Friday 4 December 2009

George Feyer's Stamp Book

George Feyer ranks among the greatest obscure cartoonists in North America. A WWII Hungarian refugee to Canada who brokered his passage (and survival) across the Atlantic by forging his own passport, Feyer quickly became the rarest of rare birds - a celebrity cartoonist.

A fixture in newspapers (Feyer's Fair), magazines (Maclean's) and TV (he was all over the CBC, on kid's and adult shows) Feyer was a force to be reckoned with. Possessing a quick-draw style, he lampooned everything and everyone (including his adopted country) and became a fixture in the literary world, socializing with the likes of Pierre Berton and Lister Sinclair. 

By the mid-1960s he had grown frustrated with the limitations he saw holding him back in Canada, so fled Toronto for New York City (where he befriended young writer Woody Allen and comedian Lenny Bruce). Later still, he up and moved to Los Angeles where he planed on getting into movies. That would never happen unfortunately, as he became deluded and killed himself  in 1967 in an apartment festooned with his creatively intense - and intensely creative - drawings. (Here's Sinclair's poignant eulogy to Feyer.)

In his short but bright career, Feyer blazed a wide swath of material from books to a line of ceramic crafts (!?) much of it lost to time. So you can imagine how pleased I was to find this great book, George Feyer's Stamp Book, online recently. The gimmick with this is simple and very well-executed: Feyer took postage stamps from around the world and drew silent gag cartoons around them.    

Even the back cover bears the mrak of Feyer, who thought of a clever way of communicating the publisher's name:

I've thumbed through this book often since I got it and each time I'm happy I did. So simple, yet so sublime, it's cartooning at it's finest. (I'll put more scans up soon. Just doing these kind of killed me, given that the binding is so cheap the pages were coming loose. But it's worth it if his work gets into a few more heads.)

Saturday 10 October 2009

Diving 101 - way up north

Last Fall, I traveled to the Inuit village of Puvirnituq in Nunavik for a five-day course on how to scuba dive. The unlikely tale can be found in today's Globe and Mail Travel section.

Thursday 8 October 2009

So, a cartoonist walks into a comic shop...

I snapped this photo at Ottawa's local Silver Snail comic shop. It was done by ex-pat Canadian comic fan and scholar Candice Chung, who did this before she flew off to Europe to finish her master's thesis. Ideally, you'd be familiar with both Joe Matt's work, and the Snail's staff to get this; but either way it's pretty great.
The guy in the final panel is Kin Jee, the long-time manager of the store. Ha ha! See? Now it's hilarious, right?

Wednesday 23 September 2009

Me this Sunday

Okay - enough with the hype posts already! But seriously, have you ever yearned to listen to Brad Mackay talk? How about watching him sign your copy of The Collected Doug Wright? Well, if you're in Toronto this Sunday, you're in luck brother!

Well, he'll (okay I'll) be in Hogtown this weekend for the amazing (and free) The Word on the Street; a day-long orgy of books and authors that is not to be missed. I'll be signing copies of the CDW at Drawn and Quarterly's booth at 1:00 p.m.

Then, I'll be part of a panel discussion called "Oh, Canada! Surveying the Landscape of Canadian Comics" which is kicking off at 3:00 p.m. at the Comics and Graphic Novels Tent run by the guys at TCAF. Bryan Munn, and Max Douglas will be moderating the chat and Kevin Boyd (of the Shuster Awards) will be sitting next to me, likely still drunk from the night before.

Hope to see you there.

Ink Studded

Robin 'Dirty Bird' McConnell rang me up last week to discuss Doug Wright, comics and Canada for his radio show Inkstuds. I think it was actually a lucid chat, with very few Ahhhs or Uhmms from yours truly.
And there's a special bonus for anyone brave enough to click on the link: Part of a rare interview that Wright did in the 1970s for a Mohawk College TV show. Go listen already!

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Blabitty, blabitty, Brad

Mr. Nigel Beale, a very nice man with an unquenchable thirst for books, sat down with me a few weeks ago to chat about comics, graphic novels ansd Doug Wright. Thanks to a generous glass of scotch, I can't quite recall what I said -- and since I can't stand listening to myself, you'll to take my word for it when I say this is a podcast worth listening to.

While you're at it, you should explore the rest of his site as well. He has a cornucopia of images of old and rare books taht is sure to make you drool.

Wednesday 9 September 2009

'The Collected Doug Wright' as educational tool

Apologies in advance for the back-to-back cute-kids posts, but this one was too good to pass up. Drawn and Quarterly has some swell pics up of Joe Ollmann's (maybe 6-year-old?) son absorbed in The Collected Doug Wright Vol. One. It doesn't get any better than that (except perhaps hearing from Bob Rae that he had his copy of the book proudly displayed on his coffee table. That was kind of cool too.)

