Cartoons and Comic Strips



For Better or For Worse
(courtesy Lyn Johnston and Universal Press Syndicate).
Hey! Crikey! Dynamite!?..
Publisher Jeffrey R. Darcey (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-136788).
Johnny Canuck
Johnny Canuck: Canada's answer to Nazi Oppression, March 1942, artist Leo Bachle, pen, brush and black ink on woven paper (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-137065).
Try it on jes fer fun Herbie
Cartoon, 1944, by William Garnet Coughlin (Bing) in Maple Leaf (courtesy National Archives of Canada/C-140339).
Betty
By Edmonton cartoonists Gary Delainey and Gerry Rasmussen.
Fisher (Cartoon)
Cartoon strip by Philip Street
<em>Zero Gravity</em>
The comic strip Zero Gravity, created, written and drawn by Dwight A. Macpherson, ran in the Saturday Ottawa Citizen between 1993 and 1999 (image courtesy Dwight A. Macpherson). \r\n

The history of comic art or graphic humour in Canada parallels the growth and development of newspapers and publishing. Colonial newspapers in Canada's First Press Period (1752–1807) depended on government patronage for their survival. They did not carry cartoons or humorous illustrations. Canadians who wanted a chuckle could turn to the woodcut jests in almanacs.

The Second Press Period (1807–58) saw the rise of entrepreneur editor/printers who began setting up press in growing towns. Revenues from circulation and advertising replaced patronage from government, and the appearance of cartoons, especially political ones, reflected this new, independent spirit. Comic art influences from Europe and the United States also began to appear.

On 1 January 1849, engraver and cartoonist John H. Walker (1831–99) published Punch in Canada, named after the humour magazine in England begun in 1841. It was the first publication in Canada to regularly feature cartoons. Punch in Canada folded after Walker moved it to Toronto in 1850 and tried to publish weekly. He published several other short-lived humour magazines including The Grumbler, Grinchuckle and Diogenes. Canadian Illustrated News, named after its London counterpart, often featured satirical drawings and caricatures by its artists, including Edward Jump, J.G. Mackay and Octave-Henri Julien.

"Strips" Arrive in Canada

During the Third Press Period (1858–1900) there was rapid growth in the number of newspapers and periodicals and major advances in printing and engraving. American newspaper and feature syndicates quickly established themselves in the fast-growing comic strip industry following the introduction in 1885 of the first comic "strip" in the US, "The Yellow Kid," in 1885. Seventeen years later, the first strip drawn by a Canadian for a Canadian newspaper made its appearance. Working for the first comic journal in Québec, La Scie (The Saw), a satirical political journal from Montréal (1863–68), was cartoonist Jean Baptist Côté. He was a legendary Canadian political cartoonist. His simple woodcuts illustrated perfectly the journal's motto: "Laughter Corrects Abuse." He attacked the political elite and the civil service with such ardour that in 1868, after depicting a civil servant "at his day’s work," he was arrested and thrown into jail — the first and only Canadian cartoonist to achieve this distinction.

John W. Bengough (1851–1923) is one of Canada's first important cartoonists. He published Grip, a magazine of social and political satire in Toronto from 1873 until 1894. Grip's long lifespan offers a valuable look at the style of humour of the period, as do the cartoons by Bengough, especially those of Sir John A. Macdonald.

At the same time as Bengough, Québec artist Octave-Henri Julien (1852–1908) was making his mark drawing political cartoons at the Canadian Illustrated News. One of Julien's studies of rural French Canadians was a depiction of an elderly farmer, rifle in hand and pipe clenched in teeth ready to defend his land, an image that was later adapted by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) in the 1960s as a symbol of armed revolution. He was the first cartoonist to be honoured with an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. A street in Montréal is named in his honour.

