Thursday, 8 October 2015

Drawn & Quarterly: Twenty-five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels Review (Seth, Joe Matt)


Drawn and Quarterly may be my favourite comics publisher purely because they publish Seth. But they also have one of the richest catalogues of quality comics with a host of other incredible creators too. This year sees the Canadian indie publisher, headed up by founder Chris Oliveros, celebrate 25 years of great comics with this humongous hardcover anthology of essays, profiles, reprinted and new comics from so many creators. 

This nearly 800-page beast opens with a 44 page essay covering D&Q’s creation when Oliveros and a trio of young unknown artists - Seth, Chester Brown and Joe Matt - began producing exciting indie comics and were swiftly joined by others like Julie Doucet, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware and a very young Adrian Tomine. 

And here’s where I’ll confess: I didn’t read many of the essays/profiles. The opening essay is just too dry and, unfortunately, not terribly interesting. D&Q starts up, attracts new talent who would go on to become household names, and that’s about it. Except the essay covers all the minutiae in painstakingly dull detail! So my approach was set right away: I was going to read the comics only - the essays were optional. 

I did read Margaret Atwood’s appreciation of Kate Beaton though and found it amusing that even an award-winning literary writer like Atwood still ends up gushing and listing her favourite sketches like any other online reviewer of Beaton’s comics! 

I’ll just cover the ones that I really enjoyed rather than try to summarise everything in here which would otherwise make this the longest review ever! Chester Brown’s The Zombie Who Liked the Arts was a funny and sweet romance about a human woman and a zombie man who bond over their love of culture. James Sturm’s The Sponsor followed a boy through his life as he strove to be a cartoonist of note - and be published by D&Q! 

Joe Sacco’s On My Day Off (Berlin ‘91) was funny too as Sacco tried to have a pleasant day relaxing only for everything to remind him of WW2 and Hitler! Dan Clowes’ brilliant creation Wilson returns to torture a clipboard hippy or “clippie”, and there’s an extract from Seth’s Palookaville #2 (long out of print) which was great, covering a time in Seth’s youth working a summer job at a beachfront restaurant. 

All of the above appeared in other publications previously but it’s good to have them collected in one place, especially as many of them were originally printed in obscure magazines/really old D&Q issues. Also reprinted are extracts from Dupuy and Berberian’s Monsieur Jean books, Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant! and Jason Lutes’ Jar of Fools, all of them excellent to revisit and a wonderful sampler for new readers of the joys this publisher puts out. 

I discovered a fantastic new creator in John Stanley - well, “new” to me. His work was published in the ‘50s and ‘60s with D&Q reprinting some of his old stuff in new editions. Val and Judy in The Shy Boys from 1965 was very sweet, silly and charming. 

There are also some new, never-before-printed comics here too. Guy Delisle’s contribution about going to an exhibition in his honour was delightfully awkward and Pascal Girard’s The Osteopath was weird and wonderful. 

The big name though (comparatively) is Joe Matt who contributes 15 new pages to this anthology - and they’re brilliant! It’s notable as Matt hasn’t produced any comics since his last book, Spent, was published in 2007 and, in reading the introductory essay on Matt, it’s very disappointing that these 15 pages represent the sum total of his work these past several years. He hasn’t been working on a new book or been stockpiling pages - he only produced these 15 pages as a favour to Oliveros. I’m not sure what’s changed - maybe he’s bored with comics, lost his passion? 

The new stuff covers his move from Canada to LA where he tried (unsuccessfully) to get HBO to produce a TV show based on his Peepshow comics. He also tells us about his girlfriend Maggie, and, best of all, shows us the farewell party his friends threw him when he moved to LA. Seth gives a speech about being Joe Matt’s friend which is awesome and ends brilliantly. These 15 pages were so good - please, please Joe Matt, take your dick out of your hand and return to making comics full time!! 

Printed on quality paper stock, the book itself is a treasure regardless of its contents - but what a collection of comics this is! Indie comics fans will love browsing through this and I’d also recommend it to any new readers who wants to know more about alternative comics - this book contains so many flavours, you can sample them all and pick out the ones you liked best to read more of. 

As long as this review turned out to be, I didn’t even get around to mentioning the comics by Michael DeForge, Gilbert Hernandez, Art Spiegelman, Peter Bagge, Tom Gauld, Lynda Barry, Mimi Pond, and Tove Jansson. 

Or Julie Doucet, Vanessa Davis, Brian Ralph, John Porcellino, Gabrielle Bell, Anders Nilsen, Kevin Huizenga, Rutu Modan, Michel Rabagliati, and Yoshihiro Tatsumi. 

Or Adrian Tomine, Doug Wright, Frank King, Dylan Horrocks, David Collier, David Mazzucchelli, Jillian Tamaki and literally dozens and dozens and dozens more! 

Happy 25th Anniversary, Drawn & Quarterly - here’s to another 25 years and beyond!

Drawn and Quarterly: Twenty-Five Years of Contemporary Cartooning, Comics, and Graphic Novels

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