It's funny, because my daughter (5) did the same thing Joe Jr. here did when i got my copy of CDW in the mail. There's something about the colours and the lack of words that makes it a magnet for little kids. In fact, Seth and I got a fan letter from a retired school teacher earlier this summer that verified/quantified this appeal. I include the letter below as evidence of Wright's unheralded educational benefits:

This is actually a really good idea. Any teachers out there willing to give this a whirl in their classroom, please let me know the results.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Going prehistoric

Here are some pics from a recent visit to the iconic, must-see Prehistoric World in Morrisburg, Ontario.

Saturday 29 August 2009

Mazzucchelli's graphic novel masterpiece

I reviewed David Mazzucchelli's new (and very fine) GN, Asterios Polyp, in today's Globe and Mail. If you haven't read it yet, you really should. I'm usually pretty hesitant to fuel a book's hype, especially when it's going at full steam; but in this case AP lives up to its hype.

Monday 10 August 2009

Not-So-Wacky Packages

Growing up in the 70s/80s, I was a HUGE fan of Wacky Packages; so much so that I even drew a few of my own and mailed them to Topps. Still waiting on that one. My appreciation was only enhanced years later when I learned that Art Speigelman (of Maus fame) concieved of the series for Topps and did the art for many of the original product spoofs. So, i was rummaging around the internet this weekend for an uncut sheet of the original WP series stickers, and I found this terribly unfortunate puzzle (these were printed on the back of the sticker cards, and you'd have to collect them to complete the image):

I vaguely remember this - and it seemed utterly normal 20 years ago to mock other cultures. That "ah-so" gets me; do the Japanese even say anything resembling this?

Friday 7 August 2009

Best Thank You note, evah!!!

One of the best things about being the director of The Doug Wright Awards is discovering new comics and new cartoonists. One of my favourite discoveries from this past year's awards was Maids of the Mist by the talented Toronto cartoonist/tattoo artist/puppeteer Caitlin Black. I was literally handed this self-published comic the day of our nomination meeting, and it blew me away so much that I instantly added it to my short list.

The story follows two wayward teenagers (Misty and Leppard) as they endure another tourist-plagued summer in their hometwon of Niagara ("Nigraw") Falls. Anyways, the book made the Best Emerging Talent list at this May's DWAs, and Caitlin was so genuinely appreciative it made my heart melt. She was so appreciative, she sent this awesome hand-customized postcard as thanks:

(That's Leppard and Misty, as drawn by Caitlin, affixed to the front.)
The kicker? The backside has a hand-written thank you note from Misty and Leppard themselves. So kewl!
Plus, she included a Niagara Fall souvenir pen! Caitlin rawks!!!

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Rilly's really spiffy new site

My favourite Canadian cartoonist/policy analyst Ethan Rilly, has just unveiled a new website, Built using only "fimo and a buck knife" (it actually looks kind of pretty) the site exists primarily to promote his fine new comic Pope Hats #1 (which was nominated for a Doug Wright Award in it's earlier, self-published incarnation).

I really liked that earlier version, and I'm happy to see that he has re-drawn it and re-published it in a spiffy new format. As Seth has already commented, the story is breezy and deceptively casual in its depiction of real life. Plus there's a charming ghost in it.

If you like Dan Clowes, Seth, Adrain Tomine (or good comics) you should put $4 aside and buy a copy for yourself.

Monday 29 June 2009

A life inside a life inside a life

I wrote a review of A Drifting Life -- Yoshihiro Tatsumi's epic, sprawling manga memoir -- for the Globe and Mail's Books section, which appeared over the weekend.

Like a lot of people I've talked with, this book was a peculiar read at first. It came on a crest of huge expectations, thanks to the fact that it arrived after three excellent (and handsome) volumes of Tatsumi's classic gegika; volumes designed and edited by cartoonist Adrian Tomine, and published by Drawn and Quarterly.

This massive memoir (also pubilshed by D+Q) promised a behind-the-scenes look at Tatsumi's emergence as a cartoonist, and the reasons behind the genesis of the ground-breaking, and grim, gegika medium (short comics stories that took on adult themes, including abortion, murder, prostitution and adultery.) Yet, Tatsumi made a couple of stylistic choices that I found challenging initially. First, he named his protagonist "Katsumi," a strange choice (a one-letter difference from his own name) that seems to imply that he's fictionalized some of the details in his tale. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
As he explained during his appearance at TCAF, Tatsumi was simply following the Japanese tradition of the "I-novel"; a genre of autobiographical manga that sees the cartoonist’s name changed as a courtesy to those depicted in the book who are still alive.
The other thing I found curious was the tone of the book, which is modelled on the classic manga tradition (ie. broadly expressed emotions, wide-eyed characters). It took me about 350 pages before it dawned on me that Tatsumi had made this choice deliberately. His story deals with his love affair with manga, so it only made sense that it should be told in a similar fashion. Well, that's my theory anyway.
Anyways, go read the piece and let me know if you agree with me. I'll leave you with a quote from Chris Ware that i used in the review that made me laugh:
“Being a cartoonist is sort of like being a businessman doodling all day. You're not an action painter throwing paint around or going out into the world; you're just sitting pathetically at this table, staring down in a kind of feedback loop.”

