Louis Riel Graphic Novel Is Part of E-Book Revolution


There seem to be a rash of graphic novels out lately, and more are on the horizon. And now, they seem to be following their texty cousins into the digital realm.

In the latest twist, Drawn & Quarterly, the Canadian graphic novel publisher, will digitize two graphic works by cartoonist Chester Brown, the industry trade magazine Publisher’s Weekly reports. One of them is Brown’s well-known account of the Métis hero Louis Riel’s life.

D&Q’s first digital project, a non-exclusive deal, was done in conjunction with Kobo, the Canadian e-book retailer.

Originally published in 2006, Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography won a Harvey Award for graphic nonfiction, and was dubbed by Publisher's Weekly as "a strong contender for the best graphic novel ever" because of its artful telling of the life story of Riel, a founder of Manitoba, who led the 1869–70 Red River Rebellion between the Métis and the Canadian government. He is considered a hero by the mixed-race group for his leadership roles in that and the North-West Rebellion of 1885. He was executed in 1885 for treason by the Canadian government.

"While the book concerns imperialism, empire, nationalism and the chaos that results, Brown maintains a still, almost silent atmosphere. He brilliantly renders a lengthy courtroom sequence by setting figures against a black background, heightening the tension of the events by employing minimal effects. Even the battle scenes are subdued," Publisher's Weekly said in its review at the time of release. "All of this will hook readers' minds and eyes, but never tell them what to think or feel. Instead, Brown calmly lets his story unfold, making the reading process deeply affecting. This is an ingenious comic and a major achievement."

This graphic e-book came together fortuitously, Publisher’s Weekly said.

“Many people assumed we would never do e-books,” D&Q associate publisher Peggy Burns told the trade publication. “We were open to the idea, but wanted to approach it cautiously.”

She said Brown himself was part of the impetus.

“This past fall, we had a fortuitous series of events that brought the project to the foreground,” Burns said. “Chester voiced his desire for e-books, CBC Canada Reads shortlisted Louis Riel in its top-ten for its annual contest, and most importantly, fellow Canadian company Kobo inquired if we would consider e-books.”