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July 13, 2012

D+Q Announces Publishing Deal With Michael DeForge For His Ant Colony Book


Montreal-based publisher Drawn & Quarterly announced today it has acquired world rights to Ant Colony by the 24-year-old Toronto cartoonist Michael DeForge. This is the work that has been serialized as "Ant Comic" since Fall 2011. Deforge is considered one of the major emerging talent on the North American independent comics scenes, and this will I believe be his first publication of this type.

D+Q Publisher Chris Oliveros puzzled over/marveled at the young cartoonist's work in the press material assigned by the publisher to this announcement. "Michael DeForge is one of those rare talents who emerge, out of the blue, with a fully formed and singularly unique vision," said Oliveros. "When I look at his work I sometimes wonder how it was formed, and then I think I can see the influences of several disparate cartoonists over the years, from Mark Beyer through Marc Bell. But ultimately Deforge's work can't be pinned down so easily; his striking visual sensibility and peculiar sense of humor is entirely his own."

DeForge grew up in Ottawa. He made his full-length comics debut with Lose #1, which won the Best Emerging Talent category at the 2010 Doug Wright Awards. He has since published two more issues of that comic with #1's publishing partner Koyama Press. Clients have included The Believer and Smoke Signal.

As is the case with all D+Q books (although with details sometimes predetermined by the nature of the contract and acquisition), Ant Colony will have FSG distributing it in the US, Raincoast handling that in Canada, and Samantha Haywood negotiating international rights.

CR spoke to the cartoonist about the signing.



TOM SPURGEON: Michael, can you describe how this deal came together? I know that you're extremely prolific -- why this project in this format with this company?

MICHAEL DEFORGE: I got to meet Chris Oliveros and Tom Devlin at a TCAF a few years ago and I gave them a bunch of my comics. I think Peter Birkemoe introduced me. A week or two later, Chris sent me a nice e-mail saying he liked the comics I had given him and that D+Q would be open to looking at any submissions of book-length work I might have down the road, so long as it didn't interfere with the ongoing projects I have with Koyama Press.

It wasn't until recently that I began trying to write longer comics. When I started Ant Comic, I didn't intend it to be one long narrative. I was initially talking to some college papers and alt-weeklies about possibly serializing the strip on a weekly or biweekly basis in addition to running it online on my site, so I wanted each strip to be relatively self-contained and something people who didn't follow the paper week to week could understand. I wanted to treat each comic like drawing one giant Sunday page. Anyway, all the papers I was talking to ultimately flaked out or turned the project down, which I probably should have expected. Once that happened, I realized I didn't have to treat each installment as an individual episode, and could spin longer stories out of the strip. As I kept going, I started thinking more and more about Ant Comic as a finished book, and thought it would be worth pitching to D+Q.

TOM SPURGEON: I know it's probably not always comfortable to have people drive attention to your age, but I wondered how you might relate to a company that's about as old as you are, as opposed to how creators that are in that Seth/Chester Brown/Joe Matt generation might see D+Q. What are your impressions of the company? What stands out for you in terms of books they've done that you've liked, or their general approach to things?

DEFORGE: I came across issues of Louis Riel and Peepshow in my local shop in Grade 8, and those comics ended up becoming a really big influence on me in high school. D+Q books were what first introduced me to the concept of "alternative comics" and the idea that there was this whole tradition of Canadian cartooning that I was completely unaware of up until then. I realized pretty early on that that was something I wanted to plug into or be a part of in some way when I started drawing my own comics. (Even just in really dorky ways -- when I moved to Toronto for university, I was really excited to visit The Beguiling and 10 Edition Books, just because both stores happened to be mentioned in Peepshow. My first apartment ended up being directly between those two stores.)

imageSPURGEON: Has it been difficult to find a print partner, to find print outlets generally that pay? I apologize for being so blunt but I know there's a big difference right now to getting your work seen -- which seems easy to do -- and securing a deal with maybe an expectation of reward for what you're doing. Is this a crucial deal for you, something you think is important to work, or do you even think in those terms?

DEFORGE: My experiences so far tend have actually tended to be positive -- Koyama Press is very generous with all the artists they publish, and I'm sometimes able to make back printing costs of the mini-comics I self-publish. There obviously isn't a ton of money going around in comics, but I'm lucky enough that it hasn't yet interfered with my ability to work. I have a day job in animation -- which I love -- and before that I was doing freelance illustration, and before that I was dishwashing -- in all three cases, I've been able to make the time to still draw comics on the side. I feel very privileged in that regard, that it's something I don't have to think about.

SPURGEON: As someone with a lot of experience with different types of publishing even at this point in your career, are there areas where you feel more strongly about directing aspects of a book like this than others? For instance, are you comfortable with designing your work or is that something you want to work with them? Are you going to tour and do PR in support of this project, and is that something you like?

DEFORGE: I haven't had any conversations with D+Q about design yet, but I would be totally happy and open to working with them on that! I haven't actually designed a "book" book before, so I would be eager to defer to the experience of people who are smarter than me and actually know what they're doing. It would all be very new to me, which of course is dually exciting and anxiety-inducing. D+Q has such beautiful design and production work on their titles, and I'm basically clueless.

So far, I've been enjoying working in a number of different formats with a number of different people, so I haven't really settled on one way of working -- there are instances where I like having total control over a project, and there are instances where I enjoy collaborating with an editor or designer or publisher.

As far as PR, they haven't talked to me about it yet -- I would be open to anything, so long as it didn't conflict with my job!

SPURGEON: You know, Michael, I think of you as someone I see out on the road. How important are the experience you have at shows and small-press festivals in terms of making art? Are there downsides to that kind of constant string of shows one is able to do?

DEFORGE: I'm bad at corresponding online, so I have a lot of friends in comics who I really only get to talk to when we're in the same city. The people I've met through cons have been pretty important to me, which is one of the reasons I still like traveling to them. The two people in comics I work with the most are Anne Koyama and Ryan Sands, who are now also two of my closest friends -- I met both of them through TCAF.

I also have an easier time finding new work through shows than I do online, just looking through blog posts or Tumblr streams or whatever. I just got back from CAKE, and I can't believe how many new comics I brought back with me from artists I'd only met that weekend. So I like shows for that, too.

2012 will be the most shows I've attended in one year (CAKE, SPX and BCGF -- and TCAF, of course, but I don't have to travel for that) and I think that's probably my limit. I know people who attend much more than that, but I don't have the disposition for any more travel than that -- I can get kind of anxious about it, and still do enjoy working at my desk most of the time.



posted 7:00 am PST | Permalink

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