“I like writing stories where the characters can only see the edges of their world,” says Michael DeForge, a twenty-seven-year-old cartoonist based in Toronto, about his just published first graphic novel, “Ant Colony.” “I want to show characters who don’t have much agency—or who don’t feel they have very much agency over their lives.” DeForge continues,
I want them to feel that forces of nature or society are sweeping them up in things. And I found that ants are a pretty perfect way to wring jokes out of that.
I thought of each strip as self-contained, trying to get some sort of resolution at the end of every page. I originally planned for publishing the pages in alternative weeklies, modelling the work after Sunday funnies. But then all of it fell through—papers don’t want to serialize comics anymore. So I split the pages up in two, horizontally, and published them online.
Slowly, a longer narrative formed out of it. When the stories with the main characters—the couple, the son, and the dad—reached a natural end, I ended up with a hundred-and-twenty-page graphic novel.
See below for a sampling of pages from “Ant Colony.” A collection of DeForge’s short stories, “A Body Beneath,” will be published later this spring by Koyama Press.
Click the images to expand. Copyright Michael DeForge, used with permission by Drawn & Quarterly.