FIND COMIC BOOKS, GRAPHIC NOVELS, MAGAZINES AND MORE AT LIBRARIE DRAWN & QUARTERLY BOOKSTORE.
When Chris Oliveros founded Drawn & Quarterly in 1989, he was in his twenties and working as a bike messenger in Montreal. Operating out of his little Mile End apartment, he gathered together a few talented artists and put together his very first anthology. Since then, D&Q has become one of the most successful comic book publishers on the continent, getting out works by important cartoonists such as Lynda Barry, Chris Ware, Julie Doucet and Chester Brown. “We’ve been publishing graphic novels before bookstores were even dedicating shelf space for them,” says Associate Publisher Peggy Burns, who moved to Montreal from New York a decade ago to help with the business. “We’ve grown from a one-person company with eight to ten books a year to a company that could compete with Random House.” Now a 13-person business publishing 30 books a year, D&Q has opened a charming brick-and-mortar store called Librarie Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore, located in the multicultural Mile End neighborhood just a few blocks from Chris’s old apartment. We asked Peggy a few questions about the company and shop
What’s the mission of D&Q?
“Be patient and assured in your taste and good things will come.” We always place the artist and quality first. Many people say we’re all about design, but I’ve always said that we could slap brown paper covers on our books and they’d still be awesome.
How did the publishing company evolve into a brick-and-mortar store?
The idea for the store grew in two ways. First, we were filling a void in the city. Five years ago, English-language comic stores carried mostly mainstream superhero comics, and French-language comic stores obviously specialized in French-language books—shops only dedicated a tiny shelf for us local Anglo publishers. We took park in local zine fairs and craft shows, and people would assume we drove up from Toronto. We did very well at these shows—enough to know there was a definite interest in what we were publishing. The second reason was just pure selfishness. There were so many books we couldn’t buy in Montreal: Fantagraphics, McSweeney’s, New Directions. We started off just as the D&Q flagship store, but now the neighborhood and its readers, writers and artists call it their store, and we love that.
How do you decide what to stock?
We let each employee in the company order anything they think the store should sell, which is why we have such a wide variety of books. We also take suggestions from our customers and sell prints and zines of local artists and writers. We call ourselves a “comics store,” but we really carry everything from fiction, nonfiction, poetry, kids, young adult, cookbooks, DIY, theory, graphic novels, bande dessinée, fine art, stationary and prints. We have a soft spot for magazines—we stock Kinfolk, The Believer, Worn, UpperCase, Lucky Peach, Anorak and Printed Pages, just to name a few, and people get very excited when a new issue comes in.
Name three books in your shop right now. What are your favorites?
There are so many! It’s hard to narrow it down to three, but here are a few:
1. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco: I don’t think I could think of a better journalistic pairing than Sacco and Hedges. Together they go to America’s forgotten regions and paint a heartbreaking portrait of how the corporate world has failed America.
2. Lucky Peach: I love this magazine. On a road trip over the summer, my husband and I scoured grocery stores for independently owned and operated potato chips in Southern Pennsylvania, as recommended by an article from LP.
3. Optic Nerve 13 by Adrian Tomine: Adrian just released a great issue of his iconic comic book series. Call it what you will: a pamphlet, a floppy, whatever—it’s great comics and has made me laugh many times.
What do you like most about your job?
That’s so hard to say! Well, first of all—this sounds obligatory but it’s not—our boss, Chris Oliveros, who we call “the chief,” treats everyone with respect. The success of D&Q is built on the trust between Chris and his artists. It makes the whole mission of publishing, promoting and selling graphic novels very inspiring. Second, in an increasingly digital world, it’s a thrill to sell someone Chris Ware’s Building Stories or see people shake and cry when they meet Lynda Barry. That is what art does, and we have a first-row seat to see it happen. Third, I get to meet my idols. Last fall we hosted David Byrne for How Music Works, and then a month later we had an event with Chris Ware, Charles Burns and Adrian Tomine.
Any exciting plans for your business in the near future?
We’re working on a site redesign, and we just signed a new book by Gilbert Hernandez. We’re publishing Rookie Yearbook Two with Tavi Gevinson, Art Spiegelman’s Co-Mix, Leanne Shapton’s Sunday Night Movies and Peter Bagge’s Woman Rebel, all in the same season. The store is coming off its most successful event ever with Neil Gaiman, so our director Jason Grimmer is looking for more events. The store is trying to make the most of its space! It’s getting pretty small on Bernard Street…
211 Rue Bernard Ouest
Montréal, QC H2T 2K5, Canada