Hector Berthelot (1842–1895) was dubbed "The Prince of Canadian Humorists." He was first published anonymously in La Scie. In 1877 Berthelot started Le Canard, the first of 16 humour magazines he would help foster in his career. His most durable character creation, Baptiste Ladébauche, first appeared in Le Canard, in November 1878, in a cartoon called "Père Ladébauche" (Pops Debauchery), named after the title of a French-Canadian folk song. Baptiste outlived Berthelot and continued to be drawn by A.G. Racey, Joseph Charlebois and finally Albéric Bourgeois at La Presse.

Albéric Bourgeois (1876–1962) created a regularly appearing strip, "Les Aventures de Timothée," for the Montréal newspaper La Patrie in 1904. In 1905, he joined La Presse to take over "Père Ladébauche" from Joseph Charlebois. Under Bourgeois, it was renamed "En Roulant Ma Boule" (Bumming Around) and the main character, Baptiste, took a wife, Catherine. He drew the strip for the next 52 years — the last episode appeared in La Presse on 23 March 1957. Bourgeois created several other strips at La Presse including "Les Aventures du Toinon" (1905–08) and "Les Fables du Parc Lafontaine" (1906–08).

An earlier strip was "Pour un Dîner de Noël," drawn as a once-only, not a series, by Raoul Barré for La Presse, 20 December 1902. Barré also created the first comic page in Canada for La Presse that year. In 1903, he moved to New York City, changed his name to Barry and was a pioneer and innovator in the animated film industry. From New York, he drew two short-lived strips for La Patrie: "Les Contes du Père Rhault" (1906–08), and "À l'Hôtel du Père Noé" (1913), a French-language version of Noah's Ark, a strip he created in 1912 for McClure Newspaper Syndicate.

Palmer Cox (1840–1924) was born in Granby, Québec, and in 1875 was working as an illustrator in New York. His greatest success was the creation of the Brownies. Thirteen books of poems, cartoons and adventures of his fairyland creatures were published around the turn of the century, spawning one of the largest merchandising and product endorsement campaigns of its time, including the Kodak "Brownie" camera. Cox retired to Granby and lived in a house he called Brownie Castle, where he died.

In 1906, H.A. McGill, a Nova Scotia-born cartoonist working in New York, created several strips. The most popular was "The Hall Room Boys," later re-titled "Percy and Ferdy" and published as a collection in 1921.

Russel Patterson, an American-born artist living in Montréal in the early 1900s, did a strip called "Pierre and Pierrette" for La Patrie. Patterson is best remembered for his influence on 1920s flapper fashion with his much-emulated illustrations known as "Patterson Girls" in magazines such as Harper's Bazaar and Cosmopolitan.

In 1901, a humour magazine called The Moon appeared in Toronto. It only lasted about a year but included the work of Newton McConnell, editorial cartoonist at the Toronto Daily News, Fergus Kyle of the Globe, C.W. Jefferys, a staff artist at the Toronto Star, and A.G. Racey, who would succeed Henri Julien at the Montreal Star in 1908.

The Industry Expands

By the early 1900s presses had been hauled by railway, steamer, ox-cart, pack-horse and the backs of their owners to practically every settlement in the West. Graphic humour even reached mining camps in The Ledge, a newspaper published in the late 1800s in New Denver, British Columbia, by R.T. Lowery. Saturday editions of the Manitoba Free Press carried one-panel cartoons as early as 1901 — two years later it published its first full-page comic strip, "Buster Brown," syndicated by the New York Herald. In 1904, Bob Edwards started the witty and rambunctious Calgary Eye Opener. Edwards initially drew his own cartoons but left them unsigned. Most of the cartooning in later years was done by Donald McRitchie, who worked at the Eye Opener from 1907 to 1912, and Charles Forrester, who was there when it folded in 1922.

