Chester Brown

Alternative Comics Publisher Brings Literary Graphic Novels to Digital E-Readers

Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown

Alternative comic book and graphic novel publishers have been slow to bring their material to digital platforms like the iPad, Kindle and Nook e-readers but one of the most acclaimed and influential has made an initial step. Drawn & Quarterly announced yesterday that Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography and Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being A John, two of the most critically praised graphic novels by cartoonist Chester Brown, are now available on the Kobo Vox e-reader. Kobo apps are also available on the iPad and iPhone (although for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how to do a search on either version of the app, and had to go to their website just to set up a new account) as well as the Android.

Louis Riel is a meticulously researched yet somewhat fictionalized biographical account of the life of the Canadian folk hero and leader of the Métis people. TIME Magazine named it one of the best comics of 2003. It won prestigious Harvey Awards for Best Writer and Best Graphic Album, and was also nominated by the Ignatz and Eisner Awards both for Outstanding Graphic Novel. In October, Louis Riel was selected for Canada Reads, an annual competition put on by the CBC to select that country’s essential read.

Paying For It is Brown’s newest release, and like the sub-title says, it tells of his experiences hiring prostitutes. The controversial release was covered here previously and has continued to inspire debate and discussion, as well as consideration as one of the year’s best releases.

Drawn & Quarterly and Kobo are Canadian companies that have both agreed to a non-exclusive contract, with the implication being that the publisher is free to distribute their digital books on other e-readers. In a rare bit of generosity, Drawn & Quarterly also revealed that proceeds from e-book sales on Kobo would be split 50/50 with Drawn & Quarterly and Chester Brown, per the Writers’ Union of Canada. The majority of comics publishers have not revealed what, if any, cut creators get from digital sales. Drawn & Quarterly plans to add more creators to Kobo and to also expand to other devices next year. So maybe we can look forward to being about to buy Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant, The Death-Ray by Chris Ware, Big Questionsby Anders Nilsen, Wilson by Daniel Clowes, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle, A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, and so much more.

(via Publishers Weekly)

Comics Can Be Anything: Chester Brown outs self as john for prostitutes in graphic novel Paying For It

Paying For It by Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly)

One of the major releases of the year is the graphic novel Paying For It: A Comic-Strip Memoir About Being A John by Chester Brown. Yes, that’s right. It’s a comic book about prostitutes, sex workers, hookers. You get the idea. But don’t expect lurid sex scenes and locker room bragging of sexual conquests. Like his acclaimed Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, which methodically tracked Canada’s history and the controversial revolutionary’s life in the mid-1800s with cool detachment, so too in Paying For It does Brown logically and almost mathematically examine romantic love. And as you might guess, he comes to the conclusion that paying for sex instead of having a girlfriend is the life for him. At least for a while.

The book has been getting almost universally praised: “incredibly engrossing” – Carlton Hargro, Creative Loafing; “required reading for anyone who seeks to better comprehend the limits of romantic love” – Morgan Davis, Comics Bulletin; “revealing” – James Smart, The Guardian; “insightful and fascinating,” “5 stars” – Kelly Thompson, Comic Book Resources; “There is a commendable honesty here, to be sure: a kind of downbeat, detached naturalism. But there is something dispiriting about it too.” – Naomi Fry, The Comics Journal; “amusing and revealing” – Chris Randle, The National Post; “remains compelling” – Sean Rogers, The Walrus; “a defiant work of truth-telling and a welcome return to autobiographical comics from one of the medium’s incontrovertible masters” – Brad Mackay, The Globe and Mail.

And that was just the first couple pages of Google. But perhaps the most intriguing review was posted last week. The website Tits and Sass is a group blog by and for sex workers. Yes, that’s right. Chester Brown’s graphic novel about prostitution gets reviewed by a prostitute. Charlotte Shane turns in an excellent review, smartly written. She hilariously claims that she wouldn’t want Chester Brown as a client.

But I think I was most relieved that she didn’t treat the medium of comics as any sort of special case. The graphic novel form isn’t derided, it’s not a novelty, it’s just the piece of entertainment that’s being reviewed. And scanning through the site, I don’t see a lot of comics or graphic novel coverage. In fact, in all of the reviewed from the mainstream press linked to above, they all appear to be comfortable enough with the form.

However…

While a great interview, I get the impression from Fanny Keifer that she’s kind of surprised comics could be about this. Yes, yes they can. In fact, they can be about anything.