Cartoonist Chris Oliveros recently published a new work of graphic non-fiction, Are You Willing To Die For the Cause? 

The book is based on a rigorous body of research about about the rise of a radical separatist group in 1960s Canada. Oliveros — who founded D&Q in 1989 and served as publisher for 25 years — grew up in Montreal, where the real events of this book largely take place. 

And he recently took time to talk with The Beat about the book, returning to cartooning, and the follow-up that is currently under way. Check it out below, after the book’s cover!


ZACK QUAINTANCE: The book is about a movement that began in the ‘60s, but it felt very relevant to today. What made now the right time to tell this story?

CHRIS OLIVEROS: When I started working on this in early 2016, the subject seemed very distant. But in the years since then, there has been an unsettling drift towards political extremism in many parts of the world. So yes, it’s more relevant now — but that’s not a good thing!

Chris Oliveros

ZACK: I imagine for you growing up in Montreal, this history must have been part of the community fabric. What is your personal relationship to this story, and what inspired you to explore it in a serious way through comics?

CHRIS OLIVEROS: Everything related to these events was over by the time I was four years old, so I don’t recall many people talking about this when I was growing up. But when I was in Grade 10, we saw a major documentary on the FLQ in our history class, and the subject really stuck in my mind ever since. Given the dramatic nature of these events, there are so many fascinating visual elements related to this period, so it was practically tailor-made for comics.

Chris Oliveros

ZACK: The sourcing for the book is very comprehensive and rigorous. What was your process like for organizing your research, and how did you decide which material would work best in comics?

CHRIS: Only about a third of all possible research material has ever been available in English, so my goal was to also read everything published in French on this period of the FLQ. It was also important to reference all four major newspapers in Montreal from the era (two in French and two in English). I tried to cite multiple sources whenever possible, in order to get a range of different perspectives. And like I said, for the most part, everything here was ideally suited to be told visually, in comics form.

ZACK: How was it for you returning to full-time cartooning after founding D&Q, working as publisher for so many years, and helping to build it into what it’s become today?

CHRIS: It was such an honour to work with so many of the best cartoonists in the world over many years at D+Q. And now that I’ve somehow managed to make it over to the “other side” as an author, I have an even greater appreciation for the people running D+Q today. I’m pretty much in awe of what they’ve been able to do in regards to bringing on a wider range of new talent, while at the same time keeping the company small and focused enough to give each title and author a certain amount of needed attention.

ZACK: Finally, how is the second book coming along, and how does it relate to the first book?

Chris Oliveros
Chris Oliveros

CHRIS: I have an outline of the next book and I’m in the very early drawing stages. It covers a period in 1970 known as the “October Crisis,” where political kidnappings by the FLQ ultimately led to the Canadian army being called into the streets of Montreal in an attempt to quell a perceived insurrection. And even though it’s a better-known history than what’s covered in the first book, there’s still enough fascinating and somehow still-obscure material to form the basis of what I hope will be a captivating graphic novel.

Are You Willing To Die For The Cause? is available now.