Hark! A Vagrant (opens in new tab) writer/artist Kate Beaton is working on a new autobiographical comic called Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands – and publisher Drawn & Quarterly has revealed (opens in new tab) the first piece of art from the graphic memoir.
“After university, Katie Beaton leaves family behind to join Alberta’s oil rush, but as one of the few women among thousands of men, the culture shock is palpable,” writes D+Q’s Julia Pohl-Miranda of the book. “The harsh reality of life in the oil sands is that trauma is an everyday occurrence yet never discussed. Ducks is an untold story of contemporary Canada.”
After graduating from Mount Allison University in 2005, Beaton worked at the Canadian oil sands site Fort McMurray to help pay off some of her student loans. In 2014 she posted a five-part sketch comic, also titled Ducks (opens in new tab), on her Tumblr about this time in her life.
“Ducks is about part of my time working at a mining site in Fort McMurray, the events are from 2008,” Beaton wrote in 2014. ” It is a complicated place, it is not the same for all, and these are only my own experiences there. It is a sketch because I want to test how I would tell these stories, and how I feel about sharing them.”
The Canadian province of Alberta became a hotbed for oil in the early ’00s after the market price became so high that the cost to extract it from oil sands – which are prevalent in Alberta – become more viable. Alberta’s oil sands are known to contain approximately one-half of the entire world’s conventional oil reserves, leading to what’s known as the Alberta oil rush, with Fort McMurray becoming one of its biggest boom towns.
“A larger work gets talked about from time to time. It is not a place I could describe in one or two stories. Ducks is about a lot of things, and among these, it is about environmental destruction in an environment that includes humans.”
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Now seven years later, that “larger work” is happening as 2022’s Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands.
“Part of the reason I wanted to tell stories from [Fort McMurray] is that that place altered my world,” Beaton told Vice in 2016. “[I was sick of reading] exposés by some fucking guy who worked for Rolling Stone, bummed around for two weeks, and wasn’t connected to anyone or anything. It grossed me out. They’re like ‘the smoke peeled back and I saw this wasteland,’ and I’m like, ‘fuck you, you rich asshole. You stayed in a hotel for two weeks. Cool. Thanks for coming.'”
“I longed to read something that felt like the place that I saw, and it wasn’t there.”
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is anticipated to go on sale in the fall of 2022.
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