The publication of the 25 Years of Drawn and Quarterly Anthology has been one of my highlights of the year so far and over the past couple of months I have spent a lot of time enjoying it.
I have to admit when it first arrived I was a little worried about how I would manage to hold it on my lap without cutting off circulation to my feet, I was concerned that if I balanced it on my forearm I might stop reading a few hours later to find my fingers had fallen off. But once I had worked my way round these logistical concerns and had done some free weights to prepare for the sheer weight of it I was ready to begin.
Before I started I decided I was going to dip in and out of this, reading one or two contributions each time, choosing either a comic or an interview or an essay as the mood took me. I can thoroughly recommend this approach as it meant I never felt too overwhelmed by the content and the book’s sheer size. Earlier this week Brenna wrote about the best facts she had learned when reading the anthology and I think that really neatly highlights one of my favourite aspects of this book, that it isn’t only a collection of comics by creators connected with Drawn and Quarterly but also a space in which those that have worked for and with them can share their memories and experiences of this Montreal institution.
So without further ado, I’m going to share with you my seven favourite bits of the Drawn and Quarterly anthology so far and if you’re struggling to know where to start then these might help you make your choice!
Pages 522 to 541
My love for Julie Doucet’s work runs deep and true, her work is honest, direct and unflinching in its desire to unsettle the reader and be true. This collection of short extracts from her work starts with ‘An English Lesson’ from issue 2 of Dirty Plotte and continues with accounts from J.C. Menu (co-founder of L’Association), the writer Deb Olin Unferth, TomDevlin and Geneviève Castrée, all setting out just why Doucet’s art is so special and important to them personally. It then goes on to offer a few more extracts from her work and this sections serves not only as the perfect introduction for a Doucet virgin but also made me mourn all over again the fact that she has retired from comics.
Pages 349 – 357
Michel Rabagliati is EVERYTHING. His art is beautiful, his characters charming and his stories funny but moving. This extract from his 2008 book Paul Goes Fishing is one of the stand-out moments in the book. The young Paul encounters a distressed young girl in a run-down area of Montreal and the ensuing story will not only make you cry but also give you a fantastic taster of what Rabagliati’s comics are all about. If you like what you see here then I thoroughly recommend you pick up his book The Song of Roland and a king-size box of tissues while you’re at it.
Pages 448 to 455
Castrée’s Blankets Are Always Sleeping is a beautiful meditation on sleep, beds and what her sleeping arrangements mean. Told through a series of illustrations of different beds, each topped with different blankets collected by Castrée over the years, this is a gorgeous and moving short story.
Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie
Pages 657 to 664
This section contains a short extract from Abouet & Oubrerie’s 2007 comic Aya: Life in Yop City as well as an appreciation of them penned by Calvin Reid. As someone who has heard good things about Aya but somehow never managed to get round to buying and reading it, I was enchanted by this extract and Reid’s praises and shall be rectifying this hole in my collection very soon indeed. If you already know and love these books then I think you’ll enjoy this section nonetheless.
Voice Lessons: An Interview with Helge Dascher
Pages 103 to 107
You may have noticed that quite a few of the extracts I have chosen are comics originally published in French. I found this interview with the translator of many of D&Q’s comics really interesting, it gave fascinating insights not only into life as a translator but also the behind the scenes dynamics of D&Q and the relationship between translator, editor and artist.
Pages 58 to 58
This affectionate duo of comics, called No Problem and Just Kidding, tells the same story from two different perspectives. One an imagined conversation between Beaton and Chris Oliveros in which she tells him about “another whammo cartoon” she has for him. The second version shows Beaton’s memory of an initial conversation with Oliveros about her first book. Funny and affectionate, the first of these made me laugh very hard indeed.
A Wide-Eyed Keen Observer: An Appreciation of Adrian Tomine
Pages 301 to 303
I found this account by Francoise Mouly, art editor of the New Yorker, incredibly interesting. In it she talks not only about Tomine’s art and their professional relationship, but also about what it is in his work that makes it so special. This is a fascinating glimpse of the relationship between editor and artist and well worth checking out.