In 1927, Richard Taylor joined The Goblin (1921–29), a Toronto magazine devoted to the more sophisticated "college" humour of the 1920s. Taylor, a commercial artist, drew a variety of cartoons for each issue, each in a different style and under a different name. Taylor did a weekly strip, "Dad Plugg," for the Communist Party of Canada's newspaper, The Worker, in 1935 under the name "Ric." In 1936, he went to New York where he became a successful gag cartoonist, regularly appearing in The New Yorker and other major magazines. Several collections of his work have been published.

Comics Go to War

During the First World War, cartoons found their way to the trenches in Canada in Khaki. In the Second World War, Canadian troops were entertained by several regular strips in the Canadian Army publications Maple Leaf and Khaki. Cartoons also appeared in Wings, the RCAF paper.

"Herbie and this Army," by William Garnet "Bing" Coughlin, first appeared in Maple Leaf in the spring of 1944 in Naples, Italy. Bing's chinless hero Herbie became a particular icon at the front and "Herbie wuz here" graffitti marked the path of the Canadian advance. In 1944, Herbie was voted "Canadian Man of the Year" by the troops. "Monty and Johnny," by Les Callan, cartoonist at the Toronto Daily Star in civilian life, and "Occupational Oscar and this Doggone Army," by Merle "Ting" Tingley, were also popular. Ting became the editorial cartoonist at the London Free Press after the war.

Jimmy Frise, who illustrated Gregory Clark's humorous column in Maclean's magazine, created "Life's Little Comedies" in 1921 for the Star Weekly. It was later retitled "Birdseye Centre" and ran in the Star Weekly until 1947, when Frise took it to the Montréal Standard/Family Herald group, who renamed it "Juniper Junction." Frise died the next year and Doug Wright, the Standard's new editorial cartoonist, took it over. He drew it until 1968 when the Family Herald folded, taking the strip with it. Wright created two popular strips of his own: "Nipper," in the early 1960s, and its successor, "Doug Wright's Family," in 1967.

Editorial Cartoons

Many editorial cartoonists have tried their hands at strip and gag cartooning. Arch Dale (1882–1962) began freelancing cartoons to the Winnipeg Free Press and Grain Growers' Guide in 1907. He moved to Chicago in 1921, where he drew a strip called "The Doo Dads" for United Feature and Specialty Company, who sold it to about 50 newspapers. Dale returned to the Free Press in 1927 and was the editorial cartoonist until he retired in 1954.

A.G. Racey (1870–1941) joined the Montreal Star in 1899 and remained there for 40 years. The character of cartoonists in Canada of this generation was that of gentle good sports. Rarely vicious, they supported good causes and did their work in a polite manner.

Lou Skuce (1886–1951) worked as an editorial cartoonist at several newspapers and was art editor of the Toronto Sunday World for 14 years. He contributed gag cartoons and illustrations to many publications over his career, from The Goblin to Maclean's magazine. He also created a strip, "Cash and Carrie," for the Bell Syndicate in 1927 and a short-lived strip, "Mary Ann Gay," for United Press Features in 1928.

A distinctive Canadian style emerged after the Second World War. Led by Robert Lapalme (1908–97) at Le Devoir; Duncan Macpherson (1924–93) at the Toronto Daily Star, Leonard Norris (1913–97) at the Vancouver Sun and the Montreal Star's Ed McNally (1916–71), cartoons began to break with traditions. Their drawings were sharper and often more savage than American cartoons, which generally tend to be more allegorical.

Stewart Cameron (1912–70) was an editorial cartoonist at the Calgary Herald and the Vancouver Province. In 1972, four collections of his humorous illustrations of rodeo life and adventures on the pack-trail were published posthumously: What I Saw At the Stampede, Let The Chaps Fall Where They May, Weep for the Cowboy and Pack Horse in the Rockies - Dudes, Denims and Diamond Hitches.

Lew Saw, an Australian who worked for a while as editorial cartoonist at the Vancouver Province, drew a strip, "One-Up," in the late 1950s and early 60s. Al Beaton, editorial cartoonist at the Toronto Telegram, drew "Ookpik," a strip based on a popular Arctic owl stuffed toy, in the mid-1960s. It ran for two years in 50 newspapers. Adrian Raeside of the Victoria Times-Colonist drew a strip called "Captain Starship" in the late 1970s.

