, June 3, 2013
Meet the judge of the Caption This Comic Challenge: Peggy Burns, the Associate Publisher of Drawn & Quarterly who has been keeping fanboys in check for over 10 years.
CW: What changes have you seen in the genre and the publishing side of the business since you started first at DC Comics, and then at Drawn & Quarterly?
PB: I started in comics in 2000 right before Persepolis, Jimmy Corrigan and David Boring transformed the entire industry for graphic novels. Over the past ten years, I have witnessed less of a reliance on stunts "let's review comics because there's a new Spiderman movie!" and comparisons "if you like Fun Home, you'll love this." Everyone from retailers to fans to press to librarians to professors now understand the depth and variety of the medium, and most importantly, that is it a medium with many genres.
CW: What characteristics make a manuscript jump out of the slush pile?
PB: We never, ever read scripts. We like to read fully formed comics. We mostly prefer to see mini-comics or pamphlets to truly read the cartoonist's storytelling abilities. For us the art and the words are one, and reading a script gives us no idea if we will like a comic. Most of the submissions that come to the office aren't in tune with our mission, it is more like the artist got out name off a website of comic publishers. We have published submissions, though, notably from Keith Jones of Toronto and Brecht Evens of Belgium. And reactions to their submissions were immediate. We received the package, opened it, were completely floored by their ability and immediately made plans to publish them. Otherwise, we rely on shows like TCAF in Toronto, Expozine in Montreal and SPX in Bethesda MD to look for new artists with new minicomics. (Minicomics are self-published comics, similar to zines.)
CW: You work with a lot of well-known comics artists. Are they different from other people? Is there any truth to the “comic-book-nerd” stereotype?
PB: Maybe in mainstream comics, you'll find a lot of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, but not in independent comics. You may be surprised to know how well adjusted and fashionable our artists are! It is true that cartoonists would rather just be working, and it is hard for them to be away from their drawing tables for a long period of time. And because they are often alone most of the day, we do often have to convince them to come out to do events, tours, festivals and press. I do think our artists turn down invitations more often than not!
CW: What is it that you love most about your job?
PB: I have been at D+Q for ten years, and I feel honored to be able to promote the work of the world's best cartoonists. The best thing is just being wowed every time you read a comic. I just read Palookaville 21 by Seth. Seth has been mostly working in fiction recently but this time, he shares stories from his youth, and you can see how his upbringing affects his art, which is similar to the book we just published by Gilbert Hernandez, Marble Season, but in opposite directions. Reading the comics just never, ever fails to knock you off your feet. Last Fall, I read an advance of our February 2013 graphic novel Susceptible by Genevieve Castree and I was sincerely moved by Genevieve's ability to tell her childhood story with a gentle and humorous yet serious touch, a careful balance not many authors can do with memoirs. Maybe the best example of being able to still be awe-struck is Building Stories by Chris Ware.