Chris Oliveros

Born: 1966, Montreal
Began publishing: In 1989
Job held before starting D&Q: A bicycle courier in Montreal
Favourite comic book character: Little Lulu
Grew up reading: DC Comic Books, Batman and Superman.

FEATHERTALE: Why did you start up your own publishing house?

CHRIS OLIVEROS: I was interested in comics and I guess one thing led to another. I never really imagined having a publishing house. I just wanted to publish things that I liked, and graphic novels were really just getting off the ground. There wasn’t much of a forum for this material when I started.

FT: How hard was it to get D&Q off the ground?

CO: Publishing is never easy, so it was always a bit difficult, but I was always successful enough to keep it going. I had to put my own money into it to get it started, but the initial books broke even. So we kept publishing.

FT: What were some of the major hurdles you had to jump or kick over to stay afloat?

CO: A lot of the really early comics we published were by great cartoonists like Seth and Chester Brown. That really helped tremendously because in that first year we became fairly well known in the comics world. Had we not been able to publish those people, I don’t think we would have lasted past that first year or two.

FT: Was there a moment when you had to decide between carrying on with your day job and putting all your energies into the company?

CO: The first year I was still working as a courier and going to college at the same time. But by the second year I was working exclusively at D&Q. By then we were publishing a lot of comics so it took at least one person to do this full time.

FT: What words of wisdom would you give to a young publisher trying to start up their own press?

CO: Publishing in general has a lot of challenges. If you compare it to any other business, the margins are very small, the risks are very high. You could lose a lot of money on a lot of books. You have to be really sure of what you’re doing. The way the whole industry works it makes it very challenging. It works on a return basis, but it’s hard for a new publisher to get the proper distribution. It’s a catch 22. You have to be known already to get distribution, but if you don’t have it right off the bat it’s really hard to get known.

FT: What advice would you give to young cartoonists who long to be published by D&Q?

CO: For a cartoonist I would say to read a lot, both graphic novels and general fiction and to follow lots of different kinds of art, not just comics, but all art. Be immersed in a lot of things like film and so on and basically do what you want to do and don’t cater your work to a certain publisher.

FT: If you could work with one dead writer or artist, who would they be and why?

CO: Hard to say because we have worked with a lot of dead artists and writers recently. We’ve done a lot of archival overviews of an artist’s work, like with Frank King’s Walt and Skeezics, which was a newspaper strip that started in the 1920s. Later this year we’re publishing work by Don Freedman, author of Corduroy. We’re publishing a book he wrote in the 1950s but couldn’t find a publisher for.

FT: You work with such a broad range of artists, how do you maintain such a balance between the artist’s personal style and D&Q’s unique identity?

CO: We choose a lot of the artists based on their unique vision and outlook, but I think it is each artist’s unique vision that connects them all. I think that one of the things you can say is that when you see a D&Q book you know that it’s the product of a unique vision. So much that I see just looks like it has come from an assembly line. It’s just been watered down, it’s been shown to some committee for approval and I think what makes a lot of our books special is that it really comes from a unique vision.

FT: Many of those you publish wear both hats as writer and illustrator on their projects. How rare is it to find someone talented at both?

CO: I’m not sure how rare that is, I think it’s actually more rare to find somebody who’s good just at being a comic book writer or comic book illustrator and not both.

FT: Why Montreal?

CO: I think I just found myself in this city. Unlike other Anglophone Montrealers, I never moved to Toronto or elsewhere. This city just seemed like a good fit for me.

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