Leonard Matheson Norris

Leonard Matheson Norris, editorial cartoonist, illustrator (b at London, Eng 1 Dec 1913; d at Langley, BC 12 Aug 1997). Norris immigrated with his parents to the Lakehead when he was 12 and began his career by doing caricatures of prominent people around Prince Arthur and Fort William (now Thunder Bay), which a local merchant hung in his storefront window. He worked as a stevedore loading coal during the Depression and studied at the ONTARIO COLLEGE OF ART.

His first job as a graphic artist for a Toronto advertising agency lasted two years until he enlisted in the Army during World War II. He edited and illustrated the Canadian Army Technical Magazine and for his services received an MBE in 1945. After the war, he worked for Maclean Hunter as an art director for House and Gardens Magazine, but tired of the "rat race in Toronto." He moved to the West Coast in 1949 and joined the Vancouver Sun. He attempted to create a comic strip for the newspaper called Filbert Phelps but failed. "I tried to draw cartoons the way everybody thought they should look - big labels and that sort of thing," he said. "It was hard, and it didn't work."

Influenced by the British social satirist Giles, Norris started drawing editorial cartoons in 1950. For the next 38 years, until he retired, his illustrations featured his trademark characters: pompous members of the Victoria Conservative Club, politicians in swallow-tail coats and nasty, hydrant-shaped children commenting on national and international events. His captions were as salient as his illustrations and as a result one of his editors, Gary Lautens, described Norris as "a masterful writer who only incidentally masterfully draws." He won a national newspaper award with his first submission in 1951. He never entered again, he said, because he didn't like the idea of losing. In 1953, as a publicity stunt, Lloyds of London insured his drawing hand for $125-000. Walt Kelly, the creator of Pogo, described Norris as the best in the business, and Hugh Hefner asked him to contribute to Playboy. Norris declined. In 1973 the University of Windsor awarded him an honorary degree. He was a member of the ROYAL CANADIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS and in 1979 was elected to the Canadian News Hall of Fame.