Tuesday 14 April 2009

If all reviews were like this, I'd be a happy man

The CBC's always great Arts website has a feature up now on The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist that is fairly mind-blowing. The writer (Martin Morrow) really nails most the themes/ideas that we discussed as we were working on the this volume. Plus, there are more than a dozen images from the book and many great quotes from Seth about classic-era cartooning and Wright's significance.

(This is an enlarged Wright drawing that was embellished by Seth.)

It's definitely worth a gander.

Oh - and you can buy the book online here. Or wait a few months, and buy it here and then get is signed after this.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

A challenger to the KE7 crown?

Think Kramer's Ergot #7 is big? Of course you do.The latest edition of the revered alt-comics anthology has been wow-ing fans and annoying wives everywhere since it was released to much acclaim last fall, thanks to its its All-Star lineup (Seth, Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes et al.) and it's gi-normous physical size.

But, yo! What's that on the horizon --a challenger to KE7's crown? And it's Canadian????

Maybe. Simply titled
RED, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas's book of "Haida manga" (a term that the B.C. visual artist coined a couple of years ago) measures in at a jaw-dropping six feet by 14 feet! Or, 6.6 square meters for you Metric nuts. (That's a shot of it above.)

That's about 5 times larger than KE7; which weighs in at a paltry 16 x 21 inches (take that Harkham!) According to Yahgulanaas's
publisher's site, RED is slated for publication this fall but I can't parse out what kind of print run they're planning. It kind of sounds like it's a one-shot gallery piece.

Regardless, they're billing it as "one of the world's largest comic books" which sounds about right to me. Seriously, though, you should check out Yahgulanaas's work; here, here and over here. He's a really talented guy, who has managed to merge native imagery and the comics form in a way that seems entirely natural.

I can't believe it's taken me so long to discover him.

Friday 27 February 2009

Offspring of famous cartoonists (#1 in a series of one)

There's a great photo-gallery up now on Wired that explores the unsettling lives of comic store clerks. I say unsettling because the piece features Q&As with the mostly-male clerks and photos that peer into their private nerd lairs. It ends up provoking the same reaction i get when i look at Diane Arbus photos; growing curiousity that eventually gets wrapped up in creeping uneasiness. For the most part I feel really bad for these guys, completely immersed as they are in a man-child state of Alex Ross comics and over-priced action figures.

But then, part way through, we get
this great little interview with Olive Panter, the 18-year-old daughter of alt-comix Buddha Gary Panter.

Not only is it refreshing to see someone from a comic shop that doesn't worship at the temple of Marvel/DC, but she has some pretty funny things to say about; Alt-comics:

"I love Johnny Ryan and I always have. But it's getting pretty repetitive these days. Less anal rape."

about working in a comic shop:

"I started when I was 14 and quit and returned and quit and returned and quit and returned. My dad got me into it. He works at the School of Visual Arts and it's nearby and Mark, the owner, really liked his comics. I started on Sundays bagging books and now I come and don't do anything."

and, about her clientele:

"On a Wednesday, a regular customer came and bought a ton of comics as per usual. Then the next day he came in he was completely scab-covered and bruised on his face. We were like, "Dude, what happened to you? Are you okay?" Turns out he started falling down on a escalator while holding his comics and rather than protecting his face he protected his comics. But they still got a little bent, so the next day he came back and re-bought them."

So, good for her. And for Gary. He seems to have raised a killer kid. (Now, is it too much to ask that she starts making comics?)

- B.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Batman as jazz

For years I've kicked at the theory that comics and jazz represent America's only unique, indigenous art forms. This point was made back in the 1970s, and has been repeated and rebutted countless times since along the lines of "Comics appeared in Europe years before they turned up on North American shores!" and "The roots of jazz are in Africa, not New Orleans!" etc. et al into boring infinitude. I know. Because I was a part of many of these conversations.

Yet, no matter how many times I talked about it with my comics-savvy colleagues (just imagine these conversations, for a moment) I always walked away with a different idea: That comic books and jazz have more in common than we give them credit for.

My jazzbo father Dad would probably wretch, but I finally got around to writing about it on the Globe and Mail's new Books site. My essay is called "Batman and jazz," and doubles as a sort-of book review of the sensational Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan.

Please buy it! And read my piece! And if you feel the need, rip me one!

Sunday 11 January 2009

25 Great Things About Being A Comics Fan

Courtesy of Tom Spurgeon, Mr. Comics Reporter, a great little list every comics fan should read. It'll make you feel a little less nerdy when you step out the door in the morning. Highlights include:

"#2. You'll have a better vocabulary than the people you know that only read prose and you'll have a better eye for visual language than the people you know that only look at art. ...

#6. You'll have the best conversations at parties with the widest range of people while quickly learning how to duck the truly dreary conversations at parties with that one narrow range of people. ...

#11. From now on, every garage sale, flea market and library sale is hope. ... and,

# 16. At first you'll like all the comics. Then you'll get a little bit older and like only a few of them. Then you'll get a little older than that, and you get to like all the comics again."

More, here.