Calgary Herald editorial cartoonist Vance Rodewalt gave the little birds that made sideline comments in his editorial cartoons their own strip, "The Byrds" (1974–79). He also drew the widely syndicated "Chubb and Chauncey," which began 12 September 1988. Steven Nease, editorial cartoonist with the Oakville Beaver, started drawing "Pud" in 1984, and it appears in over a dozen papers. Mike DeAdder (1967) started the political strip "Cabinet Shuffles" in 1995, and it has been published across Canada. Terry Mosher, known by his pen name, Aislin, has seen his irreverent, acerbic sketches appear regularly in many Canadian dailies and in periodicals in the United States and abroad. Serge Chapleau, who studied painting and graphic arts at l'École des Beaux-Arts, became an instant celebrity in Québec in 1972 with a weekly full-colour caricature for Perspectives. He now produces a popular political cartoon series on Radio-Canada called Et Dieu créa… Laflaque.

Hybrid Formats

Susan Dewar, editorial cartoonist for the Ottawa Sun, began a strip, "Us & Them" in July 1995, in collaboration with American Wiley Miller, creator of "Non Sequitour." In March 1997, Miller withdrew and Milt Priggee took over. "Us & Them" saw each cartoonist taking turns doing a male and then a female character. It has since ceased publication.

Unique hybrids of strip and single-panel cartoons have been drawn in Canada. In the early 1900s, J.B. Fitzmaurice (1873?-1924) regularly produced multi-drawing "strip" type cartoons in his editorial slots when he worked at the Montréal Herald and the Vancouver Daily Province. The single panel with multiple compositions reached its zenith with "La Vie En Images," a free-form page about everyday events and life in Montréal created by Jacques Gagnier for La Patrie on 6 February 1944. Gagnier left "La Vie" in 1947 and it was drawn by Paul Leduc until 1956. In 1945, Gordie Moore at the Montréal Gazette created a square, single-panel, divided into four panes, called "Around our Town." A collection by the same name was published in 1949.

Several series of single-panel features illustrating Canadian personalities, events, history and geography have been drawn in Canada. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Ken Gray produced "What's in a Name?" and "Who Said That?" for the Toronto Star Syndicate. George Shane (born 1921) drew a series called "Oh, Canada" in the 1960s and Gordon Johnston did a series called "It Happened in Canada" in the 1970s and 80s, which were published in collections. In the early 1980s, Cy Morris produced "Spotlight on Labour History," syndicated through Union Art Services.

The gag cartoons and illustrations of George Feyer (1921-67) made him one of Canada's most popular cartoonists in the 1950s and 60s, appearing on CBC Television's Razzle Dazzle and Telestory Time (where Feyer illustrated a story as it was read live). He was also a regular contributor to Maclean's magazine. Feyer was born in Hungary. He escaped both Nazi and Communist hostilities by forging papers and fleeing to Canada in 1948. He had a reputation for being outlandish and his cartoons about sex and religion were rarely published in his day. He is infamously known for attending swank parties, sneaking up behind women in backless gowns, and drawing cartoons on their exposed skin.

Peter Whalley (1921–2007) became familiar to readers of Maclean's magazine and other Canadian publications in the 1950s and 60s. Whalley also illustrated Eric Nicol's Uninhibited History of Canada (1959). Maclean's was the long-time home of James Simpkins' most famous creation, "Jasper" the bear. "Jasper" ran regularly as a single panel cartoon in Maclean's from 1948 to 1972 and was then syndicated in a daily strip and a colour weekend strip by Canada Wide Features.

