Kate Beaton returns with a personal story about "environmental destruction" in Ducks

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands excerpt
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands excerpt (Image credit: Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly))

Hark! A Vagrant 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 the first piece of art from the graphic memoir.

Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton (Image credit: Drawn & Quarterly)

"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, 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."

(Image credit: Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly))

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.

Here are our recommended best digital comics readers. 

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)