoff Pevere, author and Globe and Mail music columnist Carl Wilson, cartoonist and 2009 Doug Wright Award winner Matt Forsythe, and artist/cartoonist Fiona Smyth.

A featured event of the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF), the 2010 Doug Wright Awards ceremony was hosted by Peter Outerbridge at the Toronto Reference Library’s new Bram & Bluma Appel Salon.

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On tour: Seth in Montreal

Seth’s Canadian tour arrives in Montreal on November  3 at Drawn and Quarterly’s Librairie D+Q Bookstore. Get out and say hello.

His work also appeared in the Friday New York Times to illustrate a feature on haunted New York apartment living.

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What happened to The Walrus Presents?

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to browse The Walrus web site, and it appears one of my favourite features is missing: The Walrus Presents. This one-page strip by Jason Sherman and David Parkins  is a satirical look at (mostly) Canadian current events. It’s still running in the print edition, but they’ve stopped uploading the strip to the site after the July edition. Too bad.

At least they’ve posted their review of Canadian artist Marc Bell’s new book, Hot Potatoe (D+Q), from the current issue (Nov 2009). It’s too bad they don’t include any sample images from the book for the online version.  That should be necessary for any comic and visual art book review that’s published.

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Gallery news and book reviews

Globe and Mail reviews Underground Classics: The Transformation of Comics into Comix (Abrams ComicArts). It mentions this book is part of a travelling exhibit, but the only information I was able to find about that is a show in Madison, Wisconsin.

I learned that, while he was still running Marvel, Stan Lee attempted to expose underground comic artists to the mainstream with a series titled Comix Book. The experiment lasted only five issues.

I really dig the way the writer ends the review, especially the choice of the word  freedom rather than escape to describe what these books meant to their readers:

“It’s a bit weird to separate the parts from whole, but it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t really work except for the most rabid fans of the genre and the artists themselves. What does matters is that the book is a reminder of the fun those comix provided in their heyday – and of the blow they struck for kids who got to read what looked like a comic book but felt like freedom.”

You can check out a short slideshow from the book if you click on The Gallery tab at the link. It includes the cover from a 1977 issue of Slow Death that wades into the Canadian seal hunt debate.

Meanwhile, Toronto Star reviews Prayer Requested (Drawn & Quarterly), by Christian Northeast.  This book includes a series of images by the artist who collects found prayer cards and illustrates them using a wide variety of techniques. “A surrealistic hoot that both mock the often pathetic desperation of those seeking assistance in obtaining divine intervention…while being curiously respectful of their efforts.” If you visit the preview section on his artist page, you can see 11 pages from the book. Interesting stuff.

Speaking of Drawn & Quarterly, an exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art titled Pulp Fiction includes two D+Q artists: Marc Bell and Peter Thompson. A snippet from the blurb about the exhibit:

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Canadian art scene was radically altered. Artists acted to create networks, events, spaces and publications that allowed them to work, showcase and be seen. Their strength and ultimate success lay in their ability to tap into the media, to self-organize and to create strong national affiliations that enabled a entirely new structure to be realized through the formation of artist-run centres, video distribution centres and new publications dedicated to Canadian art. These new organizations created a parallel system for Canadian art that worked in tandem with Canada’s national and regional museums and commercial art galleries.

Pulp Fiction brings together a group of fourteen artists from across Canada as a means of examining this phenomenon of art practice. Because the work bypasses the space, systems and many of the concerns of Canada’s established institutions, it may appear to be a misfit within the traditional confines of the museum. And yet, if one embraces the idea that museums and galleries must be a place that observe, document and make history, reflecting art practice in all of its varied forms, then at some point in the evolution of this new way of practicing the work must surely have a place within the institution. Here, Pulp Fiction serves as an example of an important culture that has firmly established itself on the international market and glibly persists despite the museum.

There is more information about show dates and museum location on the MOCCA site. I’ll try to convince a co-worker to play hooky with me one sunny afternoon, and we’ll do the gallery followed by a patio pitstop.

Finally, as we’re talking about galleries and museums, I came across this post on Rich Johnston’s Bleedingcool.com. Apparently Angoulème, France hosts the world’s largest comic book convention. I’ve never heard of it, but I don’t know much about the convention world. According to Johnston, they’ve now opened Le Musée De La Bande Dessinée, a new home for the “largest public collection of comic books and original comic book artwork in the world.” Time to book a holiday.


Filed under Comic Reviews, Comics - General