Trade Publication Humour

Cartoons often find a niche in special-interest publications. Albert Chartiers began "Onésime" in 1943 in Le bulletin des agriculteurs. In the 1950s, Lawrence Purdy's cartoons spoofed the foibles of the clergy in the United Church Observer. Don Smith, an oil company employee in Alberta, anonymously submitted cartoons that appeared in Oil Week from 1973 to 1983. A collection, It Only Hurts When You Produce, was published in 1987. George Shane drew cartoons for union publications in the 1970s and 80s and Mike Constable set up Union Art Services in Toronto to syndicate cartoons to the labour press. Everett Soop was published in Kainai News, serving native communities in southern Alberta, beginning in 1968. Two collections of Soop have been published, Take a Bow (1979) and I See My Tribe Is Still Behind Me (1990). In the 1970s, Trevor Hutchings had many business-oriented gag cartoons published in the Financial Post and Marketing as well as in Playboy, Esquire and Oui. Doug Sneyd, a freelance cartoonist in Orillia, Ontario, has been drawing cartoons for Playboy since the early 1960s. He also drew a political strip called "Scoops" (1978–82).

Underground and Alternative

The "underground" and "alternative" press in the late 1960s and early 70s provided refuge for a number of cartoonists. Rand Holmes created "Harold Hedd," Vancouver's answer to San Francisco's "Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers" for the Georgia Straight. These were collected into comic book form, Harold Hedd nos. 1, 2 and 3. Kerry Waghorn, whose caricature portraits of daily newsmakers are now syndicated to op-ed pages around the world, produced a strip in 1969 for the Straight, "The Apologies of Justin Martyre."

Stanley Berneche and Peter Evans's "Captain Canada" made his debut in 1972 in the Ottawa-based satirical magazine Fuddle Duddle. The Captain was as much a spoof of the US superheroes as of Canadian attitudes toward them. Montréal's "Capitaine Kébec" appeared in 1973. "Les Aventures du Capitaine Kébec" was created by Pierre Fournier, one of the leading artists and writers active in what is known as the Spring of Quebéc Comics (les bandes desineés or BD for short).

Free music, arts and entertainment weeklies, some with "alternative" attitudes, sprang up in many cities in the 1980s, and some carried occasional strips or panels by local cartoonists. The Montréal Mirror carried the strip "Slum Dog," by Peter Sandmark, from 1988 to 1992. "Slum Dog" has been self-published by Sandmark in seven mini-comic collections. He started a new strip in 1997, a spinoff of "Slum Dog" called "Roach Town," which has also been published in mini-comic. The popular "Anglo-Man," by artist Gabriel Morrissette and writer Mark Shainblum, was published in two softcover editions (1995 and 1996) before appearing as a weekly comic strip in the Montréal Mirror (1996–97) and subsequently in the Montreal Gazette (1997–99).

Susan Dyment is an illustrator and cartoonist whose anarcho-feminist cartoons have appeared in over two dozen Canadian magazines and journals since the 1980s. She consistently self-published photostat journals of acerbic and genuinely funny social commentary.

"Weltschmerz," a politically satirical strip by Gareth Lind, first appeared in 1993 in Id, a bi-weekly in Guelph, and now appears in Eye in Toronto and the X-Press in Ottawa. Lind also does a nameless strip that appears in This Magazine and Eye that he began in the late 1980s in a Guelph alternative weekly called Metropolis.

Mainstream Contemporary

The five most widely read Canadian cartoonists are probably Jim Unger, Ben Wicks, Paul Gilligan, Adrian Raeside and Lynn Johnston. Unger, who now lives in the Bahamas, started out as an editorial cartoonist and created the hugely successful "Herman" single panel in 1974. The first colour weekend "Herman" strip appeared 30 March 1980. "Herman" is reaching a new generation with the resyndication of the cartoons as The Best of Herman, and several Herman collections have been published.

Ben Wicks began cartooning for The Albertan in Calgary in the early 1960s. In 1966, he went to the Toronto Telegram and his daily panel cartoon began to be widely syndicated. Wicks created a daily strip in 1975, "The Outcasts," which was taken over by his son Vincent in 1989. Wicks has published numerous collections and has written several books.

