By Hervé St-Louis
May 13, 2009 - 22:09
Montreal publisher Drawn & Quarterly released the first volume of The Collected Doug Wright, billing the artist’s as “Canada’s master cartoonist” comparing him with Charles Schulz, the creator of the comic strip Peanuts. Reporter Brad Mackay worked on the compilation and the archival research needed to assemble the book. The first volume collecting the body of work Wright did in comic strips and print advertising from 1949 to 1962.
Doug Wright was born in the United Kingdom in 1917 and immigrated to Canada in 1938 to work as an illustrator for the Sun Life insurance company, then, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. Wright’s claim to fame is based on Nipper a family-oriented comic strip that was first published in the weekly newspaper, The Montreal Standard.
|Uncleaned scans of Nipper|
Rating: 6 /10
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@Jean: you might not like Herve's opinion, but his article is well written and argumented. It is definitely different from what you would expect from an english-canadian but what would be the point of a culture without diversity? As long as the dialog remains healthy everything is fine by me.
I would agree that to call Wright 'Canada's master cartoonist' would be an exaggeration soley on the fact that I never heard of him until this week. (I'm 45, born and raised in Vancouver, BC.)
I had a long browse of this book this week and enjoyed the work. It reminded me of the post-war suburban life of my parents' generation. It could of been set in Vancouver.
As for Wright, there's no evidence in biographical information on the artist that he was a member of the 'elite.' Wright himself was an immigrant to Canada, like Foster and Shuster were to America, and all three had to be hardworking, decent men to get their big breaks. There was definitely a bigoted, anglophone upper class in Montreal up to the 1960s who deserve to be reviled in history, but your accusation that Wright was a part of it is plucked out of thin air. His strips don't have a language and he wasn't a man of means.
As for the book itself, it's hit and miss. The linework by Wright is gorgeous, but there are some glaring typos in the intro essay (at one point I think the second half of a sentence is just dropped--- and I checked multiple books to make sure I didn't get a missprint) and whatever font they are using for notes by the strips looks horrible. The cover material was a bad decision. Within three minutes of picking up the book, it's got fingerprint markings all over it. I would argue that Wright's a very talented strip cartoonist whose work here has been hampered by some poor execution on the part of the publisher.
Anyone who had an office in the Sun Life building - no less, at the time, could not be considered a person of modest means. I don't need biographical data from the Doug Wright book to make assumptions like that, when I've researched this period extensively. I stand by what I wrote above.
I've studied Montreal's history, its architecture. I've researched its economic decline, written about it extensively. I've read tons of sources - primary, and secondary in both English and French on Montreal's history. This is a topic I know inside out.
While I appreciated your comments, they show a clear lack of understanding. Based on what I wrote above alone, you should have been careful about saying that Wright was but a meagre immigrant of low means.
The fact that a British man was hired as a cartoonist in Montreal, while other local artists were more than available for the job is also based on the class system that existed in Montreal at the time whereby Montreal was more a British city than any other city in North America. Toronto was always more American.
Go in Montreal, look at its architecture. its the most British city you'll ever see In North America - more so than Victoria in British Columbia. The British had a tremendous influence over the city, and a so called British "immigrant" certainly was not treated the way Polish, Irish, Chinese or Portuguese immigrants of the time were. By default, many English/Scottish immigrants were accepted in an upper class system, where they dominated the city with natives elites.
I'm sorry guys. My opinion is a valid one. Not a popular one, but one that will not be dismissed. A few of you, unable to attack the article itself, have attacked me instead. That won't get you anywhere.
The fact that many of you are annoyed by my take on Doug Wright means I'm doing something right here.
Sure, most of you want him to be remembered as a Canadian genius. It doesn't mean that alternate takes on the man and his work cannot exist - should not be published.
And like Patrick wrote above, if it's not done here, it won't be done anywhere else, given how news and the media operate and how opinions critical of Canadian issues are often buried in much of Canadian media.
Unfortunately for you, I publish The Comic Book Bin, and I don't buy into the dominant Kool-aid about Canadian culture.
Further attacks on my person or other writers and commentators here will be edited out.
And people posting under multiple made up names will see their comments edited out and or removed. I'm fully aware that there's a pack of attack dogs sent to discredit the article above. It's annoying and childish that people won't post comments under their real name or leave real emails behind acting as if there were many people commenting on this. Using an IP blocker is a dead giveaway.
Hemingway left the US and wrote his body of work in Paris and Cuba. Is he less American? I can't imagine anyone arguing he was more French and Cuban than American.
You've actually got me agreeing with you now. I don't know quite enough about MTL history (American) and was definitely making assumptions. In which case, I pretty much agree with your review. I think there were some bad design decisions and that Wright is a great draftsman, but maybe there wasn't enough exploration of the work in a broader context.
You should write more about this so that those of us down South get a better picture of the scene in the city at the time. I know I'd be interested in that article, and so would most readers.
I mentioned that because I know folks from Cleveland who know his legacy because it was a part of the history of that city. Everyone in the US knows the story of Superman as being one of two boys from Cleveland. It's a great American story and a great Cleveland story. Cleveland, like most midwestern cities clings to all of its native success stories from Devo to Harvey Pekar to Pere Ubu to Superman.
It just seems weird, as an American, that Shuster and Foster would be lumped in as Canadians. William Gibson is considered a Canadian writer and M.G. Vassangi is considered a Canadian writer--- but they're both world famous and have roots in other countries. It's their place as an artist that is determined by the country they chose to work in and the primary national culture to which their work belongs.
Canadians have a reputation for being more open and tolerant than we are, so you probably got us on this one, too. Didn't mean to pry wounds, but it did seem strange. I didn't even know there was an award named after Shuster, which is actually pretty cool (and I bet everyone in Cleveland would really love that).
Bottom line is Shuster and Foster were two of the greatest of all time, no matter what flag they stood under.
I really do like his work, but after reading this I also wonder what type of artist can ignore his or her larger surroundings so thoroughly in their work. Perhaps he was an elitist, perhaps he was simply trying to keep his job. We might never know.
There's a lot of interpretation regarding Wright's true thoughts both in your article and in the book's editorial, but I like the context you have placed his work in. The book's editorial kind of felt overly earnest to me. I thought it was odd that for someone who's work was so well-loved and influential would drop almost completely out of print. I applaud their effort to pop his work into the light again nontheless, and thank you for balancing things out!