I love Drawn & Quarterly. They are my go-to comics publisher, because even if I don’t love every single comic they produce, every single one is top quality and I have learned something about comics from them all. And because I will be learning from D&Q forever and ever, I was excited to get my copy of Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels, a celebration of the publisher’s quarter century in the comics business.
This book is a staggering 800 pages of essays and comics from Margaret Atwood, Adrian Tomine, Chester Brown, Heather O’Neill, Chris Ware, Kate Beaton, and on and on and on. It’s a history of the press and a collection of comics by a ton of contemporary masters. It’s a magical gift for all comics fans, and you should totally get your paws on it ASAP. In the meantime, I thought I’d share 12 facts I learned from working my way through 800 pages of comics gold.
- Drawn & Quarterly was a comics magazine first: #1 arrived in comics shops in April 1990.
- That first issue included an essay from founder Chris Oliveros that laid out the vision for D+Q, including a critique of the “private boy’s club” of comics and an expressly feminist intention.
- The first solo artist D+Q published was Julie Doucet (Dirty Plotte #1), followed by Seth (Palookaville #1), Chester Brown (Yummy Fur #25), and Joe Matt (Peepshow #1).
- D+Q attended its first American comics convention, San Diego Comic-Con in 1994. That was also the year Chester Brown published I Never Liked You.
- Chester Brown’s early work includes comic versions of the Gospels. Oliveros has tried for years to publish them, but Brown always declines.
- D+Q was run out of Chris Oliveros (and partner Marina Lesenko)’s apartment until May 2001. Many artists reminisce about visiting the cramped office and tripping over comics and a very happy child.
- When Peggy Burns applied to work at D+Q as a publicist in 2003, Chris Oliveros responded by saying, “I can’t in good conscience hire you,” because he knew he couldn’t pay Burns what she was making at her DC Comics job, and because she would have to move to Montreal, and because he didn’t know if the press would survive. But he hired her anyway, and she has been instrumental in shaping the direction for the last decade.
- In 2003, D+Q sent out their Manifesto to all booksellers, including advice on how booksellers could present and sell comics more effectively. They were on the vanguard of helping more readers find their way to comics outside the big-2.
- The July 11, 2004 issue of the New York Times Magazine featured a cover by Chester Brown having a very meta conversation about what comics are.
- Lynda Barry credits D+Q with resuscitating her career after a slump in the mid-2000s, which is amazing when you consider how the publication of What It Is has transformed so many classrooms.
- Buried in Peggy Burns’ essay is word that Chris Oliveros is stepping down as publisher of D+Q; Burns will be taking over. The company is obviously in excellent hands, and maybe Oliveros will be able to get back to his own cartooning now that he’s not running the press.
- D+Q’s commitment to diversity and equality in comics production and promotion has never wavered, and this collection shows the range of comics that commitment can produce. Other comics folks — take note!