Paul Gilligan started as an illustrator at the Ottawa Citizen. He worked hard for many years to come up with a viable daily strip and finally set up shop in downtown Toronto as a freelancer, where his roster of clients include Time, Disney, Wired and Pine-Sol. During this time he created a number of strips, the culmination of which was "Pooch Café." The syndicate Ucomics picked him up and he now has a genuine hit on his hands. "Pooch Café" is the story of a dog named Poncho.

Adrian Raeside has been editorial cartoonist for the Victoria Times Colonist for 25 years. His editorial cartoons have appeared in over 150 newspapers and magazines worldwide. He has created, directed and produced dozens of animated shows for Turner Broadcasting and the Children's Television Workshop. Raeside is also the author of 11 books. Among them: There Goes the Neighbourhood, an irreverent history of Canada, The Demented Decade and 5 Twisted Years. Raeside also wrote and illustrated the popular Dennis the Dragon series of children's books. His daily strip, "The Other Coast," was picked up by Creators Syndicate in 2001 and now appears in over 100 newspapers worldwide.

Lynn Johnston worked as an animator, a commercial artist and a medical illustrator before she produced three collections of single-panel cartoons on the lighter side of motherhood: David, We're Pregnant(1977), Hi Mom! Hi Dad! (1977) and Do They Ever Grow Up? (1978). Universal Press Syndicate asked her to try a strip about a contemporary family and the first instalment of "For Better or for Worse," loosely based on inspiration provided by her own family, appeared on 9 September 1979. By 1997 it appeared in about 1,800 newspapers worldwide. In 1997 she changed syndicates to United Features Services. The strip is now translated into five languages. She has received many awards and honours and in 1985 was the first woman to receive the Reuben, the highest honour of the National Cartoonists Society in the United States. Many collections of her work have been published.

An Expanding Scene

Other contemporary strips by Canadian cartoonists include "Backbench" by Graham Harrop and "Fisher" by Phillip Street in The Globe and Mail. In 1993, "Between Friends," by Sandra Bell-Lundy in the Toronto Star, was picked up by King Features Syndicate. In 1994, the Ottawa Citizen introduced two Canadian strips, "Moose Lake," by Roddy Thorleifson of Winnipeg, and "Zero Gravity," by Dwight Macpherson of Ottawa, to the black-and-white Saturday comic page.

The whimsical panel "Le Monde de Yayo" has been running in L'actualité since the late 1980s. Yayo (Diego Herrera) has two collections: Le Carton de Yayo (1990) and Zoo-illogique (1991). Croc magazine publishes many strips by Québec artists including Serge Gaboury.

In the English press, single-panel cartoons include "Pavlov," by Ted Martin, and "SUNtoon," by Jim Phillips in the Sun newspapers. "Horrorscope," distributed by Torstar Syndication Services since January 1990, is written by Susan Kelso and drawn by Adam Rickner, who took over from Eric Olson in April 1995. "Cornered," was written and drawn by Mike Baldwin, was launched in 1996 and was picked up a year later by Universal Press Syndicate.

In 1994, three colour single-panels drawn by local cartoonists were introduced to the Ottawa Citizen's Sunday comics: "Two's A Crowd," by Bill Buttle, "Over the Edge," by Andrew King, and "Flying Solo - The Lighter Side of Single Parenting," by Rebecca Rotenberg and Fortunée Shugar. In 1997, the Citizen dropped its Sunday comics page and also replaced "Reality Check," a daily single-panel by Ottawan Dave Whamond, distributed by United Feature Services, with "Life in the Laugh Lane," a hybrid single-panel incorporating text in the form of a reader's humorous anecdote and Franktown, Ontario, artist Ron Lindsay's rendering of the event in cartoon.

