Kate Peyton on creating the best graphic novel of 2022

Kate Peyton

Cory Katz / Kate Peyton

For those who paid attention to the webcomics scene of the 2000s or simply enjoyed writing good humor, Kate Beaton will probably be a household name. Canadian cartoonist Listen to the hoboAn astonishing mix of literary and historical references, disrespect for institutions that don’t deserve any, and hilarious silliness that persisted throughout 2018 — has been a staple on top lists for years, both online and in two printing press groups.

Outside of this work, Peyton created children’s books (The princess and the pony And the King Babywhich both won awards) and earlier this year an animated series based on one of those books: Pinecone and pony On Apple TV +.

This week, her latest project hit shelves, and it’s arguably her greatest achievement to date. Ducks: Two years in the oily sands is a memoir of her experiences working in the Athabasca oil sands in northern Alberta. It’s a serious, poignant, honest piece of cartoon that’s as cute as one of the year’s most impressive graphic novels, or works of any kind in the past decade.

WIRED met the author via email to ask her about her diary, end Listen to the hoboteaching readers life in the oil sands of Canada.

wired: ducks Totally destroyed. It feels, as a reader, as if it was something you’ve been working towards for some time. I know you posted an early and wildly different version of this on the web in 2014. One of the things that both versions have in common is feeling, perhaps, emotionally disconnected, feeling so overwhelmed that it was almost impossible to share what it was like in reality. How did you overcome that to make this book?

Kate Peyton: Hmmm. Not sure if I agree with the question. I don’t think I have emotional detachment or ambivalence. If anything, it’s a lot the other way around.

It is my intense contact and my deep anxiety that makes it difficult and impossible to tell a story – as soon as I describe one thing, I feel bad that I did not describe three others to make sure that I give the whole picture, because there is not a single detail that will make you understand what I want to show you; The contradictions are endless, and the complexity is enormous.

If I started talking about someone’s oil sands, I couldn’t stop, because there was no point at which I could feel good about having explained it. I needed editors to help make this book so it’s not 2,000 pages – and it’s still 500 pages, and there’s all sorts of things missing. But maybe this is the best. It should be a readable book.

How long has this been in the works? I mentioned when it closed Listen to the hobo In 2018, you were working on a graphic novel. that was ducks?

The book has been in the works since 2016, and I showed it to Drawn and Quarterly in the summer of 2016.

It took a year to write it. It took several years to paint it. In between, there were quite a few stops and starts. I had two children and lost my sister Becky to cancer. Becky in the book. There were long periods when I wasn’t working out, but it was always on my mind. I’m sure it was helpful, but it also was.

Do you feel now is the time to tell this story compared to 2014? Or, perhaps, is it more about being better prepared to deal with it now?

In 2014, I was in my studio and one day had to start drawing those comics. I later called them a “test”, but at the time it was just something I paid to do for them, and while I was doing it you could see the bigger picture emerge of what it could be like. I guess I always thought this was a book I was going to do, but this really made it clear that I could.

But I couldn’t do it right at the time. I had a picture book I was working on; I couldn’t understand leaving Listen to the hobo Immediately. But I started falling back into it. I mean – I started the book in 2016, not long after that, so it’s not really a question of 2014 vs 2022, it’s just that it took that long to make the book.

One of the things that sticks out is how cute he is. I feel like you go to great lengths to emphasize that the experience of working in the oil sands dehumanizes everyone to some degree, no matter how they think they respond to it. Was this a stance I’ve always taken in this vein, or was it something that came up when I looked back at everything?

I have always had. I didn’t think back only to find that everyone is human after all, haha. I lived with these people, they were my friends, co-workers, and neighbours. And even when things are bleak, I can see what I’m looking at. Even if it hurts.

Of course, I had many years to think about it too, and to get older, I’m sure this made a difference to the gradient – hopefully slow start wise. But you do care about the people you surround yourself with, right?

I might betray my shortsightedness, but I had no idea what the oil sands were, or what it was like to work there. The book seems very educational in this respect.

I know that many readers will not know much about oil sands. If you don’t have a connection to it, you may just have a sense that it’s a big, heavy place, full of trucks, environmental issues, and money.

Fortunately for these readers, I didn’t know much about it myself when I got there, and everything in the book is from my point of view, and the reader has fallen in those shoes to learn while I learn what to look at. In this sense, progressive education works by design and of course, as it did for me.

Are you nervous about the audience’s opinion of the book? Uses all the tools you developed during Listen to the hobobut with a completely different direction and ambition than that project, which was essentially a humor strip.

I’m not worried about what the audience is used to Listen to the hobo I will make it. I think anyone who’s followed me and my work for a while has a sense of who I am, where I’m going and what I have to say, even if this is an entirely different book.

I’m even more nervous about writing a book on what people consider a very polarizing topic here in Canada. Not sure what will come with that. But all I can do is tell things honestly.

how it was made ducks Influenced what you do as you move forward? I feel like If I can’t get my on your Patreon to a similar tone, as well as a similar sense of pace, for example.

Well, this is a story that’s been in my head for probably a decade, so I don’t know anything about that. It’s loosely based on an anecdote that my father told me a long time ago that I thought of and drew.

I guess most likely I had these things inside of me but I kept making them Listen to the hobo Maybe for longer than I should – or I shouldn’t have, but something like that. I have no regrets. We all have to grow and change. Losing my sister the way we did, and how terrible it was, made me lose all will to write jokes for a living for so long. Even though I’m done now ducksMaybe it will come back.

This brings me to my final question: How do you feel after completing the book? There is a feeling that it is such an intense personal experience that I wonder if it would be comforting to be able to share it.

Well, I’m answering this before the book is fully published in the world, so it’s hard for me to say. It’s still in that lapse of time that not many have read it. I don’t know what will happen. I hope it is good. I hope I have done well.

This story originally appeared wired.com.

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