This book has been in production since 2016, and I pitched it to Drawn and Quarterly in the summer of 2016.
It took me a year to write it. I spent several years drawing it. In between, there are stops and starts. I have two children and my sister Becky died of cancer. Becky is in the book. I haven’t worked for a long time, but it’s been on my mind. I’m sure this is helpful, but it’s what it is.
Compared to 2014, is now the right time to tell this story? Or, maybe, you are better equipped to handle it now?
In 2014, I was just in my studio and one day I was forced to start drawing those comics. Later I called them “tests”, but at the time it was just something I was forced to do for their own sake, and when I did, you could see the bigger picture of what that might be. I guess I always thought this was a book I would write, but it did show that I could.
But I couldn’t do it at the time.I have a picture book I’m writing; I can’t understand leaving listen to a tramp immediately. But I started to fade it gradually. I mean — I started writing this book in 2016, not long after, so it’s not a question of 2014 versus 2022, it’s just that it took so long to write this book.
One thing about it is how good it is. I think you try very hard to stress that the experience of working in the oil sands somehow dehumanizes everyone, no matter how much they believe they are reacting to it. Is this the attitude you always have in this situation, or is it the attitude you have when you look back on everything?
I always have. I didn’t realize it until I realized that everyone was human, haha. I live with these people, who are my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors. Even when things are grim, I can see what I’m looking at. Even if it hurts.
Of course, I’ve had many years to think about it as well, and getting older myself I believe this has had an effect on the gradient – hopefully a slow emergence of wisdom. However, you care about the people around you, don’t you?
Maybe I’m exposing my shortsightedness, but I don’t know what oil sands are or what it’s like to work there. This book is very educational in this regard.
I know many readers don’t know much about oil sands. If you’re not connected to it, you’ll probably just think of it as a big, dull place full of dump trucks, environmental concerns, and money.
Luckily for those readers, I didn’t know it myself when I got there, and everything in the book is from my point of view, and when I understand what they’re looking at, the reader is Will wear these shoes to learn. So in that sense, step-by-step education was planned, naturally, as it was for me.