A single-panel cartoon entitled "Farcus," by Gordon Coulthart and David Waisglass of Ottawa, made its debut, but in the business section of the Citizen in December 1991. It ran until the summer of 1997, when its creators decided not to do "Farcus" on a daily basis, but to let him live in virtual splendour at his own World Wide Web site.

Some cartoons from student newspapers occasionally graduate to the mainstream press. In 1978, Gary Delainey and Gerry Rasmussen created "Bub Slug" for the University of Alberta student newspaper, the Gateway. It was revived in 1985 as a full-colour page in the Edmonton Journal's Saturday comic section and ran for just over 4 years. In 1992, the strip was renamed "Betty," after Bub's wife, and syndicated to over 600 newspapers worldwide by United Features Syndicate. Delainey and Rasmussen published another strip, "Gramps," from 1982 to 1985.

"The Swan Factory," a strip by Cuyler Black about characters in a fitness gym, first appeared in May 1996, distributed by Creators Syndicate. When he was 17, Black created "Furtree High," a daily strip about animal characters in a high school, which ran in the Ottawa Citizen from January 1984 to June 1990.

A strip looking at the senior side of life, "Olding Up Well," started at the London Free Press in 1989. Drawn by Rodney Everitt and written by Devin Govindasany, it was picked up by the Toronto Star Syndicate in December 1990, but dropped in March 1992. It was collected as You're Not Aging, You're Evolving (1991).

Graphic novels are a natural progression from the underground comics of the 1960s and 70s. These are often full-length books that either lean heavily on research or are based on autobiographical storylines. Four Canadian cartoonists have made their marks in this genre: Seth, Colin Upton, Chester Brown and Dave Sim.

Seth (né Gregory Gallant) is a thoughtful cartoonist whose nostalgic work focuses on small-town life. His series "Palookaville" is a mainstay in independent comics. His stories are filled with solitary and alienated characters searching for meaning within storylines that can teeter between the present and the past. Seth's latest work is the series called "Clyde Fans," a collected volume released by Drawn and Quarterly.

In Vancouver, Colin Upton was influenced by the autobiographical comics of Harvey Pekar. In 1985 he self-published his first chap book comic "Socialist Turtle" and "The Granville Street Gallery." These grew to over 60 mini-comics and digests. In 1990, he published the first "Big Thing" comic consisting of mostly autobiographical material. Fantagraphics Books picked him up, publishing four more issues.

In 2003, Chester Brown created a Canadian classic cartoon book, Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography. Painstakingly researched, the book took five years to produce. Brown began his career with a self-published mini-comic called "Yummy Fur," which included his creation "Ed the Happy Clown." The Clown series followed the hapless misfortunes of a dysfunctional children's entertainer and shocked people with its disturbing imagery and raw power.

Dave Sim's "Cerebus," a self-published series, ran monthly from 1977 to March 2004. At 300 issues and 6,000 pages, it holds the record as the longest-running English-language comic book series by a single writer/artist. After publishing the Cerebus Phonebooks, paperback volumes of his cartoons with first print runs available only by mail order, Sims became a wealthy phenomenon. Later on he became an outspoken advocate of creators' rights in comics and used the editorial pages of "Cerebus" to promote self-publishing and greater artist activism. His work alienated a large number of his fans, however, when his unabashed misogyny and rejection of the feminist viewpoint became a favourite hobby horse.

In 2004, an issue of "Free Comic Book Day" (where a free comic is published and issued to comic book specialty shops across North America) was published under the title "COMICS FESTIVAL!" It featured artists from across North America, 75 per cent of them Canadian cartoonists. The issue is well worth seeking out as it displays some the best established and emerging talent of the Canadian pantheon today.

An award celebrating Canadian cartoonists and named after prolific artist Douglas Austin Wright began in Toronto in 2005. The award celebrates outstanding work by both established and emerging Canadian cartoonists.

See also Art Illustration; Political Cartoons.


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